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Gregor Townsend revisits the dropping of Finn Russell

By Ian Cameron
Scotlands Finn Russell at full time during a Six Nations match between Italy and Scotland at the Stadio Olimpico, on March 12, 2022, in Rome, Italy. (Photo by Ross MacDonald/SNS Group via Getty Images)

Scotland head coach Gregor Townsend has said fans read too much into the dropping of Finn Russell from the Scotland squad during the Autumn internationals.

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Townsend initially didn’t select Russell for the squad for the 2022 Autumn Nations series. However, with Adam Hasting getting injured a few weeks later, Townsend had to re-select Russell for the rest of the series.

The selection call was met with mixed reactions from fans and analysts, with many presuming it was at least partially a result of a previous rift between the coach and his star player over a breach of team protocols back in 2020.

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Townsend was asked by host of The Rugby Pod, Andy Goode and former Scotland international Jim Hamilton, about the controversial dropping of Russell and reiterated that it was a rugby decision and nothing else.

“It’s interesting, I do get asked a lot about the relationship with players and someone like Finn,” told The Rugby Pod. “People speculate and read too much into why a player isn’t selected. Players don’t get selected for various reasons.

“What we thought of the form he was at in the beginning of the season and the end of last season and the form that Adam Hasting was in, [and it] meant that we selected Adam.

“Finn responded really well with his club [Racing 92] and in particular when he came into camp. He was highly motivated. He was in great physical shape.

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“He’s always very enjoyable to work with, very easy to work with. He knows the game, when he comes into camp he studies things. He leads on our attack and then when you watch him train you see what skill set he has got and it’s great to watch.

“I think of a lot of our players over the years but I think of Stuart Hogg and Finn Russell, it’s a joy to watch them train; their passing accuracy, the speed at which they can play at. In terms of working with Finn, it’s always been very easy to work with him during the training week.

“I now believe he is at a very important time of his career where he can see the game quickly. He can understand pictures. He has that experience of playing at 10 for over 10 years now and physically he’s in good shape so he can deliver or take those opportunities that he knows are going to come at some point.

“I felt the way he played against Argentina was the best he’s played for Scotland. Maybe not in his career but certainly in the last year or two.

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“He had four linebreaks and four try assists in that game. He helped to create tries as well as making breaks himself. His kicking was accurate and he was really competitive. We are hoping that continues right throughout the Six Nations.

“You know that’s your job to make the right decision for the team to improve, to get the best out of individuals as well. It doesn’t always work out.

“A lot of your decisions are based on giving people opportunity. That’s what selection is. You know when you deny someone an opportunity when they’re not selected it can go one of two ways. So I would say I was really pleased with how Finn played for Racing and then with us.

“I was really pleased with how Stuart [Hogg] reacted and performed when he was no longer captain. But it sometimes doesn’t work out that way.

Russell will move to Bath next season, where he will join up with the likes of Cameron Redpath, Ruaridh McConnochie and Josh Bayliss.

“As regards Bath, we are excited about the combinations and cohesion he can build with other Bath players. We have a few Bath players in our squad this week. Josh Bayliss, the back row who’s been playing No.8 the last few weeks for Bath.

“You’ve got Cam Redpath at 12 and Ruaridh McConnochie is a winger so having four players in our squad will help cohesion.”

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