Ireland v Scotland: Hugh Blake starts in Dublin

Edinburgh back-row Hugh Blake
Former New Zealand Under-20 international Blake joined Edinburgh at the tail end of 2014
Ireland v Scotland
Date: Saturday, 15 August Venue: Aviva Stadium, Dublin Kick-off: 17:00 BST
Coverage: Listen on BBC Radio Scotland 810MW/DAB/online

Hugh Blake will make his Scotland debut in Saturday's World Cup warm-up match against Ireland in Dublin.

The New Zealand-born 22-year-old joins Blair Cowan and David Denton in the back row.

Glasgow Warriors scrum-half Henry Pyrgos captains the side for the first time, with Greig Tonks getting a chance at fly-half.

Ruaridh Jackson is given a rare outing at full-back, while hooker Fraser Brown starts for the first time.

Brown, a replacement on eight previous occasions, will pack down in the front row with Ryan Grant and Jon Welsh, with Stuart McInally having to withdraw because of a stomach bug.

Jim Hamilton is joined by Grant Gilchrist in the second row, with the latter making his first appearance since captaining Scotland in the summer of 2014 but then missing the majority of last season with an arm injury.

A former Under-20 international with New Zealand, Blake qualifies through his paternal Glaswegian grandparents and was an unused squad member during the Six Nations.

His inclusion in that squad was controversial given he had yet to feature for Edinburgh following his arrival in December.

Edinburgh's Tonks makes his first international start since switching from his once favoured full-back position at the start of last season.

Moving in the opposite direction is Wasps number 10 Jackson, who takes the 15 shirt for his country after filling the position as a replacement in the victory over USA in Houston last summer.

Richie Vernon returns for the first time in two years having been transformed from a number eight to a centre with Pro12 champions Glasgow Warriors. He will be partnered by club-mate Peter Horne.

Glasgow prop Mike Cusack is on the bench for Scotland
Glasgow prop Mike Cusack could make his first Scotland appearance from the replacements' bench

Following the match in Dublin, Scotland will play Italy away and at home before facing France in Paris.

"It's been important to get a good look at everyone over the last two months," said head coach Vern Cotter, who signed a contract extension this week.

"The strength and conditioning team have worked hard to get more power and endurance from our players, while we've also focused a lot on basic skill sets.

"These 23 players now have the first chance to stake a claim for the final 31-man squad for the World Cup, against what we know is quality opposition."

Glasgow prop Mike Cusack could make his debut from the bench, having had his career interrupted by injury and illness since qualifying through residency in 2014.

Scarlets flanker John Barclay, who won the last of his 43 caps in November 2013, is also among the substitutes.

Scotland kick off their World Cup campaign against Japan on 23 September, with USA, South Africa and Samoa making up Pool B.

Scotland: Jackson, Lamont, Vernon, Horne, Visser, Tonks, Pyrgos (captain); Grant, Brown, Welsh, Hamilton, Gilchrist, Cowan, Blake, Denton.

Replacements: Ford, Reid, Cusack, Harley, Barclay, Hidalgo-Clyne, Weir, Scott.

Scotland's Pool B matches
Japan, Kingsholm, Gloucester23 September
USA, Elland Road, Leeds27 September
South Africa, St. James' Park, Newcastle3 October
Samoa, St. James' Park, Newcastle10 October

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