Russell blames Townsend 'breakdown' for Scotland exile

by Julian GUYER
Scotland coach Gregor Townsend (left) has left Finn Russell out of his first two squads in the 2020 Six Nations

Scotland star Finn Russell has blamed a breakdown in relations over "a long time" with national coach Gregor Townsend for his ongoing exile from international rugby union.

The fly-half missed the opening match of the Six Nations against Ireland as a disciplinary measure for an alleged breach of team protocol said to relate to a late-night drinking session.

Russell was also left out as Scotland lost 13-6 to England at Murrayfield on Saturday -- their second successive defeat of this season's Championship.

The 27-year-old is widely regarded as one of Scotland's most talented players, but believes he needs to see "big changes in the environment" before coming back into the current set-up, although he still held out the possibility of playing under former Scotland fly-half Townsend.

"I'm going to play for Scotland again at some point," Russell told Britain's Sunday Times.

"It's definitely going to happen. But until I see or feel the big changes that I need to get back to playing my best, it's going to be very difficult for me to do it," he added.

Russell said there was a "lack of trust" in the Scotland set-up, with Townsend unwilling to listen to different views regarding strategy and tactics.

"Just now, there's no relationship, we don't work at all together," explained the stand-off, who has been enjoying the more player-led atmosphere at his French club side Racing 92.

Russell also disputed the reason for his current absence, saying a so-called "late-night drinking session? was actually a few beers and an 11pm (2300 GMT) finish.

But he stressed the breakdown of his relationship with Townsend had happened over a long period of time.

"Eight years I've had him as a coach, and I don't really know him at all," Russell said. "We've not got a personal relationship.

"This whole situation with Scotland has been made out to be about me wanting to have a drink, when in actual fact, it's about control, respect and trust, on and off the pitch.

"I want the best for Scotland and so I?ve questioned the environment to try and make it better.

"We (him and Townsend) have clashed quite a lot, him saying one thing and me saying another."

Russell orchestrated Scotland's 25-13 win over England at Murrayfield in 2018 and was the inspiration behind their stunning comeback from 31-0 down in a 38-38 draw at Twickenham last year.

That revival came after a half-time break where Russell told Townsend he had got his tactics wrong in front of the team.

Russell is not the only member of his family to have had a troubled relationship with the hierarchy of the Scottish Rugby Union.

His father, Keith, won a six-figure settlement at an employment tribunal for unfair dismissal after being sacked as the SRU's director of domestic rugby in 2017.

Scotland's fly-half Finn Russell (right) has been exiled from his side's first two Six Nations matches