Fit-again Stuart Hogg has the fizz to help Scots sparkle again

Fit-again Stuart Hogg has the fizz to help Scots sparkle again

Gregor Townsend has made a very interesting selection for his Fiji on Saturday. I knew there would have been changes in Cardiff.

I fully expected the 'exile' players – Greig Laidlaw, Finn Russell and Sean Maitland – to be back in some others.

A very positive one is Stuart Hogg, fit again and straight back in no rugby for Glasgow since his injury. He's the player that gets people excited. Along with Russell, they are the two superstars of the Scotland team, lighting up the pitch with their skill and flair and a constant threat to the opposition.

Stuart Hogg has made a remarkable recovery from injury to take his place at full-back

Stuart Hogg has made a remarkable recovery from injury to take his place at full-back

Stuart Hogg has made a remarkable recovery from injury to take his place at full-back

They certainly have their work cut out to transform this Scotland, from the blunt, predictable outfit we saw against Wales in the ambitious, creative and exciting team we've witnessed over the past 12 months or so.

If Hogg had been playing last week he might not have seen him because of the way the team played. Blair Kinghorn never got a chance to run ball in space. Same for Lee Jones, Tommy Seymour and, indeed, Huw Jones. Kicking but the hosts kick-chase what excellent and gave them no space whatsoever.

Has always been thus; almost totally reliant on what they are doing. Huw Jones has been reprimanded by Wales for both their scores. Jones is some player going forward – remember the Calcutta Cup game? – but he needs to improve his defense, which he wants.

Greig Laidlaw wants partner Finn Russell in what is a formidable half-back combination

Greig Laidlaw wants partner Finn Russell in what is a formidable half-back combination

Greig Laidlaw wants partner Finn Russell in what is a formidable half-back combination

It means we have two playmakers at ten and 12, in Russell and the recalled Pete Horne, with Alex Dunbar moving one out to 13. I like this because it should bring the creativity which was sadly lacking last week. Both are looking at the space for the runners. If Hogg, Maitland and Seymour are receiving the ball in the wide channels with space to attack.

The changes up front have surprised me as well. Stuart McInally, Jonny Gray and Hamish Watson have been building the rest of the pack for the past year, so there's a bit of player management going on here. Sam Skinner wins his first cap and Jamie Ritchie gets the opportunity to start at openside. It wants to see the strength in depth within the squad.

Watson wants to play next week against South Africa, for sure, as he's consistently been Scotland's best player but we need to know how to play without him. Another surprise is that Josh Strauss does not get the start at No 8. When he was recalled, I thought it was one reason; to be a ball carrier who can get over the gain every time he touches the ball and gives his attacking a good platform to play from. But I'm pleased for Matt Fagerson because he has been outstanding for Glasgow this season and he made an impact on the bench last week.

It wants to be a tough game today. Fiji have so much individual talent within their squad it's scary. We know two of them especially well; Bill Mata of Edinburgh and Leone Nakarawa, formerly of Glasgow. Mata has done great things this season but nowhere near the levels that big Leone reached when he was playing at Scotstoun. The Weegie from Fiji was sensational and his performance in the Pro12 final at Belfast was his finest hour, the best performance from a second row ever. Nakarawa has been the best player to play in Scotland in the professional era.

His offloading ability will have to be carefully policed ​​by Scotland today, across the board, we should be too strong for this Fiji side. This is the start of a five-game stretch at BT Murrayfield, with the three autumn Tests and the first two games in the Six Nations. Scotland have eight out of their last nine games here and I expect that to continue.

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