The best of the Scots for France
TEAM ANNOUNCEMENT: Gregor Townsend says Scotland will need to be “close to their best” if they are to beat France on Sunday.
They are aiming to become only the third Scottish side since 1900 to win six successive Tests.
The Scots already number Fabien Galthie’s much-improved French side among the five teams they have beaten – having been the only side to defeat France in the Six Nations.
The French did not enhance their cause that day at Murrayfield in March with prop Mohamed Haouas being sent off before half-time.
Only twice have Scotland won six Tests in a row since 1900 (1925/26 and 1989/90).
“France is full of confidence and has played really well this year,” said Townsend after naming the starting XV for the year-end Nations Cup clash.
“We know we’re playing one of the best teams in the world right now, so to rise to this challenge we’re going to have to play close to our best throughout the contest on Sunday.”
Townsend has made five changes to the starting XV from the one that defeated Italy in their opening year-end Nations Cup last weekend.
Blair Kinghorn is the only change to the starting back division as he replaces Edinburgh teammate Darcy Graham.
Townsend has named a whole new front row from the one that faced the Italians with the experienced Fraser Brown returning as hooker having recovered from injury.
Props Oliver Kebble and Simon Berghan also come in whilst the fifth and final change is Matt Fagerson returning at No.8 having been out injured.
The bench is re-enforced with the recall of Saracens wing Sean Maitland, who scored a brace of tries in the win back in March.
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His club mate Duncan Taylor – who last featured for Scotland against Russia in last year’s World Cup – joins him on the bench.
Townsend said the tournament is a good chance for players to perform and for coaches to appraise them ahead of next year’s Six Nations.
“The year-end Nations Cup is all about opportunity – the opportunity to play in a new competition and the opportunity for us as coaches to see how a large number of our squad perform when given the chance to play,” said Townsend.
Scotland: 15 Stuart Hogg (captain), 14 Blair Kinghorn, 13 Chris Harris, 12 Sam Johnson, 11 Duhan van der Merwe, 10 Duncan Weir, 9 Ali Price, 8 Matt Fagerson, 7 Hamish Watson, 6 Jamie Ritchie, 5 Jonny Gray, 4 Scott Cummings, 3 Simon Berghan, 2 Fraser Brown, 1 Oliver Kebble.
Replacements: 16 George Turner, 17 Jamie Bhatti, 18 Zander Fagerson, 19 Sam Skinner, 20 Blade Thomson, 21 Sam Hidalgo-Clyne, 22 Duncan Taylor, 23 Sean Maitland.
Date: Sunday, November 22
Venue: Murrayfield, Edinburgh
Kick-off: 17.15 (18.15 French time; 17.15 GMT)
Referee: Wayne Barnes (England)
Assistant referees: Matthew Carley (England), Nika Amashukeli (Georgia)
TMO: Ben Whitehouse (Wales)