Gregor Townsend has thrown down the gauntlet to Adam Hastings by declaring Saturday’s Cardiff clash with Wales his chance to rip Scotland’s number 10 jersey from Finn Russell’s back.
With the Principality Stadium showdown taking place outside of World Rugby’s international window, the Scots will not be able to call upon Racing 92 superstar Russell.
That means Glasgow stand-off Hastings will win his fourth cap when he starts against Warren Gatlands’ Dragons.
But Townsend does not want the 22-year-old – son of former Scotland skipper Gavin – to believe he is limited only to the role of understudy.
Instead he wants the Warriors ace to dare to dream that he can oust Russell from the starting XV for good.
“It’s not so much about Adam pushing Finn, it’s Adam looking to get that number 10 jersey for himself,” said the head coach. “He’s now going to play two internationals in a row after Argentina in the summer and we’ll now be looking for a response from Finn.
“We’ve seen that already from Finn this year. He’s got a big game this weekend against Montpellier but it’s a genuine competition for that jersey.
“Adam has been one of the form players in the PRO14 this year and really grabbed his opportunity for Glasgow.
“We want more of the same of what he has been showing for Glasgow, and certainly more of the same as what he showed in his last international against Argentina.
“What he’s done very well this year is work hard off the ball. He’s got an outstanding engine and that means he gets more involvements in the game, and he’s playing with confidence.
“His running game has come through this year, probably more than he or us expected, and his game management is always going to be something he will get better and better at the more he plays in that position.
“His temperament, his confidence, is what you want in a stand-off – looking to try things, looking to make things happen, being very positive.”
It is not only Russell that Townsend will have to do without, with eight other ‘exiles’ barred from taking part by their French and English employers.
But the Glasgow-Edinburgh select which will be led out in the Welsh capital by hooker Stuart McInally has been backed to make up for the 34-7 Six Nations humbling Scotland suffered back in February.
Townsend said: “Our pro teams have performed very well this year. When we met up two weeks ago on the Sunday, following the second round of Champions Cup games, everyone in our squad bar one had won that weekend – barring Sam Skinner at Exeter, although he hadn’t playing that day, so maybe that’s why they lost.
“But every other player representing their cub – obviously the majority from Edinburgh and Glasgow – won in Europe that weekend, so it’s great to put a squad together of players in form.
“Has the February game played a part in our build-up? Of course. We played them nine months ago and the preparation we put together for that game, some of it is still relevant. Other bits we didn’t get right so we’ll have to change.”