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Finn Russell dropped as Scotland make two changes for Ireland game

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by Ross MacDonald/SNS Group via Getty Images)

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Gregor Townsend has announced a Scotland team to face Ireland this Saturday in Dublin that shows two changes – including the benching of Finn Russell – from the side that defeated Italy 33-22 last weekend in round four of the Guinness Six Nations.

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The Scotland coach made five changes for that game in Rome 14 days after their home loss to France in Six Nations round three, and he has now opted to shake it up again by including Blair Kinghorn and the fit-again Jonny Gray in his starting team.

An SRU statement said: “Edinburgh stand-off Kinghorn is rewarded for some impressive performances, including his starring role in the recent United Rugby Championship victory against Connacht two weeks ago, and will partner Ali Price, who won a 50th cap in the win over Italy last weekend.

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“Exeter Chiefs second row Gray has also returned to the starting XV having been ruled out of Scotland’s last two matches through injury.” Gray takes over at lock from clubmate Sam Skinner, who drops to a much-changed bench.

Fraser Brown, Josh Bayliss, Ben White and Mark Bennett have all been added to the replacements in place of Stuart McInally, Magnus Bradbury, Ben Vellacott and Sam Tuipulotu. Russell’s demotion, meanwhile, sees Adam Hastings excluded from the matchday 23.

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“It’s an opportunity for Blair based on how well he has played this season and also how well he has trained in our environment. He played ten for us against Tonga and has built on that performance with his club side and off the bench in the France and Wales games we thought that he performed well,” explained Townsend on his demotion of Russell for Kinghorn for the final game of this Six Nations for Scotland.

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“His last game for Edinburgh was probably his best game of the season so we feel the time is right for Blair to start at ten. And it is great to have the experience and ability of Finn off the bench as well.

“Jonny has recovered very well,” added the coach about his selection of Gray. “Last week he trained with us. Not full contact but did do a lot of the session on Thursday. He showed in that session and he showed this week that he is hungry to get back in the squad and hungry to play and take the game to Ireland.”

SCOTLAND (vs Ireland, Saturday)
15. Stuart Hogg – Exeter Chiefs – (Captain) – 92 caps
14. Darcy Graham – Edinburgh Rugby – 26 caps
13. Chris Harris – Gloucester Rugby (Vice-Captain) – 35 caps
12. Sam Johnson – Glasgow Warriors – 23 caps
11. Kyle Steyn – Glasgow Warriors – 4 caps
10. Blair Kinghorn – Edinburgh Rugby – 30 caps
9. Ali Price – Glasgow Warriors – 50 caps
1. Pierre Schoeman – Edinburgh Rugby – 8 caps
2. George Turner – Glasgow Warriors – 24 caps
3. Zander Fagerson – Glasgow Warriors – 46 caps
4. Jonny Gray – Exeter Chiefs – 66 caps
5. Grant Gilchrist – Edinburgh Rugby – (Vice-Captain) – 52 caps
6. Rory Darge – Glasgow Warriors – 3 caps
7. Hamish Watson – Edinburgh Rugby – 48 caps
8. Matt Fagerson – Glasgow Warriors – 20 caps

Replacements
16. Fraser Brown – Glasgow Warriors – 54 caps
17. Allan Dell – London Irish – 33 caps
18. WP Nel – Edinburgh Rugby – 47 caps
19. Sam Skinner – Exeter Chiefs – 19 caps
20. Josh Bayliss – Bath Rugby – 2 caps
21. Ben White – London Irish – 3 caps
22. Finn Russell – Racing 92 – 62 caps
23. Mark Bennett – Edinburgh Rugby – 23 caps

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