Six Nations 2014: Scotland make three changes for France

Scott Johnson recalls captain Kelly Brown to his starting XV as he makes three changes for Scotland’s Six Nations clash with France

Scott Johnson has recalled captain Kelly Brown to his starting XV as he makes three changes for Scotland’s Six Nations clash with France at Murrayfield on Saturday.

The Saracens flanker was controversially dropped for Scotland’s calamitous Calcutta Cup defeat at Murrayfield last month, but has earned himself a recall as Johnson opts for a big back row in his final home match in charge before Vern Cotter’s arrival from Clermont Auvergne in the summer.

“I think Saturday is a game that will really suit Kelly. Unlike other sides in the competition, France play above the ground a bit and there will be a lot of mauling,” Johnson told www.scottishrugby.org.

“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 David Denton comes straight in.

Johnson has named the same back seven which starred in Scotland’s dramatic 21-20 win over Italy in Rome, which includes double try hero Alex Dunbar at centre, while Gloucester-bound Edinburgh captain Greig Laidlaw retains his place at scrum-half despite a challenge from Glasgow Warriors’ Chris Cusiter.

In a Warriors-dominated backline Stuart Hogg continues at full-back with Tommy Seymour and Sean Lamont on the wings and Italian job hero Duncan Weir at outside-half with Edinburgh’s Matt Scott continuing to partner Dunbar in the midfield.

Up front, Newcastle Falcons hooker Scott Lawson retains his place in the front row after an impressive performance last time out and a solid try-scoring performance for the Falcons on Sunday in the Aviva Premiership alongside Glasgow’s Ryan Grant with Edinburgh’s Geoff Cross coming in for Moray Low at tight-head.

France-based locks Richie Gray and Jim Hamilton continue their partnership in the engine room with the biggest changes coming in the back row as Brown comes in for Chris Fusaro at openside and David Denton – Scotland’s best ball carrier against England – returning on the blindside.

Despite their equalling their best Six Nations campaign last year with a third-place finish from wins against Italy and Ireland at Murrayfield, Scotland ended their campaign with a 23-16 defeat to France in Paris.

France head coach Philippe Saint-Andre faces a selection headache following injuries to star centre Wesley Fofana, with hooker Dimitri Szarzewski and marauding flanker Yannick Nyanga also out and Clermont Auvergne scrum-half banned.

The former France wing also made the bold decision to drop number eight Louis Picamoles for sarcastically applauding referee Alain Rolland after being yellow carded against France, despite the Toulouse powerhouse being one of Les Bleus’ best players this campaign and backed up by a solid performance for his club in the Top 14 at the weekend.

“Whatever side France put out will be a good one,” Johnson added. “They have proven over the years that they are a great rugby nation so whatever side comes to Edinburgh we know we’ll have to be at our best.”

Scotland XV to face France

Stuart Hogg (Glasgow Warriors); Tommy Seymour (Glasgow), Alex Dunbar (Glasgow), Matt Scott (Edinburgh Rugby) Sean Lamont (Glasgow); Duncan Weir (Glasgow), Greig Laidlaw (Edinburgh); Ryan Grant (Glasgow), Scott Lawson (Newcastle Falcons), Geoff Cross, Richie Gray (Castres), Jim Hamilton (Montpellier), David Denton (Edinburgh), Brown (Saracens), Johnnie Beattie (Montpellier).

Replacements: Ross Ford (Edinburgh), Alasdair Dickinson (Edinburgh), Euan Murray (Worcester Warriors), Tim Swinson (Glasgow), Ryan Wilson (Glasgow), Chris Cusiter (Glasgow), Duncan Taylor (Saracens), Max Evans (Castres).

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