Head coach Vern Cotter today named the Scotland squad for this Saturday’s RBS 6 Nations opener against France at the Stade de France in Paris (7 February, kick-off 6pm local, 5pm GMT) – live on BBC1.
The starting team features just two changes to that which defeated Tonga 37-12 in the final viagogo Autumn Test, and three championship debutants in Finn Russell (stand-off), Mark Bennett (centre) and Blair Cowan (back-row).
Bennett – who started the first two games in November – returns from the hamstring injury that ruled him out of the third, while fellow Warrior, tight-head prop Euan Murray, steps in for Geoff Cross who starts on the bench.
A blend of experience and youth will once again orchestrate the back division as captain Greig Laidlaw – who stands one point away from scoring 300 for his country – and stand-off Russell, start their fifth Test match together.
Centre Alex Dunbar will partner Warriors teammate Bennett in midfield, in front of a potent back division of full-back Stuart Hogg, and wings Tim Visser and Tommy Seymour, who scored a try in each of the viagogo Autumn Tests.
A similarly-settled pack will also run out at the Stade de France, with Alasdair Dickinson and Ross Ford packing down with Murray in an experienced front-row that boasts 181 international caps.
Second-row brothers Richie and Jonny Gray will again form the boiler house in their fourth consecutive start for their country together, with Rob Harley, Johnnie Beattie and Cowan – man of the match against Tonga – in the back-row.
Scotland head coach Vern Cotter, said: “Seeing the passion and desire among our players in the build up to the tournament has been special.
“The players really enjoy the atmosphere of these big occasions, and the pressure of having to perform for their country, in front of huge crowds.
“They’re looking forward to getting out there.”
He added: “France will be tough.
They played well in the autumn series but remain frustrated with past results in the RBS 6 Nations.
“They will be very difficult to contain so we’ll have to stay tight as a unit, work hard for each other and try to apply some pressure.
“It’ll be a very tough start to the championship, but we’re looking forward to that challenge.”
Replacements set for maiden outing…
Scotland’s remaining changes appear on the bench, with 57-times capped lock Jim Hamilton coming in for Kieran Low, while the back replacements are all changed to feature uncapped Edinburgh Rugby scrum-half Sam Hidalgo-Clyne, Dougie Fife and Peter Horne.
Hidalgo-Clyne and Horne [pictured] are among a further four potential tournament debutants, with hooker Fraser Brown and loose-head prop Gordon Reid also in-line to make their first outing in the world’s greatest championship.
Backs Sean Lamont, Henry Pyrgos and Matt Scott were not considered for the match having been unable to recover from calf, knee and shoulder injuries sustained in training.
Scotland team to play France at the Stade de France, Paris; RBS 6 Nations Championship
Kick-off 6pm local, 5pm GMT – live on BBC1
14 Tommy Seymour (Glasgow Warriors); 13 caps, 6 tries, 30 points
12 Alex Dunbar (Glasgow Warriors); 11 caps, 4 tries, 20 points
11 Tim Visser (Edinburgh Rugby); 15 caps, 7 tries, 35 points
10 Finn Russell (Glasgow Warriors); 5 caps
9 Greig Laidlaw CAPTAIN (Gloucester); 34 caps, 3 tries, 37 conversions, 70 penalties, 299 points
1 Alasdair Dickinson (Edinburgh Rugby); 39 caps, 2 tries, 10 points
2 Ross Ford (Edinburgh Rugby); 80 caps; 2 tries, 10 points
3 Euan Murray (Glasgow Warriors); 62 caps, 2 tries, 10 points
4 Richie Gray (Castres); 42 caps, 2 tries, 10 points
5 Jonny Gray (Glasgow Warriors); 8 caps, 1 try, 5 points
6 Rob Harley (Glasgow Warriors), 10 caps, 1 try, 5 points
7 Blair Cowan (London Irish); 6 caps, 1 try, 5 points
8 Johnnie Beattie (Castres); 34 caps, 3 tries, 15 points
16 Fraser Brown (Glasgow Warriors); 3 caps
17 Gordon Reid (Glasgow Warriors); 6 caps
18 Geoff Cross (London Irish); 35 caps, 2 tries, 10 points
19 Jim Hamilton (Saracens); 57 caps, 1 try, 5 points
20 Alasdair Strokosch (USA Perpignan); 42 caps, 2 tries, 10 points
21 Sam Hidalgo-Clyne (Edinburgh Rugby); uncapped
22 Peter Horne (Glasgow Warriors); 5 caps
23 Dougie Fife (Edinburgh Rugby); 3 caps