Gray and Seymour make half century as Scotland change four
Glasgow Warriors pair Jonny Gray and Tommy Seymour will make their 50th appearance in a Scotland side – that features four changes – against Wales in the Guinness Six Nations this Saturday at BT Murrayfield (kick-off 2.15pm) – live on BBC.
It will also be a 50th start for Seymour – who made his debut against South Africa in the summer of 2013 – while the opportunity comes just five days before Gray – who debuted against the Springboks that autumn – turns 25, making him the second-youngest Scot to reach the milestone.
Scotland Head Coach, Gregor Townsend, paid tribute to the pair he’s coached for both club and country.
"Getting to 50 caps for your country is a milestone in a player’s career and it underlines the consistency and quality both Tommy and Jonny have delivered for Scotland over the years."
“Tommy has started all his games and has an impressive try-scoring record, which is fundamental element of the game for a winger.
"As well as his finishing ability, his excellent work-rate off-the-ball and outstanding aerial skills have been the key reasons why he's reached a half century of appearances for Scotland.
“Jonny is an exceptional player who came through as a young man and, by becoming the second-youngest player to win 50 caps, shows just how well he’s played in that relatively short time.
“He has a phenomenal work rate, is a very accurate tackler and takes real pride in helping the team prepare, as well as continually looking for ways to improve his own game."
Among Scotland’s four starting changes are a new set of half-backs who will look to orchestrate the host’s efforts to secure the Doddie Weir Cup, as Racing 92 stand-off Finn Russell returns from a head injury to start alongside Glasgow Warriors scrum-half Ali Price [pictured below].
Russell’s return sees Pete Horne move one place outfield to inside-centre – in place of Sam Johnson – to partner fellow Glasgow Warriors centre Nick Grigg, while the inclusion of Price means Greig Laidlaw moves to the bench, with Edinburgh hooker and club captain Stuart McInally taking on the national team responsibility for the third time.
The final change to the backs sees 21-year-old Edinburgh wing Darcy Graham earn his first start in place of injured Saracen Sean Maitland (foot) to join Seymour and clubmate Blair Kinghorn in the back-three.
The only change to the pack is at tighthead where Edinburgh prop Willem Nel [below] returns from a calf injury to form an all-Edinburgh front-row with McInally and loosehead Allan Dell.
They pack down in front of an unchanged back-five where lock Grant Gilchrist partners Gray in the second-row and Magnus Bradbury, Jamie Ritchie and Josh Strauss return to the back-row.
There are three further changes to the bench which could see recent squad additions Hamish Watson (back-row), Gordon Reid (loosehead prop) and Byron McGuigan (back three) feature for the first time this campaign.
Townsend added: “While there have been some strong moments in our games this campaign, we have yet to deliver that quality and focus for 80 minutes and play to our potential.
"We have had a couple of weeks since our defeat in Paris to look at ways we can improve our performances, through what we do in training, our tactical approach and through selection.
“First and foremost, we select a team we believe gives us the best chance of winning at the weekend, while we also have an opportunity to reward players who have been in very good form and have been knocking at the door of the team in recent weeks – Darcy Graham and Ali Price especially.
“Greig [Laidlaw], having started in our last six games is a key member of our squad, although this week we have decided to utilise his leadership and experience off the bench. He is driven by a desire to win for his country and he should have an important role to play in the latter stages of the match at the weekend.”
Wales – the world’s third-ranked side – arrive in Edinburgh as the only unbeaten team remaining in the championship and have won 10 in their last 11 Tests against their hosts, with Scotland’s success coming in their last meeting at BT Murrayfield two years ago.
Townsend added: “They [Wales] have a very good record against us and are in excellent form. It’s a similar challenge to the one we faced last year against England, who had also been on a very good run of results in their preceding games.
"We rose that the challenge that day and found a way to win and I firmly believe we can reach that level of performance once again on Saturday.”
Scotland team to play Wales at BT Murrayfield Stadium
Saturday 9 March (kick-off 2.15pm) – live on BBC
15. Blair Kinghorn (Edinburgh) – 10 caps
14. Tommy Seymour (Glasgow Warriors) – 49 caps
13. Nick Grigg (Glasgow Warriors) – 7 caps
12. Pete Horne (Glasgow Warriors) – 40 caps
11. Darcy Graham (Edinburgh) – 2 caps
10. Finn Russell VICE CAPTAIN (Racing 92) - 42 caps
9. Ali Price (Glasgow Warriors) – 22 caps
1. Allan Dell (Edinburgh) – 20 caps
2. Stuart McInally CAPTAIN (Edinburgh) – 25 caps
3. Willem Nel (Edinburgh) – 27 caps
4. Grant Gilchrist VICE CAPTAIN (Edinburgh) – 31 caps
5. Jonny Gray (Glasgow Warriors) – 49 caps
6. Magnus Bradbury (Edinburgh) – 5 caps
7. Jamie Ritchie (Edinburgh) – 9 caps
8. Josh Strauss (Sale Sharks) – 20 caps
16. Fraser Brown (Glasgow Warriors) – 40 caps
17. Gordon Reid (London Irish) – 33 caps
18. Simon Berghan (Edinburgh) – 17 caps
19. Ben Toolis (Edinburgh) – 16 caps
20. Hamish Watson (Edinburgh) – 23 caps
21. Greig Laidlaw (Clermont Auvergne) – 69 caps
22. Adam Hastings (Glasgow Warriors) – 9 caps
23. Byron McGuigan (Sale Sharks) – 6 caps
The Doddie Weir Cup was created by Scottish Rugby and the WRU to honour the former Scotland and British & Irish Lions player diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease and support his inspiring work to raise funds for MND research.
The My Name’5 Doddie Foundation has committed a further £1.4million towards research to help fund a cure for motor neurone disease (MND). This brings the total amount committed by the trustees to over £2 million and, subject to contracts being finalised, will support research projects over the next three years.