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The 'day in and day out' reason why Kinghorn has Scotland backing

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

Grant Gilchrist has backed his Edinburgh teammate Blair Kinghorn to handle the responsibility of replacing Finn Russell as the Scotland No10. Kinghorn is set to play at fly-half in Saturday’s Test at home to Australia after Gregor Townsend controversially elected not to select Russell for the upcoming Autumn Nations Series.

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The head coach implied the Racing 92 playmaker was lacking in form and consistency, although the pair have had a strained relationship for some time. Townsend is set to place his faith in Kinghorn instead and Gilchrist dismissed any concerns that the 25-year-old – who only converted to fly-half last year – might struggle with the scrutiny he will come under over the next month.

“I see Blair day in and day out, and I see the growth in his game at ten,” said Gilchrist. “He is one of the most influential players and characters in our squad at Edinburgh. We rely on him heavily and I know what he can bring. When he does that and applies that to this environment, I have no doubt in his ability to lead the attack and boss the game as a ten. His ability speaks for itself.”

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After an encouraging run of form through 2021, Scotland have flattered to deceive this year. Lock Gilchrist admits they must show more consistency in the key moments if they are to compete with the top nations on a regular basis.

“We have shown in most games we have played, if not all, when we get the best version of ourselves we are good enough to beat any team,” he said. “I have no doubt about that. Our consistency hasn’t been good enough.

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“That is what we are working to, through training and through games, how can we get the best version of ourselves on the pitch? There will be key minutes within that we have to be very good and ruthless. Through 2022 we had some big moments go against us, and had we been better in those pressure situations you are looking at a very different set of results. That is the biggest focus, that consistency. And the big moments in Test matches, we need to be really good in those. The best teams are especially good in those moments.

“The sort of thing we have looked at is our response to things going wrong in a game. There is no such thing as a perfect 80 minutes, but the best teams bounce back and don’t piggyback mistakes. You can’t go from error to error. It’s about having that switch and the ability at the right times, to make the right decisions. We have to find those solutions in-game. That is how we grow as a team and it comes from the senior guys.”

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Scotland have won their last three meetings with Australia, including a 15-13 victory at BT Murrayfield last November. “Our recent record has been outstanding but every time we play at home we feel the responsibility to perform, for our country and for the people who are watching there or at home,” said Gilchrist. “The record doesn’t change anything. I’m sure they will be gunning for us.

“That feeling of they owe us one, we have to make sure we are ready for that. We have had exceptional performances against them but it takes that, they are a top-class team with top-class coaches. We are under no illusions, it has to be our best performance.”

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