Finn Russell: Booze row and training no-show led to stand-off being axed for Ireland game

Scotland’s Six Nations campaign has been thrown into crisis eight days before a ball is kicked with the news that star stand-off Finn Russell has left the squad and will play no part in the opening match in Ireland a week on Saturday.

Finn Russell was disciplined by Scottish Rugby. Picture: SNS
Finn Russell was disciplined by Scottish Rugby. Picture: SNS

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It has been alleged that the 27-year-old Racing 92 playmaker was challenged over alcohol consumption after checking into the Scotland camp hotel at the Oriam training base in Edinburgh on Sunday. It is suggested he then left and did not show up for training on Monday morning.

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At a meeting with national head coach Gregor Townsend on Monday evening, Russell was informed that he would not be considered for the Ireland match, which would have been the former Glasgow man’s 50th appearance for his country.

An apparent invitation to remain and help his team-mates with their preparations was declined and it is believed Russell has returned to Paris.

The Scotsman received no response from Russell’s representatives when they were contacted about the matter.

The Scottish Rugby Union released a brief statement through its official Twitter feed on Thursday afternoon, in which a Scotland team spokesperson said: “Stand-off Finn Russell will play no further part in preparations for Scotland’s Six Nations opener against Ireland, having been disciplined for a breach of team protocol during the week’s camp in Edinburgh. He has returned to his club.”

Russell’s talent, widely regarded to be at a world-class level, was cultivated by Townsend at Scotstoun and he was part of the team which won Glasgow a historic Pro12 title in 2015.

He left the Warriors at the end of the 2017-18 season in a big-money move to Racing 92 and has flourished in his new environment, but there have been bumps recently.

After the epic 38-38 Calcutta Cup-retaining draw at Twickenham last March, Russell said after the game that he had challenged Townsend’s tactics at half-time as Scotland achieved a miracle comeback from 31-7 down.

In May 2017, Russell’s father Keith was sacked from his role as director of domestic rugby at the SRU, and the following summer won an unfair dismissal claim against the union, in which the judge’s ruling was scathing of chief executive Mark Dodson.

It is understood that the door is open for Russell to return and play a part in a tournament Scotland badly need to do well in following a disappointing 2019 which, that Calcutta Cup epic apart, was marked by a poor Six Nations and a humbling early World Cup exit in Japan.

It remains to be seen if Russell has any future with Scotland while Townsend remains in charge.

As that daunting first-up trip to Dublin, where Ireland have only lost once in the Six Nations in five years, looms large, Russell’s successor at Glasgow, Adam Hastings, is now favourite to wear the Scotland No 10 jersey at the Aviva Stadium.

Townsend will have to look for reinforcements to the 38-man squad he named last week as they prepare to head to Spain for a training camp ahead of the Ireland clash.

Glasgow’s Pete Horne, who has played most of his 45 caps at centre but can play stand-off, was an omission from the original squad, while 27-cap man Duncan Weir is playing regularly for Worcester in the English Premiership, having not represented his country since 2017.

Northampton centre Rory Hutchinson, 23, played a chunk of his Scotland Under-20 career in the position, while full-back and new skipper Hogg also has experience, including on his first British and Irish Lions tour in 2013..