Former junior All Black Maitland to make Scotland debut
New Zealand-born winger Sean Maitland will make his debut and hooker Dougie Hall his first start for six years as Scotland seek to end their 30-year Twickenham drought when they play England in their opening Six Nations game on Saturday.
On Tuesday, interim coach Scott Johnson named a team with six changes and one positional switch from that beaten by Tonga in November — a defeat that led to Andy Robinson’s resignation.
The most eye-catching selection is that of 24-year-old Maitland, who won the under-20 World Cup as an All Black and played for New Zealand Maori but has switched allegiance to the country of his grandparents since joining Glasgow from the Crusaders last October.
“Sean Maitland is very proud to be pulling on the Scotland jersey for the first time,” Johnson said in a statement.
“His family will be rapt because they raised him in New Zealand always reminding him of his Scottish heritage, getting up in the early hours of the morning to watch both the Five and Six Nations games on the TV.
“He’s shown he can play footy with the best of them and the impact he’s made since arriving at Glasgow in the autumn has underlined what we’d seen of him playing for the Crusaders in Super Rugby.”
In Johnson’s other changes, Sean Lamont moves from wing to centre, Ruaridh Jackson returns at flyhalf with Greig Laidlaw starting an international for the first time at scrumhalf. His uncle, Roy Laidlaw, played scrumhalf and scored a superb try last time the Scots won at Twickenham in 1983.
Loosehead prop Ryan Grant returns after a long injury layoff and will pack down with Hall, in his first start since facing Ireland in 2007, and Euan Murray, winning his 50th cap.
Jim Hamilton is recalled to partner Richie Gray in the second row and number eight Johnnie Beattie plays for the first time since August 2011, having been somewhat controversially left out of the squad for that year’s World Cup and ignored ever since.
“I’ve been impressed by what I’ve seen of Johnnie Beattie. He brings dynamism to our back row and we’re looking for him to bring that to bear on Saturday,” said Johnson.
The Scots will need dynamism and more if they are to end their dire Twickenham run and start to improve a record comprising only two wins in their last 15 Six Nations matches.
England coach Stuart Lancaster, whose first game in charge a year ago was a win over the Scots at Murrayfield, names his team on Thursday.
Scotland (15-1): Stuart Hogg; Sean Maitland, Sean Lamont, Matt Scott, Tim Visser; Ruaridh Jackson, Greig Laidlaw; Johnnie Beattie, Kelly Brown (capt), Alasdair Strokosch; Jim Hamilton, Richie Gray; Euan Murray, Dougie Hall, Ryan Grant
Replacements: Ross Ford, Moray Low, Geoff Cross, Alastair Kellock, David Denton, Henry Pyrgos, Duncan Weir, Max Evans