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John Barclay shifts focus from captaincy ahead of Wales encounter

Stand-in skipper John Barclay will write a new chapter to his remarkable Scotland story when he leads out the team on Saturday.

But the Scarlets flanker would prefer people did not spend too much time reading over old history as he prepares to take on Wales this weekend.

With regular captain Greig Laidlaw out injured for the Scots' last three remaining RBS 6 Nations fixtures, Barclay will assume the armband at Murrayfield.

His elevation to the Dark Blues' highest rugby honour completes a remarkable comeback for a player who found himself in the international wilderness for two and a half years.

Even when his form for Scarlets did merit a recall ahead of the 2015 World Cup, there was further disappointment in store when he was cut from the 31-man squad head coach Vern Cotter took with him to England.

With the same terrier-like determination that makes him such an asset around the breakdown, however, he refused to give up on his Scotland ambitions and will reap his rewards against Rob Howley's Dragons.

But Barclay would rather focus on the challenges that await him rather than go over old ground.

The 30-year-old - who has shaken off head and shoulder knocks sustained in last week's defeat to France in Paris to start - said: "I was told on Sunday night that I'd be captain, it was a little bit of a surprise.

"We were waiting to see how my shoulder and my head was and then I had a one to one chat with Vern. That was about it, it wasn't too long a conversation. It was a question which I was always going to say yes to.

"I don't know if I'm a better player now [than in 2015], I feel as though I'm playing some decent rugby. I went back to my club after being left out of the World Cup and continued to play well.

"I was reasonably pleased at how I responded to it.

"This is not a story about my comeback, no matter what people say. It's about what I can bring as a captain and as a player."

Meanwhile, Cotter has made five changes to the team defeated 22-16 by Les Bleus, with Ali Price replacing Laidlaw at scrum-half, while back-rowers Ryan Wilson and John Hardie come in for Hamish Watson and the also injured Josh Strauss.

Wing Sean Maitland is another casualty, with his place going to Harlequins' Tim Visser, while p rop Gordon Reid trades places with Allan Dell.


From Belfast Telegraph