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Scotland's Pierre Schoeman kicks the ball during the Six Nations rugby union match between Italy and Scotland at Rome's Olympic stadium, Saturday, March 12, 2022. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)

 

Finn Russell was dropped by Scotland and Blair Kinghorn handed the flyhalf duties against Ireland in their Six Nations match at Lansdowne Road on Saturday.

Kinghorn’s 30 Scotland caps include only one start at flyhalf, last November against Tonga.

Ireland is going for a first Triple Crown since 2018 then hoping to claim the Six Nations crown later if England beats France in Paris.

Ireland recalled winger Mack Hansen and No. 8 Jack Conan, while Iain Henderson was confirmed at lock for James Ryan, who was concussed early in the 32-15 win over England at Twickenham last Saturday.

Russell has been a Scotland mainstay for most of the last eight years and accumulated 62 caps and a British and Irish Lions tour last year. But he has been off his game in the championship, and coach Gregor Townsend finally pulled the trigger for the last round.

Scotland has defeated England and Italy but was well beaten by Wales and France. Russell started all four matches without excelling and was sin-binned in the Wales game.

Kinghorn has played test rugby mostly as a wing or fullback, and appeared in this championship as a replacement against Wales and France.

 

Ireland's Mack Hansen, left, is tackled by Italy's Montanna Ione during the Six Nations rugby union match between Ireland and Italy at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin, Ireland, Sunday, Feb. 27, 2022. (AP Photo/Peter Morrison)

 

“Off the bench … we thought he performed well,” Townsend said on Thursday about Kinghorn without addressing Russell. “His last game for Edinburgh was probably his best game of the season so we feel the time is right for Blair to start at 10.”

Lock Jonny Gray returned after missing the last two games with a head injury to replace Sam Skinner in the only other change to the starting XV which beat Italy 33-22 last weekend in Rome.

The reserves were shaken up with the arrival of former captain Fraser Brown, Skinner, Josh Bayliss for the first time this year, and backs Ben White and Mark Bennett beside Russell.

Scotland hasn’t won in Ireland since 2010 but depending on results, could rise to third or drop to fifth in the final standings.

“We have the confidence of a win (against Italy),” Townsend said, “but we know our performance was not at the level we expect of ourselves and the level it will have to be this week to get that win.”

Ireland started Hansen in the first three rounds and he impressed in his maiden campaign. He missed selection against England but Ireland said Andrew Conway was out this week with “a knee niggle.”

Conan returned at No. 8 after scoring a try off the bench at Twickenham, and Caelan Doris was switched to the blindside flank. Peter O’Mahony dropped to the reserves.

Ireland was roughed up in the scrums last week but retained the same front row of Cian Healy, Dan Sheehan and Tadhg Furlong.

Ireland's Jack Conan scored his side's third try during the Six Nations rugby union match between England and Ireland at Twickenham Stadium, in London, Saturday, March 12, 2022. (AP Photo/Ian Walton)

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