Scotland make 5 changes for France, 4 of which are up front
Scotland’s campaign-opening win over Italy in Florence last weekend extended the national team’s run to five consecutive Test victories, a sequence which began against this weekend’s opponents in Edinburgh back in March.
Only twice have Scotland won six Tests in a row since 1900 (1925/26 and 1989/90). Focussing on the task at hand, Townsend said: “France are full of confidence and have played really well this year.
“We know we’re playing one of the best teams in the world right now, so to rise to this challenge we’re going to have to play close to our best throughout the contest on Sunday.”
Edinburgh wing Blair Kinghorn is the only change to the starting back division. He replaces clubmate Darcy Graham to link up with captain and full-back Stuart Hogg and fellow Edinburgh back Duhan van der Merwe in the back-three, with centres Sam Johnson (Glasgow Warriors) and Chris Harris (Gloucester) and half-backs Ali Price (Glasgow Warriors) and Duncan Weir (Worcester Warriors) all reinstated.
The return of fit-again Glasgow Warriors No.8 Matt Fagerson (ankle) and a new front-row of Oli Kebble, Fraser Brown (both Glasgow Warriors) and Simon Berghan (Edinburgh) completes the team changes in the forward pack.
Kebble and Berghan earn their first start of the campaign in place of injured Edinburgh loosehead Rory Sutherland (ankle) and Glasgow tighthead Zander Fagerson – who joins the replacements – while hooker and vice-captain Brown completes his return from the concussion sustained against Georgia last month to replace Stuart McInally – with George Turner retaining his place on the bench.
Scott Cummings (Glasgow Warriors) and Jonny Gray (Exeter Chiefs) partner at second-row once more, with Edinburgh pair Hamish Watson and Jamie Ritchie returning to complete the back-row – and starting side – with Matt Fagerson.
Edinburgh loosehead Jamie Bhatti takes the bench place vacated by Kebble and could feature for his country for the first time since last summer – in Scotland’s away win over Georgia in Tbilisi.
Townsend said: “It’s great to have Fraser, Jamie and Matt recover from their recent injuries, and we are delighted to also involve Jamie, Duncan and Sean in a match-day squad for the first time this season.
“The Autumn Nations Cup is all about opportunity – the opportunity to play in a new competition and the opportunity for us as coaches to see how a large number of our squad perform when given the chance to play.
“The support from the BT Murrayfield crowd was incredible last time we played France in March in the last game before the lockdown and, while they unfortunately won’t be with us in person this weekend, we’re grateful for all the messages of support letting us know that the nation is behind us once more as we take to the field this Sunday.”
Scotland team to play France at BT Murrayfield Stadium, 2020 Autumn Nations Cup
Sunday 22 November (kick-off 3.15pm) – live on Amazon Prime Video
15. Stuart Hogg CAPTAIN (Exeter Chiefs) – 78 caps
14. Blair Kinghorn (Edinburgh) – 24 caps
13. Chris Harris (Gloucester) – 21 caps
12. Sam Johnson (Glasgow Warriors) – 14 caps
11. Duhan van der Merwe (Edinburgh) – 3 caps
10. Duncan Weir (Worcester Warriors) – 29 caps
9. Ali Price (Glasgow Warriors) – 35 caps
1. Oli Kebble (Glasgow Warriors) – 3 caps
2. Fraser Brown VICE CAPTAIN (Glasgow Warriors) – 52 caps
3. Simon Berghan (Edinburgh) – 27 caps
4. Scott Cummings (Glasgow Warriors) – 15 caps
5. Jonny Gray (Exeter Chiefs) – 59 caps
6. Jamie Ritchie VICE CAPTAIN (Edinburgh) – 21 caps
7. Hamish Watson (Edinburgh) – 35 caps
8. Matt Fagerson (Glasgow Warriors) – 7 caps
16. George Turner (Glasgow Warriors) – 10 caps
17. Jamie Bhatti (Edinburgh) – 15 caps
18. Zander Fagerson (Glasgow Warriors) – 32 caps
19. Sam Skinner (Exeter Chiefs) – 8 caps
20. Blade Thomson (Scarlets) – 7 caps
21. Sam Hidalgo-Clyne (Exeter Chiefs) – 13 caps
22. Duncan Taylor (Saracens) – 26 caps
23. Sean Maitland (Saracens) – 48 caps
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