Finn Russell breaks silence for the first time since Scotland walk-out

Exiled stand-off says that a non-existent relationship with head coach Gregor Townsend reached tipping point three weeks ago

Finn Russell in action for Racing 92. Image: © Craig Watson -
Finn Russell in action for Racing 92. Image: © Craig Watson -

EXILED Scotland playmaker Finn Russell has spoken publicly for the first time about the events leading up to his walk-out from the Scotland team hotel on his first night of the pre-Six Nations camp, and has opened up about the breakdown in his relationship with national team head coach Gregor Townsend.

In an interview with The Sunday Times newspaper, the 27-year-old stand-off explained that the flashpoint in the hotel bar which has been widely speculated on over the last 21 days, and categorised by many (with some less than subtle SRU cajoling) as a “late-night drinking session”, is not the crux of the issue.

Russell has already missed the first two rounds of Scotland’s Six Nations campaign, and it looks increasingly unlikely that he will be involved again whilst Townsend remains as head coach.

Analysis: Russell crisis symptomatic of a deeper problem in Scottish Rugby

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“The current situation, set-up and environment, I don’t think I want to play in that. I don’t think it’s good for me as a person or as a player,” Russell told The Sunday Times. “I’ve felt like this for more than a year, and the last three weeks have shown me that it doesn’t seem to be changing at all.

“I’d love to play for Scotland again because I love playing for my country. But until I see or feel the big changes that I need to get back playing my best, it’s going to be very hard for me to do it.

“Eight years I’ve had him as a coach, and I don’t really know him at all,” he said, referencing his time working with Townsend initially at Glasgow Warriors and then at Scotland since the summer of 2017 . “We’ve not got a personal relationship. With Racing, last year I couldn’t speak much to the coaches because my French wasn’t that good, but this year with [Irish backs and attack coach] Mike [Prendergast] I get on really well, I chat to him a lot and I’ve spoken to him a lot about this situation. It’s the same with Toto [head coach Laurent Travers] and [director of rugby] Yannick Nyanga.

“It’s a much more personal relationship. It’s like it was with Scotland under Vern [Cotter, Townsend’s predecessor]. When we’re training and playing, they’re my coaches, but with that we can have a good, honest chat and blether away like you would with family and friends. They treat you like an adult. After a game, they understand it’s your time to do what you need to. If you start coming in late for training or going out during the week, that’s when it’s a problem. This whole situation with Scotland has been made out to be about me wanting to have a drink, when in actual fact, it’s about control, respect and trust, on and off the pitch.

“I want the best for Scotland and so I’ve questioned the environment to try and make it better. We [him and Townsend] have clashed quite a lot, him saying one thing and me saying another. It’s come to a point where I’m saying, ‘you can be you and I’m going to be me. That’s how this relationship is going to be.’ Well, it’s not really a relationship.”

Russell mentioned an “argument” with Townsend during half-time of last year’s famous Calcutta Cup draw at Twickenham, and that has been identified as the first outward sign that the relationship between player and coach was not great, but it appears to stretch back much further than that.

“A lot our game plan last year revolved around stats and kicking, and for me that’s not rugby,” he said. “Just play the game. Under Vern, it was a very simple game plan but you could play anything off it. Some of the [Scotland] meetings last year, it was like, ‘what are [we] actually trying to do here?’ It’s hard for the other boys to say anything. They’re contracted to the SRU. I know that’s also been the case [with what’s been said publicly] in the last couple of weeks. They’ve been building up to games, and [team] media [activity] these days is so controlled.”

Russell apparently told Townsend during the weeks leading up to this Six Nations that he had doubts about his continued involvement, but after playing for Racing 92 in a Champions Cup match against Saracens at Allianz Park, he took an evening flight from Luton to Edinburgh with his family and his Scotland team-mate Sean Maitland, who had been in the opposition that day, arriving in the nearby team hotel just before 9pm. The home-based contingent were already in camp, having played the day before.

Russell is part of Scotland’s leadership group, but in his absence the other members had apparently agreed that after a game, players would be allowed two beers each and that there would be a team night out after the Calcutta Cup match. Russell had “two beers with dinner” and “ordered another one”, which is when things started to unravel.

“The players at dinner were like, ‘no more drinking’. These are guys I know well, so I said, ‘what’s the problem, I’ve just played, I just want a couple of beers’ and they said that’s what the leaders had agreed,” he explained. “I’m part of the leaders group, but they’d had the meeting before I got there. I’d not had a say. So for me, straight away, it was set up pretty poorly.

“It refreshed all the memories about the environment. I’ve just played a game, my 13th in a row, flown straight up and it’s the exact same. I’ve spoken to Gregor two weeks beforehand to tell him how I was feeling and not heard back for 10 days. What’s going on? It’s also the case that a night out after England is fine for the boys employed by the SRU who will have that next week off, but me and some of the other boys will be back to play for our clubs. I know it can’t be changed for one person, but at least if we get a say at the time, we can come to an agreement. Again, though, it’s not about drink, it’s about the whole environment.”

Russell says he phoned his parents at 10pm, who came and picked him ups from the hotel at around 11.30pm. He missed the team meeting the following morning, then returned to camp that night for a planned meeting with Townsend, during which he was told he would not be considered for selection against Ireland on account of his “breach of team protocol” on the Sunday.

“For me and Gregor, it was a decent enough chat, I’ve never spoken to him properly like that before,” said Russell. “But still I felt we were going round in circles. I’m like, ‘I’m trying to tell you what I’m thinking, and we just go round again. You need to listen to me.’ I don’t really feel I get that from Gregor.”

Russell visited a psychologist at Townsend’s behest the following day, which appears to be linked to the very clear SRU narrative that this whole issue revolves around his relationship with alcohol.

“The psychologist understood what I was saying about me going out once a week after a game. He said, ‘you’re not on the front of newspapers, you’re not overweight, you’re performing well’. He didn’t see any issue. I’d had pretty much the same conversation with Gregor on the Monday night, and he said, ‘there must be something deeper inside, something you’re not telling us yet.’ I’m like, ‘what do you want me to say for you to be satisfied, rather than listening to what I’m saying?’”

“On the Wednesday morning, Gregor sent me a text saying, ‘if you want to go back to Racing, you are free to do that from today. Let me know if you decide to go back.’ For me, that text was, ‘you’re free to do what you want.’ But from then, it’s all been, ‘Finn’s left camp to go back to Racing, Finn’s this, Finn’s that’ when I’d said to Gregor, ‘if you want me here, I’m here. If you don’t, that [France] is where I need to be.’ The way this has all been spun, I’m the guy who left camp, I’m the guy who had the late night drinking session, I’m the guy who’s done this and that. It could have been sorted in-house. I didn’t turn up on the Monday and that was my choice, but since then it’s been just like, ‘see you later Finn’.”

Russell says that he had no contact from Townsend or the SRU between Thursday January 23rd until late last Sunday, when he received a call from Townsend to tell he was not being asked back into camp for the build-up to the England game.

“He just said he wasn’t changing anything in the squad for the England week. I didn’t really say much. The thing I said to Ali [Price, his close friend and former flatmate] was, ‘make sure the boys know it’s not anything to do with them. I’m not turning my back on my country or the boys, this is a personal thing between me and Gregor. I want to be with them. But just now it’s not really possible for me to be involved.’”

“I need to do what makes me happy and makes me play my best rugby. People can see the scenario as they want. But I need to do this for myself. It’s over a year I’ve been doing it for the country and for the fans. Before the last Six Nations, I was thinking the same. This is about me being honest and staying true to myself.

“People might not think it’s the right thing to do, but for me I believe it is. I believe we need change, it needs to move in a different route. We’re tracking along a road and it’s not been working for us, and it’s especially not been working for me.

“It’s a decision I’m going to make. If I look back in ten years’ time and when I’m retired and wish I hadn’t done, that’s fine. For me just now, for my rugby and my health, I don’t think I can do it. It’s not as simple as ‘have two weeks off, come back and it will be fine’. If only it was about that one thing [the ‘bust-up’].

“I’m going to back myself to play for Scotland again at some point. It’s definitely going to happen. The way it’s going to happen is for me to go back to my club, play really well, be me and happy.”

Analysis: Russell crisis symptomatic of a deeper problem in Scottish Rugby

About David Barnes 2616 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. Poor Scotland, Toxic at the management level. Disorganised at the club level, and now this with the Scottish team. After watching the last two games, it’s obvious that Stuart Hogg is not the right guy for Captain, and that Finn Russell was sorely missed. But even he might not have made a great deal of difference. Fly halves with great flair like him need instant speedy passing from the base of the scrum,ruck, lineout, and he is not going to get that from the current scrumhalf. Some of you may recall the great days of Australian rugby when they won world cups, much of it following the quick release of the ball by players like Gregan and Larkham

    • Townsend has no man management skills and by the looks of things not too many advanced Rugby Coaching skills. Good players
      Do no00t always make good managers or coaches? Other than that of the position they themselves played in. he has gone through the years appearing to go further into himself, if he hides any further at the back of the stand he will be in the car park. Time out Gregor strain is beginning to show. People skills matter greatly.

  2. The only positive to be taken from yet another inept performance by a Scottish team, irrespective of meteorological intervention, is that it should amount to another nail in Townsend’s coffin. Our line-out is appalling and our attack insipid and devoid of guile, despite the undeniable fire-power like we’ve never had such an abundance of in the history of the Scottish game. Dodson’s wage hike should be withdrawn and placed in an escro account to help fund a proper replacement coach. Any coach worth their salt would give both arms to be in charge of such a, potentially, world-beating pool of talent.

  3. Watching the game on telly and screaming for a few changes to be made, I was wondering when George Horne and Rory Hutchinson would be brought on, as they have been changing games for Glasgow and Northampton for the last 2 seasons. Tactics remain unchanged and the bench wasn’t emptied.
    The tactics used weren’t working for either team. The only time that Scotland looked a little different was when Hogg ran it from his own 22 but that broke down and it was back to the same old bash it up the middle till you knock it on or get pinged for holding on.
    Surely a perceptive coach would notice that the tactics being used by both teams were not really working and would suggest something different, such as bringing on a new scrumhalf with a proven try-scoring record, and a number 12 who has shown he can open up defences. But no.
    Rugby is a handling game and despite the conditions, these guys should be able to string some short passes together for a while to see if it made a difference, with grubbers in behind a turning defence, short enough for attackers to get to, as suggested by other posters here. Unfortunately we were treated to a view of GT looking quite unconcerned, and certainly no obvious plan B being offered.
    I have no idea of the problems in the team/management, but if the turnaround at Twickenham last year was due to somebody, singly or together, ignoring the “plan” and playing to the conditions, then we need to do that much more. You can’t play rugby to rigid rules, conditions vary every game and the opposition don’t always do what the “plan” would like them to do. Players like Russell seem to be able to read the game and adjust play to accommodate different aspects.
    Whoever is right or wrong, there is very little to be happy about in the way Scotland are playing, and something needs to be done.

    • Ozzie, the jobs yours if you want it. I was at the match and although the weather played big part in how the teams played Scotland were woeful.I must agree Gregor just hasn’t got what it takes to get the best from what we have.But only two games in and three to go, we can only hope they can pull something out of the bag. Bring back Cotter, please.

    • Anyone who has ever been on the end of a shafting by the SRU at what ever level will know exactly how Finn feels.
      The SRU are a self serving establishment cartel and have only the SRU’s interests at heart.
      Cotter should never have been replaced.
      The SRU at every level from U16 upwards want 100% control of everything and nothing but Yes men, nothing or no one else will be tolerated.
      A full house at Murrayfield of people that no little about rugby suits them fine!!!!!
      Scotland have one world class player and they have marginalised him cause he’s a bit different!!!!

    • Russell behaving like a prima donna and refusing to take notice of what he is asked to do by the coach and players’ leadership group and the incompetence of the SRU are two entirely different matters.

  4. Last year England needed a score and got it. This year England needed a score and got it.
    That aside,until Scottish players get physical and stop trying to shooo opposition away with their hands we will get pushed back. Handling errors and lame excuy penalties should result in painful fines. Some players hivee the impression putting on the jersey is where the effort ends.
    As a youngster we beat most regularly. The centenary game result was not unusual.
    When will we see their likes again?

  5. Explaining to my 2 boys yesterday why their hero wasn’t playing makes you wonder who the children are in this situation.
    The SRU needs to remember the fans, big and small, this is an embarrassment.

  6. Childish play from both Finn and Gregor! Get over it and play the game! Finn needs to play and realize that he is not going to change the ways of a stubborn coach! I agree with Finn standing up for him self and coming clear, now Gregor gives the majority of its fans what they have paid for, to see top players play for Scotland! Gregor, needs to rise above it, start him and continue to be stubborn with how he sees the game played, that’s his right! I believe, within short time Gregor will be gone and Finn will continue to play.

    • JC
      Do you understand enough to know that Gregor is being ‘stubborn’. Isn’t it equally possible that he’s dealing with a talented but self opinionated individual who thinks that breaking self administered player protocols is ok and who accepted the invitation to attend a meeting with a psychologist? I honestly did not think the article in the Sunday Times read well in respect of Finn’s attitude Nor did I get the impression that he is really keen to see much progress in his approach. But I confess to an absence of definitive information.

  7. Russell is a primadonna. And he should grow up. If he doesn’t wear 10 again for Scotland, I’d be perfectly happy.

  8. I feel for Finn. Couldn’t have been easy to sit and take being blamed by the continual SRU and Toonie media releases (does anyone believe them anymore?) but the truth always comes out. What sort of successful team behaves like this? Better off not being part of a corrosive environment. Got to question the Management and indeed the Captain for their handling of this! Who will be the next victim of the tyranny? Change has got to come.

    • What’s corrosive about asking to abide by rules and implement team strategy? So what if he doesn’t like Townsend.

      I haven’t haven’t liked a number of my work managers – didn’t mean I didn’t turn up for work.

      There’s nothing in his version of events that contradicts what has been said by SRU. Furthermore, I would take what this apparently unreliable individual has to say with a pinch of salt.

    • Little Discourage you do make a good point. However, I suppose it’s corrosive if you were neither informed of the rules nor agreed to them. Also, if the rules apply to you even though you were not part of the camp yet, don’t know how the SRU are explaining that to Racing 92 as it breaks their agreement.

      The team strategy either works or it doesn’t, if it’s failing then it is corrosive to insist that players cannot question it and use leverage with contracts to ensure this. Can’t see that ever being healthy.

      I do take the point about not walking out of work due to a personal dislike but I think it’s deeper than that. If a boss of mine decided that I had to work on my day off without telling me, I’d get another job!

      I do understand that it’s not too inconsistant with the SRU releases but what is missing is context and nuance. If the SRU comments had explained that this was about a player who was not yet officially at the camp, was not consulted about nor agreed to the rules (protocols) and wanted 1 extra beer I think everyone to a man would have been wondering why the situation got to that stage. In my view the failure to defuse this sensibly lies at Toonie’s door and suggests that there is something wrong with how the team is run.

  9. On a lighter note-after Rory Sutherland’s wonderful run yesterday, could it be said that Hawick has produced three of the better side-steppers in the Scottish set up?
    Hogg, Graham, and Sutherland in case you were wondering.
    Still a proud club with an-as yet-unbeaten record in Scottish Rugby.
    By the way-Hogg was born in Melrose at the BGH because our local maternity unit had closed-so Hawick through and through.
    The team did as best they could on the day. Mistakes happen.
    There but for the grace……!

  10. Russell comes over as a grade A plonker here. Seems like it’s all about him with no concern about what’s right for the team. The fact is we’ve been competitive twice in two successive 6 nations matches, something that hasn’t happened for a while. Much rather be in a close match than getting regularly pumped. We need stable base from which we can then dare to start chucking the ball about. once we have regained credibility, we can start worrying about our brand if rugby.

    Don’t think it’s Townsend’s fault that our hookers can’t throw their darts.

    • Wonder how long it will take before more of the team decide to go else where as I think more will be frustrated at how they are performing and apparently not. So really what needs to change staying quiet or voicing the changes needed.

    • I want to see Finn Russel play for Scotland, he is a wotld class player especially at 10, where as in my opinion Townsend is definitely not a world class coach, in fact I feel he has been a stranger to the truth about this incidence, putting all the blame in Finn’s court! Toony would rather we get beat! It was a Happy Camp with Vern as Coach!!!Townsend ?????

  11. I don’t know if Russell has a media advisor bit if so they did him no favours here, a Scottish international talking about his issues with the Scottish coach in an English Sunday newspaper? Poor optics indeed, as for his relationship with Townsend he makes it clear that things have been problematic for a while although given that he has consistently been the first name on the team sheet they couldn’t have been that bad? Or maybe they just became that bad when he wasn’t the first name in the team sheet? The other big boys in the gang made a rule when I wasn’t there so I ignored them and did what I wanted then phoned my mum and dad to take me home, eh how old are you? All of this aside there are clearly problems on both side of the fence that need to be resolved but he certainly hasn’t helped his cause with his poor wee me act.

    ps for those of you with cotter tinted specs on as s coach he didn’t record a victory against NZ, Australia, England and South Africa with one apiece against Ireland Wales and France, feel free to Google Townsend’s record and see how it compares

    • So it would have been ok if he had gone to the Herald or SoS? There is a clue in the reporters title. Given he also broke the fiasco the SRU made of illegally sacking his dad you can perhaps understand why he went to a trusted journalist

  12. Very obvious to the fans Gregor Townsend is clueless at international level.He is taking us backwards.We were at least progressing under Vern Cotter.Adam Hastings is good at best does nothing to excite the way Finn Russell does.Seems like jobs for the boys.Its a good job it’s not a straight choice between Townsend and Russell .The fans will start voting with their feet.Its all very well Hogg and Townsend saying we have done good things in games.The truth is we can’t beat anybody first or second tier.Time to go Gregor.

  13. Townsend was an unreliable player who was occasionally made to look good by those around him. True – Glasgow did some good work while he was in charge there, but was that due to, or in spite of Townsend. He has been groomed for the Scotland coach job as the SRUs cheap option and as a result he has become an arrogant, “head in the sand” individual who does not see the same game as the fans have to watch. His tactics – if we ever find out what they are will be questionable and he will never compete with the more experienced and street savvy world rugby coaches. Worst of all he has lost the support of the changing room which is ultimately the demise of all team managers. Just when we thought things were improving under Vern Cotter he has put the Scottish national team back 10 years. The SRU must resolve this – they put him there – they must kick him out. Ultimately though fans must realise that Scotland can no longer compete on the world rugby stage, we can only manage two teams on the national and european stage and there is not the support or financial income to support the professional game in Scotland.
    Oh! for the days when the the Gala, Hawick, Heriots and Burghmuir games were the highlight of the Saturday afternoon, and Roy Laidlaw was back rewiring the Jedburgh public toilets on the Monday morning after the Grand Slam.
    Thankfully I watch French rugby from may – sept. – I have seen more of Greg Laidlaw playing for Clermont, than Scotland. Well done to Finn Russell for airing the matter, it is more likely to be the truth and is more believable than the tosh issued by the SRU.

    • The approach taken when the game became professional was to set up new “clubs” , North/South/East and West. That was driven by Jim Teller. It was very stupid, It set up clubs with no base of supporters and sidelined clubs with lots of supporters. The sensible thing would have been to support the big traditional clubs, such as Hawick and Melrose – no matter that most might be in the Borders. The idea fell apart in double quick time with the North and Borders failing. Yet the SRU persisted.
      It took thirty years to claw back to where we had been. Even now the SRU want all players in their 2-club set-up. The smart thing might be to apprentice our up and coming players to good clubs in England and France, with financial support from the SRU, but that won’t happen.
      Rugby Union is a business and the SRU are scrabbling after money making schemes and will do nothing that will reduce support for Edinburgh and Glasgow. It is not going to get better.

    • Under Cotter we had 3 wins across 3 seasons in the 6 Nations and finished 5th, 6th and 4th. Under Townsend we have had 7 wins across 3 completed 6 Nations and have finished 4th, 3rd and 5th. Compare their records – Townsend has the 2nd best win percentage (only McGeechan has a higher win ratio). Russell is the problem here – yes he is a great player but it is a 23 man game

  14. Scotland have been playing the same on and off the field for years, just like the football team. A couple world class players. The team playing safety low risk rugby most of the time. Limited pool of players to choose from, because of the lower level selection discounting of young talent if they haven’t shown enough by the time they are 15 or so. Watching Scotland struggle with the same issues is the norm. An example was the lack of variety or planning of the lineout knowing what the conditions would be.

  15. All “me, me, me”!

    Russell comes across as a spoilt kid, who has fallen out big time with his teacher.

    • There’s always at keast 3 sides to a story so I think it’s only right that Russell has his chance to tell his side . . . I certainly don’t think he comes across as you describe. If it’s to be believed as being correct the fact that the team broke away from Townsend’s tactics after half time at last season’s Calcutta Cup match shows what they are capable of and by sticking to Townsend’s tactics yesterday speaks volumes . . . and Russell wasn’t there (to blame)

  16. Hmm. Russell says “I want the best for Scotland and so I’ve questioned the environment to try and make it better. We [him and Townsend] have clashed quite a lot, him saying one thing and me saying another. It’s come to a point where I’m saying, ‘you can be you and I’m going to be me. That’s how this relationship is going to be.’ Well, it’s not really a relationship.” but it seems he is not prepared to attempt to build a relationship either.

    He also admits the leadership group of players wanted him to stop drinking and follow what had been agreed but he wasn’t prepared to do that which again doesn’t show him in a good light.

    Maybe the fault isn’t all with Townsend and maybe people wouldn’t be so quick to criticise him if Scotland were winning?

    • In complete agreement James, Russell is a troubled soul and a spoilt child ,imagine ,a 27year old asking his mum and dad to “come and take me home “from the party “the big boys wont let me get drunk” – me the superstar, “how dare they so , without my veto.

  17. How can you breed an inclusive culture when you are making important player decisions while exiled players are not there? If it was a question of not wanting to delay a pre-planeed team meeting, there are technologies today that would allow players even in bloody Japan to take part. Never understood why SRU dropped Cotter for Townsend, other than nepotism and perhaps, nationalist sentiments. And the latter has nothing to do with Scottish Independence,(even the opposite, as living in Scotland, I’ve only found the Scottish to be receptive to migrants from abroad), but more with like how France, they prefer their national team to be led by a “Scottish” coach. But perhaps, the SRU is exactly what it set outs to be, a traditional gentlemen’s club based in Edinburgh. I now understand (but don’t agree with) why my Scottish brother in law views rugby as an elitist game for elitist people. What a very sad perspective, but that is what the SRU is currently selling with their exclusionary culture – and that seems to go from the national team set-up to the formation of the Super 6 and beyond.

  18. Why were 2 game changing players left on the bench and not used, Townsend has 1 game plan and can’t change if the game is not going how he saw the game playing out. Horne and Hutchinson are game changers and Scotland had to do something different, but Townsend doesn’t know how to by using the players on the bench

  19. Gregor Townsend needs to get a grip of himself. Summed it up for me when he said he thought the second half was ‘excellent’ with only five minutes to sort out. Is he having a laugh or talking about the 2019 game? Yeh, give Hoggy a go at captain, but back there in those conditions? Hoggy needs to concentrate on what he does best for the team and unfortunately I don’t think it’s captain, especially in his position. Horne was missed and we could have done with someone who can do wee delicate grubbers and kicks turning the England players on that wet slippy ground……Oh wait a minute we already have someone #finnrussell

    • Simple solution: Get rid of Townsend and bring back our players, especially Finn! And find another captain, and let Hoggy do his magic.

  20. They have put self before country in not sorting the issue out with Finn Russel. Lack of good coach management and pettiness has exacerbated the situation. What about all the fans digging deep in their pockets to attend the games and who benefits? The greedy guy at top of S.R.U.

    • There must be a fair few fans who booked an expensive trip to Dublin expecting to see Finn Russell play.

  21. Good on you Finn as an ex coach the whole of the SRU setup from grassroots to top needs a good shakeup. Stick to your guns Finn, respect

  22. when toony played rugby he was either absolutely wonderful or absolutely awful,his scottish team play the same way,that was in ameteur days now with professionalism where was the steady head yesterday, saying calm doon lets keep the baw,the line outs were a disaster,who was in charge of the forwards play,hoggy as captain is not working,he cant control the game from fullback,its taking the flair away from hoggy he needs to be a free agent to show his magic,yesterday was not a day for fancy rugby,but there was no togetherness amongst the scottish team,toony was always disruptive as a player ,and he is just as disruptive as a coach .

  23. One of the most interesting insights is his comment on Cotter’s philosophy of just playing the game. We have lost all that, no coincidence Huw Jones lost his way under Townsend. It will take several years to undo the confusion and complexity Townsend has introduced. And what top level coach would take Scotland on, when we dumped the best one we had in the last 15 years?

    • well said – we have gone down a blind alley since Cotter. What a tragedy. The consequences of that decision has been compounded by the misuse of funds to pay bigwigs instead of growing the playing base at amateur and pro level. I despair at the continued mismanagement of the SRU. Backs to the wall now in a fortnight vs Italy who will be especially fired up for Parisse’s last game

  24. It’s good we can hear Russell’s side of events. This all seems very messy and if Townsend is to remain after the 6N I think the SRU need to organise a round table meeting with the coaches and players. Hopefully from such a meeting they could add the appropriate staff to assist with team management so that everyone is on the same page in terms of what is expected of them.

  25. the whole Scottish setup seems wrong at the moment, yestersdays game showed that just about all the players are told what to do, nobody is allowed to think for themselves, a wee bit off flair is needed, but the players are obviously scared to have a go, except when finn is playing, only once yesterday did hoggy have a half decent run from his 22, why don’t they change the plan during the game, not allowed comes to mind!, I don’t think the wingers got a pass on along the line all day, how sad is that both for the players and the fans, Townsend will be away after this year hopefully.

  26. Time for Townsend to go. He is taking Scotland backwards at a rate that he is unable to control. Russell is the main spark in the team and without him we are average. It is poor management that Townsend cannot put his dislike for Russell to one side for the sake of the nation. Russell’s understudy at 10 is not the answer and from the outside looking in it would appear to be an ‘old pals act’ between Townsend and Gavin that sees Hastings junior in the side. New coach required and Russell has to be brought back in, although he also cannot hold us to ransom.

    • Greig Laidlaw retiring just before 6 nations. Finn Russell ‘dismissed’ and Stuart Hogg not performing to his usual standard. This is 3 senior players who are missing from our team. I don’t think Greig retired voluntarily. I think the issue lies with the manager. Time for change.

  27. I for one am very glad that Finn has had a chance to respond to all that’s been said and written. I find it very interesting about the lads under the central contracts with the SRU. In other words you tow the line or else.
    The lad is being honest here with his assessment of what’s gone on and as all good managers know some players need an arm around them and a hug and a time to be listened to. Ask Walter Smith about Paul Gascoigne or Sir Alex with Cantona. Maybe coach Townsend should realise this is what it takes for his star man.
    I am gutted that this relationship has turned so wrong but it takes two to fix it and the coach is lacking having read both sides of the story.
    Please for the sake of the country players and fans get talking and fix this. Scotland needs it fixed and we are a better team and better to watch with Finn in it.

  28. It makes for interesting reading. Bad man management of a diverse group of players if not the SRU organisation is clearly at the root of the issue. At least he has now had his say. What’s working for him at Racing 92 but not for Scotland? He is respected at Racing and not by the Scotland Head Coach. Yesterday’s game was a shambles even allowing for the conditions. This following a shambles in Japan and a poor 2019 6 Nations. We lost the best years of John Barclay because of the Scotland team management. Let’s hope the same fate does not await Finn.

    • Exactly. The fact that the rumours were in the Press before any facts (“breach of protocol”) shows the poverty of understanding in th SRU. Townsend is a desperately awful manager. He picks those he likes. We have seen this a few times. A sensible manager would not have made Hogg captain, as he does not have the temperament as he showed against NZ. He should have been dropped for this match, he showed nothing much and bungled again. Duncan Weir was called into the squad because there really was no other option, but Townsend does not like him. Weir has not even been on the bench of replacements. That is just plain insulting. If I were Weir I’d go back to my club this weekend.
      Townsend is a disaster. It is clearly all about his “game plan”, no doubt with orders to play in a certain way, as Russell seems to confirm.
      anyone who plays in Scotland knows how best to cope with weather. No high kicks, grubber kicks, short chips, or long but very low. Short line outs. The backs can play in this weather but no long passes, keep close together, and interpassing is the way. They should surely have practiced all of that for the last week as the weather was not a surprise.

  29. Well said May .
    Plenty of good players over the years have never had the chances in Scottish rugby because of family ties further up the ladder stopping any progress
    Townsend & ‘Moneybags ‘Dodson have got to be shown the door for the good of Scottish rugby .
    Ps .
    The normal punter can’t afford to go to Murrayfield .the prices are ridiculous

  30. Once you’re in the system at Murrayfield you can’t get out .youre in with the bricks .
    Shiel .Gemmell .Lineen .etc have all been shunted around in various roles for years with disastrous results in Scottish rugby.
    As a previous post said they should be judged on results as in the real world if you don’t live up to expectations you’re down the road.
    Do we want to see robots or do we want to see players with some nous and flare .i know what I and many others want to see
    Townsend has to change hopeless way of coaching Scotland or be shown the door
    Get Russell back ASAP.
    And as for Dodson vision of changing Scottish Rugby .i rest my case .
    He should be on the first taxi out of Murrayfield and pay for it himself.

  31. We have heard the SRU PR version of events. Now we are hearing a slightly different version.

    Gregor is a great student of management. He will travel widely, in fact the world to see how other managers and coaches do their jobs. Whether Man City and Guardiola or some Johnny big time in California it is only a business class trip away. And a library of management books to die for.

    Poorly paid compared with football managers, Gregor’s near half million must represent an awful lot of added value. I can only assume having an impressive library is one of his key performance indicators.

    Like any organisation the people involved are merely transient. Whether players, managers, extensive coaching teams, or dare I say chief executives they are all “here gone tomorrow”. When there they are expected, nay demanded, to represent and reflect the values and aims of the organisation. It gives me no pleasure to say that the SRU is a body that does not respect values and lacks any morality. Not fit for purpose is the term you are looking for.

    For example the latest “bottlegate” has been coming a long time. But the SRU PR team will blame ‘society issues’ (eventually). The whole Murrayfield “experience” is just income generating tacky, in my view.

    Suggest Finn just sits out this 6 nations, and come back when a new head coach is in place next year.

    Gregor needs to be careful that those he shat on while on his way up might meet him again on his way down.

    Clearly Dodson’s boy! But at what price?

  32. The SRU pay a chief executive over £900000 per year to run its affairs;he should sort out this problem.
    Also the facts are that Scotland’s performances have declined since Townsend took over( with or without Russell) and the problem was exemplified by the disastrous World Cup .
    The idea is to win matches,or at least a decent number of them against quality opponents and as long as Scotland keep making basic errors the losing streak will continue.
    For example,how many line outs did we win against England and how many penalties did we give away?

  33. Its a sad situation the best 10 in the world frozen out the game.Towensend and co have a blue print of how to play rugby.They get these players with ability and flair and suck the life out them.Scottish rugby is not working super 6 is not working 12 players in each squad no game time.But thats ok we will sort it out next year.Results speak for there self.Thats us 2 weeks into the six nations.seniors. club. under 20. all beaten but its ok.I am sorry but these coaches and staff are not accountable.They should all be performance related rather than shuffling jackets.Townsend lineen and gemel are not fit for purpose.Its a new brush thats needed for a clean sweep.

  34. Ooft.

    The truth will out eventually.

    That Russell was asked to see a psychologist is bizarre. That he went is testament to his desire to solve the “issue”. And it ain’t psychological

  35. It’s a good article, but it only portrays one side of the story. We need a balanced view, there’s two sides to every story! It’s good that it’s out there and perhaps the next step is mediation between the two to try and resolve their issues.

    • Not correct the SRU published its “late night drinking” explination already thats their side…it was clear to everyone there was more to this in the the coach has become the story, something is seriously wrong here and the talent, both selected and unelected, is left to wither on the vine. The SRU is drinking the same Koolaid as Gregor, the WRC was a farce can we all just admit it….its not difficult GET A DECENT COACH!!…Telfer and Cotter the only two in the last 30 years. Who remembers the rogues gallery of Johnstone, William’s, Hadden, Robinson or have we just blocked them out because it was to painful, l know l have. If l hear the excuse ohhh nobody good enough wants to coach Scotland again l think l will scream. That excuse is an amplification of the lack of ambition and mediocrity that exists within the mechanism that hires and manages coaches.

    • Up until now we’ve only heard the other side. Now we hear the player’s side and it confirms the SRU is the main problem. Scotland improved in every department under Vern, one of the World’s best coaches who had the respect of the players and brought out the best in them. They got rid of him to bring in an inexperienced coach. Now the losing team seems to be selected more about your parents than your talent. We all know who is pulling the strings and the result is not working for the team.

    • Davie – the SRU put their side of the story 2 weeks ago – now we have the balanced view from Finn himself I for one will back the player and suggest that it’s the coach that needs to see the psychologist- on his way out ! In the same way that Finn is not bigger than the team- then neither is Gregor !

    • There’s 3 sides to every story. Townsend/players, Russell’s and the truth. Ok Russell is good, but he sounds like a twat in this interview. The rules were made without him because the camp started before he arrived. Whoopy doo. I don’t see why he couldn’t just respect them rather than phone Mummy and Daddy to come pick him up.

  36. So glad that this articulate article in the Sunday Times has been written a nd repeated here.

    Highlighting the issues that need fixed.

    It’s been clear for a while the issues is Schoolmaster Townsend.

  37. It seemed clear after the Twickenham match that the respect for Townsend’s abilities as a coach was gone for Russell and the World Cup warm up confirmed no lessons were learned. Might we have won in Dublin with Russell playing? Who knows, as it seems our problems are now with the breakdown, but Russell, on his day, is a far more potent threat than Hastings and we need him. We do not need Townsend.

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