Finn Russell’s international exile is over with Gregor Townsend including the mercurial out-half in his Scotland squad for the upcoming international window. Russell hasn’t played for Scotland since last year’s Rugby World Cup after falling out with Townsend ahead of the start of this year’s Six Nations.

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However Russell is now in line to return to the Scotland team after being included in the 40-man squad announced by Townsend today, which includes three uncapped players.

The three uncapped players are Glasgow Warriors prop Oli Kebble, Edinburgh winger Duhan van der Merwe and Harlequins scrum-half, Scott Steele.

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Russell has been in scintillating form for Racing on their charge to this weekend’s Heineken Champions Cup final meeting with Exeter Chiefs, resulting in a nomination for the European Player of the Year award.

However while his club career has been flourishing it has been far from smooth sailing on the international front. The out-half was controversially axed from Scotland’s Six Nations squad earlier this year following his late arrival into the camp from club duty.

Russell subsequently stated that he ‘no relationship’ with Townsend, despite the pair working together for almost eight years between Glasgow Warriors and Scotland. Russell and Townsend are believed to have been in regular contact during lockdown, opening the door for Russell’s return.

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In the 23 forwards there are five players who did not feature in the 2020 Guinness Six Nations earlier in the year, with Glasgow Warriors trio Richie Gray (lock), Rob Harley (back-row/lock) and Kebble selected alongside London Irish flanker Blair Cowan, who won his last Scotland cap in 2016 and earns his first call up under Townsend.

Scarlets’ Blade Thompson (back-row) also re-joins the squad having last featured at Rugby World Cup 2019.

In the 17 backs selected there are returns for Harlequins centre James Lang, who last featured in the national side during the summer of 2018, as well as Glasgow Warriors centre Nick Grigg and Edinburgh winger Damien Hoyland, alongside squad debutants van der Merwe and scrum-half Steele.

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Townsend said: “We are very much looking forward to coming back together as a coaching and playing group after such an unprecedented and challenging period in our sport and across society in general.

“There was a strong feeling that we were growing as a team during the Six Nations earlier this year, making progress from game-to-game as well as building closer bonds within the squad. Our aim is to keep this momentum going as we take on Georgia and Wales before competing in the Autumn Nations Cup in November.

“The squad we have selected is formed by the majority of the players we worked with in the Six Nations alongside players who have grabbed their opportunity in the past few weeks and have been in form for their respective teams.

“Given the lack of games since March, there will be opportunities for players out-with the squad to break into our group over the next few weeks, but for now the focus is on this group that will be in camp from tomorrow. It will be great to see some familiar faces, welcome a few back into our squad and also introduce some new players to Test match rugby.”

Duncan Taylor, Rory Hutchinson, Kyle Steyn, Byron McGuigan, Alex Craig and Luke Crosbie are all unavailable for selection due to injury.

Scotland begin their autumn test matches at BT Murrayfield against Georgia on Friday 23 October before facing Wales in Llanelli on 31 October in the rescheduled 2020 Guinness Six Nations fixture.

The newly formed Autumn Nations Cup begins in November with Scotland in Pool B alongside France and Fiji who they will play at BT Murrayfield as well as an away test match against Italy.

SCOTLAND SQUAD:

FORWARDS (23)

Simon Berghan (Edinburgh) – 25 caps
Jamie Bhatti (Edinburgh) – 15 caps
Fraser Brown (Glasgow Warriors) – 50 caps
Blair Cowan (London Irish) – 17 caps
Scott Cummings (Glasgow Warriors) – 12 caps
Cornell du Preez (Worcester Warriors) – 7 caps
Matt Fagerson – (Glasgow Warriors) – 6 caps
Zander Fagerson (Glasgow Warriors) – 29 caps
Grant Gilchrist (Edinburgh) – 42 caps
Jonny Gray (Exeter Chiefs) – 57 caps
Richie Gray (Glasgow Warriors) – 65 caps
Rob Harley (Glasgow Warriors) – 21 caps
Nick Haining (Edinburgh) – 3 caps
Oli Kebble (Glasgow Warriors) – uncapped
Stuart McInally (Edinburgh) – 37 caps
Willem Nel (Edinburgh) – 38 caps
Jamie Ritchie (Edinburgh) – 18 caps
Sam Skinner (Exeter Chiefs) – 7 caps
Rory Sutherland (Edinburgh) – 7 caps
Blade Thomson (Scarlets) – 5 caps
Ben Toolis (Edinburgh) – 25 caps
George Turner (Glasgow Warriors) – 9 caps
Hamish Watson (Edinburgh) – 32 caps

BACKS (17)

Darcy Graham (Edinburgh) – 11 caps
Nick Grigg (Glasgow Warriors) – 9 caps
Chris Harris (Gloucester) – 18 caps
Adam Hastings (Glasgow Warriors) – 20 caps
Stuart Hogg (Exeter Chiefs) CAPTAIN – 76 caps
George Horne (Glasgow Warriors) – 13 caps
Damien Hoyland (Edinburgh) – 4 caps
Sam Johnson (Glasgow Warriors) – 13 caps
Huw Jones (Glasgow Warriors) – 25 caps
Blair Kinghorn (Edinburgh) – 21 caps
James Lang (Harlequins) – 2 caps
Sean Maitland (Saracens) – 48 caps
Ali Price (Glasgow Warriors) – 32 caps
Finn Russell (Racing 92) – 49 caps
Scott Steele (Harlequins) – uncapped
Duhan van der Merwe (Edinburgh) – uncapped
Duncan Weir (Worcester Warriors) – 28 caps

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