Brown hopes Russell affair can be a galvanising force for Scotland

Fraser Brown believes the fall-out from Finn Russell’s late-night drinking session earlier this month could have a galvanising effect on the Scotland squad.

The Racing 92 fly-half will not play in the Guinness Six Nations opener at Ireland on Saturday after being disciplined for a breach of team protocol at the team hotel on January 19.

Russell subsequently missed training the following day and despite a “positive” meeting with head coach Gregor Townsend that evening, he turned down the offer to remain in camp and instead played for his club.

With the headlines being dominated by this incident in the build-up to this weekend’s match at the Avivia Stadium, the Dark Blues are eager to do their talking on the pitch.

Stuart Hogg has taken over the captaincy
Stuart Hogg has taken over the captaincy

Forward Brown said: “The rhetoric can be quite negative sometimes with issues like this, but from our point of view we have to pull together really tightly as a group of players because we have new individuals coming in and also because we’ve under performed over the last couple of years.

“That expectation and drive from us has got to be there and you have to be tight as a group off the pitch because you can’t be expected to perform in those dark, pressurised environments on the pitch unless you are all together, pulling in the right direction and have got each others back.”

After a disappointing World Cup campaign, there is a fresh feel to the Scotland camp with Steve Tandy and Pieter De Villiers joining the coaching staff.

Greig Laidlaw, Tommy Seymour and John Barclay have retired since the tournament in Japan too and Townsend’s men are looking to the future.

Greig Laidlaw (left) retired after the World Cup
Greig Laidlaw (left) retired after the World Cup

Stuart Hogg has stepped up to take the captain’s armband and received praise from Brown, who is part of Scotland’s leadership group.

He added: “He has been clear on the expectations that he wants to drive through himself and the other leaders in the group and he has been brilliant at being able to share that load as well and not take too much on himself and not let it become a burden on him.

“I think he has been excellent at pulling other people with him so they can drive the type of standards.

“He has great energy about him and is very passionate about Scotland, which is one of the most important things about leading your country.

“He is also a quality player, he truly is one of the best players we’ve probably ever had and having that ability alongside his passion and drive and focus has been a great thing, particularly for the new guys in the camp.”

Scotland hooker Brown admitted winning in Dublin “would be a huge achievement” but stressed the need to produce an 80-minute performance.

Revenge could also be on the mind after a painful defeat to Ireland in the Dark Blues’ World Cup opener, although Andy Farrell is now in charge of the opposition.

Adam Hastings is set to replace Finn Russell
Adam Hastings is set to replace Finn Russell

With Russell not involved, Brown’s Glasgow team-mate Adam Hastings is expected to get the nod at fly-half.

“Adam has been outstanding over the last few weeks,” head coach Townsend added.

“He is a much-improved player from this time a year ago and any player that goes through a tough time, you have to learn and adapt.

“As a 10 you have so many decisions to make in the game and it has been great to see how well he has played this year.

“I thought he looked really good at the World Cup, albeit just in the Russia game. Playing with confidence and making the right decisions means Adam will be more than ready to start for Scotland in the Six Nations.”