Fin Smith a surprise consideration as Gregor Townsend faces stand-off dilemma for New Zealand

Gregor Townsend faces a dilemma at stand-off for the eagerly anticipated clash with the All Blacks with the Scotland coach refusing to rule out a shock call-up for Fin Smith.

Fin Smith was man of the match in Northampton Saints' win over Exeter Chiefs. (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)
Fin Smith was man of the match in Northampton Saints' win over Exeter Chiefs. (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

Townsend has been holding talks with the Northampton Saints player who qualifies for both England and Scotland. Smith, 20, was born in Warwick and has been capped by England at under-20 level but his grandfather, Tom Elliot, is a former Scotland international.

Scotland are likely to be without Adam Hastings for Sunday’s match against New Zealand after the fly-half suffered knee and whiplash injuries in the 28-12 win over Fiji on Saturday.

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Townsend said after the match that he would consider adding Finn Russell to his squad but added later that he had been impressed by Smith who was man of the match in Northampton’s 26-19 win over Exeter on Friday.

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“Obviously, he has not played for Scotland before,” said Townsend. “If he is in the mix he would have to make a decision to committing to one of the two teams he is qualified for. He did really well on Friday night, man of the match, so if he decides to commit to Scotland it would be great for depth to have other options. But the last time I spoke to him his focus was on his club during this period.” Asked if it was feasible for Smith to come straight into the squad to face the All Blacks, Townsend said: “You never know.”

The return of the experienced Russell would appear a more obvious call. Since being surprisingly excluded from Townsend’s initial autumn squad and told to demonstrate “form and consistency” the 62-times capped Russell has helped Racing 92 win three games in a row, scoring 18 points in the 38-31 victory over Montpellier, 23 in the 43-38 win over Brive and 16 in Saturday’s 44-20 win over Perpignan when he came off the bench and helped turn the game in Racing’s favour.

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Townsend and Russell’s relationship has been strained in the past but the coach said he would have no qualms about calling him up. “No, of course not. He is in the mix,” said Townsend. “He missed out on selection, like a number of guys, so he would be in the mix for any changes we have to make there, if we have to make a change.”

Blair Kinghorn was stand-off and played well in the opening autumn Test against Australia and would appear in pole position to start against New Zealand. Hastings made his first start for Scotland in over two years against Fiji and scored a good first-half try but he was on the receiving end of an almighty hit from Ratu Leone Rotuisolia and had to go off early in the second half. Ross Thompson, the Glasgow Warriors player, is the third stand-off in the squad but has had limited game-time this season following a back operation in the summer.

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Scotland fans wearing Finn Russell masks during the autumn international against Fiji. (Photo: Jane Barlow/PA Wire)

“We have a lot to think about with Adam picking up an injury, potentially two injuries,” added Townsend. “That was a big knock he got - not on the head, it was whiplash. We will have to see what that means for him with stand-down time, whether it is six days or 12 days, and we also have to assess his knee.”

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Adam Hastings applauds the fans at full-time but the stand-off was injured in the 28-12 win over Fiji. (Photo by Ross Parker / SNS Group)

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