Stand-off Adam Hastings has given the job of replacing Finn Russell as Scotland kick-off their Guinness Six Nations campaign against Ireland on Saturday.

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Russell was told he would not be involved at the Aviva Stadium after being disciplined for breaching team rules last week after he was involved in a late-night drinking session at the Dark Blues’ team hotel.

It remains to be seen if the Racing 92 star will feature at all during this year’s championships but Hastings will get his chance to prove he can plot a route to success after being handed the number 10 jersey for
the Dublin opener.

In total there are ten changes from the XV that Townsend selected in Scotland’s last outing, the World Cup pool defeat at the hand of Japan. The five repeat picks are new skipper Stuart Hogg, Sam Johnson, James Ritchie, Jonny Gray and Fraser Brown.

Bristol Bears number eight Nick Haining will win his first cap against Andy Farrell’s team while Edinburgh prop Rory Sutherland will make his first international appearance in three-and-a-half years.

(Continue reading below…)

World Rugby have added pressure on teams to improve their results in 2020

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Back-rower Hamish Watson and scrum-half Ali Price – both injured in the Scots’ opening World Cup clash with Irish back in September – make their return to Townsend’s team after returning to fitness, while there
is also a comeback for Huw Jones at centre after he missed the cut for the tournament in Japan.

Ireland swept Townsend’s team aside 27-3 in Yokohama and the coach is looking for a major improvement this weekend.

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Townsend, who has spent the week in Spain preparing his team for their first match of this year’s competition, said: “We have managed to cover a lot of work in the two weeks we have been together and we’ve been impressed with how our players have taken on information and bonded as a team.

“Our goal is always to play to our potential. The challenge to do this starts on Saturday against Ireland. Playing to our potential starts with our collective mindset. That means being alert, focused and resilient right from the beginning, to be ready for the physical battle that lies ahead and able to stay in the fight throughout the 80 minutes.”

Townsend added: “We must be a relentless collective on the pitch and a nightmare for the Irish to deal with while having the ability and awareness to impose our game at that intensity.

“As coaches, we put frameworks together and create an environment for them to thrive and reach their potential but ultimately it’s the players who go out and deliver. We’re looking forward to seeing them play in Dublin.”

SCOTLAND (vs Ireland, Saturday)

15. Stuart Hogg (Exeter, capt); 14. Sean Maitland (Saracens), 13. Huw Jones (Glasgow), 12. Sam Johnson (Glasgow), 11. Blair Kinghorn (Edinburgh); 10. Adam Hastings (Glasgow), 9. Ali Price (Glasgow); 1. Rory Sutherland (Edinburgh), 2. Fraser Brown (Glasgow), 3. Zander Fagerson (Glasgow), 4. Scott Cummings (Glasgow), 5. Jonny Gray (Glasgow), 6. James Ritchie (Edinburgh), 7. Hamish Watson (Edinburgh), 8. Nick Haining (Edinburgh). Reps: 16. Stuart McInally (Edinburgh), 17. Allan Dell (London Irish), 18. Simon Berghan (Edinburgh), 19. Ben Toolis (Edinburgh), 20. Cornell du Preez (Worcester), 21. George Horne (Glasgow), 22. Rory Hutchinson (Northampton), 23. Chris Harris (Gloucester).

WATCH: The Rugby Pod sets the scene ahead of the 2020 Guinness Six Nations and reflects on yet more Saracens fallout  

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