What does Finn Russell’s ousting mean for Scotland’s fly-half options?

Following Thursday’s announcement that Finn Russell has been dismissed from Scotland’s preparations for their Guinness Six Nations opener against Ireland, questions have been raised about Gregor Townsend’s back-up fly-half options.

Within the remaining 37 men selected in Townsend’s squad, there are three players capable of filling the position in Russell’s absence.

Glasgow Warriors’ Adam Hastings is seen as the first choice, as half-back is his favoured position anyway, while Northampton centre Rory Hutchinson can switch to the 10 slot, as can Edinburgh’s fullback Blair Kinghorn.

Russell was expected by most to be called upon to fill the Scotland 10 jersey throughout the tournament, as his recent form with Racing 92 in the French Top 14 has been outstanding.

However, the short statement released by the SRU on Thursday stated that Russell had been instructed to return to his club “having been disciplined for a breach of team protocol during the week’s camp in Edinburgh”.

This means Russell will not travel with the team to their training camp in Portugal – due to take place at the beginning of next week – and will also miss their campaign opener against Ireland in Dublin.

It is not yet known if he will be allowed to participate in Scotland’s other four games – against England and France at home, and Italy and Wales away – but in the meantime, focus will most likely turn to Hastings, Hutchinson or Kinghorn.

Here, we take a look at what each player brings to the position:

Adam Hastings

Hastings is the most likely choice to claim Scotland’s 10 jersey following Russell’s dismissal. He fields the position week-in, week-out in the Pro14 and Champions Cup for the Glasgow Warriors and has created a tight partnership with fellow Warrior, scrum-half George Horne.

Hastings is a lover of the fast, flare-based game that Glasgow have adopted of late, but he is also more than capable at the basics, successfully kicking his 100th conversion in Glasgow’s Champions Cup meeting with Exeter at the beginning of the month. Considering this, and his partnership with Horne, Hastings will likely be fielded in the starting 15.

 

Rory Hutchinson

Hutchinson is regularly used as a centre – for both his club Northampton and in his few international caps to date – but he is also a more than capable fly-half. In 2019, Hutchinson was the top-ranking Premiership centre for clean breaks with 20, metres gained (654) and try assists (6), so he will likely look to bring a more expansive style to the game should he be dropped in at 10.

Hutchinson has not enjoyed much time at fly-half with his club due to Northampton’s ranks including Welsh 10 Dan Biggar. However, he was a standout player in the position at age-grade level for Scotland, and Townsend expressed the thinking when he named his squad that Hutchinson’s inclusion would give him both a centre and fly-half option in one.

 

Blair Kinghorn

Kinghorn is Townsend’s third valid option for filling the position while Russell is dismissed. The youngster usually finds himself in the fullback position, but he did play some of his age-grade rugby at half-back. Kinghorn charted the third-most metres made in last year’s Six Nations with 323 and has been a key figure in Edinburgh’s backline for the past couple of seasons.

His favoured jersey is 15, but following Richard Cockerill’s arrival at Edinburgh, Kinghorn has matured into a confident enough player that he could cover well at 10, as long as he has a confident nine inside of him.

 

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