Six Nations: Scotland set to turn to Ben Healy after Finn Russell is ruled out of Italy match

Ben Healy is on course to make his Scotland debut this weekend after Finn Russell and Stuart Hogg were ruled out of the Six Nations finale against Italy.

Charlie Savala, the Edinburgh stand-off, has been called into the squad by Gregor Townsend but the Scotland coach is expected to make a choice between Healy and Blair Kinghorn as his starting 10 for the match at Murrayfield, replacing Russell who suffered knee ligament damage in the defeat by Ireland on Sunday and has returned to France.

Kinghorn’s versatility means he will also be considered as an option to come in for Hogg at full-back, although Ollie Smith is another contender for the No 15 jersey. Hogg damaged his ankle against Ireland and has gone back to Exeter Chiefs for treatment.

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Hogg and Russell were not the only casualties in a ferociously contested Test match at Murrayfield. Richie Gray went off early with a rib injury but the second-row forward will remain with the squad to be assessed by medics. With such a short turnaround until the Italy game, Scotland will only have one training day this week, on Wednesday, and Townsend said the players must prove their fitness by then.

Munster's Ben Healy could make his Scotland debut in the final Six Nations match against Italy.Munster's Ben Healy could make his Scotland debut in the final Six Nations match against Italy.
Munster's Ben Healy could make his Scotland debut in the final Six Nations match against Italy.

Kinghorn was Townsend’s choice at 10 for the autumn opener against Australia but has found himself playing on the wing for Edinburgh more recently and has not started a match at stand-off this year. He has featured as a substitute in all four of Scotland’s Six Nations matches this season, being utilised in the back three. Healy, the Munster outside-half, is uncapped. He represented Ireland at under-20 level but switched his allegiance to Scotland this season and qualifies through his maternal grandparents. The Tipperary-born player has signed a deal with Edinburgh for next season.

Asked after the Ireland game who would deputise at stand-off if Russell doesn’t make it, Townsend said: “Blair and Ben are in our squad, it would be one of them. Could be Blair at full-back, but Ollie Smith’s played really well for us in the last six months, so these are going through my head right now. We know the squad that’s been training and there are players we’d be keen to see. Ben’s trained really well, Ollie’s trained really well, and Blair played well off the bench again, so he’d be someone who'd come into our thoughts maybe ahead of the other guys.”

Savala has been in Scotland squads before but is uncapped. He joined Edinburgh in October 2020 from the Australian rugby league side Sydney Roosters and has started 10 games for them at 10 this season.

If Gray fails to recover in time then Scott Cummings, who replaced him on Sunday, will likely start against Italy. With Grant Gilchrist still suspended, Sam Skinner could also return to the 23, with the uncapped Leicester Tigers lock Cameron Henderson offering another option in the second row. Josh Bayliss, the Bath forward, has rejoined the Scotland squad after playing for his club against Northampton on Friday.