Scotland v Fiji: Stuart Hogg, Finn Russell & Greig Laidlaw return; Sam Skinner handed debut

Stuart Hogg has scored 18 tries in his 62 Tests for Scotland
Scotland v Fiji
Venue: Murrayfield Stadium, Edinburgh Date: Saturday, 10 November Kick-off: 14:30 GMT
Coverage: Live on BBC One, BBC Radio Scotland the BBC Sport website and app. Live text on BBC Sport website

Stuart Hogg has been passed fit to return for Scotland against Fiji just eight weeks after ankle surgery.

The Glasgow full-back was expected to be sidelined for 10-12 weeks and miss the entire autumn Test series.

But he starts on Saturday, with Sean Maitland, Finn Russell and Greig Laidlaw, who will captain the side, also back after missing the Wales game.

Centre Huw Jones is dropped, Pete Horne starting, while Exeter lock Sam Skinner is handed his debut.

The 23-year-old, who played nine games for England’s Under-20s, qualifies for Scotland through his Scottish father.

He starts alongside Grant Gilchrist, with Jonny Gray on the bench, while Matt Fagerson is at number eight with Ryan Wilson moving to blind-side flanker and Jamie Ritchie to open-side.

Fraser Brown also comes into the side at hooker, with Stuart McInally – captain against Wales – missing out as head coach Gregor Townsend makes nine changes in all from the side beaten 21-10 in Cardiff.

A further positional switch has Alex Dunbar moving from outside to inside centre to accommodate Horne.

Hogg ‘looks good to go’

Hogg, who suffered an ankle injury playing for Glasgow against Munster on 7 September, had surgery after returning from Warriors’ trip to South Africa the following week.

“Stuart has trained for two weeks now,” explained head coach Gregor Townsend. “He trained with his club and recorded some excellent speed times. He has trained fully with us all week so he looks good to go.

“We had experience last year when he came back from two injuries and played in Champions Cup games, played very well, and then two weeks later he played Test level.

“We could have kept him back a week or a few weeks, but he’s still going to be going into a Test match. Having watched him in training, we’ve seen he is ready to go.”

Hogg takes over at full-back from Blair Kinghorn, with Russell replacing Adam Hastings – who is on the bench – at fly-half and Laidlaw starting ahead of Ali Price at scrum-half.

It will be Laidlaw’s first Scotland outing since kicking the match-winning penalty against Italy at the end of this year’s Six Nations and the first time he has led the side under Townsend.

Sale number eight Josh Strauss – recalled after a 17-month absence – and Newcastle centre Chris Harris also join the replacements, with Jones – after two missed tackles led to Wales tries last week – omitted from the match-day squad.

“Huw is like a number of players we are managing through this period, so he is not involved,” Townsend said.

“He was close to being involved on the bench, but we just felt that with Chris Harris able to cover the wing, that was the decision around his involvement.”

Fiji ‘pose huge threats off turnover ball’

Townsend, who earlier this week described Fiji as “the equivalent of Brazil in football”, reiterated that the visitors will “pose huge threats off turnover ball, utilising some of the best individual players, one-on-one, in the world.”

“Our pack will have to work exceptionally hard against a very physical Fijian side and our backs will have to be alert to opportunities as a consequence of that work,” he added.

“We have to be physical and accurate, play to our strengths and put them under pressure in areas they don’t want to go into, to make sure the game is open for us but not for them.”

Fiji beat Scotland 27-22 in their last meeting, in Suva, in June 2017.

Scotland team: Stuart Hogg (Glasgow Warriors); Tommy Seymour (Glasgow Warriors), Alex Dunbar (Glasgow Warriors), Peter Horne (Glasgow Warriors), Sean Maitland (Glasgow Warriors), Finn Russell (Racing 92), Greig Laidlaw (Clermont – capt); Allan Dell (Edinburgh), Fraser Brown (Glasgow Warriors), Willem Nel (Edinburgh), Sam Skinner (Exeter), Grant Gilchrist (Edinburgh), Ryan Wilson (Glasgow Warriors), Jamie Ritchie (Edinburgh), Matt Fagerson (Glasgow Warriors).

Replacements: Stuart McInally (Edinburgh), Alex Allan (Glasgow Warriors), Simon Berghan (Edinburgh), Jonny Gray (Glasgow Warriors), Josh Strauss (Sale), George Horne (Glasgow Warriors), Adam Hastings (Glasgow Warriors), Chris Harris (Newcastle Falcons).

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