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New Scotland co-captain Finn Russell on his stormy past with Townsend

By PA
Scotland boss Gregor Townsend with Finn Russell (Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

Finn Russell believes his appointment as Scotland co-captain is a testament to the new-found harmony he and head coach Gregor Townsend have found following a fractious past.

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The 31-year-old was named in the role last Sunday along with back-rower Rory Darge ahead of the upcoming Guinness Six Nations.

Russell being handed such responsibility was particularly notable given he and Townsend have had a strained relationship at times, with the stand-off admitting there is no way he would have been considered for skipper duties back in 2020.

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Four years ago, the pair had a well-documented fall-out when the fly-half left the squad ahead of the Six Nations after being disciplined for failing to turn up for training following a drinking session.

Then in 2022, Russell’s Scotland career looked in jeopardy once more when – in the wake of another unauthorised night out during the Six Nations earlier that year – he was surprisingly omitted from the squad for the autumn tests.

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Russell and Townsend held clear-the-air talks midway through that series 15 months ago which led to a recall and they have managed to get themselves “on the same page” since then, culminating in the head coach choosing the Bath number 10 to lead the Scots into the 2024 Six Nations after opting to relieve Jamie Ritchie of the captaincy.

“2020 would have been the closest to that,” Russell said when asked on Wednesday if he ever thought his Scotland career was over. “I was still young enough then that I wouldn’t have said I’d have been done (with Scotland).

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“But with the relationship me and Gregor had, it was potentially tough at the time to see a way back for both of us but it shows how well we have both dealt with it since then.

“At the time it wasn’t great for either side but it shows both our characters that we have managed to get over that to where we are now. Going back to 2020, you wouldn’t have picked me as captain three or four years later, would you?

“It shows how we have both changed and adapted off the back of that situation. These things happen in high-pressure environments when things are potentially not going as planned.

“A bust-up happened, that’s kind of all it was, but six months later we were back on good enough terms that I then came back that November.

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“And then in 2022, there was another slight fall-out again I suppose, but then I came back again in the November and we were both back on the same page. It’s been great since then, that’s all in the past. It’s not something me and Gregor talk about much.”

Having put their stormy past behind them, Russell feels the fact he and Townsend have forged a genuinely strong bond can help Scotland prosper. “I’d say our relationship is the best it’s ever been,” he said. “It’s much more relaxed now actually, if that makes sense.

“It’s still a player-coach relationship but it feels more relaxed and open than that in terms of just blethering away, whether it’s rugby stuff or just chatting about off-field things.

“The relationship between me and Gregor is in a great position right now for us to ideally drive the team on to a title.”

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