SCOTLAND HEAD COACH Gregor Townsend has selected a side that he believes possesses “the intensity and speed” to get them off to a winning start in the Six Nations for the second year in a row.
Scotland, who overcame Ireland on the opening day of the campaign in 2017, will take on Wales this Saturday at the Principality Stadium in Cardiff [KO 2.15pm, TV3].
Townsend’s starting XV includes six changes from the side that started in their last outing — a 53-24 win over Australia at Murrayfield back in November.
Stuart Hogg returns at full-back in place of Sean Maitland. The other change in the backline sees Chris Harris of Newcastle Falcons make his first start for Scotland. He comes in at centre for Pete Horne, with Alex Dunbar undergoing return-to-play protocols after sustaining a knock to the head in Glasgow Warriors’ recent win over Exeter Chiefs.
There are four changes in the pack. Gordon Reid and Jon Welsh are the starting props, replacing the injured Darryl Marfo and the suspended Simon Berghan. With Ross Ford, Fraser Brown and George Turner all unavailable due to injury, Stuart McInally retains the number two shirt. Replacement hooker Scott Lawson is involved for the first time since 2014.
Richie Gray is also out injured so Ben Toolis comes into the second row, as Grant Gilchrist drops down to the bench. Ryan Wilson is also among the replacements, with Cornell du Preez starting at number eight.
After returning from injury recently, Greig Laidlaw is on the bench. Prop Murray McCallum could make his international debut if called upon.
“We’ve selected a squad that we believe can start the NatWest 6 Nations Championship with the intensity and speed required to win in Cardiff,” said Gregor Townsend.
“Last year’s championship highlighted that every game is a fierce competition and that all teams have to play at their very best to win away from home. Delivering that level of performance has been firmly in our thoughts during our preparations this week.
“We’re expecting a really physical game against a very good team. Wales have one of the best defences in the game and an attack that sees forwards passing much more and a structure that enables backs to get on ball. I’m sure it’ll be great occasion to kick off this year’s championship and we can’t wait to get started.”
SCOTLAND v Wales:
15. Stuart Hogg (Glasgow Warriors)
14. Tommy Seymour (Glasgow Warriors)
13. Chris Harris (Newcastle Falcons)
12. Huw Jones (Glasgow Warriors)
11. Byron McGuigan (Sale Sharks)
10. Finn Russell (Glasgow Warriors)
9. Ali Price (Glasgow Warriors)
1. Gordon Reid (London Irish)
2. Stuart McInally (Edinburgh Rugby)
3. Jon Welsh (Newcastle Falcons)
4. Ben Toolis (Edinburgh Rugby)
5. Jonny Gray (Glasgow Warriors)
6. John Barclay (Scarlets — captain)
7. Hamish Watson (Edinburgh Rugby)
8. Cornell du Preez (Edinburgh Rugby)
16. Scott Lawson (Newcastle Falcons)
17. Jamie Bhatti (Glasgow Warriors)
18. Murray McCallum (Edinburgh Rugby)
19. Grant Gilchrist (Edinburgh Rugby)
20. Ryan Wilson (Glasgow Warriors)
21. Greig Laidlaw (ASM Clermont Auvergne)
22. Pete Horne (Glasgow Warriors)
23. Sean Maitland (Saracens)