Skinner comes into the back row for the game against Wales on Saturday, replacing the injured Jamie Ritchie who has been ruled out for the remainder of the season.
The Edinburgh flanker tore his hamstring in the 20-17 win over England and has now undergone surgery. Gregor Townsend said there was a question mark over whether he would recover in time for Scotland’s summer tour to Argentina.
“He had surgery two days ago that was successful,” said the Scotland coach. “But it’s still months in the experience of players who’ve had that surgery before.
“Mark Bennett I remember [suffered] almost the same incident, a jackal and he got taken out in the ruck, a torn hamstring. That was five or six months [out]. So it’s round about that timescale. Whether that rules him out of the tour in July, possibly. We’ll need to see how he goes with the rehab.
“But I don’t think he’ll play again this season domestically and certainly not in the Six Nations.”
Tuipulotu’s inclusion is reward for an excellent first season with Glasgow Warriors. A dynamic attacker, the Aussie-born back is preferred to his club-mate Sam Johnson at inside centre. Johnson drops out of the squad entirely and will instead play for Glasgow against Munster in the United Rugby Championship at Scotstoun on Friday night.
The other headline news from Townsend’s team announcement is the coach’s decision to begin the match with the front row that finished the England game.
Edinburgh trio Pierre Schoeman, Stuart McInally and WP Nel stood up to extreme scrum pressure in the dying minutes of last weekend’s Calcutta Cup clash and are given the nod to start in Wales.
Rory Sutherland, George Turner and Zander Fagerson all drop down to the bench but are likely to be introduced early in the second half in a reverse of last week’s strategy.
In looking to build on a superb start to the Six Nations, Townsend’s side will have to do what no Scotland team has done since he himself was playing in 2002.
The coach was at stand-off when the Scots last won in Cardiff thanks to two tries from hooker Gordon Bulloch, 14 points from the boot of Brendan Laney and three from Duncan Hodge.
Townsend, who guided Scotland to victory in Llanelli in the delayed 2020 Six Nations match, seems unencumbered by the side’s history in Cardiff and believes the current group showed their aptitude for winning important games away from home last season, albeit in empty grounds.
“We’ve not been there for four years and a lot has happened in that time,” said the coach. “We’ve had experiences against top sides home and away and shown resilience in those games. We’ve not won them all, but I believe the tests we had in Paris and Twickenham sets us up for a great challenge this week with a full stadium, one of the best venues in the world.”
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George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.