SCOTLAND will finally find out today whether they will be able to select Finn Russell to play against Italy, when the stand-off’s appeal against his two-week suspension is heard in London. Russell and a legal adviser from Scottish Rugby will be present at the hearing by an independent panel, who will decide whether the ban for reckless play against Wales should be upheld, reduced or annulled.
As things stand, Russell’s ban dates from last Wednesday – the date of the original hearing – so if it is cut to a week he will be free to play against the Italians at BT Murrayfield on Saturday. As the ban only applies to matches, the Glasgow Warriors No 10 has continued to train with the Scotland squad this week.
Announcing the appeal hearing yesterday, the RBS Six Nations Championship organisers said: “Finn Russell has appealed against the decision of the independent Six Nations disciplinary committee to find that he had committed an act of foul play, namely a dangerous tackle of an opponent in the air in the match between Scotland and Wales on 15 February 2015.”
Russell’s offence was deemed to be at the light end of the scale, carrying a tariff of three weeks. That was downgraded to two weeks because of his good disciplinary record. A further reduction appears unlikely, given the recent emphasis on player safety in aerial challenges.
If Russell’s ban stands, Scotland coach Vern Cotter will select either Peter Horne of Glasgow or Greig Tonks of Edinburgh to replace him. Captain and scrum-half Greig Laidlaw, who was played much of his rugby at ten, insisted yesterday that he would not be considered for a move from nine while those two were fit and in good form. The team will be named on Thursday.
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