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Strong SA presence in Scotland's back three for Cardiff trip

TEAM ANNOUNCEMENT: Head coach Gregor Townsend has named his Scotland matchday squad to face Wales at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff for the opening round of this year’s Six Nations.

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Scotland captain Finn Russell leads the side from flyhalf, partnered by Ben White at scrumhalf.

The familiar pairing of Sione Tuipulotu (named as a vice-captain) and Huw Jones resume a centre partnership which featured in each of last year’s championship fixtures.

SA-born wings Duhan van der Merwe and Kyle Steyn are selected as part of a back three completed by fullback Kyle Rowe, who is set to win a first international cap since his debut on the 2022 tour to Argentina.

Blair Kinghorn has been ruled out with a knee injury for the first two matches of the championship.

In the pack, Pierre Schoeman starts at loosehead prop with Zander Fagerson at tighthead. George Turner completes a settled front row at hooker.

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Richie Gray, competing in an 11th Six Nations championship having made his debut in 2010, packs down in the second row with Scott Cummings.

Scotland’s back row is anchored by No.8 Matt Fagerson, with Luke Crosbie named at blindside flank and Jamie Ritchie, also a vice-captain, selected at openside.

There are two potential propping debutants among the replacements, with Alec Hepburn (loosehead) and Elliot Millar-Mills (tighthead) primed for a first taste of Scotland duty. Hooker Ewan Ashman and the versatile pair Sam Skinner and Jack Dempsey represent the remaining forward options.

The 23-player selection is completed with the inclusion of scrumhalf George Horne, flyhalf Ben Healy and centre Cam Redpath.

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Rory Darge’s recovery is progressing well and he is due to be available for selection next week.

Scotland: 15 Kyle Rowe, 14 Kyle Steyn, 13 Huw Jones, 12 Sione Tuipulotu, 11 Duhan van der Merwe, 10 Finn Russell (captain), 9 Ben White, 8 Matt Fagerson, 7 Jamie Ritchie, 6 Luke Crosbie, 5 Scott Cummings, 4 Richie Gray, 3 Zander Fagerson, 2 George Turner, 1 Pierre Schoeman.
Replacements: 16 Ewan Ashman, 17 Alec Hepburn, 18 Elliot Millar-Mills, 19 Sam Skinner, 20 Jack Dempsey, 21 George Horne, 22 Ben Healy, 23 Cameron Redpath.

Date: Saturday, February 3
Venue: Millenium Stadium, Cardiff
Kick-off: 16.45 (16.45 GMT)
Referee: Ben O’Keeffe (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: James Doleman (New Zealand), Angus Mabey (New Zealand)
TMO: Brendon Pickerill (New Zealand)

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