Finn Russell has revealed he hadn’t spoken to Gregor Townsend since the Six Nations prior to his dramatic return to the Scotland head coach’s squad for Sunday’s showdown with New Zealand.
The fly-half was surprisingly left out of Townsend’s autumn party last month despite his impressive performances for French side Racing 92 in the Top 14.
Townsend claimed at the time Russell’s omission was on form grounds, but the pair have had a strained relationship dating back to the 2020 Six Nations.
Finn Russell has had a dramatic return to the Scotland team for their New Zealand clash
Russell has since spoken on his fractured relationship with team boss Gregor Townsend
Now they are back working together again after Russell received a late summons to Edinburgh following an injury to fellow Scotland playmaker Adam Hastings.
‘I hadn’t heard from Gregor since before the summer, so I wasn’t too surprised,’ Russell, a Puresport ambassador, told Sportsmail of his initial non-selection for Scotland’s autumn fixtures.
‘It is what it is. It’s rugby, I suppose. I’ll see how it goes this weekend against the All Blacks. If I’m in the (match-day) squad or not, I don’t know. We’ll have to wait and see.
‘I haven’t been in the squad for a while, so I’m not sure what the vibe is.’
Asked to describe his working relationship with Townsend, Russell responded: ‘We’ve hardly spoken since the Six Nations and that’s just how it is. We’ve not spoken much at all.
‘We’re alright, I suppose. He’ll have had his reasons, so I’m not looking into it too much. There is no point me worrying about anything like that. I can’t control what happens with Scotland.
Russell was a surprise omission given his impressive form for Racing 92 this year
‘There is not much I can do about the Scotland squad or who Gregor picks. That’s not my job. My job is to keep playing well in France. I’m happy doing it, so I’ve kept that going.
‘I’m not a coach and I’m not the one picking the team, thankfully. I’ll get back into camp and worry about that then.’
Russell flew from Paris to Scotland yesterday after texting Townsend to discuss plans for his team’s attacking approach.
‘I text him (Townsend) a few times just chatting about the attack system, shape, and a couple things around that. Nothing too much. I’ll wait and see how it is when I get in,’ Russell said.
‘It was me needing clarity on a few things from the last year-and-a-half. I had a few questions and got some good clarity back. I gave my thoughts and we had a couple of texts back and forth to discuss a few things so, we were all clear on the attacking side before I go back in.
‘I’m pretty chilled, to be honest. I haven’t been in since the Six Nations, so I don’t know how the environment is going to be and how it’s all going.
Townsend had initially claimed Russell’s omission was due to form but he’s now been recalled
‘It will be easy enough to get up to speed on the rugby side. I’ve been playing long enough.’
Russell was one of six players disciplined by Townsend after he went on a night out following the Six Nations win over Italy earlier this year.
He was dropped to the bench for Scotland’s next game against Ireland which was his last in a blue jersey. Russell also walked out on the Scotland squad prior to the 2020 Six Nations.
‘I haven’t really thought about it too much,’ Russell said of the post-Italy night out. ‘I went straight back to the club after that and after the Ireland game, I was back at the club. I forgot about it all and I thought it was blown out of proportion a little bit.
‘I’m not too stressed about it when I look back on it.’
Calls for Russell to come straight in from the cold and start against the All Blacks are growing.
But his return to the Scotland squad could yet be complicated by the fact his partner Emma Canning is imminently expecting the couple’s first child.
‘My girlfriend is pregnant and is due to give birth at any time. Her due date is November 23, so in two weeks, but the midwife said it could be two weeks or two days,’ Russell said.
‘We just don’t know. It will be good to get back into camp but, at the same time, it would be nice to be with her. I was happy either way.’
Russell’s arrival with Scotland was delayed until yesterday as he made sure his partner had the necessary support around her in the French capital. He also has plans in place to make a quick return to Paris if his first child is on the way. The couple are unsure of the baby’s sex.
It complicates Russell’s potential selection for the All Blacks. But what is not in doubt is the 30-year-old’s ability. Russell remains, by some distance, Scotland’s best available No 10.
His performances for Racing have made a mockery of Townsend’s initial decision to leave him out of international duty this autumn.
His arrival with Scotland was delayed until as he made sure his partner had necessary support
As one of rugby’s most talented players, Russell is someone supporters pay to watch. His passing game and out-of-the-box thinking is unique, certainly in a Scotland context.
It was enough to earn Russell a Lions Test bow in South Africa in 2021. He is also valued highly by Racing, who have Champions Cup glory as their big target.
Russell, who moved from Glasgow to Paris in 2018, said: ‘I think there should be more made of the individuals. A lot of nations have put the names on the back of the tops.
‘I think that’s good and promotes the players a little bit more individually. If you look at football, people come to watch the players because of who they are and what they do on the field.
‘If we can do that in rugby, hopefully, it can grow the sport. It can get kids into the game if they know the players because they want to be like them.
‘That’s part of the reason why football is so successful. Look at (Lionel) Messi going to PSG and the amount of revenue he brought in for them just by going there as an individual player. I’m not sure rugby is going to get to that size.
Russell pointed towards PSG star Lionel Messi as evidence for football’s commercial success
‘But if it could do it a little bit, it could make a big impact. From the players’ point of view, coaches have to be able to manage individuals rather than expecting everyone to be under the same umbrella and saying it’s their way or no way.
‘They’ve got to be able to adapt to individuals to get the best out of their players and then the best out of the team. It’s good for rugby to have the best players playing all the time.’
It certainly is. Scotland are undoubtedly worse off without Russell. Both he and Townsend must find a way to ensure the pair have a working relationship which enables the team to benefit.
Gloucester’s Hastings and Blair Kinghorn of Edinburgh are fine players, but neither possess Russell’s ability to keep an opposition defence guessing.
Whether or not he gets the chance to trouble the All Blacks remains to be seen. It all depends on whether he and Townsend can bury the hatchet and quickly.
‘It’s been hard to watch Scotland because I’m usually playing,’ Russell said.
Townsend will be hoping his side can follow on from their 28-12 win over Fiji
‘Last weekend, I wasn’t able to watch because I was down in Brive and I saw 30 minutes of the Fiji game because I had Perpignan at home. In the summer, I was on holiday. To be honest, in the last five games I’ve not played, I haven’t watched much because of other commitments.
‘Fiji played really well against Scotland and left a couple of tries out there. Every Test is tough but it’s always good to play against one of the best teams in the world.
‘I’ll try my best to beat New Zealand at the weekend.’
Should Russell get the nod on Sunday, he’ll be aided by using Puresport’s medicinal mushroom capsule supplement range to improve his recovery.
Having previously invested in the business himself, he has taken the proactive step to use the mushroom supplement as the sport battles with how best to protect its players from the impact of head injuries and concussions.
‘The concern around brain injuries among rugby players is impossible to ignore,’ said the British & Irish Lions playmaker.
Russell would make a welcome addition to the Scotland squad for their New Zealand clash
‘We have a duty to ourselves and our families to ensure we’re doing everything we possibly can to protect ourselves both during and after our careers are over.
‘I still have many years left on the pitch, but I’m a big believer in taking any steps necessary to ensure my brain and body are in the best shape possible once I hang up my boots, especially now I have a kid on the way.
‘Medicinal mushroom supplements are a new category, but the results are noticeable. I feel sharper, faster, and healthier.
‘I don’t know what impact my rugby career will have had on my body when I retire, but I want to do everything I can to ensure I have a long and healthy retirement. These supplements are a big part of that. As players we spend time in the gym working on our muscles, so why not do the same for the brain?’
Russell admitted to fatigue after the 2021 Lions tour of South Africa. But he is now back firing on all cylinders after a summer off where he did not feature for Scotland.
Russell is in talks with Racing over a new contract as former England head coach Stuart Lancaster prepares to step in as their new boss for next season.
Fly-half Russell confirmed he is in talks with Racing over a new contract at the club
‘We’re in negotiations,’ Russell said of his club future. ‘Stuart is coming in next year, so it will be a slightly different club, but it’s a good club and I love being here.
‘We’re in the process of chatting around the next contract. Mentally, it was good to have some time off over the summer.
‘My body is pretty much always fine. It’s more the mental side I sometimes struggle with in terms of having to do all the work off the field and play every week.
‘This season, I feel much better, much fresher, and more back to myself whereas, last year, I struggled a bit with fatigue and having to play a lot of rugby.
‘I feel I’m back to where I can be now, which is good. Scotland have never beaten the All Blacks so it’s all to play for. They’ll be confident and it will be a tough game but a good one to play in.’
l Finn Russell is a Puresport ambassador and one of a growing number of players using medicinal mushroom supplements in a bid to protect cognitive function. For more information on the Puresport mushroom range, visit