Scotland boss Townsend gives Russell and Hastings Six Nations challenge
The Dark Blues head coach will experiment with dual playmakers at Murrayfield on Saturday.
Gregor Townsend has challenged Finn Russell and Adam Hastings to prove they can work together against Argentina if they want to spearhead Scotland’s Six Nations assault.
The Dark Blues head coach will experiment with dual playmakers at Murrayfield on Saturday after deciding to pitch both his number 10s into action against the Pumas.
Racing 92 star Russell will shift to inside centre to allow his former Glasgow colleague Hastings to start at stand-off.
Townsend tried the partnership out briefly towards the end of this month’s eight-try demolition job on Fiji and saw it pay off when the pair combined to set up Hastings for his first ever Scotland touchdown.
But he admits he is taking a gamble by naming both in the same starting line-up.
However, if the midfield duo can find a way to compliment each other without exposing the rest of their team-mates to too much risk this weekend, Townsend has hinted he may be prepared to let them loose again when the Six Nations gets underway early next year.
He said: “Every selection has an unknown quality about it, but every selection is about putting a team out there that we believe gives us the best chance of winning.
“If this had been a Six Nations game it might not have been the selection we put out there – but if they go well it could be the selection we put out there for a Six Nations game.
Finn Russell is named in the Scotland squad for the 2018 Autumn Tests. Watch below as Gregor Townsend talks about Finn's season in France so far.— Scottish Rugby (@Scotlandteam) October 17, 2018
Full interview ➡ https://t.co/HZW2Si889V pic.twitter.com/RQy6z0s8sk
“November does give us an opportunity to look at different things, but we’re looking at different things because we believe they’ll work.”
Townsend is throwing all his attacking cards on the table after naming a back-line that also includes Huw Jones, Sean Maitland and Stuart Hogg.
He admits Russell will have to temper some of his more flamboyant tendencies now that he has dropped back a slot – but he insists his talisman will still have plenty opportunity to take on the Argentinian defence.
“It will be a different Finn because he’s playing a different position,” he said. “He’s obviously got to defend differently, he’s got to carry ball as second receiver – we want him getting as many touches as first receiver as he can.
“We should see other aspects of his game which are strong points, such as his carrying game, which we didn’t get to see last week against South Africa or don’t get to see enough when he’s playing 10.
“Finn is a strong ball-carrier, he’s hard to put down, he’s got a good offloading game, he’s got a good awareness of defences to pick the right running lines.
“Last week we’d have liked to see more of him as a ball-carrier as a 10 – he should certainly get opportunities to carry this week.”
Hastings’s inclusion is one of eight changes Townsend has made to the team which pushed the Springboks close last weekend.
A new front row of Allan Dell, Fraser Brown and Simon Berghan start, while lock Grant Gilchrist is joined in a new-look pack by flanker Jamie Ritchie and number eight Josh Strauss.
Edinburgh full-back Blair Kinghorn is also given a run-out on the right wing.
Townsend added: “I’m always excited by any team that gets selected. I believe it will be an exciting prospect for Adam to start his first game for Scotland at BT Murrayfield.
“He’ll have two strong communicators either side of him, someone who plays regularly at 10 on his shoulder and someone who has played a lot of matches for Scotland and captained Scotland on a number of occasions inside him in Greig Laidlaw.
“He’ll be excited about getting that opportunity and also sharing the decision-making with those around him.”