Duncan Smith: Consistency the key as Scots face toughest test

Blair Kinghorn has had a rapid rise, from playing down his chances of a Scotland call-up to starting against Ireland at the Aviva. Picture: SNS Group
Blair Kinghorn has had a rapid rise, from playing down his chances of a Scotland call-up to starting against Ireland at the Aviva. Picture: SNS Group
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Just six months ago Blair Kinghorn was playing down his chances of a call-up to the Scotland squad, never mind the team.

The autumn Tests were looming and there were concerns about star full-back Stuart Hogg, who hadn’t played since getting injured on the Lions tour, but the 21-year-old insisted he was solely focused on Edinburgh.

His club coach Richard Cockerill thought that was sensible as he felt the youngster wasn’t ready for the Test arena, given that he was prone to throw in at least one howler every game to take some of the gloss off otherwise eye-catching displays which showcased his raw natural talent.

Cockerill gradually amended that view as the season progressed and Kinghorn’s performances continued to impress with increasing maturity and game awareness.

By Six Nations time the Edinburgh coach was openly pushing his young full-back and, after making his debut off the bench in the Calcutta Cup triumph, Kinghorn now gets his first start, on the wing against Ireland in Dublin on Saturday after Seymour was ruled out with a back injury.

A strapping 6ft 4in, if still a tad coltish in weight, the big-booted Kinghorn played his schoolboy rugby at stand-off for Edinburgh Academy but, when he signed pro terms out of school and started to make an immediate impression on the first team, then coach Alan Solomons viewed full-back as the best learning ground.

When coach Gregor Townsend named him in his Six Nations squad, he hinted that wing might be the position in which he could be introduced to international rugby. Cockerill saw the merit in that, describing the player as “proper quick”.

Kinghorn is the sole change as Townsend rewards his Calcutta Cup heroes, minus the injured Seymour, with a third start in a row.

In modern rugby that is a notable position to be in and reflects a timely change in Scotland’s injury fortunes as well as their form since the carnage in Cardiff.

Townsend has never been shy of a bold and surprising selection call but has also tempered that with a focus on fairness. Play well and you have a good chance of keeping your place.

So tighthead Simon Berghan keeps the No 3 jersey after coming in to a Scottish front row which has defied fears heading into the tournament, with Willem Nel continuing on the bench.

Lock Grant Gilchrist is also rewarded for his excellent form and fit-again Richie Gray is not even on the bench. That spot stays with Tim Swinson, who can also cover the back row.

Townsend will now hope that consistency in selection leads to consistency in performance as the Scots face their toughest test of the competition thus far.