The Racing 92 fly-half was a controversial omission from Gregor Townsend’s original squad for the autumn internationals, with Hastings, Blair Kinghorn and Ross Thompson the head coach’s three picks at stand-off. Russell, 30, was challenged by Townsend to work on his “form and consistency” and the 63-times capped playmaker responded with a series of impressive performances for Racing, helping them beat Montpellier, Brive and Perpignan, and scoring 57 points in the process.
He now comes into the mix for this weekend’s match against three-time world champions who crushed Wales 55-23 on Saturday. Russell replaces Hastings who suffered whiplash and knee injuries during Scotland’s 28-12 win over Fiji after being on the receiving end of a ferocious tackle from Fijian lock Ratu Leone Rotuisolia. He has returned to his club, Gloucester, for treatment.
Kinghorn started at 10 in Scotland’s opening autumn Test, against Australia, and scored one try and set up another in the 16-15 defeat. But the Edinburgh man missed a penalty in the final seconds to win the match. He replaced Hastings off the bench against Fiji and kicked two from two conversions, including one from wide on the left.
It is expected that Kinghorn will start against New Zealand having played at stand-off in five of Scotland’s last six Test matches. Russell has not started for Scotland since the Six Nations win over Italy on March 12. Kinghorn was picked ahead of him for the match against Ireland in Dublin the following week and Russell was then rested for the tour of Argentina and left out of the squad for the Australia and Fiji games.
Meanwhile, George Turner, the Scotland hooker who injured his shoulder against Fiji, has remained with the squad. Turner had to go off after half an hour on Saturday and was replaced by Ewan Ashman. Scotland have already lost hooker Dave Cherry to a hamstring injury and Townsend called Fraser Brown into his squad last week.
A short statement from Scottish Rugby said: “Finn Russell joins the Scotland squad with Adam Hastings returning to his club. George Turner remains with the team as preparations continue for Sunday’s game against New Zealand.”