Scotland bench Laidlaw for Wales clash
TEAM ANNOUNCEMENT: Scotland head coach Gregor Townsend has made four changes to his starting team to face Wales in a Six Nations Round Four clash in Edinburgh on Saturday.
Among the four changes are a new set of halfbacks who will look to orchestrate the host’s efforts to secure the Doddie Weir Cup, as Racing 92 flyhalf Finn Russell returns from a head injury to start alongside Glasgow Warriors scrum-half Ali Price.
Russell’s return sees Pete Horne move one place outfield to inside centre – in place of Sam Johnson – to partner fellow Glasgow Warriors centre Nick Grigg, while the inclusion of Price means Greig Laidlaw moves to the bench, with Edinburgh hooker and club captain Stuart McInally taking on the national team responsibility for the third time.
The final change to the backs sees 21-year-old Edinburgh wing Darcy Graham earn his first start in place of injured Saracen Sean Maitland (foot) to join Tommy Seymour and clubmate Blair Kinghorn in the back-three.
The only change to the pack is at tighthead where Edinburgh prop Willem Nel returns from a calf injury to form an all-Edinburgh front row with McInally and loosehead Allan Dell.
They pack down in front of an unchanged back-five where lock Grant Gilchrist partners Jonny Gray in the second row and Magnus Bradbury, Jamie Ritchie and Josh Strauss return to the back row.
There are three further changes to the bench which could see recent squad additions Hamish Watson (back row), Gordon Reid (loosehead prop) and Byron McGuigan (back three) feature for the first time this campaign.
Glasgow Warriors pair Gray and Seymour will make their 50th appearance in a Scotland side.
“While there have been some strong moments in our games this campaign, we have yet to deliver that quality and focus for 80 minutes and play to our potential,” said Scotland head coach Gregor Townsend.
“We have had a couple of weeks since our defeat in Paris to look at ways we can improve our performances, through what we do in training, our tactical approach and through selection.
“First and foremost, we select a team we believe gives us the best chance of winning at the weekend, while we also have an opportunity to reward players who have been in very good form and have been knocking at the door of the team in recent weeks – Darcy Graham and Ali Price especially.
“Greig [Laidlaw], having started in our last six games is a key member of our squad, although this week we have decided to utilise his leadership and experience off the bench. He is driven by a desire to win for his country and he should have an important role to play in the latter stages of the match at the weekend.”
Wales – the world’s third-ranked side – arrive in Edinburgh as the only unbeaten team remaining in the championship and have won 10 in their last 11 Tests against their hosts, with Scotland’s success coming in their last meeting at Murrayfield two years ago.
Townsend added: “They [Wales] have a very good record against us and are in excellent form. It’s a similar challenge to the one we faced last year against England, who had also been on a very good run of results in their preceding games.
“We rose that the challenge that day and found a way to win and I firmly believe we can reach that level of performance once again on Saturday.”
BREAKING | Jonny Gray and Tommy Seymour will make their 50th appearance in a Scotland side – that features four changes – against Wales in the Guinness Six Nations this Saturday at BT Murrayfield (kick-off 2.15pm) – live on BBC.
4️⃣ ➡️ Russell, Price, Graham & Nel all start pic.twitter.com/BflNT5FtNp
— Scottish Rugby (@Scotlandteam) March 7, 2019
Scotland: 15 Blair Kinghorn, 14 Tommy Seymour, 13 Nick Grigg, 12 Pete Horne, 11 Darcy Graham, 10 Finn Russell, 9 Ali Price, 8 Josh Strauss, 7 Jamie Ritchie, 6 Magnus Bradbury, 5 Jonny Gray, 4 Grant Gilchrist, 3 Willem Nel, 2 Stuart McInally (captain), 1 Allan Dell.
Replacements: 16 Fraser Brown, 17 Gordon Reid, 18 Simon Berghan, 19 Ben Toolis, 20 Hamish Watson, 21 Greig Laidlaw, 22 Adam Hastings, 23 Byron McGuigan.
Date: Saturday, March 9
Venue: Murrayfield Stadium, Edinburgh
Kick-off: 14.15 (14.15 GMT)
Referee: Pascal Gauzere (France)
Assistant referees: Luke Pearce (England), Federico Anselmi (Argentina)
TMO: Marius Jonker (South Africa)