Captain Stuart Hogg and chief playmaker Finn Russell return to the Scotland starting line-up for this delayed final Six Nations game against Wales in Llanelli on Saturday.
Both Hogg and Jonny Gray go straight back into the team after playing for Exeter Chiefs in their Heineken Champions’ Cup and Gallagher Premiership final victories over the last two weeks.
Russell will play at 10 for Scotland from the start for the first time since the final game of the Rugby World Cup against Japan 13 months ago.
He had 25 minutes at the end the comprehensive win over Georgia at Murrayfield last week to end his self-imposed exile from the Scotland camp which covered the first four games of the 2020 championship.
Adam Hastings, the starting ten in Scotland’s last five games, drops to the bench along with Ben Toolis, who makes way for Gray. Duhan van der Merwe, who scored on his debut against Georgia, is also a replacement with Blair Kinghorn switching from full-back to the left wing.
The other main change is Scarlets’ Blade Thomson, plagued with injury since he declared for Scotland prior to the World Cup, returning at No 8 as Matt Fagerson suffered an ankle injury against Georgia.
“It’s been great to bring in quality and experience to our starting line-up with players such as Stuart, Jonny and Finn who have been involved in some high-level games in recent weeks,” said Townsend.
“We were also encouraged by Blade’s display at the weekend for Scarlets, which is a timely boost given last weekend’s injury to Matt Fagerson.
“We are expecting a physical battle against a very good side, one which we will be working hard to stay in the fight and to finish the fight in Llanelli.
“Ultimately, this game provides an opportunity for us to end this extended championship on a positive note and go into the Autumn Nations Cup with some added belief in what this group of players can achieve.”
Scotland team: Stuart Hogg (Exeter, capt); Darcy Graham (Edinburgh), Chris Harris (Gloucester), James Lang (Harlequins), Blair Kinghorn (Edinburgh); Finn Russell (Racing 92), Ali Price (Glasgow), Rory Sutherland (Edinburgh), Fraser Brown (Glasgow), Zander Fagerson (Glasgow); Scott Cummings (Glasgow), Jonny Gray (Exeter); Jamie Ritchie (Edinburgh), Hamish Watson (Edinburgh), Blade Thomson (Scarlets).
Replacements: Stuart McInally (Edinburgh), Oli Kebble (Glasgow), Simon Berghan (Edinburgh, Ben Toolis (Edinburgh), Cornell du Preez (Worcester), Scott Steele (Harlequins), Adam Hastings (Glasgow), Duhan van der Merwe (Edinburgh).