Russell ‘must put Scotland first’ to win recall, warns coach Townsend


‘These standards don’t change for one player’: Finn Russell must put Scotland first to earn Six Nations recall, insists Gregor Townsend after star man had row with team-mates over drinking ban

  • Townsend said team leaders decided on alcohol ban after the Ireland match
  • Russell left the team hotel following a disagreement with his team-mates
  • Scotland coach said fly-half missed training and meetings the following day
  • Russell was dropped from Ireland clash and omitted for defeat by England

Gregor Townsend has warned international exile Finn Russell that he will have to make the same ‘sacrifices’ as every other Scotland player — or be banished from his squad for the duration of the Six Nations.

In a wide-ranging statement that effectively ends Russell’s chance of a return during the tournament, Townsend made clear that he wouldn’t be bending any on-field or off-field rules for even the most talented individual.

Speaking as it was revealed that star forward Jonny Gray would miss the remaining Six Nations fixtures with a hand injury, the head coach delivered a detailed response to Russell’s weekend demand for changes in the entire Scotland set-up.

Scotland coach Gregor Townsend (left) has left the door open to axed Finn Russell (right)

Insisting that alcohol was definitely the cause of a row between senior squad members and Russell, Townsend summed up his message to the Racing 92 stand-off by saying: ‘The standards don’t change for one player, even if that’s not what they experience in their club setting.

‘To play for Scotland takes total commitment. A lot of people make great sacrifices for the opportunity to represent 150 years of history — and be among a special group of people who have had the honour of representing their nation.

‘A lot of times, everything is not always how you’d like it to be. You might not agree with everything that is there, maybe because it’s a different coach than the one you have at club level or a different way of preparing or playing.

‘What is important is that you commit to what has been agreed and put the best interests of the team first.

‘It doesn’t look like there will be any change to align himself to the agreed standards of behaviours that this group are currently living by.

‘It will be disappointing for fans, but ultimately what we believe will lead to our success is a team that is together, that can play to their potential.’

Putting the onus firmly on the playmaker to bend, Townsend added: ‘The door will be open to any player with the required level of ability — if they commit to being a trusted member of the team. It’s been made clear that Finn could be a part of that future.

Scotland have lost their opening two games in 2020 Six Nations against Ireland and England

‘However, he stated at the weekend that everything else has to change for him to come back, rather than accept and adhere to the standards currently being lived by the group.

‘I hope this situation can be resolved. But our focus is on working with the squad and building on the positive work that’s gone in from the players for our first two games.’

In an interview with a Sunday newspaper, Russell said he would need to see ‘big changes in the environment’ before he considered a return, insisting: ‘The current situation, set-up and environment, I don’t think I want to play in that.

‘I don’t think it’s good for me as a person or as a player. I’ve felt like this for more than year and the last three weeks have shown me that it doesn’t seem to be changing at all.

‘I’d love to play for Scotland again because I love playing for my country. But, until I see or feel the big changes that I need to get back playing my best, it’s going to be very hard for me to do it.’

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