Scotland v New Zealand: Finn Russell called up by Gregor Townsend

Stand-off replaces the injured Adam Hastings, while hooker George Turner stays with squad

Finn Russell has been called into Scotland's Autumn Test Series training squad. Image: © Craig Watson - www.craigwatson.co.uk
Finn Russell has been called into Scotland's Autumn Test Series training squad. Image: © Craig Watson - www.craigwatson.co.uk

FINN RUSSELL has been called into Scotland’s Autumn Test Series training squad ahead of Sunday’s clash against New Zealand at Murrayfield as a replacement for Adam Hastings, who has returned to his club after suffering whiplash and a knee injury during last Saturday’s victory over Fiji.

63-times capped Russell was a shock omission from Gregor Townsend’s initial training squad for the series, with the head coach stating that the decision to select of Hasting, Blair Kinghorn and Ross Thompson ahead of the 30-year-old was based on form.

Townsend and Russell have a turbulent history and this felt like a spurious claim at the time. Since then, Russell has produced three outstanding performances for Racing 92 in the French Top 14.

Meanwhile, hooker George Turner, who was replaced during the first half of Saturday’s match with a shoulder injury, remains with the team as preparations continue for Sunday’s game against the All Blacks.


Scotland v Fiji: Scotland player ratings

About David Barnes 3180 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.

59 Comments

  1. I just think we all need to get behind GT and FR we all know that FR is one magical fly halves on his day but we cannot forget that BK is still yoing and would undoubtedly benefit from FR being in the squad FR is a world class fly half and having someone like FR around surely can only benefit our youger fly halves but we also need to realise that FR is only one player in a team of 15 if only the whole team could get it on from the first whistle allowing FR or BK or AH the space to work their magic we need to leave whatever disputes GT and FR have to the two of them to sort out as fans we need to be behind the team no matter which one goes out against the ABs on Sunday this game is going to be tough enough without all this in the background let’s just get on with supporting our national Team Scotland

    3
    1
  2. In addition,
    At international level nowdays, there is no win without a top goal kicker.
    France win v Australia one point, Foley missed a penalty
    England v Argentina one point
    Ireland v SA one point
    Finn is the best kicker in Scotland at the moment.

    • Agree, it helps to have a good kicker but no guarantees. So just for the fun of it.
      France missed two kicks, Australia missed two as well.
      Sexton missed a couple that he would expect to get.
      Even King Boff had a miss but it was from the touch line
      The best Scottish kicker is Ross Thompson.

  3. So Finn is back from the cold… what about Hutchinson ..: backs have not fired at all so far and meanwhile Hutchinson has been ‘finding ´ his form carving up the premierships. Would be great to have him back and as a key lieutenant in the squad playing or on the bench and of course he has another role .. guiding the career of Finn Smith .. hopefully up north

    11
  4. So has all this journalistic sweetie wife talk had any substance to it? Not heard Finn say anything. I guess people closer to the Scottish rugby family know.

    From the outside this just seems like invented disharmony. So what if he was excluded, he’s expecting a baby, he lives in France and it’s only Autumn internationals. Never seen anyone justify it beyond this.

    1
    13
    • Townsend said he had selected the three original fly halves on form. If you don’t see this as a untruthful deliberate and public snub to FR you are in a small minority based the BTL comments here and elsewhere.

      21
      1
      • Oh, definitely deliberate.

        I’m not seeing the bit where you can 100% verify that it wasn’t a mutual or Finn Russell decision.

        From a coaches point of view, he’s not going to trumpet the idea of a player being on ‘holiday’, it undermines the squad and the other 10s. A wee white lie about form blown out of proportion in all possibility.

      • Over the last few weeks, I reckon Townsends has been provocative in his media comments, while FR has been more grown up by keeping his counsel. I also think his willingness to come back (when he could have used the impending birth as a reason) shows his willingness to engage. We’ll never know for sure if Townsend would have reached out to FR without Hastings’s injury, but on balance I think not. So over the last few weeks who has been the bigger person?

        But actually, I should really move on. I don’t really care deeply who is in the wrong or who is in the right. I am delighted to see FR back in the fold and I really hope we can head toward the 6N and RWC with the two of them reaching an understanding that allows Scotland’s best team to be on the pitch (which I think includes FR).

  5. Townsend is weak and for some ridiculous reason believes that he is a rugby coaching visionary but reality is he has won one domestic rugby title and that was with a team he basically inherited.

    19
    3
  6. I am now going to the match ,like many others now, because Finn will be there to entertain us and hopefully inspire
    a great team performance and result

    10
    7
  7. Well we’ve got the ABs coming to town and we’ve got Finn back as well. The excitement builds. He needs to be in the 23 and we all need to get behind the team. The finger pointing can wait for just now but the team ain’t beating the ABs with the way we’ve been playing. Displine needs to be sorted and our ball carriers need to get over the gain line. If we get over the gain line, the back row comes into play followed by our 10, 12 and 13. You just want to be there the day we do it but Sunday’s looking like a stretch.

    11
  8. Boffelli’s goalkicking yesterday against England showed the value of a top class goalkicker.So,if for no other reason,Russell surely has to start ahead of Kinghorn on Sunday.

    18
  9. Can’t work out if Townsend the coach is impulsive, a micromanager, a genius or all of the above depending on the day.
    Much like Townsend the player.

    It would not surprise me one bit if there are more surprises to come.

    Not one bit……..

  10. It is Gregor Townsend whose future ought to be in most doubt. Russell has had his issues in the past, but for the coach to seriously talk of his exclusion from the squad as being form-based is ludicrous. Fourth- choice stand-off for Scotland ??!!??
    Townsend presided over a very poor Six Nations last time round. Beaten by Australia, followed by an unconvincing win over Fiji, should mean the focus is on the coach’s performance. This Scotland side consistently concedes far too many penalties and makes too many unforced errors. That is the coach’s responsibility.

    31
    5
    • I’m not defending Townsend in the slightest but are the players not responsible for anything. The coach can do very little about players giving away stupid penalties for dumb decisions – offsides, ruck offences etc. Players need to be more disciplined on the day. The same for the unforced errors – managing basic skills on the day is what players are selected to do. If some players are making too many errors and conceding penalties then an alternative player should be selected – now thats the coaches job.

      12
      1
  11. How about FR at 10 and BK at 15 for the All Blacks game? Best of both worlds and have the Topknot on the bench if required. Just a thought.

    22
    5
    • And with Hastings at 12 and Bennett at 13, the usual 2 suspects on the wings as that is hells bells all day long!

      Just wish Darge and McInally were fit!

      3
      2
  12. I wonder whether GT would prefer FR to play a blinder or whether he would prefer him to play poorly. Assuming of course he gets selected. And it shows how poor the situation is when you even think like this!!

    14
    1
  13. Thank goodness he’s back in, but I’m afraid Finn’s inclusion will have little bearing on the result against the AB’s.
    I watched in detail the Wales v AB’s match, and geezo the AB’s forwards were so aggressive and over the gain line almost every time, not one taking a step back and even as individual breakaway forwards there technique and leg drive to get over the gain line was impressive, and Wales were doggedly competing for everything.

    As you know, even playing in your local league, if your forwards are on the front foot, your fly half can then dictate, but if on the back foot, even a magician such as Finn Russell is limited in what he can influence, yes the occasional rabbit out of a hat, but not when going backward for most of the game or receiving slow ball?

    I watched him for his second half cameo at the weekend, Racing forwards on the front foot, a scrum half supplying super quick ball (Ali Price) take note, so Finn strolled around dictating play, easy peasy, armchair ride, I know it’s not that simple, but?…
    Unless our forwards from the get-go are on the front foot or at least parity for 80 mins, not just 20 or 30 mins, but 80 mins, then we are in for a long afternoon, and our backs could be living off scraps.
    I’m a realist, I played scrum-half, occasional fly-half for 20 years as an amateur and can vividly remember how easy it all was when my forwards had the ascendancy, but goodness it was no fun going backwards😞

    I wish I could see a nice wee seismic rugby upset, but I’m in the Tom English mould, a pragmatist & realist, that said it’s sport so I remain to eat my hat, come Sunday afternoon 🏉👍🙂

    30
  14. Great News and I hope he starts. He could really make the difference against the AB’s providing our forwards up their game a notch and we are better disciplined on the penalty front. Lets focus on the rugby and look forward to the game on Sunday with some positivity and park the conspiracy theories for now.

    5
    1
  15. It’s good of Russell to come back, given the rudeness and disregard Townsend has shown him of late. The thought of Kinghorn starting ahead of him is of course absurd given their respective talents and experience at ten. Yet that is exactly where we are headed, unless Townsend completes this latest 180s turns. Will no one rids us of this turbulent coach?!

    22
    3
    • The disregard Townsend has shown him, what about his total lack of respect he showed the Scottish coaches and public before the Ireland game. Great player but he has to look at himself and his behaviour.

      20
      30
      • Which didn’t seem to count against Hogg, Price, Sione, Darcy or Sam Johnson. All of whom also had the temerity to join in the insults toward the Scottish public by erm, drinking beer.

        39
        1
      • There were six players that went out the night of the Italy game and six days before the Ireland game if I remember correctly. There seems to have been some doubt about whether they were breaking rules. I’m not sure why Finn would take the rap and not the captain who was with him?

        26
      • spot on Iain

        we don’t know what was said after that incident. We actually don’t know. Just maybe the others said fair enough and moved on. We don’t know. Maybe one didn’t. We don’t know. But it not as if its Russell’s first brush with team discipline – that we do know; so if we want to speculate and have a conspiracy theory, lets start from there

        Oh, and I’m delighted he is back in the squad

        2
        7
  16. I believe most posters on here wish to see Russel in camp. No one can argue and contrary to GTs thinking, he is in the top 3 of Scottish fly half’s and should always have been in the mix, in a playing for a place, may the best 10 win kind of way.
    . If there is anyone out there wishing he declined the invitation then it is understandable, he should have been in from the start. As it is he will be under the microscope, if he fails to deliver, Townsend will be vindicated if he does deliver Townsend will claim he gave him the rocket up the backside he was needing.
    For Racing 92 Russel appears to be in great form , whether that’s because he has upped his game following GTs comments or just happens to have hit a recent rich vein of form we will never know. The fact is he must be feeling good in himself and think he can make a difference or he could easily have played the expectant father card. either that or he reads Peter Wrights comments and believes the door is almost closed for-world cup selection.

    3
    3
    • If it was closed for the WC he wouldn’t even be 4th choice, the Autumn tests are not that important compared to the 6 Nations and WC. This is an opportunity for both to try and rebuild bridges.

      6
      9
    • Maybe because Racing play the game that he thrives in rather than the “whatever the hell it is” that Scotland play.

      16
    • Can’t work out if Townsend the coach is impulsive, a micromanager, a genius or all of the above depending on the day.
      Much like Townsend the player.

      It would not surprise me one bit if there are more surprises to come.

      Not one bit……..

  17. The most interesting thing will be crowd numbers for Argentina, if Finn stays in the squad will it be sold out – thousands of seats remaining. There are even a few hundred seats for the ABs! Fiji saw the most empty seats at Murrayfield for a very long time. It’s not just his performance on the pitch its the tickets Finn sells. And money talks at the SRU – after all that has happened in England probably quite rightly.

    9
    2
  18. It can get worse. GT can bench him and start BK which will just show how the selection makes no sense. Lets see what GT decides but FR has to start if selection on form and a proven kicker needs to be on the pitch. If he is on the bench and comes on when the game has to be chased the lets see who will face the anger of Scottish supporters.

    16
    1
  19. Russell has the ability to play and win using heads up rugby. He doesnt need to stick to a game plan and if he did, his own talents are diluted. to put it bluntly its a night mare for a high ego head coach like GT. He knows how tough it is to manage a player like that because that’s who he was as a player and rather than work with FR and allow him to play his game, he has alienated, vilified and butted heads with him.

    Finn Russell is now in the squad because form has gotten better? nah. More game time? nah. GT wants a more creative game against the ABs? NAH. He is back in the squad because well, theres no one else to play. Scotlands player pool is very small indeed and short of GT looking out the boots himself, his hands were tied.

    there will be stuff going on in the background, conversations we aren’t hearing. But its teacher v pupil id imagine. Man management fail is what i can see.

    FR for 10 v Abs – 20 points and unlocking the all black defence. that santa is all i want for christmas

    14
    1
  20. Presume Russell has already accepted. Hope he brings some of his recent Racing form with him, though he probably won’t be playing behind such a dominant pack now.
    Glass half full view, results have not been as much of a national disaster/disgrace as many would have us believe. Most of the sides, including Scotland, on their day can beat each other. A narrow series loss with a depleted team in Argentina to a side that then beat NZ in New Zealand, destroyed Australia and beat England away. A one point loss to Australia who took France to the wire and an unspectacular win against Fiji – we did what was necessary, cut out the penalties and tightened up to squeeze them out of the game and secure a comfortable win. We do seem to constantly expect and judge performance against perfection – a bar that nobody seems capable of achieving.

    7
    1
    • Difficult to disagree with any of that but somehow we seem off the pace, perhaps your last sentence says it all.

  21. All we need now is Finn’s partner to go into labour on Saturday morning….!
    But yes excellent news,we need our best 23 out for Sunday so i hope everyone is happy now and grets behind the players with the conspiracy theories being given a rest for the next few days.

  22. Is it definite he is coming, if he is, will he start or come off the bench. Or will the imminent birth of Finn or Finette Jr keep him in Paris. Interesting times almost distracts from the game does it not.

  23. i bet Townsend will say words to the effect of ” we are very happy with how he has reacted to being left out the squad, his form has got a lot better..etc”

    Finn Russell, last year one of the best 10s in the world, this year 4th choice medical replacement.

    if i was Finn, id be sat in Pairs drinking espresso and reading the paper. thanks but no thanks Gregor.

    27
    1
    • There have seemed to be a lot of Scotland fans fantasising about Russell turning Townsend down for a recall to the squad. It’s a bit weird.

      5
      7
      • Not sure fantasising is the right word to be honest with you, might be reading your SRU issued interpretation of the English language. The idea of a senior player leading from the front and challenging management is not just needed but pro active that’s why many like myself deem it to be necessary.

        i will applaud you some what on the use of the word fantasy as that describes well the attitude our country seems to have towards rugby at the moment, less the fans more those in power. so you were half right, or as townsend would say “dominated your comment for the majority of the game”.

        10
        3
      • I think it’s more that such a stance could one way or another force the blazers to act over fans’ dissatisfaction over Townsend’s constant tinkering dithering and (apparent) poor man management. If FR comes back and plays a blinder and we get gubbed by less than the leek munchers Townsend will somehow portray it as a personal vindication and the cycle of a new team and new excuse every game will continue.

        13
        1
      • My opinion for what it is worth is it isn’t weird to think that some people would say to Townsend ‘Foxtrot’ if you consider GT’s comments ‘FR has to up his game’ when French Media certainly don’t see it that way. Just about to become a Dad, nobody would criticise him under the circumstances of the past weeks.
        The fact that Russell has got the confidence to accept the challenge of the AB’s and the integrity to ignore and seemingly rise above the disparaging comments says more about him than anything else.
        As an aside and a thought: I wonder if there was background pressure on Townsend reading between the lines of Steve Tandy in the article [25.10] with door open comments, just a thought.

        13
        1
    • What’s pleasing is that Finn hasn’t given Toony (and more importantly) his country, 2 fingers and as answered the call. Suggests to me Fin is still keen to become a Scotland legend. Perhaps they are both maturing towards being able to work together despite their issues. I wonder if Toony made the call himself or delegated the task:)

      17
      1

Comments are closed.