Blair Kinghorn is relishing his elevated status as Scotland’s first-choice World Cup full-back after spending most of his international career to date trying to emerge from the shadows of greats Finn Russell and Stuart Hogg.

The 26-year-old Edinburgh back has accumulated 47 caps since his debut in 2018, largely due to his versatility in being able to operate at number 15, number 10 and even on the wing.

In trying to establish himself at full-back, Kinghorn found Hogg – Scotland’s record try-scorer – blocking his way to a starting place, while his bid to become an international stand-off always seemed unlikely for as long as the talismanic Russell was still at the top of his game.

Hogg’s retirement earlier this summer, however, opened the door for Kinghorn to set about making the 15 jersey his own.

After starting the two summer Tests against France last month, it came as little surprise when he got the nod over the less experienced full-back Ollie Smith to start the World Cup opener against South Africa.

He is expected to retain his place for Sunday’s match against Tonga in Nice as the Scots bid to bounce back from their 18-3 defeat by the Springboks.

“I feel like there’s been a different focus this pre-season, coming into the World Cup feeling like I can grab a starting jersey,” he said.

“Being able to start at 15 is something I don’t want to let go of and something I don’t take lightly.

“I’m really excited about it. Everyone always wants to be starting for their country and now that I’ve had the opportunity to start the last game, and a couple of the warm-up games to start at 15, it’s been really exciting for me.

“There’s still a lot of competition in our squad for that jersey, everyone is pushing each other, so I’ve just got to keep training well and playing well, if selected, and hopefully I can hang on to it for a while longer.”

For much of 2022, amid tension between Gregor Townsend and Russell, it looked like Kinghorn was being primed as a Scotland fly-half.

However, with Russell and the head coach having patched up their differences last November, Kinghorn’s hopes of becoming number 10 for the national team were effectively dashed.

“I think so,” he said when asked if his focus was now fully on the full-back position. “I feel comfortable back there. I’ve got the ability to cover stand-off if needed but I feel like full-back is my best suited position at the moment, and I feel like that’s where I can offer the team my strengths.”

Kinghorn knows he has big boots to fill in succeeding Hogg, one of Scotland’s greatest ever players, but he is intent on playing the position his own way.

“Obviously Hoggy was a world-class player so over the last five years since I’ve been in camp with him I’ve been picking up little bits of knowledge here and there from him, but I’m looking to put my own game into that 15 jersey,” he said.

“A lot of players play in different styles and I think me and Hoggy have contrasting styles in certain ways, but I’ll be looking to put my own stamp on the position.”

Kinghorn is enjoying his second World Cup after going to Japan in 2019 as a 22-year-old. The back was a fringe man at the last showpiece, making just two appearances and only one as a starter. He feels he has developed significantly as a player and a person since then.

“I was inexperienced and quite young when I came to my first World Cup,” said Kinghorn. “You grow and mature into these situations and you realise how hard it is to stay at the top of your game for an entire pre-season and World Cup.

“You’ve got to take your preparation and your recovery seriously. I think when you’re younger you’re a bit naive to how much work it actually takes so I feel like I’m a more mature player who has definitely dealt with a bit more life experience within rugby and I can handle situations a bit better.”

Scotland full-back Stuart Hogg has announced his retirement from rugby union with immediate effect.

Hogg had previously revealed plans to end his career after the World Cup in France later this year.

But the 31-year-old has decided to call time “knowing that I have given my body and heart to rugby”.

Hogg tweeted: “It is difficult where to start, but with great sadness and an enormous amount of pride I am announcing my immediate retirement from playing rugby.

“I fought with everything I had to make the Rugby World Cup, but this time my body has not been able to do the things I wanted and needed it to do.

“We knew this day would come eventually. I just never thought it would be this soon.

“It’s hard to put into words just how much of an impact the game has had on my life. I will be retiring knowing that I have given my body and heart to rugby.

“I will be forever grateful to this amazing community and cannot wait to begin my journey as a proud supporter of Scottish Rugby”.

Hogg made his Scotland debut in 2012. He played at two World Cups and went on each of the last three British and Irish Lions tours in 2013, 2017 and 2021.

He moved from Glasgow to Exeter in 2019 and was named Scotland captain the following year. Hogg skippered the national team for just over two years before Jamie Ritchie took over the role after head coach Gregor Townsend opted to make a change.

Hogg was visibly emotional before winning his 100th cap against Ireland earlier this year, although the match ended on a sour note when he was forced off in the closing stages with an ankle injury that ruled him out of the final Six Nations match versus Italy.

Townsend told www.scottishrugby.org: “Following Stuart’s news we would like to wish him all the best in his retirement. He has been an outstanding player for Scotland and has had a career lit up with so many achievements, highlights and special memories.

“I have had the pleasure of coaching Stuart for the majority of his career, and he was a joy to work with and watch on the training field and in games.

“He had a love for so many aspects of the game, and not only got joy from taking on defenders with ball in hand but also putting his team-mates into space.

“His basic skills and speed set him apart from other players, and it has been an amazing effort to play Test rugby for the past 11 years”.

Scotland and Exeter full-back Stuart Hogg has announced he intends to retire after this year's Rugby World Cup.

The 30-year-old this month became only the fourth player to reach a century of appearances for Scotland after Ross Ford, Chris Paterson and Sean Lamont.

But Hogg, who also leads the way for the most tries scored by a Scotland player (27), will hang up his boots after competing in France later this year.

"After RWC2023, my professional rugby journey will end and I will be retiring from the game," Hogg said in a statement posted on his personal Instagram account.

"As a young kid growing up in The Borders, all I wanted to do was to play rugby for Scotland. 

"I feel privileged to have represented my country on 100 occasions, play on 3 British & Irish Lions tours and represent some amazing clubs. I couldn't have asked for any more.

"Rugby has allowed me to meet some incredible characters, make lifelong friends, travel the world and be part of some unbelievable experiences that I will cherish forever."

As well as representing Scotland since 2012 and featuring on three British and Irish Lions tours, Hogg also spent nearly a decade with Glasgow Warriors before joining Exeter.

Explaining the reason behind his shock retirement call, Hogg's statement added: "I don't feel my body can achieve the standards that I set myself for much longer.

"I've always wanted to finish at the top end of the game. A new career beckons and I will attack it in the same manner as I play the game. I hope I have done you proud."

Hogg signed off his statement with the words "100 not out (just yet)" in reference to the caps milestone he recently reached with Scotland.

He won the European Champions Cup and Premiership with Exeter in the 2019-20 season, following Pro12 success with Glasgow in 2014-15.

The Melrose native was also named Six Nations Player of the Tournament in 2016 and 2017.

Should he be selected as expected, Hogg will feature in his third World Cup, having played eight times across the past two tournaments.

Stuart Hogg conceded Scotland were fortunate to come away from their final Six Nations match with victory over bottom side Italy.

Scotland claimed a bonus-point win at Murrayfield to all but secure third place, bar a bonus-point win and a huge margin of victory for England against Grand Slam-hunting Ireland later on Saturday. 

While the 26-14 scoreline may suggest the hosts dominated the contest, there were just six points in it at half-time and a five-point difference in the closing stages.

Italy pushed for a try that would have earned them a shock result in Edinburgh, but Blair Kinghorn's superb third try at the death killed off the visitors' hopes.

Scotland's all-time record try scorer Hogg, who was working as a pundit for BBC Sport after being ruled out of the contest through injury, accepts lessons must be learned by his side.

"It was very frustrating to watch. For Scotland, we were in control for large periods and then last 10 minutes was harum-scarum," he said.

"We can count ourselves lucky. That last try doesn't reflect the scoreline. It's a Scotland win, five points in a Test match and that's all you can ask for.

"We'll learn a hell of a lot from that and it'll stand us in good stead going forward. If you're not on it for 80 minutes, you aren't going to win Test matches."

Duhan van der Merwe superbly reached over for the first try, either side of a couple of Tommaso Allan penalties, before Kinghorn crossed over twice either side of half-time.

Allan chased down a grubber and then added three more points from the boot to set up a tense conclusion, but Kinghorn's brilliant breakaway third got Scotland over the line. 

Scotland have won their last eight Six Nations matches against Italy, with that their longest winning run against any nation in the tournament.

Jack Dempsey, whose 23 tackles without missing one was the second-highest return of any player in this year's tournament, told BBC Sport: "It was a bit scary towards the end. 

"Credit to the front row at the end there with a great scrum to get us our of trouble. But yeah, it was knee-shaky stuff. Honestly, I was just waiting for the whistle to go."

Scotland are set for their highest finish since 2018, having won three out of their five games for the fifth time in the past seven editions of the tournament.

As for Italy, they have collected the wooden spoon for eight years running and have won just one of their past 42 Six Nations games, coming against Wales 12 months ago.

After putting in another brave showing, head coach Kieran Crowley is hopeful Italy's time will come.

"We keep turning up at the office and hopefully a bounce will go our way one day," he said. "It was one hell of a game – they gave it everything, we gave it everything.

"It's not for lack of effort. We're playing an up-tempo game – we have to keep putting our players under that pressure in training and learn to execute a little bit better."

Wales hooker Ryan Elias hailed his side's "never-say-die attitude" in their tense 20-17 victory over Scotland at the Principality Stadium on Saturday.

After suffering a heavy loss to Ireland last weekend, Wales gave their Six Nations title defence lift-off thanks to the kicking expertise of Dan Biggar.

The fly-half kicked 15 points on what was his 100th Test outing, including a drop-goal 11 minutes from time to seal the victory for Wales in Cardiff.

Scotland were a man down at that point after Finn Russell, who himself kicked 12 points, was yellow carded for a deliberate knock-on.

Wales trailed by five points in the first half and were again behind approaching the hour mark, but they rallied to avoid successive losses to begin a campaign for the first time since 2007.

"It's huge," Elias told BBC Sport. "We needed a big reaction from last week, especially for the crowd here today.

"We didn't turn up last week physically or in a lot of aspects of the game. I don't think we fired any shots last week.

"We had a long hard look at ourselves in the week. We were physical, we had that never-say-die attitude. Hopefully we can just keep building on that now."

 

Russell's yellow card was his fourth in Test rugby, each of those coming in the Six Nations – including one in a defeat to Wales seven years ago.

Biggar took full advantage by kicking for the three points soon after, rather than playing the ball out wide as Wales closed in on the try-line.

After expertly seeing out the win, however, centurion Biggar was left to reflect on a memorable day.

"This is one of my best victories in a Welsh shirt," he said. "It's been a really difficult week. We've had to put up with a lot of flak – and rightly so. 

"To come back here and put on a show like that, to grind a result out like that, is one of the best victories in my 100 games.

"We put in a huge shift defensively, our forwards fronted up, and it laid a really strong foundation.

"Off the back of the week we've had, this team has shown if anything it's resilient and can hit back after a poor performance."

Scotland beat England 20-17 in last week's Calcutta Cup clash and started strongly through a Darcy Graham try in Cardiff.

But after failing to push on, they have now lost 10 of their 12 away matches against Wales in the Six Nations, including the last nine in a row at the Principality Stadium.

And Scotland skipper Stuart Hogg was left to reflect on an ill-disciplined display from his side in the Welsh capital.

"We're bitterly disappointed," he told BBC Sport. "The stuff that we're in control of, when we're on the front foot, we're really dangerous. At times, we weren't allowed to do that.

"We're a lot better than what we showed. That’s international rugby – you have to take your chances or you end up on the wrong side of the scoreline.

"[Poor discipline] was absolutely a factor. One penalty or knock-on is fine, but when we compound error upon error that's frustrating, because we know we're better than that.

"Credit to Wales, they were fairly good at times. It's a horrible feeling right now but that is Test match rugby."

Makazole Mapimpi scored two tries as South Africa recovered from a half-time deficit to see off Scotland 30-15 in Saturday's entertaining Test at Murrayfield.

Scotland beat Australia 15-13 last week and looked good value to pull off another big win after opening up a 10-8 lead at the midway point against the Springboks.

Mapimpi had raced over following some good play from Siya Kolisi for the opening try of the contest after Finn Russell and Elton Jantjies shared a penalty apiece.

But the hosts hit back strongly with a brilliantly worked try that started with Russell chipping a cross-kick left and Stuart Hogg eventually collecting a bouncing ball to run in.

Russell successfully added the extras, unlike Jantjies earlier in the game, but he was wayward with a straightforward penalty just before the interval.

That proved costly as Damian de Allende flicked a great pass to Mapimpi three minutes into the second period to double South Africa's try count.

Jantjies this time made no mistake from the conversion and added six more points from the boot to punish ill-disciplined Scotland, who did manage to restore some hope when Hogg was fed by Duhan van der Merwe for a second try of his own.

However, any hopes Scotland had of a first win over the reigning world champions since 2010 were ended when Handre Pollard (two) and Francois Steyn kicked over a trio of late penalties.

Kyle Sinckler could miss the British and Irish Lions' deciding Test against South Africa after being cited for an alleged bite on Franco Mostert.

The incident occurred during the 64th minute of an ill-tempered second Test in Cape Town, a game the hosts won 27-9 to level the series at one apiece.

England prop Sinckler has come off the bench in both Tests so far but would face a minimum ban of 12 weeks if found guilty.

The 28-year-old will attend a World Rugby hearing via video conference on Tuesday.

In a statement, World Rugby added there were no additional citings from the match after Lions full-back Stuart Hogg denied allegations that he had bitten Springbok counterpart Willie le Roux.

"I would never bite an opponent and I am annoyed and upset by this unsubstantiated accusation. I've always been proud of playing rugby in the spirit of the game," Scotland international Hogg said in a statement issued by the Lions.

The third and final Test between the teams takes place at Cape Town Stadium on Saturday. 

British and Irish Lions full-back Stuart Hogg has denied biting South Africa's Willie Le Roux and says he is "annoyed and upset" by the allegations.

Footage emerged on Saturday of Hogg clashing with opposite number Le Roux during the Lions' contentious 27-9 loss to the world champions in Cape Town.

The coming together occurred following Cheslin Kolbe's tackle in the air on Conor Murray, with Hogg pressing his face against Le Roux's arm in the scuffle that ensued before being pushed away.

That was one of a number of heated incidents in the ill-tempered contest, which saw South Africa level the three-match series at 1-1 to set up a decider next week.

Citing commissioner Scott Nowland has yet to rule on the clash between Hogg and Le Roux, but the Scotland captain has denied any wrongdoing.

"Following speculation that has surfaced online, I would like to categorically deny any foul play in last night's game," Hogg said in a statement issued by the Lions on Sunday.

"I would never bite an opponent and I am annoyed and upset by this unsubstantiated accusation. I've always been proud of playing rugby in the spirit of the game.

"Respect to the Springboks for their deserved win. The squad is hurting after last night's defeat, but it's all to play for next week. 

"It's going to be a cup final and everyone's going to be up for it."

British and Irish Lions captain Alun Wyn Jones will start on the bench against the Stormers on Saturday following his remarkable recovery from a dislocated shoulder.

Jones suffered the injury in a pre-tour match against Japan and was expected to miss the series against South Africa.

However, coach Warren Gatland confirmed at the start of the week that the most-capped player of all time was to be back in contention for the Lions when their three-Test series against the Springboks starts on July 24.

That will be two days shy of a month since sustaining the initial injury, though he could be in action even before that, highlighting the incredible nature of his recovery.

The Lions will face the Stormers in Cape Town, and while Stuart Hogg is to wear the armband after completing a period of isolation, Jones will be available from the bench.

Gatland said: "It's an important game as it's the final chance for the coaching group to see the players perform prior to the start of the Test series.

"For the matchday 23 it's their last opportunity to stake a claim for a Test place, so I expect to see a highly motivated group of players.

"It is particularly pleasing to be able to name Stuart Hogg in the squad. He's not had much luck on Lions tours to date, so it'll be great to see him cross the whitewash again with the captain's armband."

Robbie Henshaw comes into the midfield after shaking off a hamstring injury and Josh Adams returns after the birth of his daughter saw him ruled out of Wednesday's narrow defeat to South Africa A.

Marcus Smith, who recently won his first England cap, will debut at fly-half, and Gatland is particularly excited to see the Harlequins talent in action.

"I'm delighted that Marcus will get his first start in a Lions jersey," Gatland said. "I've been really impressed with his attitude since coming into camp this week; he's been like a sponge for information.

"Obviously it's a tight turnaround from Wednesday's game but we’re in pretty good shape. The South Africa 'A' game was a physical encounter – we always knew it would be – but we've come out of it pretty much intact and ready to go again."

Gregor Townsend felt a first win in Paris since 1999 was a fitting finale for one of Scotland's "best-ever seasons" as France missed out on the Six Nations title with a dramatic defeat.

Les Bleus had to secure a bonus-point victory in the final match of the tournament by a margin of at least 21 points to be crowned champions at Stade de France on Friday.

It was Scotland who were celebrated on a wet night in the French capital, though, and Wales took the title after Duhan van der Merwe snatched a stunning 27-23 triumph by scoring his second try of a pulsating contest right at the end.

David Cherry also dotted down in the second half before Finn Russell was shown a red card nine minutes from time for catching Brice Dulin in the throat with his leading arm, having booted 10 points on his return to the side.

Scotland started the tournament with a first win over England at Twickenham since 1983 and ended it with a long-awaited away victory against France.

Townsend's men finished in fourth spot, but the Scotland head coach believes they made great strides this season.

He told BBC One: "I'm so proud of the team. They came here with a bit of adversity with not our full squad, an injury to one of our starters [Matt Fagerson] on Wednesday, a yellow card [for Stuart Hogg], a red card, we had to come back against a very good side, but they showed courage, effort, togetherness, and skill to win.

"A great end to a really promising season for us. Even though we finished fourth, it feels like one of our best-ever seasons with the victories we've had this year and the performances tonight especially.

"That's now been the last two years we've been competitive in every game. We've grown a lot this year, grown a lot this campaign, and we've got to continue to grow over the next few years."

Scotland captain Hogg expressed his pride following a famous win, but was left with mixed feelings.

"Results at times at times have been outstanding, the performances at times have been very good, but we're probably going to be kicking ourselves in the foot with some of the losses," said the full-back.

"We're not going to get carried away, we're going to enjoy this moment and start building towards something memorable.

"I'm the captain of a very, very proud nation and we'll continue to work hard."

Gregor Townsend praised the "calmness" and "togetherness" that saw Scotland end 38-years of Twickenham hurt, as Eddie Jones took responsibility for England's Calcutta Cup defeat.

Defending Six Nations champions England were caught cold by a dominant Scotland showing at an empty Twickenham, a venue where the visitors had not beaten their rivals since 1983.

Stuart Hogg and Finn Russell were influential in a game marking the 150th anniversary of this fixture, while rookie Cameron Redpath impressed and Duhan van der Merwe scored the game's only try in an 11-6 win.

Reflecting on a famous victory with ITV Sport, Scotland coach Townsend said: "I think there was just a calmness about how we played, a togetherness and an effort level that was superb. 

"We had a really good feeling with the way we trained and bonded. But you never know, it's the first game of the championship, there were a few who had their first game for a while or debuts. It was above expectations but what a start to the championship.

"It's impressive, to win here is very tough. Our line-out was superb, we really respect England's set-piece, their line-out has been outstanding the last couple of years.

"We put pressure on lines-outs, the scrums were good – then we were accurate in attack. It's difficult in these conditions to go wide, which we did. The kicking was excellent and so was the players' leadership – you could hear them in this empty stadium."

Captain Hogg revelled in the win but insisted the focus quickly turns to next week's home clash against Wales.

"It's amazing for us, I think we can't control what happened in the past that's gone, we can control what happens in the future," Hogg said, 

"We were a credit to a man, credit to England they provided a tough challenge. We stood up to it.

"We got excited during the week, we knew we could come down here and put in a performance. We looked after the ball in attack, went for multi-phase and caused England problems. We'll enjoy this one then it's onto Wales."

England also lost their 2020 Six Nations opener to France but rebounded to win a championship delayed by the coronavirus pandemic.

The hosts were left lacking in both the possession stats and penalty counts, and head coach Jones said the buck lies with him.

"Firstly congratulations to Scotland, they played very well, played with a lot intent and a lot of spirt, we just had one of those days, maybe I didn't prepare the team right, we were a long way from our best," Jones said.

"You just have days like that. It's my responsibility, every time a team goes on the pitch it's a head coach's responsibility."

England's midfield pairing of Henry Slade and rookie Ollie Lawrence struggled to get into the game but Jones had a simple reason to explain that.
"You've just got to look at the possession stats, they had 75 per cent possession, a penalty count of 10 to one. That's why the centres didn't touch the ball, it's the basics of rugby," he added.

"It is what it is, we get the players, we accept responsibility for the players, I accept responsibility for not getting players ready for this game."

Eddie Jones questioned whether Scotland could handle the "weight of expectation" and they provided the sweetest of answers by ending a 38-year wait for a win at Twickenham.

Time and again Scotland had failed to beat their fierce rivals in their own backyard, but that elusive victory finally came as they regained the Calcutta Cup on a wet Saturday evening in London.

Gregor Townsend's side dominated the Six Nations champions on the opening day of the tournament, winning 11-6 to leave England head coach Jones with a face like thunder.

Jones will be asking why his ill-disciplined side started the defence of their title with such a flat, insipid performance in a game that marked the 150th anniversary of rugby's oldest fixture

Scotland had produced a sensational fightback to draw 38-38 at the same venue two years ago, before being denied an astonishing victory late on.

They never looked like suffering more heartbreak on this occasion, Stuart Hogg leading by example as they won at the famous stadium for the first time since 1983 to leave England shellshocked.

Scotland certainly did not resemble a team who might be feeling the pressure as they bossed the game from start to finish.

The Red Rose, starting the tournament with a depleted pack, were guilty of indiscipline time and again, with referee Andrew Brace losing patience when he sent Billy Vunipola to the sin bin.

Finn Russell deservedly put Scotland in front with a penalty early on and almost set up a try for Duhan van der Merwe with a clever kick, but the leaping wing was unable to grab a high bouncing ball and touch down.

Van der Merwe was not to be denied soon after, fending off Mark Wilson's tackle to put Scotland 8-0 up on the half-hour mark, but Scotland suffered a blow when Russell was yellow-carded just before the break for tripping Ben Youngs.

The boot of Farrell reduced the deficit to two points at the interval, with Scotland surely heading to the dressing room thinking they should have been further ahead after being frustrated by resolute England defending.

Russell returned with Scotland still leading and they continued to boss possession, managing the game superbly, and the fly-half's second penalty put them 11-6 up before he missed another shot at goal.

A furious Jones marched from the stands to the touchline to try and turn the tide, replacing Jamie George and Youngs with Luke Cowan-Dickie and Dan Robson before the hour-mark.

The excellent Hogg kept them on the back foot with a sublime, mammoth kick into the corner - not for the first time - and England were warned over their penalty count again, but more desperate defence denied Scotland a second try as they continue to hammer at the door.

Lacklustre England's day was summed up when Jonny May knocked on under no pressure in the closing stages.

Hogg said Scotland felt ready to "create a little bit of history" and start a "new chapter" this weekend and, as they finally celebrated on the Twickenham turf, it was evident the Red Rose had failed to live up to expectations.

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