Scotland will have to do without influential flyhalf Finn Russell for Saturday’s Six Nations clash against Italy at Murrayfield with captain Stuart Hogg shifted into the role.
Russell suffered concussion in last week’s narrow home loss to Ireland, forcing coach Gregor Townsend to move his skipper from fullback to number 10 in one of seven changes as he named the team on Thursday.
It is the first time Hogg has started at flyhalf for his country with Harlequins scrumhalf Scott Steele making his first Test start as his halfback partner, while Sean Maitland is moved to fullback as Darcy Graham returns on the wing.
“He (Hogg) has covered there in the past and we believe it gives up a better balance for the team. It’s a good opportunity to see him starting there,” Townsend said at a news conference on Thursday.
Scott Cummings and Jonny Gray were also injured last weekend and are replaced by a new lock pairing of Grant Gilchrist and Sam Skinner.
Edinburgh hooker David Cherry makes his first start for Scotland with Zander Fagerson returning at prop after a four-match suspension.
In Franco Smith’s Italy team, 20-year-old centre Federico Mori will start his first match of the tournament, alongside Juan Ignacio Brex, in another youthful XV .
South African Smith makes four changes from the side who were thrashed by Wales last weekend, with David Sisi unable to recover from a shoulder injury inflicted in that defeat.
Benetton Rugby duo Niccolo Cannone and Federico Ruzza line up in the second row, while prop pair Marco Riccioni and Danilo Fischetti make up the front row alongside captain Luca Bigi.
Despite losing four from four so far, Smith says there is still plenty to play for and he believes his side are capable of ending their win drought on Saturday.
“We have a big challenge ahead of us,” he said. “Our work during the week was excellent.
“We want to win on Saturday, closing the tournament in the best possible way and continuing on the path of becoming more and more competitive.”