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Experienced scrumhalf Greig Laidlaw returns to a 40-man Scotland squad announced for the Six Nations.

Laidlaw, 32, has not played a Test for almost a year and is just returning from a broken leg.

John Barclay retains the captain’s role he took on when Laidlaw was injured during last season’s Six Nations.

Uncapped props Murray McCallum and D’Arcy Rae are included, along with fullback Blair Kinghorn and scrumhalf Nathan Fowles.

Head coach Gregor Townsend also recalls Dave Denton, Scott Lawson, Gordon Reid and Jon Welsh after long absences from the international scene.

But there is no room for Josh Strauss, Matt Scott and Tim Visser, while John Hardie is overlooked as he nears the end of a 3-month “gross misconduct” ban.

Star fullback Stuart Hogg has not played since sustaining a hip injury during the warm-up for Scotland’s 53-24 win over Australia on 25 November 2017.

Lock Richie Gray has only just resumed action for Toulouse after recovering from a back problem, while Edinburgh centre Mark Bennett returns after missing the autumn series.

The campaign kicks off in Cardiff on 3 February and includes home games against France and defending champions England.

Last year, Scotland finished 4th, level on points with Ireland and France, after 3 victories, all of which came at Murrayfield.

Edinburgh prop Simon Berghan is suspended for the opening match and several frontrow regulars, including Ross Ford, Zander Fagerson, WP Nel and Allan Dell, are missing through injury.

Hooker Fraser Brown has been added to that list after suffering a series of head knocks this season, with 36-year-old Lawson back in the fold after winning the most recent of his 46 caps in 2014.

Laidlaw, who has captained Scotland on 31 occasions, missed the summer tour after being called up to the British and Irish Lions squad.

Townsend, who will be making his Six Nations coaching debut, has used Ali Price as his first-choice scrum-half in the absence of the former skipper, with Henry Pyrgos providing back-up.

With Berghan suspended and Fagerson and Nel sidelined, Newcastle’s Welsh is the leading contender to start at tighthead prop in Wales. The 31-year-old has not featured since the World Cup in 2015.

 

Scotland squad:

Backs: Mark Bennett (Edinburgh Rugby), Alex Dunbar (Glasgow Warriors), Nick Grigg (Glasgow Warriors), Chris Harris (Newcastle Falcons), Stuart Hogg (Glasgow Warriors), Pete Horne (Glasgow Warriors), Ruaridh Jackson (Glasgow Warriors), Huw Jones (Glasgow Warriors), Lee Jones (Glasgow Warriors), Blair Kinghorn (Edinburgh Rugby), Greig Laidlaw (ASM Clermont Auvergne), Sean Maitland (Saracens), Byron McGuigan (Sale Sharks), Ali Price (Glasgow Warriors), Henry Pyrgos (Glasgow Warriors), Finn Russell (Glasgow Warriors), Tommy Seymour (Glasgow Warriors), Duncan Taylor (Saracens), Nathan Fowles (Edinburgh Rugby)

Forwards: John Barclay (Scarlets), Simon Berghan (Edinburgh Rugby), Jamie Bhatti (Glasgow Warriors), Magnus Bradbury (Edinburgh Rugby), David Denton (Worcester Warriors), Cornell Du Preez (Edinburgh Rugby), Grant Gilchrist (Edinburgh Rugby), Jonny Gray (Glasgow Warriors), Richie Gray (Toulouse), Luke Hamilton (Leicester Tigers), Rob Harley (Glasgow Warriors), Scott Lawson (Newcastle Falcons), Murray McCallum (Edinburgh Rugby), Stuart McInally (Edinburgh Rugby), Gordon Reid (London Irish), D’arcy Rae (Glasgow Warriors), Ben Toolis (Edinburgh Rugby), George Turner (Glasgow Warriors), Hamish Watson (Edinburgh Rugby), Jon Welsh (Newcastle Falcons), Ryan Wilson (Glasgow Warriors)

 

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