Townsend has turned to his senior players for the visit of the Wallabies on Sunday after awarding eight new caps in last weekend’s win over Tonga.
Russell returns at stand-off and is joined in the starting XV by fellow Lions Stuart Hogg, Chris Harris and Duhan van der Merwe as well as Exeter’s Sam Skinner as Scotland select the exiles who were unavailable to face Tonga.
Russell has found himself benched by Racing 92 for recent matches against Montpellier and Toulouse but Townsend thinks it could work in Scotland’s favour. The coach believes it will keep the fly-half fresh after a groin issue that prevented him from training last week.
“I was watching the game on Sunday night [v Toulouse] and hoping that he didn’t come on and then when he came on with about 10-15 minutes to go I thought it would just be our luck if he got injured,” said Townsend.
“Finn didn’t train with us last week. He was here, but he was managing a groin issue.
“He’s trained fully this week. He’s a bit fresher than he might have been had he had a big week’s training and played against Toulouse from the start.
“Out of all our players, he’s probably played the most games [this season]. So I think it’s been good for him [not starting for Racing].
“It’s certainly been good for us him not playing that much. He’s trained really well this week, full of energy and leading our attack, and I’m sure like all our players he really wants to play at Murrayfield with 67,000 supporters there.”
Townsend has picked 14 of the 15 starters from Scotland’s Six Nations win over France in Paris in March. The only man missing is injured prop Rory Sutherland who is replaced by Pierre Schoeman.
Kyle Steyn, who scored four tries against Tonga last week, has to be content with a place on the bench, while two-try Rufus McLean drops out completely.
Two uncapped players, Sale hooker Ewan Ashman and Bath back-rower Josh Bayliss, are among the replacements.