Russell left out as Ritchie named Scotland captain

Russell left out as Ritchie named Scotland captain

Blair Kinghorn (left) will vie for a starting spot at fly-half in Russell’s absence

Finn Russell has been left out of Scotland’s squad for the upcoming autumn series, while Jamie Ritchie is named captain.

Stuart Hogg is back in the group after being rested for the summer tour to Argentina, but will not resume his role as skipper.

Former Australia back-row Jack Dempsey has been called up for the first time.

Adam Hastings returns as one of the fly-half options, along with Blair Kinghorn and Ross Thompson.

“It’s about form and consistency,” head coach Gregor Townsend said of his fly-half selections.

“The 10s that are in our squad, and in particular Adam Hastings, his form has been very good this season. We want to reward that.

“For Finn we want him to respond to this challenge and show regular form and consistency for his club.”

Racing 92 fly-half Russell, 30, was unavailable for the first match against Australia, which falls outside the Test window, but is a surprise omission for the games against Fiji, New Zealand, and Argentina in November.

His relationship with Townsend has at times been strained, no more so than in 2020 when Russell, who has 62 caps, walked out on the squad prior to the Six Nations and publicly criticised the coach’s methods.

The pair reconciled and Russell returned to the fold, but was dropped by Townsend from the starting line-up for last season’s Six Nations finale against Ireland days after being one of six players to embark on an unauthorised night out at an Edinburgh bar.

Losing captaincy will allow Hogg to ‘play his best rugby’

Hogg was also one of those six players, and in the aftermath Townsend refused to confirm if the Exeter Chiefs full-back would continue as captain.

But the head coach said that episode had nothing to do with Russell being dropped, or Hogg being replaced as skipper by Ritchie.

“For Stuart, who’s been a very good captain for us over the last three seasons and led us to some great victories, we see this as an opportunity for him to play his best rugby and focus on that,” added Townsend.

“We believe he’s our best player and that’s what we want to get him to be over the next 12 months. As you can imagine, he cares so much about leading Scotland, he was disappointed.

“But he’s got behind the team and Jamie. And he’s viewing it as much as a positive as possible to make sure he can focus on playing his best rugby, which is the aim.

“We see a lot of captain and leadership qualities in Jamie, we have for a while. He missed out on the chance on the summer tour to get that opportunity, but he’s had it with Edinburgh at the start of the season.

“We seem him growing into the role and being an excellent leader.”

Glasgow Warriors back-row Dempsey, 28, has 14 caps for Australia but last played for the nation of his birth at the 2019 World Cup.

World Rugby’s rules now allow players to represent another country if more than three years have passed since their last cap for another nation.

Scotland will only be able to select Scottish-based players for the opening match against Australia due to the match falling outside the usual Test window.

Scotland’s autumn squad

Forwards: Ewan Ashman (Sale Sharks), Josh Bayliss (Bath Rugby), Jamie Bhatti (Glasgow Warriors), Dave Cherry (Edinburgh Rugby), Andy Christie (Saracens), Luke Crosbie (Edinburgh Rugby), Scott Cummings (Glasgow Warriors), Jack Dempsey (Glasgow Warriors), Matt Fagerson (Glasgow Warriors), Zander Fagerson (Glasgow Warriors), Grant Gilchrist (Edinburgh Rugby), Jonny Gray (Exeter Chiefs), Richie Gray (Glasgow Warriors), Nick Haining (Edinburgh Rugby), WP Nel (Edinburgh Rugby), Jamie Ritchie (Edinburgh Rugby), Pierre Schoeman (Edinburgh Rugby), Sam Skinner (Edinburgh Rugby), Rory Sutherland (Ulster Rugby), George Turner (Glasgow Warriors), Murphy Walker (Glasgow Warriors)Hamish Watson (Edinburgh Rugby).

Backs: Mark Bennett (Edinburgh Rugby), Darcy Graham (Edinburgh Rugby), Chris Harris (Gloucester Rugby), Adam Hastings (Gloucester Rugby), Stuart Hogg (Exeter Chiefs), George Horne (Glasgow Warriors), Damien Hoyland (Edinburgh Rugby), Blair Kinghorn (Edinburgh Rugby), Stafford McDowall (Glasgow Warriors), Rufus McLean (Glasgow Warriors), Ali Price (Glasgow Warriors), Cameron Redpath (Bath Rugby), Ollie Smith (Glasgow Warriors), Kyle Steyn (Glasgow Warriors), Ross Thompson (Glasgow Warriors), Sione Tuipulotu (Glasgow Warriors), Duhan van der Merwe (Edinburgh Rugby), Ben White (London Irish).

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