Scotland change eight for Wallabies

Scotland head coach Gregor Townsend has made eight changes to his starting line-up to face Australia in Sydney on Saturday.

Townsend has bookended his selection with an entirely new back-three and front-row combinations, while Jonny Gray and Hamish Watson come in at lock and back-row respectively, meaning 28 of the 34-man squad are in line for Test exposure come Saturday.

It’s Scotland’s first Test in Australia in five years when – captained by last week’s two-time try-scorer Ross Ford – Scotland won 9-6 in inclement conditions.

Recent battles between the sides have been excruciatingly tight affairs, with the Wallabies edging out Scotland by a single point in the past two meetings in Rugby World Cup 2015 (35-34) and at Murrayfield in November (23-22).

Townsend – assistant coach when the Scots defeated the Wallabies in Edinburgh in 2009 – is well aware of the task at hand as his charges prepare to face the third-ranked side the world.

“Australia are one of the best teams in the world, so this will be a much tougher challenge than our game last week," he said.

"The Wallabies DNA is about moving the ball and they have always been one of the best-attacking teams in the game.

“It’s a game that will challenge our players in defence but we’ll also have to be very accurate in attack and aim to out-work our opposition on Saturday. 

"Playing in the afternoon will be fantastic, you don’t often get the chance to do that in the southern hemisphere, so we can’t wait to get out there and play.”

Reflecting on selection, Townsend added: “There are a few changes this week as we’d planned to give a number of our squad the opportunity to play in the first two games of tour.

“It was great that we had a successful hit out against Italy with a few players getting valuable game time after returning from injury.

“We firmly believe that this 23-man squad can deliver on Saturday. It’s important that we take the game to Australia right from the start and are relentless in attack and defence for 80 minutes.”

Glasgow Warriors' Lee Jones takes the place of Damien Hoyland on the wing to end a five-year absence from national team duty.

The former Selkirk flier recaptured impressive form under former club coach Townsend, who brought him back into the international fold when he took on the nation team role.

Jones is joined by fellow Warrior Rory Hughes – who starts on the opposite wing in place of the injured Tim Visser (rib) – and London Irish full-back Greig Tonks, who will play his first Test since the summer of 2015.

Full-back against Italy, Duncan Taylor, accommodates Tonks with a move to inside-centre, with Alex Dunbar shuffling to the number 13 berth in place of Matt Scott, who starts on the bench.

Last week’s front-row replacements have been handed the chance to impress from the outset, meaning Gordon Reid, Fraser Brown and Zander Fagerson all start, with Allan Dell, Ross Ford and Willem Nel taking their turn on the bench.

Should Ford take the field he will equal the record cap haul held by former full-back Chris Paterson (109), some 13 years on from making his debut against the same side.

Back-row John Hardie has yet to recover fully from the back spasm that forced his late replacement in the lead-in to last week’s win over Italy.

Ryan Wilson, his replacement that day, retains his place in the back-row but moves to number eight in place of Josh Strauss, allowing for the fit-again Watson to start on the openside flank alongside captain and blindside back-row John Barclay.

Ben Toolis – so impressive in last weekend’s win over Italy – returns to form a promising second-row partnership with the incoming Gray, who scored one of three Scots tries against Australia in the November test.

Finally, Ruaridh Jackson comes into the squad for the first time on tour among the backs replacements.

Scotland: 15 Greig Tonks, 14 Lee Jones, 13 Alex Dunbar, 12 Duncan Taylor, 11 Rory Hughes, 10 Finn Russell, 9 Ali Price, 8 Ryan Wilson, 7 Hamish Watson, 6 John Barclay (c), 5 Jonny Gray, 4 Ben Toolis, 3 Zander Fagerson, 2 Fraser Brown, 1 Gordon Reid 
Replacements: 16 Ross Ford, 17 Allan Dell, 18 Willem Nel, 19 Tim Swinson, 20 Josh Strauss, 21 Henry Pyrgos, 22 Ruaridh Jackson, 23 Matt Scott

Date: Saturday, June 17
Venue: Allianz Stadium, Sydney
Kick-off: 15:00 local (05:00 GMT)
Referee: Wayne Barnes (England)
Assistant Referees: Matthew Carley (England), Brendon Pickerill (New Zealand)
TMO: tbc

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