Sunday 11 December 2016

John Barclay returns to Six Nations action for Scotland for the first time since 2012

Andy Newport

Published 04/02/2016 | 12:27

John Barclay last played for Scotland in 2012
John Barclay last played for Scotland in 2012

John Barclay will make his first RBS 6 Nations appearance in four years when he lines up for Scotland against England at Murrayfield on Saturday.

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The Scarlets flanker has not featured in the Championships since 2012 but will make his return in this year's opening clash in Edinburgh.

Despite performing impressively for his club, the 29-year-old spent two years in the international wilderness before Vern Cotter handed him a recall ahead of last year's World Cup.

Barclay played in two warm-up matches against Ireland and Italy but failed to make the cut for the Dark Blues' 31-man England 2015 squad.

However, he has continued to win plaudits from his Llanelli employers and has finally convinced Cotter he is worth his place in a competitive clash as he makes his first Six Nations run-out since facing Italy in Rome back in March 2012.

His inclusion is just one of two changes to the team which suffered heartbreak at the World Cup as they lost 35-34 to quarter-final opponents Australia.

Barclay takes over from Blair Cowan at blindside, while centre Matt Scott comes in for Peter Horne to partner Mark Bennett, with the Glasgow man declared fit after shaking off a shoulder injury.

Cotter said: "There's a huge amount of excitement and determination among the group to start well, and do well, in this Championship, and show that they have learned from past experiences and developed their game.

"Playing in front of a sold-out BT Murrayfield Stadium is hugely motivating for the players, who are all very proud to wear the jersey as we know. They like working hard for each other in the no-excuse environment that exists in the squad.

"England will look to build their game from set-phase dominance, while we expect them to have developed their attacking play into the wider channels, which can create challenges as well as opportunities.

"We're expecting them to be extremely motivated and physical, and we're looking forward to that challenge.

"Continuity and accuracy will be key for us in this game."

Scotland XV: (15-9) Stuart Hogg, Sean Maitland, Mark Bennett, Matt Scott, Tommy Seymour, Finn Russell, Greig Laidlaw (capt); (1-8) Al Dickinson, Ross Ford, WP Nel, Richie Gray, Jonny Gray, John Barclay, John Hardie, David Denton.

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