There was some speculation over whether Townsend would bring Greig Laidlaw back into the starting line-up but the Clermont half-back has earned a place on the bench.
Six changes have been made from the side that beat Australia in their last outing with Stuart Hogg and Chris Harris coming into the backline, while in the forwards Gordon Reid, Jon Welsh, Ben Toolis and Cornell du Preez are all handed starts.
With Scotland going in search of their first win in Cardiff since 2002, Townsend says he has selected a team with pace to try cause the Welsh problems.
He told the SRU website: "We've selected a squad that we believe can start the NatWest 6 Nations championship with the intensity and speed required to win in Cardiff.
"Last year's championship highlighted that every game is a fierce competition and that all teams have to play at their very best to win away from home. Delivering that level of performance has been firmly in our thoughts during our preparations this week.
"We're expecting a really physical game against a very good team. Wales have one of the best defences in the game and an attack that sees forwards passing much more and a structure that enables backs to get on ball.
"I'm sure it'll be great occasion to kick off this year's championship and we can't wait to get started."
Scotland XV: Stuart Hogg (Glasgow Warriors), Tommy Seymour (Glasgow Warriors), Chris Harris (Newcastle Falcons), Huw Jones (Glasgow Warriors), Byron McGuigan (Sale Sharks), Finn Russell (Glasgow Warriors), Ali Price (Glasgow Warriors), Gordon Reid (London Irish), Stuart McInally (Edinburgh), Jon Welsh (Newcastle Falcons), Ben Toolis (Edinburgh), Jonny Gray, John Barclay (Scarlets, captain), Hamish Watson (Edinburgh), Cornell du Preez (Edinburgh).
Replacements: Scott Lawson (Newcastle Falcons), Jamie Bhatti (Glasgow Warriors), Murray McCallum (Edinburgh), Grant Gilchrist (Edinburgh), Ryan Wilson (Glasgow Warriors), Greig Laidlaw (Clermont Auvergne), Pete Horne (Glasgow Warriors), Sean Maitland (Saracens).