Maitland back as Scotland bench Kinghorn against Ireland

Sean Maitland (centre), pictured catching a high ball against Argentina in November, will start for Saturday’s Six Nations international against Ireland at Murrayfield. (AFP pic)

EDINBURGH: Fit-again wing Sean Maitland has gone straight into Scotland’s starting XV to play Ireland in the Six Nations at Murrayfield despite Blair Kinghorn, the man he replaced, scoring a hat-trick against Italy.

Maitland has recovered from a hamstring injury that saw the Saracens wing miss Scotland’s tournament-opening 33-20 win at home to Italy last weekend.

Kinghorn, who ran in three tries against the Azzurri, drops to the bench with Maitland lining up alongside fellow British and Irish Lions Stuart Hogg and Tommy Seymour in the back three.

Scotland coach Gregor Townsend has made four changes in all for the visit of champions Ireland to Murrayfield on Saturday, with the other three switches coming in the pack.

Prop Simon Berghan, yellow-carded against Italy, and back-row Josh Strauss start in place of the injured Willem Nel (calf) and Sam Skinner (ankle) respectively.

“We picked up two injuries from last week with WP (Nel) and Sam (Skinner) missing out, which is disappointing for us and them but have had a boost with a number of proven Test players returning from injury and available to us this week,” said Townsend.

“To have that calibre of player and experience around the group in the build-up this week, and during a game of such magnitude, is very important.”

Meanwhile, Jonny Gray’s recovery from a shoulder injury sees him replace lock Ben Toolis, who moves to the bench.

Reigning Six Nations champions Ireland, whose hopes of back-to-back Grand Slams ended with a 32-20 defeat by England in Dublin last weekend, were due to name their side later Thursday.

Ireland beat Scotland 28-8 in Dublin last season but their most recent visit to Murrayfield saw the Irish beaten 27-22 two years ago.

‘Biggest challenge’

Former Scotland playmaker Townsend said, however, his side were set for their most daunting assignment in the whole of the Championship this weekend.

“It’s massive. It’s probably the biggest challenge we’ll face in the Guinness Six Nations, given the way Ireland have been playing in the last few years – they are Grand Slam Champions and the number-two team in the world,” Townsend said.

“They’re very well-coached, have some outstanding players and will test us in a number of areas – defensively, set-piece, attack and kicking game.

“It is a challenge that brings an extra edge and focus to training and something our players relish taking on.”

He added: “Our players have risen to the challenge of playing New Zealand, England and other world-class teams and they are aware that we must rise once more to produce one of our best-ever performances for 80 minutes.”