England v Scotland: Jamie Ritchie to captain Scotland in Six Nations against England but Zander Fagerson misses out; Ali Price dropped
Scotland open 2023 Six Nations campaign against England at Twickenham on Saturday, February 4 (4.45pm kick-off); Jamie Ritchie will captain the side, while Luke Crosbie will make his second start; Zander Fagerson has not made the side due to fitness issues; Ali Price dropped from squad
By Amar Mehta
Last Updated: 02/02/23 12:08pm
Jamie Ritchie will captain Scotland for the Six Nations opener against England, but Zander Fagerson was not fit enough to be included in Gregor Townsend's 23-man squad.
Other headline team news sees scrum-half Ali Price - who toured with the British and Irish Lions in the summer of 2021 - dropped from the squad entirely, with Ben White starting, and George Horne among the replacements.
Experienced duo Richie Gray and Grant Gilchrist resume their partnership in the second row after impressing during last year's Autumn Nation Series, with Gilchrist being named as vice-captain.
Luke Crosbie will his second start for Gregor Townsend's team and he will play at open-side flanker on Saturday.
But there is no place in the side for Fagerson, who has not been deemed fit enough to make the 23-man squad, as the Glasgow prop continues to recover from a hamstring injury that has kept him sidelined since December.
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Forwards coach John Dalziel said on Tuesday he was in contention for the Calcutta Cup showdown but misses out, with Gregor Townsend saying after the squad announcement that Fagerson will be available for selection next week.
Townsend hopes the omission of Price will get the best out of him, adding: "Ali has been so good for us over that period. It shows the level of competition not only in that position but every position.
"We have gone for players in really good form. This will get the best out of Ali. We believe we will see a reaction and get him back to the best for the rest of the campaign.
"We chatted a week ago that he needed to improve. He is aware of that too, he has not been able to have as many games or minutes with Glasgow as he'd like. He is making progress at getting back to the best."
Pierre Schoeman starts at loosehead prop in his 17th consecutive international since his 2021 debut, with the evergreen WP Nel - who reached 50 caps in November - selected at tighthead and George Turner named at hooker.
In the back division, scrum-half Ben White will link up with stand-off Finn Russell, a year on from his try-scoring debut in the Calcutta Cup at Murrayfield.
Glasgow's Kyle Steyn has beaten off competition from Blair Kinghorn and Sean Maitland to take the injured Darcy Graham's place on the wing.
Chris Harris - who starts on the bench - is a surprise omission from the XV, with Huw Jones taking over from the Gloucester centre.
Sione Tuipulotu is named alongside Jones as the centre pairing, the former having scored his first tries for Scotland in November's win over Argentina, with the latter having notched no fewer than four tries against England in as many games against them.
In the back three, Scotland's record try-scorer Stuart Hogg continues at full-back, with Duhan van der Merwe and Kyle Steyn lining up on the wings.
Townsend has selected a bench with a 5-3 split between forwards and backs, with Glasgow Warriors clubmates Fraser Brown, Jamie Bhatti, Simon Berghan and Jack Dempsey, alongside Jonny Gray, listed as pack replacements.
George Horne, Blair Kinghorn and Chris Harris complete the matchday squad as substitute options.
Asked about the challenges posed by a new-look England side under Steve Borthwick, Townsend said: "They are an unknown in terms of the game plan because the last time England played it was a different group of coaches.
"We believe they will play a game based around their forwards and kicking strategy. They've got so many quality players in their team and could play a different way, so we have to adapt.
"The challenges is first playing a quality side away from home but also giving the game we have worked on into our performance."
Scotland: 15 Stuart Hogg, 14 Kyle Steyn, 13 Huw Jones, 12 Sione Tuipulotu, 11 Duhan van der Merwe, 10 Finn Russell, 9 Ben White; 1 Pierre Schoeman, 2 George Turner, 3 WP Nel, 4 Richie Gray, 5 Grant Gilchrist, 6 Jamie Ritchie (c), 7 Luke Crosbie, 8 Matt Fagerson
Replacements: 16 Fraser Brown, 17 Jamie Bhatti, 18 Simon Berghan, 19 Jonny Gray, 20 Jack Dempsey, 21 George Horne, 22 Blair Kinghorn, 23 Chris Harris