Townsend made only four changes to the starting XV on Thursday after the pitiful 27-10 loss to France in Paris two weeks ago, and Laidlaw was the biggest scapegoat. Laidlaw received back the captaincy after John Barclay ruptured his left Achilles almost a year ago, and has led Scotland since November in its last six tests (three wins, three losses). But the team was lifeless in Paris behind the scrum, and defeat was certain when he was replaced in the 64th minute by Ali Price, who injected some energy and scored Scotland's only try.
Price will be the starting scrumhalf at Murrayfield. Hooker Stuart McInally has the captaincy for the third time. "This week we have decided to utilize his leadership and experience off the bench," Townsend said drily of Laidlaw in a statement. "He should have an important role to play in the latter stages of the match."
Russell received a head knock playing for his French club and missed the France test. He's back, and stand-in Pete Horne, who struggled against France, has moved one out to inside center. Darcy Graham replaced the injured Sean Maitland on the left wing.
The only change in the forwards was Willem Nel, recovered from a calf injury, at tighthead prop for Simon Berghan, who was in the reserves. First-choice flanker Hamish Watson broke his hand just before the championship and has been picked in the reserves.
"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."
Scotland has lost 10 of its last 11 tests to Wales, the only unbeaten side in the Six Nations.
Scotland: Blair Kinghorn, Tommy Seymour, Nick Grigg, Pete Horne, Darcy Graham, Finn Russell, Ali Price; Josh Strauss, Jamie Ritchie, Magnus Bradbury, Jonny Gray, Grant Gilchrist, Willem Nel, Stuart McInally (captain), Allan Dell. Reserves: Fraser Brown, Gordon Reid, Simon Berghan, Ben Toolis, Hamish Watson, Greig Laidlaw, Adam Hastings, Byron McGuigan.
More AP sports: https://apnews.com/apf-sports and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports