Sadly, after the events of last week, I struggle to see a way back into the Scotland squad for Finn Russell while Gregor Townsend is still head coach.


Finn spoke this week about the circumstances of his departure from the Six Nations camp, how disenchanted he’d become with the environment and the rugby, and how he felt relations between he and Gregor had deteriorated. Gregor responded that Finn wasn’t yet ready to “align himself” to Scotland’s standards, but hoped he would have the opportunity to coach him again.

These are two very strong-willed people who think they are doing things the right way. It’s all getting a bit messy, and I’m not sure the verbal jousting is having the desired impact.

As head coach, Gregor sets the culture and has very clear views on the style of play and the environment in camp, while also having an appreciation for the feedback he gets from his senior players. This is his baby.

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WATCH: Wee Finn gives Big Jim a kicking masterclass at Racing 92’s state of the art facility in Paris. Jim Hamilton caught up with Finn Russell ahead of Scotlands clash with France, this Saturday.

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But as a player and someone who knows Finn, I take issue with the people labelling him selfish. In a way, what he has done is exactly the opposite. He loves playing for Scotland, but he understands that you have to be absolutely committed mentally and physically to pull on the jersey. There are a lot of things he clearly doesn’t agree with and I can’t help but respect his decision, if not the way in which he went about leaving. It is actually quite selfless for him to remove himself from that environment and say that he can’t be part of it.

It must have been an enormous decision and one he wouldn’t have taken lightly. But consider this: would you keep turning up to a job that you weren’t enjoying, culturally or from a content point of view? It’s too simplistic to argue that this is playing for Scotland, the ultimate privilege and one you should do at all costs. If camp is truly making Finn miserable (and he mentioned in his Sunday Times interview that it was not good for his health) and he decides he has to stand is ground, then removing himself is his only option. I truly wish that wasn’t the case as like all Scottish fans I want to see him playing for Scotland. Equally Gregor has no choice but to revert to the standards and values that ultimately cannot be changed for one individual.

Now, Scottish Rugby have got their head coach and one of their best players at loggerheads. Gregor is a very understanding and forgiving guy and says there is a way back for Finn, if Finn is willing to change. By the sounds of it, Finn thinks it’s Gregor who needs to make changes.


Despite the furore, it doesn’t seem like Finn’s exit has affected performances. Certainly in the opening-round loss to Ireland, Scotland did not play like a team unsettled by off-field events.
The England defeat last weekend was a non-Test for me. The weather was everything – possibly the worst conditions I have ever seen for an international match. The conditions were so extreme that it killed any thought in the game, both teams just wanted to hoof the ball absolutely anywhere to get it out of their own territory. Scotland couldn’t turn pressure into points and England were very good at the breakdown. It was always going to be a game where one mistake, or one moment of brilliance (or sheer power) would be the difference and it certainly panned out that way.

We simply have to beat Italy in Rome next weekend – these games are always non-negotiable victories and that is with all due respect to the Italians. This is a big opportunity for Scotland to showcase themselves and get some heat off their backs. If they deliver, they’re looking at France at home in a fortnight, a team they’ve beaten on their past three visits to BT Murrayfield, then a crack at a three-win Six Nations in Cardiff, with two losing bonus points already earned. Scotland have got to be a great deal more ruthless to make that happen. Italy see us as their prime target every year, but if Scotland play to their potential, they have too much quality and too much intensity. They need to win, and win well. Copy ends.

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