Hawick’s Stuart Hogg and Darcy Graham return to international duty following the Scots’ autumn test series and they’re rejoined by fellow ex-Green Rory Sutherland, kept out of those four matches by injury.
Exeter Chiefs full-back Hogg, 29, carrying on as captain, is now on 88 caps, with Edinburgh winger Graham, 24, on 22 and Worcester Warriors loosehead prop Sutherland, 29, on 16.
They’re joined by five uncapped players in Scotland’s 39-man squad for the upcoming tournament, beginning with a home game in Edinburgh against England on Saturday, February 5 – Andy Christie, Ben White, Ben Vellacott, Kyle Rowe and ex-Melrose and Southern Knights flanker Rory Darge.
Two other players with Borders links also feature among ex-Gala and Border Reivers star Townsend’s choices.
French-born Bath centre Cameron Redpath, son of ex-Scotland captain and Melrose scrum-half Bryan Redpath, returns after being given his international debut against England just short of a year ago but kept out of action due to injury since.
Former Melrose youth player Rufus McLean is also back after making his international bow during the autumn tests, along with six other players given their first caps then – Ewan Ashman, Jamie Hodgson, Josh Bayliss, Javan Sebastian, Pierre Schoeman and Sione Tuipulotu.
Making up the rest of the squad are Jamie Bhatti, Magnus Bradbury, Scott Cummings, Matt Fagerson, Zander Fagerson, Grant Gilchrist, Jonny Gray, Nick Haining, Jamie Hodgson, Stuart McInally, Willem Nel, Jamie Ritchie, Sam Skinner, George Turner, Hamish Watson, Mark Bennett, Chris Harris, Rory Hutchinson, Sam Johnson, Blair Kinghorn, Ali Price, Finn Russell, Kyle Steyn and Duhan van der Merwe.
The squad will meet up on Monday for a training camp at Oriam in Edinburgh.
Galashiels-born Townsend, 48, believes the strength in depth offered by his latest squad will not only enable them to build on last year’s performances but also challenge for the Six Nations title.
“In terms of where we are, we believe we have a really strong squad,” he said.
“Competition for places has been excellent and we have a lot of players who are fit.
“With the players we have and the experiences this group has gone through, this is a big opportunity for us.
“The bar has to be set high. We enter any competition with the goal of winning.
“We feel the experiences our players have gone through over the last couple of years put them in a good position to know how to win a rugby game.
“More than that, though, the form that our players are in, the competition is really high because the players are in really good form so they should be confident as individuals and within the team.
“We won three games last year and were in the fight for every game we played, but we didn’t even finish in the top two so we know how big a challenge it is.
“It’s a good position to be in to know that on our day we can make it tough for anybody, but we’ve got to turn those performances into more wins and play to our potential throughout this tournament.”
Townsend, attack coach for last summer's British and Irish Lions tour of South Africa featuring Hogg and Sutherland, added: “When you look through the squad, this is the most competitive I’ve seen it in so many areas and that’s testament to the strength and depth we have.
“We are able to call-up several new players into the squad such as Andy Christie, Kyle Rowe and Ben White.
“We have been aware of all of the uncapped players for a while now and recently they have all experienced a breakthrough in terms of their performances at club level.
“A key part of the squad selection was rewarding form and that definitely applies to Ben Vellacott and Rory Darge, who have been excellent for their clubs this season.
“We’re delighted to be able to include Cameron Redpath in the squad after missing the last few months with injury. He managed to get a game under his belt prior to the squad selection, so we’ll see how he performs for Bath and in our training over the next couple of weeks.
“The Guinness Six Nations is the best competition we have in rugby, so to be involved in it is a real privilege, especially starting with our oldest rivals in front of a sold-out home crowd.”