Townsend wields axe for France clash

Thu, 08 Feb 2018 11:32
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TEAM ANNOUNCEMENT: Scotland head coach Gregor Townsend has made six changes to the starting Scotland side for this Sunday's Six Nations match against France at Murrayfield Stadium.

The changes are split evenly between the backs and forwards with scrumhalf Greig Laidlaw, wing Sean Maitland and centre Pete Horne promoted from the bench into the backline, while lock Grant Gilchrist and loose forward Ryan Wilson do likewise into the pack.

Tighthead prop Simon Berghan is the only starting addition from outwith last weekend’s matchday 23, becoming available at the end of a six-week suspension.

"As a group we're delighted to be playing at home in front of another sell-out crowd at Murrayfield and are looking forward to putting in a performance that can energise our supporters," said Townsend.

"To do that we need to out-work the opposition and be more accurate in a number of aspects of our play.

"We've seen a response from the players in training this week and that needs to continue into and through the 80-plus minutes of the match because France will pose a massive and immensely-physical challenge."

Laidlaw is reunited with flyhalf Finn Russell at halfback, with this Sunday's Test the scrumhalf's first Scotland start since being injured in the corresponding fixture last year in Paris, with British & Irish Lions selection and subsequent injuries keeping the former captain out of contention until last weekend's return as a replacement in Cardiff.

Maitland comes in for injured Sale Sharks wing McGuigan (hamstring) to join Stuart Hogg and Tommy Seymour in the back-three, while Horne is deployed in midfield in place of Chris Harris (who joins the bench), with Huw Jones returning to the outside-centre role he has occupied in his previous 11 Tests for Scotland.

The remaining changes see Gilchrist and Wilson start in place of Ben Toolis (who moves to the bench) and Cornell du Preez, who drops out of the matchday 23.

Jonny Gray, Hamish Watson and captain John Barclay are reselected to complete the back-five of the scrum, while Stuart McInally and Gordon Reid return to join Berghan in the front row.

Worcester Warriors loose forward David Denton and in-form and uncapped outside back Blair Kinghorn take the places vacated by Wilson and Maitland on the bench.

Scotland: 15 Stuart Hogg, 14 Tommy Seymour, 13 Huw Jones, 12 Pete Horne, 11 Sean Maitland, 10 Finn Russell, 9 Greig Laidlaw, 8 Ryan Wilson, 7 Hamish Watson, 6 John Barclay (captain), 5 Jonny Gray, 4 Grant Gilchrist, 3 Simon Berghan, 2 Stuart McInally, 1 Gordon Reid. 
Replacements: 16 Scott Lawson, 17 Jamie Bhatti, 18 Jon Welsh, 19 Ben Toolis, 20 David Denton, 21 Ali Price, 22 Chris Harris, 23 Blair Kinghorn.

Date: Sunday, February 11
Venue: Murrayfield, Edinburgh
Kick-off: 15.00 (15.00 GMT; 16.00 France Time)
Referee: John Lacey (Ireland)
Assistant referees: Nigel Owens (Wales), Paul Williams (New Zealand)
TMO: Rowan Kitt (England)

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Fri, 23 February 2018
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Team P W D L Pts
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England 2 2 0 0 9
Wales 2 1 0 1 6
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France 2 0 0 2 2
Italy 2 0 0 2 0