Price starts, Barclay leads Scotland

Date published: February 23 2017

Scotland head coach Vern Cotter has made a handful of changes to his side that will face Wales at Murrayfield in their Six Nations clash.

30-year-old Scarlets loose forward John Barclay takes on the captaincy from scrum-half Greig Laidlaw, who was ruled out of the championship after sustaining an ankle injury in the previous round against France in Paris.

Barclay took on the captaincy that day, though the experience was short-lived, as he too left the field – with a shoulder and head injury – from which he recovered during the recent fallow week in the competition.

It will be the second time that the former Scotland U19 and U21 captain has led the senior side, the first being in similar circumstances in the 2010 autumn test against New Zealand, when he took on the role from injured captain and scrum-half, Mike Blair.

“John has played a vital role in our leadership group and has led by example throughout this and previous campaigns,” said Cotter.

“It was disappointing to lose Greig [Laidlaw] however we continue to develop a system of shared leadership in this squad, which has supported this transition.

“It’ll be a proud moment for John and one which he thoroughly deserves.”

The absence of the injured Laidlaw prompts one of three injury-enforced changes to the side, with Glasgow Warriors’ Ali Price set to make his first start for the national team – a rugby union betting favourite.

Back-row Ryan Wilson has long-since recovered from the elbow infection that kept him out of the France game and replaces the injured Josh Strauss (kidney), while Harlequins wing Tim Visser gets his first opportunity of the championship as a straight swap for Sean Maitland, who has failed to recover sufficiently from the rib injury sustained representing Saracens last weekend.

A further two tactical changes see Gordon Reid and John Hardie get their first start of the campaign, trading places with their respective compatriots Allan Dell and Hamish Watson, who have been named on the bench after starting the opening two games.

The rest of the squad is unchanged, meaning Price will partner clubmate Finn Russell at half-back, centres Alex Dunbar and Huw Jones start their fifth match in six tests, while Tommy Seymour and Stuart Hogg start out wide once more.

Reid will be joined by fellow Warriors Fraser Brown (hooker) and Zander Fagerson in the front-row, with the pack completed by brothers Jonny and Richie Gray at lock.

Cotter added: “We’ve now had two weeks to recover, reflect and prepare a new game plan for Wales. We know the Welsh will throw everything at us but we will keep our attacking mind-set and look to convert pressure to points as often as possible.

“The players have worked hard to prepare for this game and are really looking forward to putting in a top performance. It’s a huge weekend in the championship and we’re still right in the mix.”

Scotland: 15 Stuart Hogg, 14 Tommy Seymour, 13 Huw Jones, 12 Alex Dunbar, 11 Tim Visser, 10 Finn Russell, 9 Ali Price, 8 Ryan Wilson, 7 John Hardie, 6 John Barclay (c), 5 Jonny Gray, 4 Richie Gray, 3 Zander Fagerson, 2 Fraser Brown, 1 Gordon Reid
Replacements: 16 Ross Ford, 17 Allan Dell, 18 Simon Berghan, 19 Tim Swinson, 20 Hamish Watson, 21 Henry Pyrgos, 22 Duncan Weir, 23 Mark Bennett

Date: Saturday, February 25
Venue: Murrayfield, Edinburgh
Kick-off: 14:25 GMT
Referee: Johnny Lacey (Ireland)
Assistant Referees: JP Doyle (England), Matthew Carley (England)
TMO: Rowan Kitt (England)

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