Scotland make mass changes for Ireland clash

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The Independent Online

Head coach Andy Robinson has made seven changes to his starting XV for Sunday's vital RBS 6 Nations clash with Ireland at Murrayfield.

Scotland lost their opening two Six Nations games against France and Wales, the latter 24-6 loss arguably the worst performance of Robinson's 18-month reign.

Three changes to the starting XV were enforced. Stade Francais full-back Hugo Southwell (cheek) and Northampton centre Joe Ansbro (concussion) were ruled out on Monday - along with Toulon back Rory Lamont - while Euan Murray is unavailable because he refuses to play on Sundays due to religious reasons.

Moray Low replaces Murray at tighthead prop, Richie Gray returns at second row having missed the Wales match through illness and Johnnie Beattie will start at number eight for his first Scotland appearance since last June's Test series win in Argentina.

There are four changes in the backs, with Chris Paterson, Sean Lamont, Ruaridh Jackson and Mike Blair named to start.

Half-backs Rory Lawson and Dan Parks drop to the bench along with Nathan Hines and Richie Vernon, with Geoff Cross and Simon Danielli also among the replacements.

Southwell was injured in the defeat to Wales on February 12, while Ansbro and Rory Lamont were injured playing for their clubs last weekend.

But changes were bound to take place following the woeful display against Wales, which came seven days after an encouraging performance in the Stade de France.

Robinson said: "We have made changes with a view to securing our first win of the competition and giving our supporters the lift that they deserve.

"We know that Ireland will bring their own distinct physicality and guile to Murrayfield on Sunday and it is up to our squad to front up to that challenge.

"We must play with belief and eliminate the mistakes which have bedevilled us in our opening two games and we must produce a performance that restores the pride in all Scotland supporters."

In an additional positional switch, Nick De Luca will move from inside centre to outside centre, with Sean Lamont starting at inside centre.

In 11 previous Six Nations meetings with Ireland, Scotland have two wins.

Ireland have won four of the last five meetings between the teams in Edinburgh - their only loss coming in the 2007 Rugby World Cup warm-up Test - and will be seeking to avenge last year's loss to Scotland in Dublin as they bode farewell to Croke Park.

That was a result which sparked a run of five wins in six Tests for Scotland, the only loss coming to New Zealand in the opening autumn international last November.

However, Scotland are now without a win since beating Samoa in Aberdeen on November 27 and, with a trip to tournament favourites England to come on March 13, face the prospect of a Wooden Spoon decider with Italy on March 19 if they fail to beat Ireland this weekend.

Scotland team to play Ireland in the RBS 6 Nations at Murrayfield on Sunday, March 13 (kick-off 3pm):

C Paterson (Edinburgh); N Walker (Ospreys), N De Luca (Edinburgh), S Lamont (Scarlets) M Evans (Glasgow Warriors); R Jackson (Glasgow Warriors), M Blair (Edinburgh); A Jacobsen (Edinburgh), R Ford (Edinburgh), M Low (Glasgow Warriors), R Gray (Glasgow Warriors), A Kellock (Glasgow Warriors, captain), K Brown (Saracens), J Beattie (Glasgow Warriors), J Barclay (Glasgow Warriors).

Replacements: S Lawson (Gloucester), G Cross (Edinburgh), N Hines (Leinster), R Vernon (Glasgow Warriors), R Lawson (Gloucester), D Parks (Cardiff Blues), S Danielli (Ulster).