Andy Farrell says he's slightly surprised that Scotland have dropped Finn Russell for this Saturday's Guinness Six Nations finale at the Aviva Stadium.

The Racing 92 out-half will be among the replacements for the Triple Crown decider, with Edinburgh's Blair Kinghorn given the number 10 shirt.

It will be just a first Six Nations start for Kinghorn, who wasn't even named in Scotland's matchday squad for last week's win against Italy.

The Ireland head coach says the out-half swap won't alter his team's approach, although he admitted there was an element of surprise to the Scottish lineup.

"Surprised? Yes and no," he said.

"I mean, I think everyone was expecting Finn to play, he's a great player, but I watched the Connacht game [v Edinburgh] and Blair was the best player on the pitch by a country mile."

Farrell added that he is well-versed in the skillset of the 25-year-old [pictured below].

"We know him well, we know his strengths, he’s very dangerous with the ball in hand.

"He takes the ball on, is very dangerous counter-attack wise, good passing game, good kicking game as well, and it’s a big game for him obviously.

"Gregor’s had a look at him and picked on form because his last game for Edinburgh was outstanding."

It's 12 years since Scotland last won in Dublin, while Ireland have won 10 of their last 11 meetings, the 2017 defeat in Edinburgh the only blemish since 2013.

However, while Scotland have underwhelmed in this campaign, they have proven themselves capable of big one-off performances, notably denying France the title in the final game last season.

"They are a good side," Farrell added.

"We've had some really tough tussles with them of late. You go back before the last couple of campaigns in the Six Nations. I think they’ve lost four games and they have all been by one score.

"They are a tough team to beat, they are dangerous with ball in hand as well. That focuses the mind itself. We expect them to come out all guns blazing and we expected to take all the learnings from our Six Nations and out it all out there on Saturday."

A win for Ireland will see them secure a Triple Crown, while the overall title is still a faint possibility if France slip up against England.

Farrell has made three changes to his side from last week's win against England: Iain Henderson, Jack Conan and Mack Hansen are all drafted in, with James Ryan and Andrew Conway injured, while Peter O'Mahony slips to the bench.

Henderson was critical of his own performance earlier this week, having been brought on for Ryan in the early stages of that game.

Ireland won 31-16 when the sides last met at the Aviva Stadium in 2020

And Farrell is backing him to be much sharper this week, as he continues to build up his minutes.

"He's learned a lot, because he’d be honest with himself, he’d look at his own game like anyone else does and be honest.

"Iain hasn’t played much rugby at all this year, but it stood to him that he went back to Ulster and got 80 minutes under his belt [before the England game]. He wasn’t expecting to get on so soon in the game, for that reason alone I thought he did really well to dig in for nearly 80 minutes.

"As you say, like a few other players there are work-ons there, and that sharpens the mind for the game ahead."

"He's a class, experienced player that has been around and done that for many years for us and for Ulster.

"He would have been frustrated, like we talked about earlier, regarding game time this year. Two solid 80 minutes under his belt now, some things to fix, a great opportunity for him to be at his best this weekend."

For several players, the Six Nations window looks set to come and go without any game time, notably Robert Baloucone, Nick Timoney and Gavin Coombes.

Baloucoune and Timoney both featured in the Autumn Nations Series, while Coombes has now gone through success international windows without any game time.

Farrell says his message to those players remains the same as it ever was.

"It's that we want to see the learnings and the improvement. I think we've all seen that already, you know?

"People coming into camp and Joe McCarthy coming in for three days this week has been fantastic for him. You just know that for players, it's where they want to be. Of course, the lads going home are disappointed but they take the learnings on board and know they have to produce them week in, week out at provincial level.

"Because of that and because of their want to get into the squad and get into the team and play international football, we all benefit.

"So the message is just the same. They know through the feedback what we think about their game, they're honest with their feedback as well, and we expect them to go and produce that week in, week out," the Ireland coach said.

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