Le Pays De France - Scotland bench Russell for Ireland finale in Six Nations

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Scotland bench Russell for Ireland finale in Six Nations
Scotland bench Russell for Ireland finale in Six Nations

Scotland bench Russell for Ireland finale in Six Nations

Scotland fly-half Finn Russell has been dropped to the bench for Saturday's Six Nations match against Ireland in Dublin, with Edinburgh stand-off Blair Kinghorn picked to start.

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In the only other change coach Gregor Townsend has made to his starting XV for Scotland's final game of the Championship, Jonny Gray replaces Exeter team-mate Sam Skinner in the second row.

The gifted Russell has not been at his best this season but Townsend was reluctant to criticise the Racing 92 playmaker after unveiling his team on Thursday.

"I prefer to focus on what Blair has done and how well he's played and deserved this opportunity -- which he certainly has in his performances throughout this season," said the Scotland coach.

"Any conversation you have with someone who is not starting, they're initially disappointed, but they support the team and Finn will support Blair, support the rest and he has done this week."

The 30-times capped Kinghorn, who missed last week's 33-22 win against Italy for personal reasons, made his name at Test level as a full-back and wing but has been Edinburgh's first-choice fly-half this season.

Townsend, himself a former Scotland stand-off, has no doubts the 25-year-old can rise to the challenge of directing operations against Ireland in Dublin despite a relative lack of experience at No 10.

"It's his natural position based on this season," he said.

Townsend added: "The way we're looking to play the game suits Blair's strengths. He's a very good passer of the ball, an excellent runner (and has) a long-kicking game. He also moves well between phases."

The Scotland coach welcomed the return of Gray following an ankle injury.

"He brings physicality, huge work-rate defensively, support of the ball-carrier in contact and in contact himself. Those are areas we need to do well this weekend if we are going to be in a position to win."

Scotland have lost their past six matches against Ireland and have not won a Six Nations fixture in Dublin since 2010.

Victory for Scotland this weekend would mean Townsend's men, currently fourth in the table, had won three of their five matches in the championship this season.

A win would also deny Ireland a Triple Crown and end their bid to take the title before Grand Slam-chasing France face England in Paris later Saturday.

"They were coming into the championship in great form," said Townsend of Ireland, whose only loss so far was a 30-24 defeat by France in Paris.

"They play ambitious rugby and they've continued to do that....They've been better in every game, even the game against France. They could have won that."

Scotland team to play Ireland (15-1)

Stuart Hogg (capt); Darcy Graham, Chris Harris, Sam Johnson, Kyle Steyn; Blair Kinghorn, Ali Price; Matt Fagerson, Hamish Watson, Rory Darge; Grant Gilchrist, Jonny Gray; Zander Fagerson, George Turner, Pierre Schoeman

Replacements: Fraser Brown, Allan Dell, WP Nel, Sam Skinner, Josh Bayliss, Ben White, Finn Russell, Mark Bennett

Coach: Gregor Townsend (SCO)