Scotland have made three changes to their pack for Saturday’s RBS 6 Nations Championship match against France at Murrayfield.
Geoff Cross is promoted from the bench after his solid efforts bolstering the scrum, and will line up as part of a nuggety front row with Scott Lawson and Ryan Grant. Richie Gray and Jim Hamilton continue in the second row and will be hoping for a strong performance in the lineout to match last week’s.
With Ryan Wilson laid low by tonsilitis – yet still on the bench – Kelly Brown comes back in at 7 at the expense of the unfortunate Chris Fusaro, while Johnnie Beattie will line up at 6 and David Denton at 8 (although the other way round might work well if not better). No sign of the in-form Ross Rennie or John Barclay (watch this try), although a return for them at this stage was pretty unlikely.
The back division is unchanged from that which started the game in Rome despite Chris Cusiter’s excellent performance in Glasgow’s narrow loss to RaboDirect Pro12 champions Leinster, and continued question marks over the quality of Laidlaw’s service during the tournament. Laidlaw today announced he is to join Gloucester who are seeking a potential replacement for Freddie Burns.
On the bench, Euan Murray, the 58-times capped prop, returns to the squad after missing the first three games of the Championship due to that freak hand injury and a leg injury that has also recovered. Despite his efforts two weekends ago, Cross hasn’t always gone well in the scrums depending on referee interpretation, so there is a capable replacement waiting in the wings.
Scotland head coach Scott Johnson cited the reasoning that “France play above the ground a bit and there will be a lot of mauling” would suit skipper Brown.
“I think the pitch suits Kelly too and I’ve picked a side that can win the game and that’s most important.”
“The other back-row change is slightly enforced as Ryan Wilson has not been well at the start of this week with a tonsillitis bug and it was important we were not hampered in our training so Dents (David Denton) comes straight in.
“Geoff did really well when he came on against Italy and it’s right that he should start this week.”
France will be without a number of key men including Picamoles and Fofana and the in form Nyanga, and no sooner was Morgan Parra called up than he was banned for a headbutt. The pitch may not suit France’s traditional cavalier style but their play has been distinctly stodgy of late under Phillipe Saint Andre so Murrayfield’s ropey turf might suit them just fine as they aim to maintain a position as championship contenders.
Scotland, on the other hand, just need more of the same.
Scotland team (sponsor RBS) to play France in the RBS 6 Nations Championship at Murrayfield on Saturday 8 March, kick-off 5pm
15 Stuart Hogg (Glasgow Warriors) 18 caps, 3 tries, 15 points
14 Tommy Seymour (Glasgow Warriors) 7 caps, 2 tries, 10 points
13 Alex Dunbar (Glasgow Warriors) 6 caps, 3 tries, 15 points
12 Matt Scott (Edinburgh Rugby) 19 caps, 3 tries, 15 points
11 Sean Lamont (Glasgow Warriors) 85 caps, 12 tries, 60 points
10 Duncan Weir (Glasgow Warriors) 11 caps, 1 try, 3 conversions, 1 drop-goal, 14 points
9 Greig Laidlaw (Edinburgh Rugby) vice-cpt 27 caps, 3 tries, 23 conversions, 58 penalties, 235 points
1 Ryan Grant (Glasgow Warriors) 16 caps
2 Scott Lawson (Newcastle Falcons) 41 caps, 2 tries, 10 points
3 Geoff Cross (Edinburgh Rugby) 26 caps, 1 try, 5 points
4 Richie Gray (Castres) 35 caps, 1 try, 5 points
5 Jim Hamilton (Montpellier) 53 caps, 1 try, 5 points
6 Johnnie Beattie (Montpellier) 29 caps, 3 tries, 15 points
7 Kelly Brown (Saracens) captain 61 caps, 4 tries, 20 points
8 David Denton (Edinburgh Rugby) 20 caps
16 Ross Ford (Edinburgh Rugby) 73 caps, 2 tries, 10 points
17 Alasdair Dickinson (Edinburgh Rugby) 33 caps, 2 tries, 10 points
18 Euan Murray (Worcester Warriors) 58 caps, 2 tries, 10 points
19 Tim Swinson (Glasgow Warriors) 5 caps
20 Ryan Wilson (Glasgow Warriors) 7 caps
21 Chris Cusiter (Glasgow Warriors) 67 caps, 3 tries, 15 points
22 Duncan Taylor (Saracens) 9 caps
23 Max Evans (Castres) 40 caps, 3 tries, 15 points.
Referee: Chris Pollock (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: George Clancy (Ireland) and JP Doyle (England)
TMO: Gareth Simmonds (Wales).