Scotland v England: Townsend and Russell in dialogue, says Steve Tandy

Calcutta Cup: New defence coach confirms that missing playmaker will not feature against England on Saturday, and insists that this sort of fall-out is not unique to Scotland

New new defence coach Steve Tandy has been impressed with the attitude of the Scotland squad.
New new defence coach Steve Tandy has been impressed with the attitude of the Scotland squad. Image: FOTOSPORT/DAVID GIBSON

GREGOR TOWNSEND and Finn Russell are now in dialogue, but there is no prospect of the stand-off playing against England on Saturday.

A squad update was issued earlier today [Monday] which confirmed that Russell had not returned to training with the group as they begin the build-up to this weekend’s eagerly anticipated Calcutta Cup clash, having walked out of the camp following a fall-out with senior members of the squad in the team’s hotel bar just over two weeks ago.

Duncan Weir – who was called up as cover at stand-off following Russell’s departure but did not feature against Ireland in their Six Nations opener on Saturday – has been retained for at least one more week.

Mackie Academy and Boroughmuir book National Youth U16s Cup Final spots

GHA and Jed-Thistle set for National Youth League U18 Cup Final showdown

Ireland v Scotland: ‘Hearing from Finn meant the world to me’ – Adam Hastings

Winger Darcy Graham is still unavailable due to a knee ligament injury he picked up on the first day in camp, and there are no other changes to the initial training squad. Magnus Bradbury [who was ruled out during the week leading up to the Ireland game with a thigh strain] and Simon Berghan [initially named on the bench before succumbing to illness on the morning of the match] were both listed, so appear to be back into contention.

“Finn is not with us,” confirmed Scotland defence coach Steve Tandy. “I know Gregor has had some dialogue with him, but Gregor is after a lot of cohesion which you have seen with the boys who have come in.

“He won’t be involved at the minute. All I know is there has been some dialogue. I don’t know any more than that.”

Evolution not revolution

Tandy was speaking to the press for the first time since replacing Matt Taylor as defence coach ahead of the Six Nations, and you have to wonder what he, along with scrum guru Pieter de Villiers who was recruited at the same time, made of the situation when the team’s star player stormed out of their first night together in camp.

“I’ve been at the Ospreys and the Waratahs, and you think you’re the only ones with these issues but you’re not, this is everywhere,” he insisted. “For me, as an assistant, it’s a case of getting your head down. I’ve got enough to worry about with getting the defence right and working with the players. So, as an assistant, I’m there to support Gregor and the team and that’s my role.”

The Welshman says he was encouraged by the team’s performance in Dublin last weekend, but also recognises that putting his mark on the team is a process of evolution rather than revolution.

“It wouldn’t have been a smart move to rip up everything,” he explained. “There were [already] a lot of good principles in place and a lot of good defenders in the team. There have been a couple of tweaks in terms of how we want to defend but certainly not wholesale changes.

“We will make some more tweaks as we move along, but we’ve only had six or seven sessions. I am just trying to change a little bit at a time.

Error, group does not exist! Check your syntax! (ID: 27)

“You obviously want line-speed, [but] I’m not sure about a full-on blitzing defence,” he explained, when asked to discuss his defensive philosophy. “Line-speed means a lot of different things to a lot of different people. As long as everyone is on point and behind what you want to do then you have half a chance, and the boys have been excellent. They have responded to every subtle change that has been made.

“The energy in the group is very positive and they want to learn,” he continued. “They want to ask questions and they want to know how to improve. I’m very fortunate to be able to coach a group like this, they are very stimulated. They don’t just sit there and nod their heads, they ask questions.

“I thought they defended well in Dublin and there are improvements to make.”

Scotland are up against an England side who were humiliated during the first 55 minutes of their Six Nations opener in Paris on Sunday afternoon, during which time they conceded 24 unanswered points –  so a backlash would seem to be inevitable, and those improvement Tandy envisages are going to have to kick-in pretty quickly.

“You need to match England physically because they’ll be out to dominate the gain-line,” he surmised. “England have some unbelievable backs. Everyone relies on go-forward so there will be a real battle at the weekend.”

“France were really good, England came back, so there’s a lot to take from the game,” he added. “You know what England are, you don’t get to a World Cup Final without being a fantastic team. It’s about making sure we’re prepared mentally and physically. We’re going to be right for Saturday.”

  • Shaun Wane, who previously coached Wigan Warriors and has worked with the SRU as a part-time consultant since the summer of 2018, has now moved on to coach the England Rugby League team.

Steve Tandy appointed Scotland’s new defence coach

About David Barnes 2991 Articles
David has worked as a freelance rugby journalist since 2004 covering every level of the game in Scotland for publications including he Herald/Sunday Herald, The Sunday Times, The Telegraph, The Scotsman/Scotland on Sunday/Evening News, The Daily Record, The Daily Mail/Mail on Sunday and The Sun.


  1. Same old Toony, same old results, same old SRU. Einstein’s definition of madness doings to mind. Never mind…. we have a highly paid CX who will sort it all out….

  2. Typical “Toony” spin…. he’s clearly not got the dressing room, he’s clearly out of his depth at tier one level and the SRU “Pravda” team keep feeding us the same old same old. Finn Russell is a maverick, but he’s got the strength to stand up to the nonsense that Toony brings. Good or bad there is a clear schism in the camp and I know where I side…

  3. Yet more half-truths instead of the true facts?
    The SRU (coaches, in-house media or any other representative) need to either keep quiet or state the truth!
    However, as is fairly common. They mess things up and then start the cover up routine.
    There now has to be at least 50 different versions of what took place. Not good for the game!

  4. The starting 15 for the Calcutta cup has not been announced and already we are hearing excuses from the Scotland coaching staff
    Tandy comments I thought the team played well against Ireland, he needs time to put in place defence systems ? sounds like Taylor former defence coach (No comments excuses from Shaun Edwards)
    Townsend is speaking to Russell ?? about what ??

    • Where did you read that? Not seen anything on twitter (generally you’ll get even the most regional news coverage on that…).

  5. Which senior players and exactly why hasn’t this been patched up? Finn’s been thrown under the bus. If they have convictions stick heir hands up publicly. Otherwise sort it out. Pathetic.

Comments are closed.