Townsend has named four rookies in his 2018 Six Nations squad. Photo: David Moir/BackpagePix

LONDON – Scotland head coach Gregor Townsend on Tuesday named four uncapped players in a 40-man Scotland squad for the Six Nations and welcomed back a clutch of experienced internationals. 

Scotland finished fourth in last year's tournament with victories against Ireland, Wales and Italy. The Scots ended 2017 with a narrow loss to the All Blacks and a spectacular 53-24 win over Australia.

The potential debutants are Edinburgh trio Blair Kinghorn (full-back), Nathan Fowles (scrum-half) and Murray McCallum (prop) plus Glasgow prop D’Arcy Rae. 

The squad is also boosted by the return of several experienced players, absent from recent campaigns, including scrum-half Greig Laidlaw, lock Richie Gray, centres Mark Bennett and Duncan Taylor and  back-row David Denton. 

Laidlaw, Gray and Bennett have not featured for the dark blues since last year’s championship, while it was 2015 when returning prop Jon Welsh last saw international action and longer still for veteran hooker Scott Lawson.

The experienced Greig Laidlaw is back in the Scotland Six Nations squad. Photo: Robert Perry/BackpagePix

Scarlets back-row John Barclay will continue to captain the side. He took the mantle from Laidlaw in last year's championship and led Scotland to victories in six of nine Tests. 

“With the announcement of this 40-man squad, we are now entering the key stages of our preparation for this year’s” Six Nations, said Townsend. 

“It’s a bigger squad than we originally planned -- which is largely down to the competition for places -- with a number of players having performed well in the autumn Tests and a few others putting their hands up for selection in recent weeks.”

The squad is:

Forwards (21): John Barclay, capt (Scarlets), Simon Berghan (Edinburgh), Jamie Bhatti (Glasgow), Magnus Bradbury (Edinburgh), David Denton (Worcester), Cornell Du Preez (Edinburgh), Grant Gilchrist (Edinburgh), Jonny Gray (Glasgow), Richie Gray (Toulouse), Luke Hamilton (Leicester), Rob Harley (Glasgow), Scott Lawson (Newcastle), Murray McCallum (Edinburgh), Stuart McInally (Edinburgh), Gordon Reid (London Irish),   D'Arcy Rae (Glasgow), Ben Toolis (Edinburgh), George Turner (Glasgow), Hamish Watson (Edinburgh), Jon Welsh (Newcastle), Ryan Wilson (Glasgow)

Backs (19): Mark Bennett (Edinburgh), Alex Dunbar (Glasgow), Nick Grigg (Glasgow), Chris Harris (Newcastle), Stuart Hogg (Glasgow), Pete Horne (Glasgow), Ruaridh Jackson (Glasgow), Huw Jones (Glasgow), Lee Jones (Glasgow), Blair Kinghorn (Edinburgh), Greig Laidlaw (Clermont Auvergne), Sean Maitland (Saracens), Byron McGuigan (Sale), Ali Price (Glasgow), Henry Pyrgos (Glasgow), Finn Russell (Glasgow), Tommy Seymour (Glasgow), Duncan Taylor (Saracens), Nathan Fowles (Edinburgh)