SCOTLAND coach Gregor Townsend has dropped centre Huw Jones for Saturday’s Six Nations match with Italy with both sides bidding for their first win and the loser likely to end up with the wooden spoon.
Jones played in both the defeats to Ireland and then England but Townsend felt it was time to give Chris Harris another chance.
There is as expected no return for playmaker Finn Russell, who has been out of favour since breaking team protocols prior to the tournament.
It looks highly unlikely he will be recalled for the tournament given his remarks earlier this month to the Sunday Times in which he said he had no personal relationship with Townsend.
Harris is one of three changes to the XV that started the 13-6 defeat by England.
Former captain Stuart McInally comes in at hooker for Fraser Brown, who drops to the bench, and Ben Toolis starts in the second row with Jonny Gray side-lined with a hand injury.
Jones — who is seen as stronger in attack than defence and was omitted from the World Cup squad — does not even make the replacements bench as Townsend chose wing Byron McGuigan to take Harris’s place.
For McInally it represents a chance to reclaim his spot as number one hooker — his loss of form at the World Cup saw him dropped for the final pool match with hosts Japan.
He subsequently forfeited the captaincy for the Six Nations to Stuart Hogg.
“We believe Chris (Harris) and Stuart (McInally) deserve this opportunity,” said Townsend.
“They were very close to the starting fifteen when we entered this campaign.
“We think this is the right time for them to come in.
“Chris has been excellent for Gloucester this season and has continued to make improvements since the summer.
“He works very hard on both sides of the ball, which will be important this week.”
The Scots have won on their last four visits to Rome but are the last side to have been beaten by Italy in the Six Nations in Edinburgh in 2015.
Townsend, though, believes the Italy side soundly beaten by Wales and then by France have shown more enterprise in their play in this year’s edition.
“It’s a different Italy team to the one we’ve played in the past,” said Townsend.
“In their opening two games of the championship they have played with real ambition and width.
“They’ve also selected athletic, ball players who suit this strategy and are comfortable playing at a high tempo.
“We are well aware of the threats throughout their team and how their attacking game can cause problems for any defence.”
Stuart Hogg (capt); Sean Maitland, Chris Harris, Sam Johnson, Blair Kinghorn; Adam Hastings, Ali Price; Magnus Bradbury, Hamish Watson, Jamie Ritchie; Scott Cummings, Ben Toolis; Zander Fagerson, Stuart McInally, Rory Sutherland
Replacements: Fraser Brown, Allan Dell, WP Nel, Grant Gilchrist, Matt Fagerson, George Horne, Rory Hutchinson, Byron McGuigan
Coach: Gregor Townsend (SCO)