Six Nations: Blair Kinghorn says he is ‘gunning’ for Stuart Hogg’s Scotland No 15 jersey

Skipper Stuart Hogg will be the first name on the Scotland team-sheet for the Italy match despite a couple of high-profile blunders in the past two games but 23-year-old Blair Kinghorn says he is “gunning” for the captain’s No 15 jersey.

Blair Kinghorn has played on the wing in Scotland's opening two Six Nations matches. Picture: Paul Devlin / SNS

The Edinburgh full-back has been utilised as a wing in ten of his 19 Scotland caps so far but insists he still has sights on dislodging Hogg from his favoured position.

Hogg dropped the ball over the Irish line in the opening match of this year’s Six Nations and fumbled again in the incident which led to England’s winning try in the Calcutta Cup clash a week past Saturday but, these minor hiccups aside, the Exeter Chiefs man is in the form of his life and when head coach Gregor Townsend announces his team on Wednesday to face Italy on Saturday Hogg will be captain and full-back.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Kinghorn knows it is a tough ask to take the Hawick man’s place but remains ambitious that he can get there.

“I am pushing for that full-back spot and competition brings out the best in people and I am gunning for his spot,” said the former Edinburgh Academical as Scotland prepare for the make-or-break trip to Rome. “He [Hogg] is working really well at the moment but I am a full-back. I don’t mind playing on the wing. I enjoy playing on the wing. But I have played most of my rugby at full-back at the top level but I am always gunning for that number one [full back] spot.

“Hoggy has the experience, he is fast and a very talented player so I have to keep doing the basics well and be happy with that. I feel I slot in on the wing very comfortably. I feel comfortable on the pitch there and feel I can create chances. A lot of it is down to back-field coverage and playing so long at full-back at the top level means I can do that as full-back and wing are pretty interlinked. It is not difficult to deal with.”

Kinghorn, who bagged a hat-trick in Scotland’s last meeting with Italy at BT Murrayfield last February in his eighth cap, has competition for the wing slot as clubmate Darcy Graham returns to the squad this week following a pre-tournament knee injury.

“It is good to see him [Graham] back,” said Kinghorn. “He had an injury before the Six Nations and he had been in good form so it was good to see him back on the training pitch.”

Italy may be on a long losing run in the championship since they won in Edinburgh back in 2015 but have looked good in spells of their opening two games under new coach Franco Smith.

“They have definitely changed their style of play and have definitely been more expansive in the first two games they have played,” said Kinghorn. “We know it will be a tough game there in front of their home support.

“They’ve changed their game a little bit, they’re going to be a bit more expensive, we think. They like to offload the ball – they’ve got the most offloads in the Six Nations so far. So we’ll come ready for an attacking game.

“And if it is a nice sunny day, which hopefully it is because I’m sick and tired of the rain, that’ll be good. They’re a threat and we’ve looked at it and we’re ready.”

Kinghorn will be hoping the more clement conditions in Italy will see him get more opportunities on the ball as Scotland wait to register their first try of the year.

“It’s disappointing obviously, but I think we’ve been more disappointed by the results,” he said. “We could have scored a couple against Ireland and last week, against England, was a bit of an anomaly game, it was tough for anyone to score tries.

“We’re disappointed with our results but we’re confident this week.”