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Six Nations 2014: Stuart Hogg return lifts Scots’ attacking options and puts Ireland on full alert


Stuart Hogg, one of the sharpest broken-field runners in European rugby and a valuable bits-and-pieces man with the British and Irish Lions last summer, returns to the Scotland side on Sunday for their Six Nations opener with Ireland in Dublin.

Injury problems removed the Glasgow full-back from the autumn internationals, during which the Scots fired only blanks. His return should give them a whole new range of attacking weapons.

There are further changes in midfield, where Alex Dunbar of Glasgow is preferred to Nick de Luca of Edinburgh at centre, with another Scotstoun man, Tim Swinson, beating Grant Gilchrist and Richie Gray to a place at lock. In the back row, Ryan Wilson, also of Glasgow, will start at blind-side flanker, largely because the more experienced Johnnie Beattie has a virus and is only considered fit enough for bench duty.

The Irish are certainly aware of the threat Hogg is likely to offer this weekend. “We know he’s a very dangerous player; his counter-attacking skills are lethal if you kick loosely to him,” said Les Kiss, the home side’s defence strategist. “There are some challenges out there for us. They have a very smart mix in their back three with Sean Maitland and Sean Lamont working off Hogg, so we’ll have to be very cute in how we play them.”