Finn Russell will captain Scotland in this Saturday’s World Cup warm-up match against France – less than 10 months after Gregor Townsend left the fly-half out of his initial squad for the autumn series.
The 30-year-old will lead the team in the absence of Jamie Ritchie, who misses out with a minor niggle. Scotland medical staff hope the regular skipper will be fit to return for the rematch with France in St Etienne the following Saturday.
Head coach Townsend has restored most of his senior players, making 13 changes to his starting XV, after a largely experimental side defeated Italy last weekend.
Captain @finn_russell ready to lead the line against France
— Scottish Rugby (@Scotlandteam) August 2, 2023
Darcy Graham and Matt Fagerson are the only two to retain their places from the win over the Azzurri, while hooker Ewan Ashman – with just seven caps to date – is the least-established player in the line-up to face the World Cup hosts.
Ritchie and George Turner – who played against Italy – are the only notable absentees from the starting XV.
Versatile Edinburgh back Blair Kinghorn has been given a chance to establish himself as the first-choice number 15 following the recent retirement of Stuart Hogg.
Russell being handed the captaincy marks a significant turnaround in fortunes for a player whose international future looked in serious jeopardy just under a year ago after he was a surprise omission from the autumn series squad, with Townsend citing concerns about his form and consistency levels.
However, following an injury to Adam Hastings that left him short of dependable options at stand-off, Townsend held clear-the-air talks with Russell and recalled him for the third of the four autumn Tests at home to New Zealand.
The number 10 – who has moved to Bath from Racing 92 this summer – shone against the All Blacks and Argentina last November and continued to flourish in the Six Nations, rediscovering the faith of Townsend who has rewarded him with the honour of leading the team this weekend, just five weeks out from their opening World Cup match against South Africa in Marseille.