Finn Russell’s expulsion from Scotland’s squad has long been “parked” and presents a major opportunity for Adam Hastings to nail down the stand-off position, according to assistant coach Mike Blair.
Scotland will start their Guinness Six Nations campaign away to Ireland after preparation for the championship was severely disrupted by the influential Russell being sent home for a breach of team rules.
The 27-year-old Racing 92 star was last week disciplined following an alleged late-night drinking session and a question mark hangs over his future participation in the tournament.
Skills coach Blair insists Gregor Townsend’s players have put Russell’s dramatic departure to one side ahead of a tough assignment in Dublin and is confident 23-year-old Hastings has the talent to deputise with distinction.
“The squad have been aware of how it’s been dealt with and how we’re moving on from it,” Blair said of Russell’s exclusion.
“It’s been parked for a while now.
“We have to focus on us and what we’re doing and the best way to respond to adversity like that is putting a really strong performance on the pitch.
“It’s a team game, guys are going to drop out through injuries, or form, or whatever happened with Finn, and the team is the most important thing.
“Adam has come in and done a brilliant job. He’s loving it.
“He’s stepped up in training, he’s bossing the guys, he’s a really confident guy anyway and he’s really competitive.
“He’s got this opportunity to nail this position down and the detail that he is providing, the way he’s speaking to the players, the way he’s training, has been really impressive.”
Scotland have not won in the Irish capital in a decade and will walk out at the Aviva Stadium as rank outsiders.
For hosts Ireland, the game marks the beginning of a new era under Andy Farrell.
Head coach Farrell is aiming to develop a team the “Irish public love watching” after replacing Joe Schmidt following last year’s World Cup.
Forwards coach Simon Easterby, who worked alongside Farrell under Schmidt, expects Ireland’s new style to emerge gradually as the tournament progresses.
“You don’t need to move everything. It’s about trying to challenge the guys to think slightly differently, approach the game a little bit differently,” said Easterby.
“The attack, I think that’s something that will evolve over time. It’s not going to happen overnight.
“The good things we had over the last couple of years, hopefully they will be in place with the added quality of what we’ve been working over the past couple of weeks.
“It’s not going to be perfect. It will take time and hopefully we will see that evolve and develop over the Six Nations.”