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Six Nations: Former England man Ruaridh McConnochie makes Scotland squad

Scotland head coach Gregor Townsend has named four uncapped players in his squad for the Six Nations, with former England winger Ruaridh McConnochie among those included.

The 31-year-old is joined in the 40-man squad by Leicester Tigers lock Cameron Henderson, Munster fly-half Ben Healy and Glasgow Warriors centre Stafford McDowall.

Flanker Jamie Ritchie captains the team which begins its Six Nations campaign with the Calcutta Cup clash against England on Saturday 4th February.

The Scots won their last trip to Twickenham in 2021 and are 7/2 to triumph, with the Red Rose 1/5 and a draw 33/1 in the Game Betting 3-Way market.

WhatSix Nations 2023
WhereTwickenham, Stade de France, Aviva Stadium, Stadio Olimpico, Murrayfield, Millennium Stadium
WhenSaturday 4th February - Saturday 18th March
How to watchBBC and ITV
OddsIreland 11/8, France 6/4, England 9/2, Wales 14/1, Scotland 20/1, Italy 500/1

Ritchie retains the captaincy

Townsend has struggled to settle on a skipper since taking over in 2017, but Ritchie will lead his team into the Six Nations and will more than likely retain the role for the World Cup later in the year.

The 26-year-old flanker was captain during the Autumn Nations Series and is an automatic pick thanks to his leadership and ability to play on either side of the scrum.

He is surrounded by experience, with former skipper and star full-back Stuart Hogg included, as well as fellow British & Irish Lions in centre Chris Harris, fly-half Finn Russell and scrum-half Ali Price in the backs.

Another Lion has also been recalled in winger Sean Maitland, as has centre Huw Jones.

Fitness doubts remain

However, Townsend has taken some risks with his selections, especially up front. Lions prop Zander Fagerson is included despite being sidelined with a hamstring injury.

Meanwhile, fellow Glasgow man Fraser Brown is currently out with an injury, while Edinburgh and Lions flanker Hamish Watson has not played since the Autumn Nations Series after being stood down following a string of head knocks.

Edinburgh winger Darcy Graham misses the tournament due to a long-term knee injury, as does Glasgow lock Scott Cummings through a toe problem.

Another Glasgow forward, flanker Rory Darge, is also sidelined with an ankle injury suffered in September.

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New names make the headlines

McConnochie was part of England's squad at the last World Cup, scoring a try in the pool stages against the USA. However, having won the most recent of his two Test caps in 2019, the winger is now eligible to switch allegiance under IRB rules.

The 31-year-old previously chose to play for the Red Rose over Scotland, but is now in line to represent the country of his father's birth.

Fly-half Healy, who played for Ireland at under-20 level, qualifies for Scotland through his mother and will hope to make an impact ahead of his summer move from Munster to Edinburgh.

Following Adam Hastings' shoulder injury and the indifferent form of Blair Kinghorn, the 23-year-old could be a contender to be Russell's understudy for the number 10 shirt.

Meanwhile, lock Henderson, born in Hong Kong to Scottish parents and schooled in Perthshire, is back in the set-up.

The Leicester forward returns after previously being called up for the cancelled 2021 summer Tests against England A, Romania and Georgia.

Stafford - the last of the four uncapped players - has impressed in the centres for Glasgow, captaining the side in Saturday's 40-26 Challenge Cup win over Perpignan during the Warriors' current seven-match winning streak.

Chance to build momentum

Wins over England and Italy saw Scotland finish fourth in 2022, the same position they occupied in the Six Nations' final standings in 2021 and 2020.

A third straight Calcutta Cup success in early February would ignite hopes of a first Championship since the final Five Nations in 1999, available at 20/1 in the To Win Outright market.

With a Wales side in transition visiting Murrayfield on the second weekend of the tournament the following Saturday, Townsend's side have a chance to make the perfect start.

However, they then take on France in Paris during the middle weekend, before hosting Ireland and concluding their campaign at home to Italy.

Townsend's current contract concludes after the World Cup and it is unclear if he will stay on past that point.

A first Triple Crown since 1990 at 18/1 would help bolster his reputation and build momentum as Scotland look to avoid being eliminated in the pool stages of the World Cup for the second straight tournament.

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