David Cherry and Jake Kerr feature in 39-strong squad 
• Gregor Townsend looks to improve on last year’s third place

Gregor Townsend has named seven uncapped players in his 39-man Scotland squad for the Six Nations as he seeks to improve on last year’s third place in the tournament.

Three hookers – Edinburgh’s David Cherry, Leicester’s Jake Kerr and Grant Stewart of Glasgow – have been handed call-ups following injuries to Fraser Brown and George Turner. They are joined by the Newcastle back-row Gary Graham, Glasgow’s tighthead prop D’Arcy Rae and centre Sam Johnson, while centre Chris Dean of Edinburgh is also selected.

Newcastle back-row John Hardie makes his return to a Scotland squad for the first time since the 2018 Six Nations, while stalwarts Jonny Gray (47 caps) and Tommy Seymour (46) could rack up their half-centuries of caps after being selected. Clermont Auvergne scrum-half Greig Laidlaw will again captain the team in the absence of the injured John Barclay.

Scotland begin their championship campaign at home to Italy on 2 February and head coach Townsend hopes fresh faces can help improve on a 2018 campaign that brought victories over FranceEngland and Italy.

He said: “There’s certainly been a lot of improvement from this group of players in recent seasons and I believe there’s much more to come. They’ve a genuine desire to get better and reach their potential in what is a huge year for our sport.

“In the past 18 months we’ve played 18 Test matches and have introduced 18 new players to Test-level rugby. Once again, our squad features players aiming to take that step, which is a testimony to their performances this season and the growing strength in depth of Scottish rugby.

“We are very proud of what a number of our players have achieved since the autumn Tests, particularly with Edinburgh and Glasgow Warriors both aiming to make the last eight of the Champions Cup for the first time and both sitting in strong positions in their respective Pro 14 conferences.”

Townsend added: “We’ve also seen some excellent performances from players representing clubs in France and England, which is a credit to their commitment and work ethic. It is a privilege for our players to be involved in the Six Nations, which is such a prestigious tournament and will be highly competitive once again. We look forward to taking on the challenge of Italy and working hard as a squad over the next two weeks to deliver a winning performance.”

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