STUART HOGG will play his first game in over a month for Exeter Chiefs away to Worcester Warriors on Saturday afternoon, and assuming the Scotland captain emerges from that match unscathed, he will be ready to wear Scotland’s No.15 jersey in the following Saturday’s Six Nations opener against England at Twickenham.

The 28-year-old has been out of action since suffering a hamstring injury playing against Gloucester on Boxing Day – and the only other rugby he has had since the Autumn Test series was 68 minutes of a one-sided Champions Cup game against Glasgow Warriors in mid-December – but the full-back has a track record of being able to hit the ground running after fairly lengthy lay-offs.

“Stuart is fit to play this weekend,” confirmed Scotland head coach Gregor Townsend, at yesterday morning’s Six Nations’ virtual media launch, before adding that Jonny Gray will also return to Exeter for this weekend’s match.

Townsend is also hopeful that flanker Jamie Ritchie will have recovered from the concussion which has sidelined him for the last fortnight in time to face England.

“He’s been taking part in the non-contact areas so he’s on the return to play [process],” the coach explained. “We’re confident enough that he’s making progress. He feels much better where he is. He ran yesterday and had no reaction, he’s done skill-work today and been involved in a lot of the session from what I can tell.

“We’ll just wait and see – returning from head injuries sometimes takes longer but we’ll be monitoring him each day. We’re 10 days away from the game so if Jamie continues to make progress – by the weekend we’ll be in a much better position to see if he can play in that game.”

Meanwhile, uncapped second-row Alex Craig did not travel north to join the Scotland camp this week due to a calf complaint but is expected to run-out for Gloucester against Northampton Saints this weekend. That would put him in the frame for England but given the quality and experience of the players he is up against – Scott Cummings, Jonny and Richie Gray, and Grant Gilchrist – it seems highly unlikely that the 23-year-old will push his way into contention for the match-day squad, especially given that he has only a few days in camp before the team is announced.

Nick Haining has been added to the training squad this week, but Townsend hinted that the Edinburgh No.8 will drop out again when Ritchie and Craig return fully to the fold next week.

Townsend also confirmed that Finn Russell is likely to remain with the Scotland squad throughout the Championship, rather than returning to Racing 92 on the fallow weekends.

“He is staying with us this weekend and given the restrictions there are around travelling between the UK and France, more from the French side, the quarantine regulations he’d have to go through, it looks like he’ll be staying with us,” said the coach. “That may change as the Covid situation changes all the time, but it looks like he’ll be here for the whole period.”