23 Feb Cotter banks on Barclay to lead Scotland against Wales
Head Coach Vern Cotter today confirmed back-row John Barclay will captain Scotland against Wales this Saturday in the RBS 6 Nations at BT Murrayfield (25 February, kick-off 2.25pm) – live on BBC.
The 30-year-old Scarlets loose forward takes on the mantle from scrum-half Greig Laidlaw, who was ruled out of the championship after sustaining an ankle injury in the previous round against France in Paris.
Barclay took on the captaincy that day, though the experience was short-lived, as he too left the field – with a shoulder and head injury – from which he recovered during the recent fallow week in the competition.
It will be the second time that the former Scotland U19 and U21 captain has led the senior side, the first being in similar circumstances in the 2010 autumn test against New Zealand, when he took on the role from injured captain and scrum-half, Mike Blair.
Scotland Head Coach Vern Cotter, said: “John has played a vital role in our leadership group and has led by example throughout this and previous campaigns.
“It was disappointing to lose Greig [Laidlaw] however we continue to develop a system of shared leadership in this squad, which has supported this transition.
“It’ll be a proud moment for John and one which he thoroughly deserves.”
The absence of the injured Laidlaw prompts one of three injury-enforced changes to the side, with Glasgow Warriors’ Ali Price set to make his first start for the national team.
Back-row Ryan Wilson has long-since recovered from the elbow infection that kept him out of the France game and replaces the injured Josh Strauss (kidney), while Harlequins wing Tim Visser gets his first opportunity of the championship as a straight swap for Sean Maitland, who has failed to recover sufficiently from the rib injury sustained representing Saracens last weekend.
A further two tactical changes see Gordon Reid and John Hardie get their first start of the campaign, trading places with their respective compatriots Allan Dell and Hamish Watson, who have been named on the bench after starting the opening two games.
The rest of the squad is unchanged, meaning Price will partner clubmate Finn Russell at half-back, centres Alex Dunbar and Huw Jones start their fifth match in six tests, while Tommy Seymour and Stuart Hogg start out wide once more.
Reid will be joined by fellow Warriors Fraser Brown (hooker) and Zander Fagerson in the front-row, with the pack completed by brothers Jonny and Richie Gray at lock.
Cotter added: “We’ve now had two weeks to recover, reflect and prepare a new game plan for Wales. “We know the Welsh will throw everything at us but we will keep our attacking mind-set and look to convert pressure to points as often as possible.
“The players have worked hard to prepare for this game and are really looking forward to putting in a top performance. “It’s a huge weekend in the championship and we’re still right in the mix.”
Scotland team to play Wales at BT Murrayfield in the RBS 6 Nations
Saturday 25 February (kick-off 2.25pm) – live on BBC
15. Stuart Hogg (Glasgow Warriors) – 50 caps; 16 tries, 3 pens, 89 points
14. Tommy Seymour (Glasgow Warriors) – 33 caps; 14 tries, 70 points
13. Huw Jones (Stormers) – 5 caps; 2 tries, 10 points
12. Alex Dunbar (Glasgow Warriors) – 21 caps; 6 tries, 30 points
11. Tim Visser (Harlequins) – 28 caps; 11 tries, 55 points
10. Finn Russell (Glasgow Warriors) – 24 caps; 2 tries, 3 cons, 3 pens, 25 points
9. Ali Price (Glasgow Warriors) – 2 caps
1. Gordon Reid (Glasgow Warriors) – 21 caps
2. Fraser Brown (Glasgow Warriors) – 22 caps
3. Zander Fagerson (Glasgow Warriors) – 6 caps
4. Richie Gray (Toulouse) – 62 caps; 3 tries, 15 points
5. Jonny Gray (Glasgow Warriors) – 30 caps; 2 tries, 10 points
6. John Barclay CAPTAIN (Scarlets) – 57 caps; 4 tries, 20 points
7. John Hardie (Edinburgh Rugby) – 14 caps; 3 tries, 15 points
8. Ryan Wilson (Glasgow Warriors) – 24 caps
16. Ross Ford (Edinburgh Rugby) – 104 caps; 2 tries, 10 points
17. Allan Dell (Edinburgh Rugby) – 5 caps
18. Simon Berghan (Edinburgh Rugby) – 1 cap
19. Tim Swinson (Glasgow Warriors) – 27 caps; 1 try, 5 points
20. Hamish Watson (Edinburgh Rugby) – 7 caps; 1 try, 5 points
21. Henry Pyrgos (Glasgow Warriors) – 18 caps; 4 tries, 3 pens, 29 points
22. Duncan Weir (Edinburgh Rugby) – 25 caps; 2 tries, 7 cons, 10 pens, 1 drop, 57 points
23. Mark Bennett (Glasgow Warriors) – 19 caps; 6 tries, 30 points