Forwards coach John Dalziel is adamant the ongoing furore surrounding Finn Russell’s absence from the squad is having no adverse impact on Scotland’s Autumn Series.
There has been intense debate over the past fortnight about Gregor Townsend’s contentious decision not to select the Racing 92 fly-half, with the head coach citing “form and consistency” as the reason for his omission ahead of the narrow 16-15 defeat to Australia.
Russell – widely deemed one of Scotland’s most gifted players – has shone in each of his last two matches for his club and former captain John Barclay said on Tuesday that “external noise” around the number 10 is “adding to the pressure building” on Townsend and his team.
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“Nothing internally,” said Dalziel, dismissing the notion that the Russell saga is impacting the squad. “There’s a lot of pressure that goes with international rugby the whole time.
“Certainly playing at home there’s huge pressure on us. We want to win, we want to impress the support we get that fills the stadium time after time.
“We’re very happy, we know the areas to improve and we have another three games at home. (Losing to) Australia hurts, it could have gone either way at the end there, but the pressure comes with the job. None of it has affected the lads, we’re focused, we have a good culture in the squad, and we’re ready to bounce back this weekend.”
Dalziel acknowledged that the Scottish public would like to see Russell restored to the squad and he paid lip service to the fact the fly-half had played well in recent weeks without giving any indication that he would be handed a recall.
“I know Gregor and Finn speak regularly,” he said. “They had a good conversation around the make-up of the squad and the reasoning for the original squad.
“It’s great to see the last two weekends, he’s played so well. He’s reacted in exactly the right manner.”
Russell’s absence has cranked up the scrutiny on Blair Kinghorn, who has taken over at number 10. The Edinburgh player had a mixed afternoon on against Australia on Saturday as he scored a superb solo try before missing a last-gasp penalty from 40 metres which would have won the match for the Scots.
“Blair’s an excellent professional,” said Dalziel. “He works harder than anyone.
“In terms of the last moment of the game, that’s what you leave with but in terms of the rest of the game there were a lot of other areas in the game that affected a lot of things.
“Blair’s bounced right back, he knew straight away what he needed to do technically better with the kick, and he’s been working on that with Chris Paterson as he does every day.
“He’s a really resilient kid, he’s had big moments and we’ve seen he’s capable of those with the try. He repeats that on a regular basis. He’s always a bit of a livewire around the place.”
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Scotland suffered another blow in the second row when Sam Skinner withdrew from the squad with a foot injury a week after fellow lock Scott Cummings was forced out with a broken toe.
Edinburgh’s Jamie Hodgson has been called up to the squad ahead of Saturday’s Test at home to Fiji , while Richie Gray is fit to return after missing the Australia game due to concussion protocols.
“Sam’s got a little fracture in the bone caused by the tendon pulling,” said Dalziel. “It probably looks like this campaign is over. We believe it’ll be four to six weeks to heal.”