The exiled Finn Russell has sharply criticised Scotland’s style of play and team environment under head coach Gregor Townsend, suggesting he will only represent his country again when he can see “big changes” have been made.
Russell played no part in Scotland’s first two Six Nations games, having been disciplined for a “breach of team protocol” in camp prior to the opening-round loss to Ireland.
Townsend suggested earlier this week he would reassess the influential fly-half’s potential involvement following Saturday’s Calcutta Cup clash with England at Murrayfield, which they went on to lose 13-6.
However, the prospect of Russell making a swift return to national team duties appear remote after the Racing 92 playmaker highlighted a number of grievances in an interview with the Sunday Times.
“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 to playing my best, it’s going to be very hard for me to do it,” said Russell.
“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. 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.”
— Scottish Rugby (@Scotlandteam) February 8, 2020
Discussing Townsend, who was also previously his club boss at Glasgow Warriors, Russell added: “Eight years I’ve had him as a coach, and I don’t really know him at all. We’ve not got a personal relationship.
“I want the best for Scotland and so I’ve questioned the environment to try and make it better. We 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.”
In a further dig at Townsend, Russell said: “A lot our game plan last year revolved around stats and kicking, and for me, that’s not rugby. Some of the meetings last year, it was like, ‘What are actually trying to do here?’
“It’s hard for the other boys to say anything. They’re contracted to the SRU [Scottish Rugby Union].”
Russell’s breach of team protocol reportedly related to a late-night drinking session at the team hotel, but the 27-year-old insists he only had “two beers with dinner” before ordering one more in a move that apparently infuriated some of his team-mates.
“The players at dinner were like, ‘No more drinking’,” Russell explained. “These are guys I know well, so I said, ‘What’s the problem, I’ve just played [for Racing], I just want a couple of beers’, and they said that’s what the leaders had agreed.
“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.
“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’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.”