Townsend questions Scotland outcast Russell’s commitment

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Gregor Townsend has questioned Finn Russell’s commitment to playing for his country after the outcast fly-half stated he has no relationship with the Scotland head coach.

Russell did not feature in the Six Nations defeats to Ireland and England after being disciplined for a “breach of team protocol” in camp before the loss in Dublin on the opening weekend.

The Racing 92 playmaker was reportedly involved in a dispute with team-mates over the amount of alcohol he had drunk in the team hotel.

Russell broke his silence in an interview with the Sunday Times, suggesting there would need to be “big changes” for him to resume his Scotland career as he took a swipe at Townsend’s style and man-management.

Townsend responded on Monday by saying Russell will have to be fully on board with standards that are expected in order to play at international level again.

He said in a lengthy statement released by Scottish Rugby: “We strive to create an environment for players to be at their absolute best when playing for Scotland. To do that players must be aligned to the high standards of being involved in team sport at an elite level.

“These standards are set out through feedback from players and staff and are driven by the player leadership group or the head coach at varying times during a campaign.

“We have players who come from around a dozen different clubs and it’s really important they commit to an agreed standard of behaviour, which builds trust and is at the bedrock of a high-performance environment.

“These standards don’t change for one player, even if that’s not what they experience in their club setting.”

He added: “Our team leaders made the decision there would be no drinking after our opening match of the Six Nations and they have been working closely with me on improving other aspects of our environment.”

Townsend, who said he has “loved” working with Russell, continued: “Finn left camp on the Sunday night because of a disagreement over alcohol with fellow players and chose to miss the following day’s (Monday) training and meetings. I arranged to meet with him that evening. It was a really positive meeting where we talked openly about life, rugby and what it means to play for Scotland.

“I left that meeting, after almost three hours, really optimistic that Finn would play a major part in our environment and be a committed team member. Unfortunately, things have not unfolded as well as we would have hoped.

“To play for Scotland takes total commitment. A lot of people make great sacrifices for the opportunity to represent 150 years of history and be among a special group of people who have had the honour of representing their nation.

“A lot of times, everything is not always how you’d like it to be. You might not agree with everything that is there, maybe because it’s a different coach than the one you have at club level or a different way of preparing or playing. What is important is that you commit to the what has been agreed and put the best interests of the team first.

“In the Six Nations and this season we are playing teams in the top five or six in the world and the effort, planning and standards that go into preparing people physically and mentally are really important, as are the bonds that bring people together and the trust that must be created within the group.

“The door will be open to any player with the required level of ability – if they commit to being a trusted member of the team. It’s been made clear that Finn could be a part of that future.

“However, he stated at the weekend that everything else has to change for him to come back, rather than accept and adhere to the standards currently being lived by the group.

“I hope this situation can be resolved but our focus is on working with the squad and building on the positive work that’s gone in from the players for our first two games.”