Six Nations: Things must change before Finn Russell can return to Scotland, insists coach Mike Blair

Until “something changes” Finn Russell will not play a part in what remains of Scotland’s Six Nations campaign.

Scotland assistant coach Mike Blair during a training session at Oriam. Picture: Paul Devlin/SNS

The star stand-off’s exclusion from the national squad, over an alleged alcohol-related discipline breach two weeks before the tournament started, has cast a cloud over the championship.

Scotland have lost 19-12 to Ireland in Dublin and 13-6 at home to England. They now face a pivotal encounter with Italy in Rome on Saturday.

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Head coach Gregor Townsend’s job is on the line and yesterday his assistant Mike Blair gave an update on the Russell situation.

Has anything changed? “No.”

Blair, Scotland’s most-capped scrum-half, continued; “We’ve been talking about this topic for three or four weeks now. It seems like we keep going back to it.

“The situation is is Finn’s not involved with the squad and until something changes that will continue to be the case.”

Asked if there has been any communication from team management with the Racing 92 playmaker since last weekend’s 13-6 defeat by England at BT Murrayfield, Blair said: “Not as far as I know.”

Russell, along with skipper full-back Stuart Hogg, is one of the two world-class talents Scottish rugby has to offer but the 27-year-old has been banished following the incident last month.

Blair was happy to see captain Hogg bounce back at the weekend with a brilliant try for Exeter Chiefs at Gloucester in the English Gallagher Premiership, following his butter-fingered troubles in the past couple of weeks.

“I know there’s been a couple of incidents.A lot of has been made of the one against England as well. But I genuinely can;t see what he could have done?” said Blair of Hogg’s spill on his own line a week after he dropped the ball over the oppositions’ in Dubllin.

“He was waiting for the ball to come, it didn’t go over the line and it ends up being a five-metre scrum from which they score. It was really clever play from England in the conditions,” said Blair.

“Some of it we didn’t deal with perfectly but I don’t think there was much he [Hogg] could have done there in that scenario.

“You saw him get that score for Exeter at Gloucester at the weekend, a big smile on his face as he put it down with two hands. Hoggy’s good at that, making fun of himself. He made an error but that won’t happen again.”

Along with 57-times capped lock Jonny Gray, Scottish scrum-half Sam Hidalgo-Clyne will be joining Hogg at Exeter next season.

“We’ve worked together a little bit, on the summer tour to Canada and America [in 2018]”, said Blair of the former Edinburgh scrum-half who has 12 Scotland caps.

“We did some work before that and I caught up with him a few weeks ago when he was playing for Lyon. He’s done some really good stuff, he’s a talented player. I didn’t realise that Sam is actually younger than Ali (Price). He’s a talented player, a goalkicker. Exeter obviously see something in that and for us as well it’s great that we have another nine who is going to be playing top-flight rugby as well.”