"The responsibility for last week lies with the coaches and myself", said Townsend after unveiling a XV showing six changes on Thursday. But Scotland failed to live up to the hype and produced a dismal performance in Cardiff.
But his Glasgow colleague and flat-mate Ali Price has made way at scrum-half for 32-year-old former Scotland captain Laidlaw, who will be making his first worldwide start since he suffered an ankle injury in the corresponding fixture 12 months ago.
Les Bleus, who have not won an worldwide test in 329 days, scored two tries through the impressive Teddy Thomas, Maxime Machenaud adding two conversions and two penalties with replacement scrumhalf Baptiste Serin also scoring a couple of penalties.
Russell was outstanding as the attacking orchestrator for Scotland in a stunning 53-24 victory against Australia and narrow 22-17 defeat by world champions New Zealand in November, but he badly fluffed his lines against Wales, prompting stinging criticism from Clive Woodward.
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Rockhold, who I think is the best fighter in his division, will be looking to win this one to get himself a shot at the belt. The 40-year-old initially weighed in at 188.3 pounds (85.4kg) but was given two more hours to meet the 185-pound limit.
"As a group we're delighted to be playing at home in front of another sell-out crowd. and are looking forward to putting in a performance that can energise our supporters".
Remi Lamerat did the Racing 92 wing no favours by passing to his feet but even that did not stop Thomas as he handed off Finn Russell, side-stepped Peter Horne and then galloped past Stuart Hogg for the line.
Another French error then gifted Laidlaw one further three-pointer, and Scotland led for the first time in the contest. There were signs of potential from the French, particularly defensively, but the team are very much in transition under new management.
The deficit was reduced to three, but France remained risky in attack.
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Scotland have won seven of their last eight home games with the only defeat coming against the All Blacks.
Joe Schmidt will expect his team to develop as the competition progresses and they have a good opportunity to do so with three successive home matches before a potential decider at England in the final game.
The last meeting between the two sides saw Les Bleus come out as victors, however the most recent time they faced each other at Murrayfield in 2016, Scotland ended France's 8 year winning run with the score of 29-18.
The game will be held at Murrayfield Stadium. However Italy's only win in their last 13 matches came against Fiji in November and it is hard to see where their next win in this competition is going to come. Rather than taking this, it could pay off to back the hosts to overcome a 19-point second-half handicap.
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They were also six points ahead at 26-20 going into the final 20 minutes, but Laidlaw booted four penalties in a row to ruthlessly punish France's indiscipline.