Greig Laidlaw has backed Pete Horne to shine in the Paris limelight as Finn Russell’s understudy prepares to take on Scotland’s leading role against France.
Gregor Townsend’s injury woes deepened this week as Racing 92 star stand-off Russell became his latest key man to be ruled out of Saturday’s Guinness Six Nations clash with a head knock.
Horne was given the nod ahead of Adam Hastings and will now be tasked with masterminding victory against Les Bleus in the Stade de France.
Replacing Russell may be a hard act to follow but skipper Laidlaw has no concerns about his new partner’s ability to cover at 10.
Asked if he had spent much time working on his alliance with Horne, the Clermont Auvergne scrum-half said: “Not too much. Pete has been in the squad the whole time. He’s played at 10 for a long time at Glasgow, he’s played 12 for us.
“He’s ready to go and has got a lot of confidence after playing really well for Glasgow last week.
“It’s important that Sam Johnson and Nick Grigg are outside him too having played with them at Glasgow.
“We’ll have to change our approach from how we play with Finn slightly to suit Pete’s strengths. You have to play to your strengths in the team and Pete brings some different attributes to Finn.
“But he also brings a lot of the same ones Finn provides and we won’t be deviating too much from our game plan and we’ll play like we want to play.”
The absence of Stuart Hogg due to a shoulder injury means Edinburgh’s Blair Kinghorn also gets his chance to take on his favoured slot at full-back.
And Laidlaw is convinced the young pretender will prove just as dangerous to the French as he did against Italy earlier this month as he became the first Scot in 30 years to score a Championship hat-trick.
He said: “I don’t think Blair is going to be nervous. He’s played exceptionally well when he’s had the opportunity.
“He’s a young guy but he’s been doing really well for Edinburgh and he just has to get out there and do what he does.”
France have added a youthful streak to their line-up too as they look to bounce back from two disastrous results against Wales and England.
Youngsters Antoine Dupont and Romain Ntamack will recreate their Toulouse half-back partnership for the national team and Laidlaw expects both to prove they are ready for the step up.
He said: “France are a very dangerous team. They will probably be hurting from some of the things going around the media so we’re expecting them to come out all guns blazing, which I know they will.
“Dupont and Ntamack are both excellent young rugby players. I think it’s Ntamack’s first start at 10 for France, while Dupont has been in excellent form for Toulouse in the Top 14.
“I think the fact they play together for Toulouse will help them. They are dangerous so we’ll need to defend very smartly tomorrow.”