The maverick Racing 92 stand-off’s participation in the rest of the championship has been thrown into serious doubt after Gregor Townsend decided he had no option but to take disciplinary action when Russell failed to report for training on Monday morning.
The fall-out erupted when Russell headed straight for the team hotel bar after flying into Edinburgh on Sunday night, with the Dark Blues talisman then ignoring requests from team-mates and backroom staff to stop drinking.
The 27-year-old has now returned to Paris with his international future hanging by a thread.
Former British and Irish Lions prop Peter Wright has warned Russell he will need to make the first move if he wants to mend his relationship with Townsend.
Continue reading below…
“I would hope that they can get this patched up soon”, Wright, capped 21 times by Scotland, told the PA news agency.
“Who makes the first move, though? I’d suggest it’s probably down to Finn if he is the one who has left. But if the Scottish management see him as being that important do they try to step in and sort it out?
“It’s a real sticky situation – but I think it’s easier for Finn to come back and be the humble guy.
“I think it’s really in his court now. He has to make a decision about what has he done, has he lost the plot a wee bit, is it time to extend an olive branch to Gregor? Or will he decide he’s just not going to play for Scotland under Gregor?
“If Scotland do well this year without him, that could end up being a long time.
“These are all big questions but I think the ball is firmly in Finn’s court.”
Since news of the fall-out broke, Russell has ‘liked’ a number of social media posts, including a tweet which says there is “nothing wrong with standing up for yourself”.
The job of building bridges between the former Glasgow star and his old Warriors boss Townsend could fall to new skipper Stuart Hogg.
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) January 23, 2020
“This situation just heaps more pressure on Hogg. Is he the man to broker a peace deal?
“Or do you go out with the camp and bring in Mark Dodson or perhaps a respected rugby figure like John Jeffrey?
“Or do they sit down like two adults, get their grievances out on the table and get it fixed?
“I’d like to think they are both mature enough to do that. “But I really believe that there is no player bigger than the team and from that point of view Russell is probably the one who has to back down a little bit.
“But if neither can back down then for this Six Nations there can only be one winner – and that’s Gregor.
“The SRU can’t be seen not to back their head coach. Otherwise his position is untenable because he has no authority left in the eyes of the squad.
“If Finn has broken the protocol, then it’s very difficult for Gregor, no matter who the player is, not to take action.”
The news will come as a major blow to Scotland fans as they look for improvement following a disappointing World Cup campaign, which started with a 27-3 defeat by Ireland and ended in elimination before the knockout stages.
And Wright admits is he already fearing the worst ahead of the Championships.
They ain't happy with the Scottish Rugby Union https://t.co/nRne4O6QUi
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) January 23, 2020
He said: “Ireland will now be in camp thinking, ‘outstanding. Their main threat is not playing. Whoever replaces him is not as good’.
“For Scotland, Finn is a guy who gives his team-mates a massive lift just by having his name on the team-sheet. There will be guys now whose heads will be going down a wee bit.
“Can they still beat Ireland? Yeah if we’re being optimistic and positive. “But I just think this is deflating as hell because I can’t think of another player in the last 25 years who has been as influential as Finn, even going back through the glory years, the Grand Slams of ’84 and ’90.
“I think he’s the most influential player we’ve ever had and going to Dublin without him is such a knock to our self-belief.”
England coach Eddie Jones says he wants the team to be “the greatest team the rugby world has ever seen” following his announcement of the team’s Six Nations squad:
Sign up to our mailing list here and we’ll keep you up to the minute with weekly updates from the world of rugby.