Finn Russell says his rift with Gregor Townsend has been ‘blown out of proportion’

Scotland fly-half says he’s chatting regularly to the head coach and targets summer return to the squad

Finn Russell says he has been messaging Scotland head coach Gregor Townsend during the coronavirus lockdown. Picture: Bruce White/SNS

Scotland fly-half Finn Russell claims that his dispute with head coach Gregor Townsend, which has been played out in public during this year’s Six Nations Championship, has been “blown out of proportion”.

The Racing 92 playmaker also revealed in a television interview yesterday that he is now in regular contact with Townsend and hopes to be involved for Scotland’s upcoming tour to South Africa and New Zealand.

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Russell was excluded from the Scotland squad ahead of the opening weekend of the Six Nations in February when Scotland were beaten by Ireland in Dublin. It followed a disciplinary breach in the build-up to the fixture when Russell left the team hotel after a drinking session and did not show up for training the next day.

The 27-year-old was also omitted from the squad for the fixtures against England, Italy and France and publicly criticised Townsend in a newspaper interview, insisting that the team “needs change”. The coach later responded with a statement of his own, saying “standards don’t change for one player”.

But Russell has now moved to play down the rift, insisting that their player-coach relationship is back on track.

“There wasn’t a massive fallout, I think things were blown out of proportion a bit which happens in the media,” Russell told broadcaster BT Sport.

“We are speaking, it is not like there was a massive

disagreement or ‘I am never playing for you again’.

“I have been chatting to Gregor the last couple of weeks, not as player-coach but just as a chat in terms of ‘how you getting on? What you doing in isolation? What you been up to?’.”

During their spat in February, Russell said that he had “no personal relationship” with Townsend, even though the pair had worked together for several seasons, firstly at Glasgow Warriors and then with the national side.

But there was a change in tone yesterday. “It was up and down during the Six Nations but I think we are both going to move forward in terms of progressing, which is great,” added the fly-half.

Rugby union, like most sports throughout the world, has been temporarily shutdown because of the coronavirus pandemic and it remains to be seen when Townsend will next have to name a Scotland squad.

The Scots still have one remaining Six Nations fixture to arrange – against Wales in Cardiff – while they are also due to play summer Tests against South Africa in Cape Town on 4 July and Durban on 11 July and then one against New Zealand in Dunedin the following week.

Russell is targeting the tour to the southern hemisphere for his return to international duty.

“The stuff in the Six Nations is done now, I’m not looking at that and thinking we need to look back, it is just how can we move forward and how can we get better as a team?” explained Russell.

“If the summer tour goes ahead or not, I think that’s the target.

“That’s my plan anyway, to try and get back by then.”

Russell, who has played 49 Tests since his Scotland debut in 2014, added: “When I spoke to Gregor before the France game, I said to him it’s not the right time for me to come back in.

“I said we’ll work on it after the Six Nations, and we were speaking about the tour

to South Africa and New

Zealand.

“That’s the plan, to build the relationship up as well as we can and then we can get going in the summer.”

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