Scotland drop Greig Laidlaw as Wales call on Adam Beard for Six Nations clash

Scotland captain Greig Laidlaw will be on the bench at Murrayfield for the visit of Wales. David Rogers/Getty Images

Scotland have dropped captain Greig Laidlaw to the bench for their Six Nations match with Wales on Saturday.

Scrum-half Laidlaw has been omitted in favour of Ali Price for the game at Murrayfield as Scotland look to get their campaign back on track following successive losses to Ireland and France.

Head coach Gregor Townsend said he had picked the side which has "the best chance of winning at the weekend".

"Greig, having started in our last six games is a key member of our squad, although this week we have decided to utilise his leadership and experience off the bench," Townsend said in a statement from Scottish Rugby.

"He is driven by a desire to win for his country and he should have an important role to play in the latter stages of the match."

Finn Russell is back in the side at fly-half after recovering from a head injury, with Pete Horne moving to a more familiar role of inside centre.

Darcy Graham earns a first start on the wing as he comes in for the injured Sean Maitland and Willem Nel takes over at tighthead prop for Simon Berghan, who drops to the bench.

Hooker Stuart McInally takes over the captaincy from Laidlaw while Jonny Gray and Tommy Seymour are included in the Starting XV for landmark 50th Scotland caps.

"We have had a couple of weeks since our defeat in Paris to look at ways we can improve our performances, through what we do in training, our tactical approach and through selection," Townsend said.

"First and foremost, we select a team we believe gives us the best chance of winning at the weekend, while we also have an opportunity to reward players who have been in very good form and have been knocking at the door of the team in recent weeks -- Darcy Graham and Ali Price especially."

For Wales, lock Adam Beard has been named in Warren Gatland's side in the only change from the team that beat England two weeks ago.

Beard comes into the second row as a replacement for Cory Hill, who scored against England but has been ruled out of the rest of the tournament with an ankle injury.

Elsewhere, Gatland has shown faith in the same side that ended England's Grand Slam hopes with a 21-13 win on Feb. 23, sticking with fly-half Gareth Anscombe over Dan Biggar, who impressed from the bench in Cardiff against Eddie Jones' side.

"It was a fairly straightforward selection in view of the performance against England," Gatland said on Tuesday.

"Our bench has been fantastic for us. They have given us an impact. Not just in the last game but in others."

He was speaking at a hastily called news conference as the team announcement was brought forward amid the distraction of reported plans to merge two of Welsh rugby's biggest teams.

Wales were due to name their side on Thursday but did so on Tuesday over concerns that British media reports regarding plans to merge the Cardiff-based Scarlets and Swansea-based Ospreys were affecting the players' focus.

"There's no doubt the players have been distracted," Gatland added. "It is concerning. Players have been going home and are asked question by wives and partners about what's going on.

"Our message to the players is we need to wait and see what the outcome is going to be.

"You try and put the players' minds to rest and get them to focus on winning Six Nations."

Wales are on a record run of 12 wins in a row and will be Six Nations champions for the first time since 2013 if they win away to Scotland and at home to Ireland on the final day.

There is no place in the matchday squad still for Leigh Halfpenny, despite a return at club level for the fullback.

The 30-year-old British & Irish Lion completed another 80 minutes for the Scarlets at the weekend as he continued his comeback after three months out with concussion.

He has again trained with Wales this week but Gatland resisted any temptation to bring him back, saying: "I think Leigh still needs games under his belt and is regaining confidence. It would have been unfair to leave out Owen Watkin."

Information from Reuters contributed to this report.

Scotland Starting XV: 15. Blair Kinghorn, 14. Tommy Seymour, 13. Nick Grigg, 12. Pete Horne, 11. Darcy Graham, 10. Finn Russell, 9. Ali Price, 8. Josh Strauss, 7. Jamie Ritchie, 6. Magnus Bradbury, 5. Jonny Gray, 4. Grant Gilchrist, 3. Willem Nel, 2. Stuart McInally (captain), 1. Allan Dell

Replacements: 16. Fraser Brown, 17. Gordon Reid, 18. Simon Berghan, 19. Ben Toolis, 20. Hamish Watson, 21. Greig Laidlaw, 22. Adam Hastings, 23. Byron McGuigan

Wales Starting XV: 15. Liam Williams, 14. George North, 13. Jonathan Davies, 12. Hadleigh Parkes, 11. Josh Adams, 10. Gareth Anscombe, 9. Gareth Davies; 1. Rob Evans, 2. Ken Owens, 3. Tomas Francis, 4. Adam Beard, 5. Alun Wyn Jones (c), 6. Josh Navidi, 7. Justin Tipuric, 8. Ross Moriarty

Replacements: 16. Elliot Dee, 17. Nicky Smith, 18. Dillon Lewis, 19. Jake Ball, 20. Aaron Wainwright, 21. Aled Davies, 22. Dan Biggar, 23. Owen Watkin