Finn Russell praised by Scotland coach - and there are regular conversations with Gregor Townsend

John Dalziel, the Scotland forwards coach, has praised Finn Russell for the way he has played since he was dropped from the national squad for the Autumn Nations Series.

Blair Kinghorn's resilience has been praised by Scotland forwards coach John Dalziel. (Photo by Ross MacDonald / SNS Group)
Blair Kinghorn's resilience has been praised by Scotland forwards coach John Dalziel. (Photo by Ross MacDonald / SNS Group)

The prodigiously talented stand-off has been in excellent club form since he was surprisingly left out by Gregor Townsend who selected Blair Kinghorn, Adam Hastings and Ross Thompson as his three fly-halves.

On Saturday, Russell kicked a career-high 23 points for Racing 92 as they defeated Brive 43-38 for their first away win in the Top 14 this season. The previous week he weighed in with 18 points and had a hand in three tries as Racing beat the French champions, Montpellier. According to rugby stats site OptaJonny, Russell has a 91 per cent success rate with kicks at goal in the Top 14 across his eight matches during the current campaign.

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Scotland opened their autumn campaign with a 16-15 defeat by Australia at Murrayfield on Saturday. Kinghorn played at stand-off and had an impressive game, creating the first try for Ollie Smith and then scoring the second himself with a searing run from his own half which saw him fly-hack the ball twice before gathering and touching down. Unfortunately, he missed a penalty in the last minute to win the game.

Townsend and Russell have had a strained relationship in the past but the head coach insisted the player’s axing from the squad was a rugby decision and Dalziel said the two men stay in touch. “I know Gregor and Finn speak regularly,” said the forwards coach. “They had a good conversation around the make up of the squad and the reasoning for the original squad. It’s great to see Finn playing so well at the weekend.”

Dalziel acknowledged that there was a public clamour to see Russell back in a Scotland jersey. “I think there’s no denying that,” said Dalziel. “It’s great to see the last two weekends, he’s played so well. He’s reacted in exactly the right manner. As has Adam Hastings, he’s been a guy who missed in selection at the Six Nations and missed out in the summer, he’s been in fantastic form as well and the frustration last week was that we weren’t able to see him with that Test being outside the window.”

Gloucester’s Hastings will be available, along with Scotland’s other English-based players, for this Saturday’s game against Fiji. Townsend must now decide whether Hastings or Kinghorn should start this weekend but Dalziel has backed the Edinburgh stand-off to bounce back from the missed penalty against Australia and said he had already been working on his technique with kicking coach Chris Paterson.

“He’s an excellent professional,” Dalziel said. “He works harder than anyone. He’s bounced right back, he knew straight away what he needed to do technically better with the kick, and he’s been working on that with Chris Paterson, as he does every day. He’s a really resilient lad, he’s had big moments and we’ve seen he’s capable of those with the big try. He repeats that on a regular basis.”

Finn Russell has been in fine form in the Top 14 for Racing 92. (Photo by Matthieu Mirville/DPPI/Shutterstock)

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