Scotland head coach Gregor Townsend delivered an upbeat assessment of Finn Russell’s international prospects after admitting he had been in regular contact with the fly-half in recent weeks. Russell was dropped from the squad for Scotland’s Guinness Six Nations opener following a disciplinary issue and did not feature before the tournament was halted just before their final match.
Speaking in a conference call, Townsend said: “We talked during the Six Nations and we talked after the Six Nations and we have been in regular contact during lockdown. Players and coaches sometimes don’t have relationships that are the same all the way through.
“I suppose it’s like being in a family, you have highs and lows, you have periods when you don’t understand them and they don’t understand you.”
Russell publicly opened up during the Six Nations on his difficulties with his former Glasgow head coach, but Townsend gave every indication that the Racing 92 player would be back on the international scene when rugby resumes.
“The important thing is we leave the door open for players and we make an effort to connect and build relationships with our players,” he said. “We want everybody available to us. I’m sure Finn is really keen to be available and playing for Scotland, as are we with him.”
It was late March in an appearance on The Lockdown, the RugbyPass pandemic interview series, that Russell explained how communications between himself and Townsend had improved to the point where the out-of-favour out-half gave his coach an insight into the French gameplan going into the March 8 Six Nations match at Murrayfield which Scotland won.
“I spoke to him before the France game and tried to help him out. Having been here a year and half, (I told him) how I thought they were going to play. I play with a few of the boys here, I chatted about their traits and what I feel they like to do and how they play. And whether they do certain things under pressure, what they do when they have time on the ball and space – and how to potentially shut them down.
“I had Lo-Lo [Laurent Labit] as attack coach last year for a year, so I said a few things that they might try and do. A few shapes he might try and few structures he might try and use. I have kept in touch with a few of the (Scottish) boys the whole time. The fallow week before France I called Gregor. I didn’t know if I was going to get called back in or not, but we thought it best just to leave it for now and then start again after the Six Nations and move forward from there.”
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