FINN RUSSELL believes that his relationship with Gregor Townsend can be stronger in the long-run following his very public spat with the national team head coach, and hopes that he may yet still play a role in Scotland’s Six Nations campaign by being part of the squad for the postponed match against Wales, whenever that happens.
In a conference call interview with former Scotland second-row turned media pundit Jim Hamilton for The Lockdown, a new series being run by the RugbyPass website, the exiled Scotland stand-off said he had no regrets about the interview he gave The Sunday Times at the height of the fall-out in which he made some fairly scathing observations of Townsend – but made it clear that there is willingness on both sides to move on in order to find an amicable resolution.
“I think there will be a lot of discussions and catchups to fix it, which will be good,” said the stand-off. “In the long-run it will be good for us as well, not just in the short-term to try and just fix things and patch it over. I think going forward for myself, Gregor and the team, it will be good that we can actually have a better relationship with each other and we can actually properly work forward.
Asked if it was up to him to ‘hold his hands up’ or whether it needed to be a mutual process, Russell replied: “I think it’s got to be both. The way it has all come out is what it is, but I think me and Gregor actually now have a better understanding of each other having called each other during the Six Nations, and I think now he has a better understanding of where I’m coming from.”
While Russell did not return to camp during the Six Nations, he did play a role in helping plot Scotland’s shock defeat of Grand Slam chasing France, which was an important part of the healing process.
“I spoke to him [Townsend] before the France game and tried to help him out,” he explained. “With me being over here a year and half, and how I felt they were going to play, I tried to help them out like that, and I kept in touch with a few of the boys the whole time.
“In the fallow week before the France game I called Gregor and said that I didn’t know if I was going to get called back in or not, but I think for everyone it is best that we just leave it for now and start again after the Six Nations and move forward from there.
“I’d been back here – back and forward – and there had been a lot of talking and I think it was better just for me to just make a decision to stop it before the last two games and let the boys go ahead and focus on the game without any of the journalists chatting about it again. And then I said to Gregor that we can start working on this again after the Six Nations.
“It was good, it was fine. I think just now with nothing on I will give him a call at some point, have a chat and try to move things on.
“Also, the summer tour, I don’t know if that will go ahead now,” he continued. “Because we were speaking about that: fixing things before the summer tour, which would be good, obviously, but I don’t know if that will go ahead now or not. Still, for me, I want to fix things, and we’ll work it out in a few months I think.”
Opinion has been divided on the wisdom of Russell giving an explosive interview to The Sunday Times midway through the Six Nations, but the player clearly feels that he had no choice but respond to some of the speculation which was being peddled at the time.
“The way it was all coming out … I kept quiet and didn’t want to put anything out there. Then I felt after a time that I had to say my side, how I was feeling. I was getting kind of frustrated – not annoyed but frustrated – seeing everything that was coming out about me in the media. Everything you get nowadays on social media and everything else. And I was like: ‘this isn’t actually what the story is, I need to say my side and what is happening here.’
“It was me sticking up for myself saying, saying: ‘that’s just one side of the story and this is my side of the story’. I suppose there is always two sides to a story, so I had to say mine and I don’t regret it at all. It was just something I had to do in the context of it all.”
It has been stated by some media outlets that Russell has alienated himself from some of his team-mates, but the player indicated that his relationship with team captain Stuart Hogg will withstand any friction caused by this fall-out, and is clearly hopeful that everyone involved will be able to let bygones be bygones.
“I have a good relationship with Hoggy as well,” he said. “It was fine. Before the article came out I spoke to him and Ali [Price]. I said that there is an article coming out tomorrow which is my side of the way things are going. So, I gave them a heads-up before it.
“It is different me being outside looking into it, but it is fine. It will be alright.”
With Scotland’s summer tour to South Africa and New Zealand now looking doubtful, it seems increasingly likely that the postponed final Six Nations game against Wales [in the Autumn] will be the pivotal moment when we discover if Russell has a Scotland future whilst Townsend is head coach.
“I don’t know, it will be interesting to see how the next few months go,” said Russell. “Who knows if I will play a part in the Six Nations this year? You never know!
“There is a few months left until the end of the season and I think the plan is for me and Gregor to try and catch-up a couple of times, if not in person then over the phone or on FaceTime, to try and move things forward for the summer tour. We spoke a lot about the summer tour going forward and how we can work on things for then, and how we can both come back together for the summer tour if not before.”