BLAIR Kinghorn looks set to continue as Scotland’s kicker against Fiji on Saturday after national assistant John Dalziel insisted the Edinburgh stand-off retained the confidence of the coaching team.

Kinghorn scored an excellent individual try against Australia last Saturday, but then his last-minute penalty miss meant Scotland lost 16-15 to the visitors. However, despite an increasing clamour for head coach Gregor Townsend to restore Finn Russell to the squad, Dalziel yesterday stressed the importance of giving players such as Kinghorn greater experience of kicking on big occasions.

“Blair is an excellent professional,” he said. “He works harder than anyone. He’s bounced right back. He knew straight away what he needed to do technically better with the kick. He’s a really resilient lad, he’s had big moments, and we’ve seen he’s capable of those with the big try [against Australia]. He repeats that on a regular basis.

“We back Blair. Blair has been in excellent form. He’s a goal-kicker, he doesn’t do a lot of it at domestic level, so we’ve got to make sure that our depth is built, and there’s no better way of building depth than giving exposure and experience to guys in the biggest arenas. I’m pretty sure if Blair is picked we’ll back him to kick as well.”

Adam Hastings could return to the squad to provide back-up for Kinghorn on Saturday after being unavailable for the Australia game. The alternative would be to reselect Ross Thompson, who was an unused substitute against the Wallabies and has played little rugby this season.

When Townsend named those three stand-offs but not Russell in his squad for the four Autumn Nations Series games, he insisted his selection had been based on form rather than having anything to do with the personality clashes between the two that have arisen sporadically in recent years. That explanation sounded unconvincing to many, not least Russell’s coaches at Racing 92, who insisted the 30-year-old had been playing some excellent rugby.

Townsend said last week that the door was not closed to Russell, and yesterday Dalziel also suggested that a rapprochement was possible, even if he did stray into the realms of the implausible by claiming the player’s good form of the past fortnight was a direct response to being dropped.

“I know Gregor and Finn speak regularly,” the assistant coach continued. “They had a good conversation around the make-up of the squad and the reasoning for the original squad.

“It’s great to see Finn playing so well the last two weekends. He’s reacted in exactly the right manner.”

The exclusion of Russell remains a burning topic within Scottish rugby, and the playing squad are clearly well aware of the continuing public disquiet about the omission from the team of the most talented stand-off to represent the country since Townsend himself. Nonetheless, Dalziel insisted that the players had not been affected by the controversy, and said any pressure within the squad was the normal sort experienced during an international campaign.

“None of it has affected the lads. We’re focused, we have a good culture in the squad, and we’re ready to bounce back this weekend. There’s a lot of pressure that goes with international rugby the whole time. Certainly playing at home there’s huge pressure on us. We want to win, we want to impress the support we get that fills the stadium time after time.

“We’re very happy, we know the areas to improve and we have another three games at home. Australia hurts – it could have gone either way at the end there – but the pressure comes with the job.”

Earlier yesterday, Scotland announced that second-row forward Jamie Hodgson had been called into the squad as a replacement for his Edinburgh team-mate Sam Skinner. Skinner broke a bone in his foot against Australia.

“There’s a little fracture in the bone caused by the tendon pulling,” Dalziel said. “It probably looks like his campaign is over. We believe it’ll be four to six weeks to heal.”

Hodgson will probably have to bide his time before getting a chance to play. Exeter’s Jonny Gray could not play last week as the Wallabies game fell outside the Test window, but he is available again this week. And his older brother Richie has been passed fit after a recent head injury, so he will also be in contention for the two places in the second row along with Edinburgh’s Grant Gilchrist.

Scotland’s next match after the Fijian clash will be on the 13th against New Zealand, who will be without Brodie Retallick. The 31-year-old lock was given a two-match ban yesterday after being sent off in his team’s win over Japan last Saturday. Retallick will also miss his team’s game on Saturday against Wales.