Six Nations 2015: Mark Bennett and Euan Murray return for Scotland
Vern Cotter keeps changes to a minimum as they look to win an opening match in the championship for the first time since 2006
Mark Bennett and Euan Murray have both been recalled for Scotland’s opening Six Nations match against France on Saturday.
The Glasgow Wariors duo were both absent from Scotland’s 37-12 win over Tonga in November through injury.
It’ll be a very tough start to the championship, but we’re looking forward to that challenge.
The Warrors continue to dominate the match-day 23 with 11 players from last year’s Guinness PRO12 finalists involved and it will be a Six Nations debut for Bennett, who won his first two caps for Scotland in November against Argentina and New Zealand.
Scotland travel to the Stade de France this afternoon knowing their last victory over Les Bleus in the French captail came back in 1999, when Jim Telfer’s side won the Five Nations.
It has been a dismal spell for the Scots against the French with their only win in their last 16 matches coming at BT Murrayfield in 2006.
Coincidentally, that was the only year to date that Scotland have won their opening Six Nations match.
Cotter, who spend 17 years in France as a player and coach, admits that it will be a tough test in Paris.
“France will be tough,” he said.
“They played well in the autumn series but remain frustrated with past results in the RBS 6 Nations.
“They will be very difficult to contain so we’ll have to stay tight as a unit, work hard for each other and try to apply some pressure.
“It’ll be a very tough start to the championship, but we’re looking forward to that challenge.
“Seeing the passion and desire among our players in the build up to the tournament has been special.
“The players really enjoy the atmosphere of these big occasions, and the pressure of having to perform for their country, in front of huge crowds.
“They’re looking forward to getting out there.”
Bennett has plenty of company in the backline with club centre partner Alex Dunbar inside him while Finn Russell continues his partnership with captain and Gloucester scrum-half Greig Laidlaw at half-back.
Edinburgh Rugby’s Tim Visser is the only other non-Glasgow player to break into the backline taking his position on the left wing with Tommy Seymour on the right wing and Staurt Hogg coming through a fitness test to take his place at full-back.
Up front, there are no surprises as Edinburgh loosehead Al Dickinson and hooker Ross Ford get a chance to continue their superb club form, while Murray returns at tighthead ahead of his absence for the second round of the tournament on account of his religious beliefs.
Richie and Jonny Gray continue their brotherly partnership in the second row.
Warriors flanker Rob Harley lines up on the blindside with London Irish openside Blair Cowan and Castres back-row forward Johnnie Beattie packing down at number eight.
Edinburgh scrum-half Sam Hidalgo-Clyne could win his first cap if he comes off the bench. The 21-year-old plays understudy to captain Greig Laidlaw, but could also slot in at outside-half, wing or full-back if needed, and is one of six Scotland players compettent at goal-kicking.
France: Scott Spedding (Bayonne); Yoann Huget (Toulouse), Mathieu Bastareaud (Toulon), Wesley Fofana (Clermont Auvergne), Teddy Thomas (Racing Metro); Camille Lopez (Clermont Auvergne), Rory Kockott (Castres); Alexandre Menini (Toulon), Guilhem Guirado (Toulon), Rabah Slimani (Stade Français), Pascal Pape (Stade Français), Yoann Maestri (Toulouse), Thierry Dusautoir (Toulouse, captain), Bernard Le Roux (Racing Metro), Damien Chouly (Clermont).
Replacements: Benjamin Kayser (Clermont Auvergne), Uini Atonio (La Rochelle), Eddy Ben Arous (Racing Metro), Romain Taofifenua (Toulon), Loann Goujon (La Rochelle); Morgan Parra (Clermont Auvergne), Remi Tales (Castres), Remi Lamerat (Castres).
Scotland: Stuart Hogg (Glasgow Warriors); Tommy Seymour (Glasgow Warriors), Mark Bennett (Glasgow Warriors), Alex Dunbar (Glasgow Warriors), Tim Visser (Edinburgh Rugby; Finn Russell (Glasgow Warriors), Greig Laidlaw (Gloucester Rugby, captain); Alasdair Dickinson (Edinburgh Rugby), Ross Ford (Edinburgh Rugby), Euan Murray (Glasgow Warriors), Richie Gray (Castres), Jonny Gray (Glasgow Warriors), Rob Harley (Glasgow Warriors), Blair Cowan (London Irish), Johnnie Beattie (Castres).
Replacements: Fraser Brown (Glasgow Warriors), Gordon Reid (Glasgow Warriors), Geoff Cross (London Irish), Jim Hamilton (Saracens), Al Strokosch; Sam Hidalgo-Clyne (Edinburgh Rugby), Peter Horne (Glasgow Warriors), Dougie Fife (Edinburgh Rugby).
Referee: Nigel Owens (WRU).