The flanker comes into the side in place of his Edinburgh team-mate Luke Crosbie in the only change to the starting XV which beat Wales a fortnight ago. Watson has not played for Scotland since suffering a head injury in the home defeat by New Zealand in November. He has since played two matches for Edinburgh but Crosbie was preferred for Scotland’s opening two Six Nations games, against England and Wales.
Gregor Townsend’s side took maximum points from both matches and head to Paris in a confident mood with the same backline for the third time in a row. Scotland are the top try-scorers in the competition, with nine. It means Stuart Hogg is fit to start after recovering from the head injury which forced him off early against Wales. The full-back is set to win his 99th Scotland cap in Paris.
Townsend, the head coach, has made a couple of changes to his bench for the game at the Stade de France. Ali Price returns to the squad as reserve scrum-half in place of George Horne and there is also a call-up for Sam Skinner, the versatile Edinburgh forward. Skinner’s inclusion means there is a six-two forwards-backs split on the bench. Chris Harris, the experienced centre, is the unlucky back to drop out.
Scotland team (v France, Guinness Six Nations, Sunday, Stade de France, 3pm GMT): 15. Stuart Hogg; 14. Kyle Steyn, 13. Huw Jones, 12. Sione Tuipulotu, 11. Duhan van der Merwe; 10. Finn Russell, 9. Ben White; 1. Pierre Schoeman, 2. George Turner, 3. Zander Fagerson, 4. Richie Gray, 5. Grant Gilchrist, 6. Jamie Ritchie (capt), 7. Hamish Watson, 8. Matt Fagerson.
Replacements: 16. Fraser Brown, 17. Jamie Bhatti, 18. WP Nel, 19. Jonny Gray, 20. Sam Skinner, 21. Jack Dempsey, 22. Ali Price, 23. Blair Kinghorn.
Comment: Hamish Watson’s return can give Scotland fresh energy. You don’t fix what ain’t broke and it’s no great surprise that Gregor Townsend has stuck largely with the side that recorded a record win over Wales at Murrayfield. The return of Watson gives Scotland a world-class option in the back row and he will be straining at the leash to play after a long injury lay-off, and also because he missed this fixture last season after testing positive for Covid on the eve of the game.
The six-two forwards-backs split on the bench suggests Townsend is expecting a physical battle against a France side who have yet to properly fire in the tournament. The coach has also called on the experience of Ali Price and you suspect the scrum-half will have a significant role to play in the second half.