SCOTLAND have lost one of their most influential and consistent performers on the eve of their Six Nations round three clash against France at Murrayfield, after flanker Hamish Watson returned a positive Covid test result.
He is replaced in the starting XV by Edinburgh club-mate Nick Haining, who will wear the number six jersey, with Rory Darge – making his first international start – moving across the back-row to start at openside flanker.
Saracens’ Andy Christie comes into the match-day 23 and will make his Scotland debut if called on from the bench.
Two members of the Scotland backroom team have also tested positive for Covid and will isolate as per Scottish Government guidelines.
Watson is the fifth frontline forward to drop out of the squad, and his unavailability this weekend means Scotland go into the match with a completely reconstituted starting back-row from the England game in round one. Fellow flanker Jamie Ritchie has a long-term hamstring injury, No 8 Matt Fagerson has a foot injury, second-row Jonny Gray also has a foot injury, and loose-head prop Rory Sutherland has hurt his ribs.
Watson will be a big miss. He made 17 out of 17 tackles last time out against Wales, taking his total number of completed tackles without a miss on the bounce in the Six Nations to an incredible 180, going all the way back to that crazy 38-38 draw at Twickenham in 2019. He is also a powerful and aggressive ball-carrier for the side (Scotland second top carrier in this tournament), and a top breakdown operator.