Scotland head coach Gregor Townsend has refused to rule out a recall for Finn Russell if Adam Hastings fails to recover from injury in time for next weekend’s showdown with New Zealand.
The 30-year-old Racing 92 fly-half was contentiously left out of the squad for the autumn internationals amid speculation there had been a breakdown in relations between the head coach and player.
Townsend claimed Russell had been omitted due to question marks over his “form and consistency” levels, with Blair Kinghorn and Hastings instead chosen as the two main options to play at number 10.
But Hastings was forced off early in the second half of Saturday’s 28-12 victory over Fiji with a head injury, while he is also having a knee issue assessed, raising concerns that he will be unable to face the All Blacks next week.
Asked if he would consider giving Russell a belated call-up, Townsend said: “If Adam is out, Finn would be in the mix, of course.”
Townsend said he had not spoken to Russell since informing him last month he was not in the original squad but the head coach insisted that is not unusual.
“If people are not in the squad I don’t phone them up regularly unless there’s something to talk about,” he said. “But I’d imagine he’d be available.
“He was disappointed not to be in the squad. If we decide to bring another 10, he’ll be one of the ones we’ll be looking at.”
Townsend was pleased with the way his side overcame a poor first-half display to beat Fiji.
“We learned a lesson in that first half and it was much better in the second half,” he said. “We improved to win the game but there are certainly things we’ll have to improve for next week.
“The players know they can play better but they’re delighted they’ve won the game for Scotland.”
A hard fought win.
— Scottish Rugby (@Scotlandteam) November 5, 2022
Fiji coach Vern Cotter – who was in charge of Scotland between 2014 and 2017 – rued the fact his side were unable to build on their first-half pressure by going in ahead at half-time after Hastings scored a try just before the break to swing the game back in the hosts’ favour.
“My thoughts are positive after that,” Cotter said. “They scored first and we managed to score fairly quickly straight back.
“There was a missed opportunity about 10 minutes before half-time when they were down to 14 men and if we got a lift off the scrum, I think we could have walked over.
“If we had scored when we had that pressure before half-time and they hadn’t, it would have been a bit tighter.
“We didn’t really want that score but our objective is to progress through this three-match series and head ourselves towards the World Cup.
“It’s very hard to win a Test match with three yellow cards but I thought the guys defended well. Those patches when we were down to 14 made it difficult for everybody but there was great effort from the boys. They didn’t give up.”