Russell return will be on Townsend’s terms

Gregor Townsend has left the door open for Finn Russell to rejoin the Scotland squad but stressed he must sign up to the new standards of behaviour that have been set.

Townsend released a lengthy statement in response to a newspaper interview in which Russell expressed his frustrations over the international set-up and outlined the breakdown of his relationship with the head coach.

The former Glasgow boss stressed his senior players had helped shape the new squad environment after the disappointment of failing to get out of their World Cup pool.

Gregor Townsend held talks with Finn Russell after he initially left the camp
Gregor Townsend held talks with Finn Russell after he initially left the camp

There appears next to no chance that Russell will return for the remainder of the Guinness Six Nations after missing the opening two games following a breach of team discipline, and Townsend warned changes would not be made for one player.

“The door will be open to any player with the required level of ability – if they commit to being a trusted member of the team,” Townsend said in a statement released by the Scottish Rugby Union.

“It’s been made clear that Finn could be a part of that future. However, he stated at the weekend that everything else has to change for him to come back, rather than accept and adhere to the standards currently being lived by the group.

“I hope this situation can be resolved, but our focus is on working with the squad and building on the positive work that’s gone in from the players for our first two games.”

Despite telling Russell he would not be involved in the opener against Ireland, Townsend felt he had ironed out some differences with his former Glasgow player.

“Finn left camp on the Sunday night because of a disagreement over alcohol with fellow players and chose to miss the following day’s training and meetings,” he said.

“I arranged to meet with him that evening. It was a really positive meeting where we talked openly about life, rugby and what it means to play for Scotland.

“I left that meeting, after almost three hours, really optimistic that Finn would play a major part in our environment and be a committed team member. Unfortunately, things have not unfolded as well as we would have hoped.”

Townsend explained why guidelines for behaviour had changed to ensure players were at their best.

Scotland were beaten by England on Saturday
Scotland were beaten by England on Saturday

“These standards are set out through feedback from players and staff and are driven by the player leadership group or the head coach at varying times during a campaign,” he commented.

“We have players who come from around a dozen different clubs and it’s really important they commit to an agreed standard of behaviour, which builds trust and is at the bedrock of a high-performance environment.

“These standards don’t change for one player, even if that’s not what they experience in their club setting.

“A really pleasing aspect of the last three weeks has been seeing the group commit to this high-performance standard, bond as a group of young men and show consistency and quality on the training field. They’ve been a pleasure to work with.

“Our team leaders made the decision there would be no drinking after our opening match of the Six Nations and they have been working closely with me on improving other aspects of our environment.”

Townsend, who claimed Russell had been “brilliant to coach” for club and country, added: “To play for Scotland takes total commitment. A lot of people make great sacrifices for the opportunity to represent 150 years of history and be among a special group of people who have had the honour of representing their nation.

“A lot of times, everything is not always how you’d like it to be. You might not agree with everything that is there, maybe because it’s a different coach than the one you have at club level or a different way of preparing or playing.

“What is important is that you commit to what has been agreed and put the best interests of the team first.”