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By Adam Ellis
Gregor Townsend has chopped and changed his Scotland side that lost 34-7 to Wales on the opening weekend of the Six Nations, with Greig Laidlaw handed a first start in almost a year.
The Clermont scrum-half replaces Ali Price and is among six changes made by Townsend for this weekend’s match against France at Murrayfield.
Losing the captaincy due to a broken leg and ankle injuries at the start and towards the end of 2017, the British & Irish Lions will resume a leadership role as vice-captain for the Six Nations.
Sean Maitland comes in at wing after Byron McGuigan was ruled out for the tournament with a torn hamstring. While Chris Harris is dropped for last week’s tryscorer Peter Horne.
The forwards line-up has seen changes in equal measure with tighthead prop Simon Berghan, lock Grant Gilchrist, and number 8 Ryan Wilson replacing Jon Welsh, Ben Toolis and Cornell du Preez.
Seeking a response against a France side still trying to eliminate the vision of Johnny Sexton’s last-kick-of-the-game drop goal from their minds, Gregor Townsend said his side have a standard to live up to.
“Greig has a lot of experience having captained the side for the last couple of seasons, and he drives a lot of the standards on and off the field,” explained Townsend.
“Having him back in the group was already a positive. Seeing him play so well and be desperate to be back in the squad and in the team, we should get his experience on the field, which should help others around him.
“We are all aware that last week we didn’t perform anything like we are capable of, and even it was the same team going back out, I am sure we would have got a better performance. But these changes we believe will make us stronger.”
15 Stuart Hogg, 14 Tommy Seymour, 13 Huw Jones, 12 Peter Horne, 11 Sean Maitland, 10 Finn Russell, 9 Greig Laidlaw; 1 Gordon Reid, 2 Stuart McInally, 3 Simon Berghan, 4 Grant Gilchrist, 5 Jonny Gray, 6 John Barclay (Capt), 7 Hamish Watson, 8 Ryan Wilson.
Replacements: 16 Scott Lawson, 17 Jamie Bhatti, 18 Jon Welsh, 19 Ben Toolis, 20 Dave Denton, 21 Ali Price, 22 Chris Harris, 23 Blair Kinghorn.
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