Gunners to the Fore for France
Nine Gunners in Starting XV, Two on Bench
Coach Frank Hadden has made three changes to the Scotland team that lost to New Zealand in the autumn for Sunday's opening RBS 6 Nations Championship match against France at Murrayfield. All three see Gunners players beating out their rivals.
Mike Blair wins the nod at scrum-half ahead of Chris Cusiter, Dougie Hall is preferred to Scott Lawson at hooker and Alastair Kellock will make his first appearance in the Six Nations at lock instead of Craig Hamilton.
Of the scrum-half battle Hadden said: "We are in a most fortunate position to have some real talent there and, as ever, it was a close call. Mike will start against France because he's in good form. He came on for Chris in the game against New Zealand and did well, so deserves a start.
"It is very much a case of horses for courses and I am sure that Chris will have an opportunity at some point in the championship.
"There's tremendous competition at hooker where Ross Ford is also hammering on the door. We monitored Dougie [Hall] exceptionally closely during the Autumn Tests and he starts in front of Scott Lawson on this occasion.
"Alastair Kellock has been a key figure for Edinburgh this season. He has nudged himself up the pecking order and is maturing into a powerful and athletic second row."
Elsewhere in the side stand-off Dan Parks retains that berth in front of Gordon Ross who did not feature during the autumn. Hadden said: "Dan compared most favourably to the three stand-offs he was up against in the Autumn. "
Jason White will captain Scotland for the fourth time as he wins his 50th cap. Hadden said: "It's a fantastic milestone for Jason and I congratulate him on becoming the 20th Scot to win 50 or more international caps."
Looking ahead to Sunday's contest Hadden said: "It's a mouth-watering prospect playing against arguably one of the top two sides in the world, particularly after we played against one of the other top sides in the world in our last game. The challenge for us is to see what progress we have made since then."
Scotland team (sponsor The Famous Grouse) to play France in the RBS 6 Nations Championship at Murrayfield on Sunday 5 February (kick-off 3pm)
15 Hugo Southwell (Edinburgh Gunners)
14 Chris Paterson (Edinburgh Gunners)
13 Marcus Di Rollo (Edinburgh Gunners)
12 Andrew Henderson (Glasgow Warriors)
11 Sean Lamont (Northampton Saints)
10 Dan Parks (Glasgow Warriors)
9 Mike Blair (Edinburgh Gunners)*
1 Gavin Kerr (Leeds Tykes)
2 Dougie Hall (Edinburgh Gunners)
3 Bruce Douglas (Border Reivers)
4 Alastair Kellock (Edinburgh Gunners)*
5 Scott Murray (Edinburgh Gunners)
6 Jason White (Sale Sharks) CAPTAIN
8 Simon Taylor (Edinburgh Gunners)
7 Allister Hogg (Edinburgh Gunners)*
16 Scott Lawson (Glasgow Warriors)
17 Craig Smith (Edinburgh Gunners)
18 Scott MacLeod (Border Reivers)
19 Jon Petrie (Glasgow Warriors)
20 Chris Cusiter (Border Reivers)*
21 Gordon Ross (Leeds Tykes)
22 Simon Webster (Edinburgh Gunners)
*= Member of Scottish Institute of Sport
Referee: Jonathan Kaplan (South Africa). Touch-judges: Kelvin Deaker and Steve Walsh (New Zealand). TMO: Nigel Whitehouse (Wales)