EDINBURGH (Reuters) - Veteran fullback Stuart Hogg has recovered from injury to take his place in Scotland’s team but two other backline regulars have been dropped for Saturday’s Six Nations opener against England at Twickenham.
Hogg, who had a heel injury, will win his 97th cap despite having missed matches at club level over the last weeks, included on Thursday as coach Gregor Townsend named his line-up for the Calcutta Cup clash.
Dropped are the British & Irish Lions pair of Chris Harris and Ali Price while Zander Fagerson is not yet ready to play despite recovering from injury.
Blindside flanker Jamie Ritchie leads the team in the Six Nations for the first time, having replaced Hogg as captain last year, and is joined at openside by Luke Crosbie, whose excellent recent form is rewarded with a second start for Scotland, as they bid to retain the Calcutta Cup.
Crosbie's selection comes ahead of Hamish Watson, who returned to playing last week after an injury layoff.
Pierre Schoeman starts at loosehead prop for a 17th consecutive international since his 2021 debut, but the rest of the front row is changed from the side that beat Argentina 52-29 at Murrayfield in November in Scotland’s last test, with WP Nel returning at tighthead and George Turner at hooker.
Nel gets a chance in the No. 3 jersey in place of Fagerson, who Townsend said was training well but not yet 100% fit to play this weekend.
Ben White has been chosen ahead of Ali Price to partner stand-off Finn Russell while Huw Jones takes Chris Harris' place at centre. Kyle Steyn is in for Darcy Graham on the wing.
"We've gone for players who are in really good form," Townsend told a virtual news conference from their training camp in Spain.
"I believe we'll also see a positive reaction from those left out."
Townsend said leaving Price out had been a difficult decision while Jones gets a nod ahead of Harris because of his form over the past two months.
"There is also an element of cohesion there with Sione Tuipulotu and their form together at Glasgow Warriors," the coach said.
Team: 15-Stuart Hogg, 14-Kyle Steyn, 13-Huw Jones, 12-Sione Tuipulotu, 11-Duhan van der Merwe, 10-Finn Russell, 9-Ben White, 8-Matt Fagerson, 7-Luke Crosbie, 6-Jamie Ritchie (capt.), 5-Grant Gilchrist, 4-Richie Gray, 3-WP Nel, 2-George Turner, 1-Pierre Schoeman
Replacements: 16-Fraser Brown, 17-Jamie Bhatti, 18-Simon Berghan, 19-Jonny Gray, 20-Jack Dempsey, 21-George Horne, 22-Blair Kinghorn, 23-Chris Harris.
(Writing by Mark Gleeson in Cape Town; Editing by Emelia Sithole-Matarise, Robeert Birsel)