Six Nations 2016: John Barclay returns for Scotland v England

John Barclay in action for Scotland during a World Cup warm-up match
Barclay featured in two World Cup warm-up matches for Scotland but did not make the final squad
Six Nations: Scotland v England
Date: Saturday, 6 February Venue: Murrayfield Stadium Kick-off: 16:50 GMT
Coverage: Live on BBC One, BBC Radio 5 live, BBC Radio Scotland and BBC Sport website

John Barclay returns for Scotland in the Six Nations opener against England on Saturday.

The Scarlets flanker, 29, did not make last year's World Cup squad and has been absent for the past three Six Nations campaigns.

Barclay will win his 46th cap alongside John Hardie and Dave Denton in the home back row at Murrayfield.

Glasgow centre Mark Bennett will also be in the starting line-up, having recovered from a shoulder injury.

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"He is 100% and we can't hold him back," said head coach Vern Cotter.

"At first it seemed like it was going to be a month or two [with his shoulder], but the second look showed it wasn't. He is ready to play."

Bennett will be partnered by Edinburgh's Matt Scott, whose return is the only other change to the XV that started in the 35-34 World Cup quarter-final defeat by Australia.

Barclay featured in two of Scotland's World Cup warm-up matches last summer, having been overlooked since 2013.

However, he was omitted from the final tournament squad in favour of Hardie - recently arrived from New Zealand - while another adopted Kiwi, Blair Cowan, was summoned as a second specialist open-side during the group stages.

Cotter said: "John has been playing eight for Scarlets and I think he has the skill-set to play in that position and slip into six and become a link player and ball carrier. He's able to take ball on the ground as well.

"John is a smart player with 40-odd caps and that experience is important in Six Nations matches.

"He is a proud rugby player and he's showed a lot of enthusiasm since he's come back in. Trying to get the jersey off his back will be really hard."

Since the World Cup, Alasdair Strokosch has retired while another specialist blind-side, Ryan Wilson, was not chosen for the initial Six Nations squad.

Scotland head coach Vern Cotter
"There's a huge amount of excitement and determination among the group to start well, and do well, in this championship, and show that they have learned from past experiences and developed their game."

Cowan, who started Scotland's World Cup quarter-final against Australia alongside Denton and Hardie, is among the replacements at Murrayfield.

"Dave gives us strength in carrying ability and John is a tireless worker," said Cotter of his back-row balance.

"We feel it is a good combination to start the game and Blair, who can play all three positions, will bring his energy off the bench so we can keep attacking them."

Sean Maitland and Tommy Seymour start on the wings, while scrum-half and captain Greig Laidlaw resumes his partnership with stand-off Finn Russell.

Glasgow tight-head prop Zander Fagerson could make his Test debut from the bench at the tender age of 20, while the all-Edinburgh front row of Al Dickinson, Ross Ford and WP Nel, plus second-row brothers Jonny and Richie Gray, form a settled front five.

Scotland: Stuart Hogg, Sean Maitland, Mark Bennett, Matt Scott, Tommy Seymour, Finn Russell, Greig Laidlaw (capt); Al Dickinson, Ross Ford, WP Nel, Richie Gray, Jonny Gray, John Barclay, John Hardie, David Denton.

Replacements: Stuart McInally, Gordon Reid, Zander Fagerson, Tim Swinson, Blair Cowan, Sam Hidalgo-Clyne, Duncan Weir, Duncan Taylor.

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