Laidlaw joins Hogg in Scots’ starting XV

Greig Laidlaw (picture by Neil Hanna)
Greig Laidlaw (picture by Neil Hanna)

Head coach Gregor Townsend has made six changes to the starting Scotland side for this Sunday’s NatWest 6 Nations match against France at a sold-out BT Murrayfield Stadium.

The changes are split evenly between the backs and forwards, with scrum-half Greig Laidlaw – well known for his Jedburgh connections – wing Sean Maitland and centre Pete Horne promoted from the bench into the back line, while lock Grant Gilchrist and back-row Ryan Wilson do likewise into the pack.

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

Laidlaw is reunited with stand-off Finn Russell at half-back, with this Sunday’s Test the scrum-half’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 ex-Hawick favourite 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 third Borders player in the squad, Melrose and Glasgow prop Jamie Bhatti, retains his place on the bench.

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

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 match-day 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 back-row David Denton and in-form and uncapped outside back Blair Kinghorn take the places vacated by Wilson and Maitland on the bench.

Scotland team to play France at BT Murrayfield Stadium in NatWest 6 Nations round two (Sunday, February 11, kick-off 3pm, live on BBC TV): 15 Stuart Hogg, 14 Tommy Seymour, 13 Huw Jones, 12 Pete Horne, 11 Sean Maitland, 10 Finn Russell, 9 Greig Laidlaw (vice-captain); 1 Gordon Reid, 2 Stuart McInally, 3 Simon Berghan, 4 Grant Gilchrist, 5 Jonny Gray, 6 John Barclay (captain), 7 Hamish Watson, 8 Ryan Wilson (vice-captain). Subs: 16 Scott Lawson, 17 Jamie Bhatti, 18 Jon Welsh, 19 Ben Toolis, 20 David Denton, Ali Price, 22 Chris Harris, 23 Blair Kinghorn.