Wednesday 19 December 2018

Townsend backs Harris to boost Scots

Scotland head coach Gregor Townsend. Photo: Sportsfile
Scotland head coach Gregor Townsend. Photo: Sportsfile

Nigel Whittaker

Scotland head coach Gregor Townsend says Chris Harris has earned his place in the starting line-up for their Six Nations opener against Wales in Cardiff.

The Newcastle man has been selected at outside centre, where he will partner Huw Jones.

Former captain Greig Laidlaw has been named on the bench, with Ali Price preferred at scrum-half after an impressive showing in the autumn internationals, while Jon Welsh and Gordon Reid are recalled following a number of front-row injuries.

Stuart Hogg returns at full-back after missing the impressive win over Australia due to a hip injury suffered in the warm-up.

Harris made his only previous appearance for Scotland off the bench against Samoa and Townsend is confident he will play a big role in defence in the absence of Alex Dunbar, who has concussion.

"We've been really impressed with him overall," he said. "He's been very consistent.

"Defensively he's stood out - and a massive part of winning games, being successful, is having a strong defence, and he's shown that this year.

"We've been really impressed with him in the last two or three weeks before coming to camp, and with the unavailability of Alex Dunbar and Duncan Taylor, he gets an opportunity to start for us at 13."

Confidence is high in the Scottish camp ahead of what many are rating as their best chance to compete in a Six Nations for a long time following an impressive start to life under Townsend.

Since taking over last summer, the former Glasgow coach has led them to two wins over Australia as well as taking New Zealand right to the wire.

Their preparations for this year's tournaments have been hampered by a number of injuries to the front-row, with the likes of Darryl Marfo, Zander Fagerson, WP Nel and Al Dickinson all missing.

Townsend admitted his side has been laid low by injuries, but is confident they still have the players to compete in Cardiff.

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