THE battle between Adam Hastings and Blair Kinghorn for the Scotland No 10 jersey should be intense, but Gregor Townsend doesn’t see the rivalry getting personal.

“They’re best mates, so as soon as the squad got announced before the start of this Autumn series, David Edge, our team manager, got a message from them both five minutes apart, each asking if they could share a room with the other,” revealed the national side’s head coach after adding Hastings to the starting XV and dropping Kinghorn to the bench for tomorrow’s clash against Fiji at Murrayfield.

“When I spoke to Blair on Monday to tell him he wouldn’t be starting for this one I did say it will be interesting to see how the pair of them get on this week. We don’t train on a Monday but they both grabbed Chris Paterson that day to go out and kick together. We see that [friendship] as a positive.

“They’re going to drive each other as they get on very well with each other. I’m sure they’ll both want to be starting although Blair can cover a few other positions too.”

After watching his backline fail to click as an attacking force against the Wallabies last weekend, Townsend has opted for wholesale changes in midfield, with three English-based club players in Hastings, Cam Redpath and Chris Harris replacing Kinghorn, Sione Tuipulotu (both named on the bench) and Mark Bennett (out of the match-day squad altogether) across the 10-12-13 axis.

It certainly looks like a better-balanced triumvirate, while the other backline change sees vastly experienced former captain Stuart Hogg replace emerging star Ollie Smith at full-back.

“Adam is a game manager and also has the ability to run whereas I’d say Blair is a runner-passer and is learning more on the game management side,” added Townsend.

“Adam is playing regularly and very well for a team that’s going great in the English Premiership, and the way Gloucester have performed this year aligns a lot in attack with what we want to do with our team.

“Blair off the bench is also a positive thing – his running game, his pace, his passing, whether that’s at 10 or in a different position, can really cause damage in the last 20 minutes.”

Redpath made a stunning start to his international career when he played a central role in Scotland’s historic victory over England at Twickenham in 2021 – their first win at that venue since 1983 – but wretched luck with injuries means that he has managed to pick up only one more cap, off the bench against Wales in last year’s Six Nations, since that day.

“I think Cam will admit when he got back playing for Bath this season he wasn’t at his best, but the last couple of games he’s got back to that level,” said Townsend. “We’ve got great memories of how well he played for us down at Twickenham. I thought Sione played well at the weekend too, so there’s real competition at 12.

“With Cam, you can see he has the potential of being that triple threat – having a kicking game, passing game and a running game.

“Having him and Chris together is a really good combination which suits the strengths of each other. Chris is a very good defender and runs great lines in attack, while Cam is great over the ball and can put players into space.”

Meanwhile, Townsend quashed rumours that the exiled Finn Russell is to be recalled ahead of next Sunday’s clash against New Zealand, providing a one-word answer – “No” – to a direct question on the subject.

He was, however, more expansive about the prospect Russell’s namesake, 20-year-old Northampton Saints stand-off Fin Smith, becoming part of the Scotland set-up.

“I have spoken to Fin a few times, prior to this summer and also over the last couple of months,” said the coach. “He got a bad injury in training so has not been available for his new club Northampton for the last couple of months.

“It has been great having conversations with him. He is a young man but he is very mature and understands the game and has very strong links to Gala, so that is always a good thing isn’t it?” added Townsend, who is, of course, a product of the Border town.

“We know there are a number of players, Cam Redpath for one, whose parents were Scottish. Fin’s parents were Scottish, his grandfather played for the Lions but he has come through the English system. He will maybe have to make a decision sooner than people think because he is a very good player. I am sure England will be after him as well.”

“He hadn’t played until last week so his focus will be with his new club and getting back playing again during the November Tests so I would imagine his conversion with us and England will continue after this Autumn period.

“It was just great seeing how well he played at the weekend given he’d been out for three months with a broken jaw. I see he’s starting again this weekend.”


Scotland (v Fiji at Murrayfield, Saturday @ 1pm): S Hogg; D Graham, C Harris (VC), C Redpath, D van der Merwe; A Hastings, A Price ; P Schoeman, G Turner, Z Fagerson, R Gray, G Gilchrist (VC), J Ritchie©, H Watson, M Fagerson. Substitutes: E Ashman, R Sutherland, M Walker, J Gray, J Dempsey, B White, B Kinghorn, S Tuipulotu.

Fiji: K Murimurivalu; S Tuicuvu, W Nayacalevu, K Ravouvou, V Habosi; V Botitu, F Lomani; E Mawi, S Matavesi, M Saulo, T Mayanavanua, R Rotuisolia, A Tuisue, L Botia, V Mata. Substitutes: T Ikanivere, L Natave, L Tagi, A Ratuniyara, K Kamikmaica, P Matawalu, T Tela, S Maqala.