Six Nations: Blair Kinghorn call explained as Gregor Townsend reveals Finn Russell reaction
Blair Kinghorn’s role in Edinburgh’s expansive reboot helped persuade Gregor Townsend to select the former full-back at stand-off and axe Finn Russell for Saturday’s Six Nations match against Ireland.
Scotland have not won in Dublin since 2010 and have turned to Kinghorn in a bid to open up the hosts who are chasing the Triple Crown and the title on the final weekend of the championship. Russell is on the bench.
Kinghorn started at ten against Tonga in the autumn but his previous 25 caps had all been won at full-back or on the wing.
The process of converting him into a stand-off began at the end of last season but gained momentum when Mike Blair succeeded Richard Cockerill as Edinburgh coach in the summer and transformed the capital club’s style into a high-tempo attacking game which has seen them challenge at the top end of the United Rugby Championship and progress in the European Challenge Cup.
Townsend said: “I know people might not see Blair as a ten because they’ve not seen him much there, but if a team has gone from scoring hardly any tries, certainly not recording bonus points, to regularly scoring tries and winning games, then a lot of that is down to your ten, and what he’s doing to put others into space and to make the attack function well. So, Blair has to take massive credit for that.”
Kinghorn missed Scotland’s win over Italy last weekend for personal reasons and his only previous Six Nations outings at stand-off have been for the final nine minutes of the defeat by Wales and the last quarter of the loss to France.
Nevertheless, Townsend is convinced he deserves to start at ten.
“He’s in really good form, he wasn’t available for our match last weekend,” said the coach
“Prior to that he’d played his best game of the season against Connacht and he’s come twice off the bench and shown what he can do in that jersey.
“We believe this is the right time and the right game for him to play in.”
Asked how Russell reacted, Townsend said: “OK, yeah, fine. Like any conversation when you give someone news that they’re not starting, they’re initially disappointed but they support the team. Finn will support Blair, as he has done this week.”
Ireland v Scotland (Saturday, 4.45pm, Dublin)
Ireland: H Keenan (Leinster); M Hansen (Connacht), G Ringrose (Leinster), B Aki (Connacht), J Lowe (Leinster); J Sexton (Leinster, capt), J Gibson-Park (Leinster); C Healy (Leinster), D Sheehan (Leinster), T Furlong (Leinster), T Beirne (Munster), I Henderson (Ulster), C Doris (Leinster), J Van Der Flier (Leinster), J Conan (Leinster).
Replacements: R Herring (Ulster), D Kilcoyne (Munster), F Bealham (Connacht), K Treadwell (Ulster), P O’Mahony (Munster), C Murray (Munster), J Carbery (Munster), R Henshaw (Leinster).
Scotland: S Hogg (Exeter, capt); D Graham (Edinburgh), C Harris (Gloucester), S Johnson (Glasgow), K Steyn (Glasgow); B Kinghorn (Edinburgh), Ali Price (Glasgow); P Schoeman (Edinburgh), G Turner (Glasgow), Z Fagerson (Glasgow), J Gray (Exeter), G Gilchrist (Edinburgh), R Darge (Glasgow), H Watson (Edinburgh), M Fagerson (Glasgow).
Replacements: F Brown (Glasgow), A Dell (London Irish), WP Nel (Edinburgh), S Skinner (Exeter) J Bayliss (Bath), B White (London Irish), F Russell (Racing 92), Mark Bennett (Edinburgh).
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