Scotland's Townsend set to blood new talent in Six Nations

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Edinburgh (AFP)

Gregor Townsend said such is the strength in depth in Scottish rugby he will be able to unleash new talent in the forthcoming Six Nations, after naming his tournament squad on Wednesday.

His side, who will be captained by full-back Stuart Hogg, face champions England first-up at Twickenham on February 6 bidding to regain the Calcutta Cup.

Townsend included uncapped Edinburgh hooker, David Cherry, Sale Sharkes hooker Ewan Ashman, Gloucester forward, Alex Craig and Bath centre, Cameron Redpath in his squad.

However, bolstered by an improved performance in last year's Six Nations and backed up in the Autumn Nations Cup Townsend sounded upbeat.

"As coaches we have selected a group which we believe can build on the work our players put in throughout the recent Autumn Nations Cup campaign and kick on again in terms of performance levels," he said.

"The depth we have across the squad enables us to bring in some new players who have excelled in recent weeks and others who we believe can perform at Test level."

Townsend has selected just two scrum-halves in the experienced Ali Price and Harlequins Scott Steele, who has only one cap to his name.

At fly-half Townsend has opted for Finn Russell, who missed the Autumn Nations Cup due to injury.

South Africa-born Jaco van der Walt, who made his debut in the Autumn Nations Cup third place play-off defeat by Ireland, backs up Russell.

Townsend said with coronavirus still very much present -- it forced the Six Nations to be halted last year -- and spectators unlikely to return it will be a very strange competition.

"Our tournament gets off to a fantastic start with a fixture we look forward to every year against England and the opportunity to win back the Calcutta Cup at Twickenham," he said.

"We are very aware how different this year's competition will be due to the Covid-19 pandemic, but it also provides a huge amount of positivity and enjoyment for millions of supporters."

Squad

Backs: Darcy Graham, Chris Harris, Stuart Hogg (capt), Huw Jones, Blair Kinghorn, James Lang, Sean Maitland, Byron McGuigan, Ali Price, Cameron Redpath, Finn Russell, Scott Steele, Duncan Taylor, Jaco van der Walt, Duhan van der Merwe

Forwards: Ewan Ashman, Simon Berghan, David Cherry, Alex Craig, Scott Cummings, Allan Dell, Matt Fagerson, Zander Fagerson, Gary Graham, Grant Gilchrist, Jonny Gray, Richie Gray, Oli Kebble, Willem Nel, Jamie Ritchie, Grant Stewart, Rory Sutherland, Blade Thomson, George Turner, Hamish Watson,