The Scots travel south in defence of the Calcutta Cup trophy they lifted for the first time in 10 years at BT Murrayfield last year, with a victory in west London escaping the Scots in each of the biennial times of asking since 1983.
Scotland’s team changes are split evenly between the backs and forwards and see Premiership pair Sean Maitland (Saracens) and Byron McGuigan (Sale Sharks) start in place of back three counterparts Blair Kinghorn and Tommy Seymour – both injured in last weekend’s loss to Wales – alongside try-scorer Darcy Graham.
The alterations to the back division are completed by Glasgow Warriors inside-centre Sam Johnson, who starts his fourth Test of the tournament in place of clubmate Pete Horne.
Johnson partners fellow Warrior Nick Grigg in midfield, with half-backs Finn Russell and Ali Price starting once again.
The starting back-row features two of the three pack changes where Edinburgh openside Hamish Watson will earn his 25th cap in place of Jamie Ritchie, who has not recovered sufficiently from the head/neck injury sustained against Wales to feature this weekend.
Exeter Chiefs forward Sam Skinner – injured in the opening round win over Italy – returns to blindside flank in place of Sale Sharks’ Josh Strauss – who moves to the bench – with Edinburgh’s Magnus Bradbury moving to the national number eight position for the first time.
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The last change sees Edinburgh lock Ben Toolis start in place of Jonny Gray – who moves to the bench – alongside clubmate Grant Gilchrist to form an all-Edinburgh tight five with returning front-row forwards Allan Dell, captain Stuart McInally and Willem Nel, meaning all but one of the starting pack hails from the capital club.
Newcastle Falcons back Chris Harris marks his return from the calf injury he sustained representing his club in the fallow week of the tournament with a place on the most experienced bench to be named by Townsend this campaign.
Scotland: 15 Sean Maitland, 14 Darcy Graham, 13 Nick Grigg, 12 Sam Johnson, 11 Byron McGuigan, 10 Finn Russell, 9 Ali Price, 8 Magnus Bradbury, 7 Hamish Watson, 6 Sam Skinner, 5 Grant Gilchrist, 4 Ben Toolis, 3 Willem Nel, 2 Stuart McInally (c), 1 Allan Dell
Replacements: 16 Fraser Brown, 17 Gordon Reid, 18 Simon Berghan, 19 Jonny Gray, 20 Josh Strauss, 21 Greig Laidlaw, 22 Adam Hastings, 23 Chris Harris
Date: Saturday, March 16
Kick-off: 17:00 GMT
Referee: Paul Williams (New Zealand)
Assistant Referees: Jérôme Garcès (France), Federico Anselmi (Argentina)
TMO: Ben Skeen (New Zealand)