National head coach Gregor Townsend said last week that positive dialogue had been had with the banished stand-off, to the point where he was expected to provide some inside info on the French side from his time playing for Paris club Racing 92.
But Scotland assistant coach Danny Wilson, the forwards chief who will take over as Glasgow Warriors boss at the end of the season, revealed that call did not take place.
“Well, Finn has been in a fair bit of communication with Gregor up to now. We had to change our timings yesterday, which didn’t work out for us to be able to fulfil it as a conference call, but there has been a fair bit of communication back and forth, which is obviously a real positive, forward step,” said Wilson.
The coach said lines of communication were still open with the 27-year-old star stand-off, who has played no part in this year’s Six Nations due to an alleged alcohol-related breach of team protocol two weeks before the first match against Ireland in Dublin, which ended in a 19-12 defeat.
“Through communications with Gregor, yes, but not as a conference call, just because our timings changed and didn’t fit,” added Wilson of the situation regarding Russell.
“We’ve got a coaches’ meeting after this, so we’ll probably find out,” said Wilson at Scotland’s Oriam training base at Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh.
“Again, Gregor has been in communication with Finn as opposed to myself. Obviously, we trained today, and off the back of that we’ve got a big day’s training tomorrow [Wednesday] when our gameplan [for the France clash which is still scheduled to go ahead despite the recent coronavirus scare] will be installed a bit more, so there will hopefully be some more communication – but, yes, it wasn’t done in the format yesterday, it was done more through a one-on-one conversation with Gregor.”
Asked what the relationship between head coach and exiled star playmaker currently was, Wilson said: “Obviously that is between [Gregor] and Finn, how they have been communicating back and forth, but the good thing about that is obviously there is some positive communication which will hopefully lead to a long-term positive outcome in terms of Finn’s involvement.
“But I think that process will be ongoing at the beginning of this week, and hopefully there will be a little bit more information after today. Without going into too much detail around it, there are bits and pieces that have come up. Tomorrow is our main day training so what we’ll do today is spend a fair bit of time with everyone back in the room. And we’ve closed the door on the Italy performance [a 17-0 win in Rome] and there are things we need to take from that – the good and the bad – and we’ve started to build our gameplan for the week, with it being a Sunday fixture it is a little bit later so tomorrow is our big training day with double sessions.”
Pressed on the Russell situation, Wilson added: “We couldn’t in terms of timings for Finn and the coaching group. Our meeting changed from the original time, it was supposed to be earlier in the day and then it became later in the day. So, you would have to ask Gregor the ins and outs of that because he’s had the communication with Finn, not myself.”
Asked if Russell might still provide some input to the France preparations, the assistant coach said: “Yes, I think so, I’m pretty positive about that – but I’ll find out for definite after this when we go into our coaches meeting.”
Russell will not be involved in a playing capacity for the remainder of the tournament which leaves Wilson more focused on a rejuvenated French side on course for a Grand Slam if they can see off the Scots ahead of a final match against Ireland in Paris. “They’re in a good place,” said Wilson. “They’ve started the competition with momentum, which we know is key in the Six Nations. You get off to a winning start in the style they did, against the opposition they did, and then they’ve rolled into a place where they’re in good form.
“When you look at them in detail you are looking at a different France to what we’ve seen in the past, probably a little more pragmatic. Maybe the requirements of the Six Nations have led to that.”
Wilson knows France defence coach Shaun Edwards, the former Great Britain rugby league star and Wales and British and Irish Lions assistant, well from his time in charge of Cardiff Blues.
“Shaun worked with us at the Blues for the final year that I was there. He was in on a part-time basis while he was with Wales, so I really got to know Shaun and his methods really well,” said Wilson.
“He’s a world-class coach who keeps things very simple, which, from a player’s point of view, allows them to really buy into. Working with Shaun does give me an insight into the very specific philosophy that he sticks to. We’ve seen over the years the results that come off the back of that and I know it will be the same when we play them. So you know what’s coming, but it’s still very effective.”