Finn Russell: Scotland head coach Gregor Townsend hails ‘professionalism’ of fly-half ahead of All Blacks clash

Finn Russell for Scotland Credit: Alamy
Finn Russell for Scotland Credit: Alamy

Scotland head coach Gregor Townsend hailed the professionalism of Finn Russell after he was recalled to start at fly-half against New Zealand on Sunday.

The 30-year-old, who returns to the international set-up after missing the games against Australia and Fiji, was left out of the initial end-of-year squad.

Townsend cited “form and consistency” as the reasons for his absence, but the Racing 92 star returns this week and gets the nod to face the All Blacks.

Happy with his form at Racing 92

“Finn’s been excellent,” said coach Townsend, when asked how the mercurial back had slotted back into the Scotland side for the first time since March.

“He came into the squad on Tuesday, he’s got other things going on in his life which are very important, his partner Emma is close to giving birth, but since he’s come in he’s been very professional. He’s trained well, he’s led the attack very well.”

Much of the talk in recent weeks has centred around the call to leave out Russell, with Townsend pleased with the player’s response on the field for Racing.

“I’m happy with his form (at club level),” he said. “I think I mentioned when I announced the squad that he had been playing better in the two weeks before we announced it.

“But at the time Blair had played in the summer tour for us and been playing well for Edinburgh and also Adam Hastings has been outstanding for Gloucester this season.

“Finn and Adam wouldn’t have been available to play the Australia game (which fell outside the international window) so Blair started and Ross Thompson was on the bench.

“We backed Adam and Blair last week (against Fiji). Adam played well and unfortunately picked up an injury so he’s desperately disappointed to miss out this weekend.

“But for us to be able to call up someone who has played very well for the team in the past, has played against New Zealand a few times, and most importantly has been in really good form the last few weeks, it’s great to have that depth in that position.

Responded well after being snubbed

“It’s a positive thing that Finn’s played well since he wasn’t selected. It’s a great response. Whether that’s a response to not being selected or he’s just been focusing on what he was doing with his club, we’ve got a player in form and physically he’s in great shape.

“This opportunity has come about because of Adam’s injury but we’re delighted to bring Finn back in at a time when he’s playing really well.”

It will be an acid test for Russell to hit the ground running though at Test level against one of the game’s best teams, but Townsend is backing him to do so.

“There were a number of players who played last week who hadn’t played for eight months – Chris Harris, Stuart Hogg, guys that missed out on the summer tour,” he said.

“If players are going to perform and fit back in the team, it’s easier to do that if you’ve played for the team on a number of occasions, which Finn has.”

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