Scotland trio to make Six Nations debuts in France

Mark Bennett
Mark Bennett will start in the Scotland midfield at the Stade de France
RBS Six Nations: France v Scotland
Venue: Stade de France, Paris Date: Saturday 7 February Kick-off: 17:00 GMT
Coverage: Live on BBC TV, Radio 5 Live, BBC Radio Scotland, BBC Sport website.

Glasgow Warriors duo Finn Russell and Mark Bennett and London Irish back-row Blair Cowan will make their Six Nations debuts when Scotland play France in Paris on Saturday.

Bennett started the first two autumn Tests in November but was ruled out of the Tonga game with a hamstring injury.

The only other change from then is tight-head prop Euan Murray stepping in for Geoff Cross, who is on the bench.

Greig Laidlaw and Russell start their fifth Test together as the half-backs.

Centre Alex Dunbar will partner Warriors team-mate Bennett in midfield, in front of Stuart Hogg and wings Tim Visser and Tommy Seymour, who scored a try in each of the autumn Tests.

Interview - Vern Cotter

In the front row of the pack, Edinburgh's Alasdair Dickinson will earn his 40th cap beside club-mate Ross Ford and Murray, the latter with 62 caps.

Second-row brothers Richie and Jonny Gray will start together for their country for the fourth consecutive game, with Rob Harley, Castres number eight Johnnie Beattie and Cowan in the back row.

Beattie was a late addition to the Scotland squad, having only been called up after injuries to players in the final round of Glasgow's and Edinburgh's European pool matches.

Scotland head coach Vern Cotter said: "Seeing the passion and desire among our players in the build-up to the tournament has been special.

Scotland's Six Nations fixtures
7 Feb: France v Scotland, 17:00 GMT
15 Feb: Scotland v Wales, 15:00 GMT
28 Feb: Scotland v Italy, 14:30 GMT
14 Mar: England v Scotland, 17:00 GMT
21 Mar: Scotland v Ireland, 14:30 GMT

"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."

On the bench, Edinburgh scrum-half Sam Hidalgo-Clyne will be hoping he can earn his first cap, while experienced lock Jim Hamilton comes in for Kieran Low.

Hidalgo-Clyne, Glasgow Warriors' Peter Horne, hooker Fraser Brown and loose-head prop Gordon Reid are all in line to make their tournament debut.

Backs Sean Lamont, Henry Pyrgos and Matt Scott were not considered for the match because of calf, knee and shoulder injuries respectively sustained in training.

Cotter added: "France will be tough. They played well in the autumn series but remain frustrated with past results in the RBS Six 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."

Blair Cowan tackles New Zealand's Ben Franks
Blair Cowan, pictured tackling New Zealand's Ben Franks, has scored one try in his six games for Scotland

Former Scotland captain Andy Nicol is looking forward to the impact that Hogg can make on the tournament.

He told BBC Scotland: "Stuart Hogg is a world-class player when he is on his day. At full-back he is electric.

"He's also got players in front of him who can create space for him and that's vital. You can't have everything going to the full-back without the defence being stopped.

"I think the Scotland back line has really improved in the last 18 months. We were scoring tries for fun in the autumn Tests which is something we haven't done for a long, long time.

"It's great to have someone like Stuart Hogg at the end of a lot of the creativity now."

Scotland team to play France: Stuart Hogg; Tommy Seymour, Mark Bennett, Alex Dunbar, Tim Visser; Finn Russell, Greig Laidlaw (capt); Alasdair Dickinson, Ross Ford, Euan Murray, Richie Gray, Jonny Gray, Rob Harley, Blair Cowan, Johnnie Beattie.

Replacements: Fraser Brown, Gordon Reid, Geoff Cross, Jim Hamilton, Alasdair Strokosch, Sam Hidalgo-Clyne, Peter Horne, Dougie Fife.

Stuart Hogg
Stuart Hogg starts at full-back for Scotland in Paris on Saturday

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