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'Door open' for axed out-half Russell says Scotland coach Townsend

Blair Kinghorn starts at 10 for Scotland against the Wallabies who welcome back star player Michael Hooper.

SCOTLAND COACH Gregor Townsend said the “door was open” for playmaker Finn Russell after naming Blair Kinghorn at out-half for Scotland’s autumn international opener at home to Australia this weekend.

Russell would have missed the Wallabies match as his club Racing 92 are not obliged to release players for a fixture that takes place outside World Rugby’s designated Test window.

The 30-year-old was omitted last week from the squad named by Townsend, a former Scotland No. 10, for all of their upcoming internationals against Australia on Saturday, Fiji, New Zealand and Argentina.

“The door is not closed on any player,” Townsend said when asked about a possible return for Russell after naming his side to play the Wallabies.

“The door is open to all our players.”

Edinburgh’s Kinghorn, who started in a 34-31 third Test defeat by Argentina in July where Scotland let slip a 15-point lead, now has a chance to cement his place at stand-off.

Ollie Smith is set to win his second cap in the absence of former Scotland captain Stuart Hogg, with English club Exeter Chiefs not required to release the full-back.

Saturday’s match will be Smith’s first home international after the 22-year-old impressed in Argentina.

“Ollie was outstanding on tour,” said Townsend. “He played really well on his debut in challenging circumstances away from home in front of 50,000 Argentina fans.

Former Australia back-row Jack Dempsey, capped 14 times by the Wallabies, could make his Scotland debut off the bench benefitting from World Rugby’s eligibility rule change.

Scott Cummings has been out of the squad for the series due to a broken toe, with the lock replaced by Glen Young, who comes straight onto the bench ahead of Richie Gray.

Dave Cherry has been selected ahead of George Turner and Ewan Ashman at hooker, with blindside flanker Jamie Ritchie captaining the side for the first time since being named as Hogg’s successor by Townsend.

Scotland, following the visit of an Australia side coached by former Glasgow boss Dave Rennie, will be at home to Fiji, New Zealand and Argentina on successive weekends.

Townsend’s men won just two of their Six Nations matches earlier this year before going down 2-1 in Argentina in a three-Test series.

Scotland have, however, won their last three Tests against Australia, including a 15-13 success in their most recent meeting at Murrayfield last year.

“We want to see a very good performance because that’s what’ll be required to beat one of the top teams in the world,” said Townsend.

“They’ve got a philosophy of moving the ball. We know Dave Rennie really well. He’s always had this attacking philosophy.”

Meanwhile, Australia’s rugby union great Michael Hooper was recalled to the Wallabies team.

The 30-year-old flanker, the Wallabies’ most capped skipper, withdrew on the eve of August’s Test against Argentina in Mendoza, saying he was not in the “right mindset” to lead his country.

australias-michael-hooper Michael Hooper returns for the Wallabies.

He then sat out the remainder of the Rugby Championship before being included in the squad for the tour of Europe.

Hooper hasn’t played for Australia since their series-deciding loss at home to England in July but now rejoins a back-row that features club colleague Jed Holloway at blindside flanker and Rob Valetini at No 8.

He is one of several changes to Australia’s matchday 23, with Queensland captain Tate McDermott earning his first start of the 2022 campaign at scrum-half, partnering Bernard Foley who will line-up for his first Test against the Scots since 2017.

Ton Banks has been reinstalled at full-back, with Brumbies flyer Tom Wright on the left wing and Hunter Paisami at inside centre.

Up front, Nick Frost is set to make his second start at Test level when the Wallabies take the field at Murrayfield on Saturday, partnering Brumbie teammate Cadeyrn Neville in the second row.

James Slipper will captain the side from loosehead prop in his 124th Test.

Hooper, speaking Wednesday at Australia’s training camp in Saint-Etienne, France — the Wallabies’ base for next year’s World Cup — said: “I’m excited to be back.

“I’m realistic that there’s going to be some really good days and some days with the realities of travel and rugby and stuff will be difficult…I’m back in this position because I want to be here.”

Rennie’s men have arrived in Europe Australia on the back of three straight losses, two to New Zealand and one to South Africa.

Saturday’s match marks the start of a tour that also sees Australia playing internationals against France, Italy, Ireland and Wales on consecutive weekends.


Tom Banks; Andrew Kellaway, Len Ikitau, Hunter Paisami, Tom Wright; Bernard Foley, Tate McDermott; Rob Valetini, Michael Hooper, Jed Holloway; Cadeyrn Neville, Nick Frost; Allan Alaalatoa, David Porecki, James Slipper (capt)

Replacements: Folau Fainga’a, Matt Gibbon, Taniela Tupou, Ned Hanigan, Pete Samu, Nic White, Noah Lolesio, Jock Campbell


Ollie Smith; Darcy Graham, Mark Bennett, Sione Tuipulotu, Duhan van der Merwe; Blair Kinghorn, Ali Price; Matt Fagerson, Hamish Watson, Jamie Ritchie (capt); Grant Gilchrist, Sam Skinner; Zander Fagerson, Dave Cherry, Pierre Schoeman

Replacements: George Turner, Jamie Bhatti, Willem Nel, Glen Young, Jack Dempsey, George Horne, Ross Thompson, Damien Hoyland

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