Edinburgh playmaker Kinghorn had been expected to start at full-back against Italy, to deputise for the injured Stuart Hogg, but head coach Townsend has slotted him in at fly-half, with Glasgow’s Ollie Smith winning his third cap at full-back.
London Irish’s form scrum-half Ben White continues in the starting ranks, having excelled at half-back across the tournament for Scotland.
“We see Blair as a 10 who can play a number of positions,” said Townsend. “It’s his club position, I know he’s had to play in the back-three because of injury at Edinburgh, but he’s played at 10 for them for the last two seasons.
“I believe we’ll see a really confident Blair Kinghorn, someone in very good physical shape. He’s shown that in different positions so far this year, but we’re looking forward to him playing at 10. He’s played some really good games for us in the last 12 months in that position.”
Paolo Garbisi starts at fly-half again for Italy, with Harlequins’ Tommaso Allan again at full-back in the absence of Ange Capuozzo. Townsend admitted his wariness ahead of hosting the Azzurri.
“They have run Ireland and France very close,” he said. “Those two games could have gone in their favour, and nobody would have said they didn’t deserve it.”