Six disciplined after breach of team rules
Six Scotland players have been disciplined, including Captain Stuart Hogg, for breaching team protocols after their Six Nations victory over Italy last Saturday.
Finn Russell, Ali Price, Darcy Graham, Sam Johnson and Sione Tuipulotu were the others punished after leaving the team hotel to visit a bar in Edinburgh after returning from Rome.
Hogg, Graham, Johnson and Price will line up for Scotland’s final Six Nations match against Ireland in Dublin on Saturday. But Russell will start on the bench having been replaced at fly-half by Edinburgh’s Blair Kinghorn.
The SRU said in a statement: “The Scotland management team have this week dealt with a post-match matter involving six players following the game against Italy last weekend.
“The players involved have been spoken to individually and those conversations and outcomes will remain private.
“Preparations for the match against Ireland this week have been good and the whole squad is fully focused on achieving a positive result on Saturday.”
Russell’s absence is one of two alterations to the starting XV from last weekend’s victory over Italy in Rome, with second row Jonny Gray returning from injury in place of Sam Skinner, who is listed among the replacements.
“Every selection is an opportunity,” said Townsend.
“We see this as an opportunity for Blair. He’s been in really good form. He wasn’t available for our match last week but the week before that he played his best game of the season against Connacht.
“He started against Tonga and played really well and he’s built on that performance so we believe this is the right time, the right game for him to play in.
“There is no exact science. Like any game, you put a lot of thought into it and put out the team you believe is going to give you the best chance of winning. It’s about what you feel is right based on training and games.
“We know Blair has done really well and earned this opportunity, and also with how we’re looking to play the game, with Blair’s strengths.
“He’s a very good passer, an excellent runner, he has a long-kicking game and he moves well between phases. He senses where the space might appear in the defence very well.”
As to Russell’s reaction when he was told the news, the head coach said: “Like any conversation when you give someone news that they’re not starting, they’re initially disappointed but they support the team. Finn will support Blair, as he has done this week.”
The Scots are looking for their third win in what has been a championship of mixed fortunes, victories over England and Italy being offset by defeats from Wales and France.
Scotland: S Hogg; D Graham, C Harris, S Johnson, K Steyn; B Kinghorn, A Price; P Schoeman, G Turner, Z Fagerson, J Gray, G Gilchrist (VC), R Darge, H Watson, M Fagerson. Replacements: F Brown, A Dell, W Nel, S Skinner, J Bayliss, B White, F Russell, M Bennett.