Glasgow back-rower Rory Darge and Bath stand-off Finn Russell have been named as Scotland’s new co-captains for the upcoming Guinness Six Nations.
It has also been revealed that free-scoring wing Darcy Graham has been ruled out of the opening two matches through injury.
Jamie Ritchie had been the skipper since replacing Stuart Hogg in the role for the 2022 Autumn series but, with the Edinburgh flanker having been hindered by shoulder and jaw injuries following last year’s World Cup, Gregor Townsend has opted to make a change in order to “further grow and develop the leadership within the squad”.
Both Russell, 31, and Darge, 23, have previous experience of captaining the team in Ritchie’s absence.
The talismanic Russell, who has been in impressive form since moving to Bath from Racing 92, is likely to lead the Scots in the opening match away to Wales as 23-year-old Darge is expected to miss the early part of the championship as he battles to recover from a knee injury sustained at the end of December.
“Appointing co-captains for this year’s Guinness Six Nations allows us to further grow and develop the leadership within the squad,” head coach Townsend told Scottish Rugby on Sunday morning.
“Rory and Finn captained Scotland last summer and bring different strengths and styles of leadership to the table.
“Both are highly respected within our squad and have been part of our leadership group for some time.
“I’m sure they will thrive with this responsibility and lean on our other leaders to drive certain aspects of our preparation, mindset and performance.”
Ritchie was sidelined for a month after the World Cup due to a shoulder injury sustained in the first half of the pool-stage defeat by Ireland in October. After returning in mid-November for six Edinburgh matches, the back-rower suffered a jaw injury in the win over Glasgow on 30 December.
Townsend said last week that he was undecided on the captaincy and that he needed to see Ritchie “put his best foot forward” in Friday’s Challenge Cup match away to Scarlets.
However, the 27-year-old was restricted to a second-half substitute appearance as he made his return to action.
Russell’s appointment as captain is particularly significant as the influential fly-half has had a strained relationship with Townsend at times in the past.
Russell was cut from the squad ahead of the 2020 Six Nations after he missed a training session following a late-night drinking session and he was also controversially omitted from the initial squad for the 2022 autumn Tests as Townsend appeared intent on phasing him out before injuries prompted him to recall the former Glasgow fly-half midway through the series.
“Playing for Scotland is a huge honour and to co-captain the side is a privilege and something I am proud of,” Russell said.
“We have such a talented squad and to lead them alongside Rory represents a massive opportunity. I can’t wait to get started with this year’s championship.”
In the same update that confirmed the change of captaincy, Scottish Rugby revealed that Edinburgh wing Graham will miss the opening two matches away to Wales and at home to France with a quad injury.
The 26-year-old – Scotland’s second highest try-scorer of all time – has been replaced in the squad by Ross McCann, a 26-year-old wing who played for Scotland Under-20s before becoming a full-time Scotland 7s player.
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