English referee Chris White has been forced to withdraw from Saturday's opening RBS 6 Nations clash between Ireland and Italy.
Two days before he celebrates his 24th birthday, Edinburgh centre Nick De Luca is named today to make his debut for Scotland in Sunday’s opening RBS 6 Nations Championship match against France at Murrayfield.
Dumfries born De Luca becomes Scotland’s 1006th internationalist in a team that also includes John Barclay, the 21-year-old Glasgow Warriors openside flanker, who will be making his first Six Nations start.
Nine of the Scotland players who began the Rugby World Cup quarter-final against Argentina last October are listed in this XV with Simon Webster switching from outside centre to wing. Those introduced since that match at the Stade de France are Nikki Walker, De Luca, Andrew Henderson, Allan Jacobsen and Dave Callam, albeit Henderson was introduced from the bench then.
Sunday is a double landmark for Henderson – his 28th birthday and his 50th cap, the 22nd Scot to reach such a milestone.
Scotland head coach Frank Hadden said: “I’m very happy with the squad and with the genuine competition for places that has caused a few selection headaches.”
Hadden had noted that Scotland were among the youngest squads at the Rugby World Cup. “I was looking forward to working with a more experienced group of players yet we’re now six months younger on average.
“That said, I’m very happy with the level of experience of this group of players. The youngsters who have come in, John Barclay and Nick De Luca, have done so on merit.
“Our track record in Scotland of developing players in the pro-teams is tremendous and to see John and Nick simply demanding to be chosen for the national team is a perfect example of that.”
Winger Walker, who scored Scotland’s opening try against France in Paris last year, will be joining 13 of his Ospreys team-mates in an international starting line-up this weekend.
Hadden added: “Nikki is another player whose displays in the Magners League and the Heineken Cup mean he is fully worthy of a starting slot.”
Chris Paterson, who completed the World Cup with a 100% goal-kicking record is listed on the bench. Hadden explained: “A lot of people focus on the XV but as far as I’m concerned as a coach the emphasis is on the 22 and if you look at my track record I have made full use of the 22. Chris Paterson is still an integral part of the Scotland squad.”
Scotland team (sponsor Murray) to play France in the RBS 6 Nations Championship at Murrayfield on Sunday 3 February (kick-off 3pm)
15 Rory Lamont (Sale Sharks)
14 Nikki Walker (Ospreys)
13 Nick De Luca (Edinburgh)
12 Andrew Henderson (Glasgow Warriors)
11 Simon Webster (Edinburgh)
10 Dan Parks (Glasgow Warriors)
9 Mike Blair (Edinburgh)*
1 Allan Jacobsen (Edinburgh)
2 Ross Ford (Edinburgh)*
3 Euan Murray (Northampton Saints)
4 Nathan Hines (Perpignan)
5 Jim Hamilton (Leicester Tigers)
6 Jason White (Sale Sharks) CAPTAIN
8 Dave Callam (Edinburgh)*
7 John Barclay (Glasgow Warriors)*
16 Fergus Thomson (Glasgow Warriors)*
17 Gavin Kerr (Edinburgh)
18 Scott MacLeod (Llanelli Scarlets)
19 Kelly Brown (Glasgow Warriors)*
20 Chris Cusiter (Perpignan)
21 Chris Paterson (Gloucester)
22 Hugo Southwell (Edinburgh)
* = Member of Scottish Institute of Sport
Referee: Paul Honiss (New Zealand). Touch-judges: Bryce Lawrence (New Zealand) and Tizo Hirabayashi (Japan). TMO: Chris White (England)
For further information please contact
Graham Law, Scottish Rugby Communications Department
0131 346 5164
Head of Media
Scottish Rugby Union
Direct line: 0131 346 5164
Mobile: 07764 178940
Switchboard 0131 346 5000
Fax 0131 346 5192