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The selection subplot to Finn Russell getting axed by Scotland

By Kim Ekin
Scotlands Finn Russell at full time during a Six Nations match between Italy and Scotland at the Stadio Olimpico, on March 12, 2022, in Rome, Italy. (Photo by Ross MacDonald/SNS Group via Getty Images)

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Undoubtedly the biggest selection story ahead of the finale of the Guinness Six Nations on Saturday weekend has been the axing of Finn Russell.

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The Racing 92 star has been dropped by Scotland and Blair Kinghorn handed the flyhalf duties for Saturday’s Test at Lansdowne Road. Kinghorn’s 30 Scotland caps include only one start at flyhalf, last November against Tonga.

Russell’s axing is a surprise as he’s been a Scotland mainstay for most of the last eight years while accumulating 62 caps and a British and Irish Lions tour last year.

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Jamie Noon previews the final round of the Six Nations | RugbyPass Offload | EP 25
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Jamie Noon previews the final round of the Six Nations | RugbyPass Offload | EP 25

But the mercurial no.10 has been off his game in the championship, and coach Gregor Townsend has finally pulled the trigger for the last round.

Scotland have defeated England and Italy but were well beaten by Wales and France. Russell started all four matches without excelling and was sin-binned in the Wales game.

Kinghorn has played Test rugby mostly as a wing or fullback, and appeared in this championship as a replacement against Wales and France.

“Off the bench … we thought he performed well,” Townsend said on Thursday about Kinghorn without addressing Russell.

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While the dropping of Russell came as a surprise, the selection of Kinghorn ahead of Gloucester’s Adam Hasting was a major talking point on social media. Hastings was the heir apparent in over last two seasons, but now looks to have become Townsend’s third choice.

“Gregor Townsend puts a lot of stock in “credit in the bank” in terms of selection for Scotland. Adam Hastings stepped up really well amidst ‘FinnGate’ in 2020 and hasn’t done a huge amount wrong since. Why is he now 3rd choice 10?,” wrote Andy Burke of BBC Scotland. “Should go without saying but I’ll say it anyway. I hope Blair Kinghorn has a stormer at the Aviva and we’re all left in no doubt Scotland has another quality option at 10. Huge game for him.”

“Blair Kinghorn didn’t come off the bench against England, played the last 10 against Wales and the last 20 against France when the game was already done,” wrote BBC Chief news editor Tom English. “Thirty minutes the whole championship and a start against Tonga in the autumn. In you go against Ireland son, no pressure.”

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Popular Scottish podcast Thistle Scottish Rugby Podcast wrote: “Plenty to ponder around the selection of Kinghorn for Sat, and question marks around whether he is a 10 or not. But calling him a bad to average club player is very wide of the mark.”

“It’s odd because Adam Hastings is such a good 10. I could understand if GT wanted to improve depth but you also have Ross Thompson (who is a natural 10). By this logic he should be starting and not BK.”

One fan wrote: “If Kinghorn “deserves his chance with his performances through the season” has Townsend not been watching Adam Hastings down at Gloucester then?… like most of our games this 6 Nations, the plot has been well and truly lost.”

“Toony does know Adam Hastings still exists, right?,” wrote another.

Lock Jonny Gray has returned for the Scots after missing the last two games with a head injury to replace Sam Skinner in the only other change to the starting XV which beat Italy 33-22 last weekend in Rome.

Ireland are going for a first triple crown since 2018 and are still hoping to claim the Six Nations crown later should England beat France in Paris.

– additional reporting AAP

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