McGeechan chose the Leeds Tykes' number 10, ahead of the veteran Townsend, but also admitted Edinburgh's Brendan Laney had also come in for consideration.
The coach explained: "It was Gordon's kicking game which gave him the edge over Gregor. It's up to Gordon now how he handles it, but we want to give him a run because he has been consistent at Leeds and we want to be fair to our player.
McGeechan explained the reintroduction of Kenny Logan to the side after the Wasps star had missed out in the autumn Tests was, like the rest of the selections, simply a matter of form.
He said: "Kenny's form over the last four to six weeks has been very good. He was hit and miss earlier in the season but now he's very fit and has benefited from the regime at Wasps."
In the pack, Andrew Mower of Newcastle Falcons comes in at number seven to replace the retired Budge Pountney.
Backs: 15 Glenn Metcalfe (Glasgow); 14 Kenny Logan (London Wasps); 13 Andy Craig(Orrell); 12 Brendan Laney (Edinburgh); 11 Chris Paterson (Edinburgh) 10 Gordon Ross (Leeds Tykes); 9 Bryan Redpath(c) (Sale Sharks).
Forwards; 1 Tom Smith (Northampton Saints); 2 Gordon Bulloch (Glasgow); 3 Bruce Douglas (Borders); 4 Scott Murray (Edinburgh); 5 Stuart Grimes (Newcastle Falcons); 6 Martin Leslie (Edinburgh); 7 Andrew Mower (Newcastle Falcons); 8 Simon Taylor (Edinburgh).
Substitutes 16 Steve Scott (The Borders); 17 Gavin Kerr (Leeds Tykes) 18 Nathan Hines (Edinburgh); 19 Ross Beattie (Bristol Shoguns); 20 Mike Blair (Edinburgh); 21 Gregor Townsend (Borders); 22 Kevin Utterson (Borders).