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'Finn can play a part in our future,' says Townsend

Gregor Townsend has his say in the latest chapter of the explosive fall-out with Finn Russell that has rocked Scottish rugby.

Finn Russell at the 2019 World Cup.
Finn Russell at the 2019 World Cup.
Image: Craig Mercer/INPHO

GREGOR TOWNSEND INSISTS the door remains open for Finn Russell to return to the Scotland set-up.

The Scotland coach clashed with his key player in the fortnight leading up to their opening game against Ireland after a breach of team discipline.

The saga has overshadowed Scotland’s Six Nations campaign and is in danger of ending Townsend’s tenure as head coach.

In an explosive interview with The Sunday Times last weekend, Russell complained about the team environment under Townsend, leading to the coach delivering a counter-attack of his own with BBC Scotland last night.

In this latest interview, Townsend said that Russell has a future under him, so long as he agrees to do things his way.

It’ll be disappointing for the supporters not to have everyone available,” Townsend told the BBC. “I totally understand that, but there has to be standards of behaviour that people align to and we can’t change those for one person. If people are not able to live by the standards of the group then they won’t play for Scotland, it’s as simple as that.”

Yet it isn’t simple.

Townsend continued: “It doesn’t look like there will be any change to align himself to the agreed standards of behaviour.

“I was hoping that Finn and I could have a similar discussion like the one we had on the Monday night in camp (the week before Scotland’s game against Ireland) and we’d be in a situation where he could come back, but things look like they’ve changed with what he has said in the media.

I thought it was on its way to being resolved. It’s unacceptable for a player to walk out on a group. He accepted that. He wanted to apologise to the group. He knew that he wouldn’t be playing against Ireland. We can’t cut corners on things like this.

“He was positive about that and how he would help Adam [Hastings]. And we left positive. We were talking about game plans.”

The conversation has moved on considerably since then. Rather than game-plans, there has been talk about the a breakdown in relations between Russell and Townsend.

“I phoned him on the Tuesday evening before flying to London for the Six Nations launch and, unfortunately, it wasn’t the same conversation as the night before,” Townsend added.

“There was definitely a change in direction and he wanted to go back to Racing that weekend which meant he wouldn’t be able to speak to the players on Thursday and Friday, which was disappointing.

“I was really deflated. I’d been so positive about the night before. Twenty-four hours after our conversation and things had moved on from his point of view and they have not gone back in the last couple of weeks.”

Townsend also revealed in his BBC interview how he hopes there can be a reconciliation. “Finn has played 49 times for Scotland. I’ve coached him for a lot of years. If he comes back and is willing to agree to what we are living by then, of course, he can play a part in the future.”

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Garry Doyle

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