Chiefs quartet to face France
By Mark Stevens
Exeter Chiefs duo Stuart Hogg and Jonny Gray will both start for Scotland in Sunday’s Autumn Nations Cup clash with France at BT Murrayfield.
The experienced duo have started the past two victories against Wales (Six Nations) and Italy (Nations Cup) and are retained in a starting line-up which shows five changes to that which took to the field in Florence last weekend.
Les Bleus had been due to send a second-string line-up to Edinburgh but changed their mind after last week’s Autumn Nations Cup opener with Fiji was called off.
Townsend will hope to put the brakes on a team he believes is in better form than even the All Blacks at present and has named a new front row with Oli Kebble, Fraser Brown and Simon Berghan packing down.
Matt Fagerson is next to be given the chance to stake a claim for Scotland’s problematic No.8 jersey after Blade Thomson did little to show he is the long-term pick at the back of the scrum, while the only change in the backs see wing Blair Kinghorn replace Edinburgh club-mate Darcy Graham.
Saracens duo Sean Maitland and Duncan Taylor – who last featured for Scotland against Russia in the 2019 World Cup – also join the bench, alongside two more Chiefs, Sam Skinner and Sam Hidalgo-Clyne, both of whom featured in the Italy victory.
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.
“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.”
SCOTLAND TEAM TO FACE FRANCE
15. Stuart Hogg (Exeter Chiefs, capt) – 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 (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 (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