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RugbyU: Injuries force Scotland rejig for Italy

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

Scotland interim head coach Scott Johnson announced two injury-enforced changes to his starting side on Tuesday when he named his team to play Italy in the Six Nations at Murrayfield on Saturday.

Back-row forward Alasdair Strokosch, who will see specialists in Edinburgh on Wednesday to determine the extent of an eye socket injury, was ruled out.

Meanwhile hooker Dougie Hall was bracketed on the bench with Pat MacArthur because of a knee problem, with a decision due later this week.

Robert Harley, who came off the bench to score a match-winning try on his Test debut away to Samoa in June, was selected for what will be only the Glasgow forward's second cap, and first at home, after replacing Strokosch at blindside flanker.

"I had the pleasure of working with Robert on our tour last summer," said Johnson, promoted from within the backroom set-up following the resignation of Andy Robinson after Scotland's defeat by Tonga in November.

"He's big and aggressive and he's been knocking on the door for selection for a while," the Australian, preparing for his second game in charge of Scotland, added. "He deserves this chance as a reward for his club form."

Both Strokosch and Hall suffered their injuries in Scotland's Calcutta Cup and tournament-opening 38-18 loss to England at Twickenham last weekend.

This Saturday sees a repeat of last season's wooden spoon decider, which Italy won 13-6 to condemn the Scots to a winless Championship.

However, this year the Azzurri will come into the match on the back of a morale-boosting 23-18 victory at home to pre-tournament favourites France at Rome's Olympic Stadium on Sunday.

And while the result may have shocked some pundits, Johnson insisted he was not among them.

"Italy's victory over France in Rome was well deserved and certainly didn't surprise us," he said.

"It will be a true Test match this weekend and it would be great to have a big vocal Murrayfield crowd supporting the boys this weekend."

Kelly Brown retained the captaincy after leading the side at Twickenham, although Johnson has still to confirm if the openside flanker will skipper the side for the whole tournament.

Scotland (15-1)

Stuart Hogg; Sean Maitland, Sean Lamont, Matt Scott, Tim Visser; Ruaridh Jackson, Greig Laidlaw; Johnnie Beattie, Kelly Brown (capt), Robert Harley; Jim Hamilton, Richie Gray; Euan Murray, Ross Ford, Ryan Grant

Replacements: Dougie Hall or Pat MacArthur, Moray Low, Geoff Cross, Alastair Kellock, David Denton, Henry Pyrgos, Duncan Weir, Max Evans

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130205/rugbyu-injuries-force-scotland-rejig-italy