Finn Russell reveals depth of rift with Gregor Townsend and won't return to Scotland unless changes made

Scotland stand-off Finn Russell has spoken publicly for the first time about the breakdown of his relationship with national head coach Gregor Townsend.

Finn Russell, right, has spoken publicly for the first time about his rift with Scotland boss Gregor Townsend. Picture: SRU/SNS
Finn Russell, right, has spoken publicly for the first time about his rift with Scotland boss Gregor Townsend. Picture: SRU/SNS

The Racing 92 playmaker has not been involved in the first two Six Nations games, the second of which was a 13-6 loss to England at a rain and windswept Murrayfield yesterday, after what was alleged as a drinking session two weeks before the opening 19-12 defeat by Ireland in Dublin on the opening weekend. He left the team hotel that Sunday evening and didn't show for training the next day. On returning to the camp on the Monday evening he was told by Townsend he wouldn't be considered for that match and was told the same again the day after the loss in Ireland.

“Eight years I’ve had him as a coach, and I don’t really know him at all,” Russell told the Sunday Times. The stand-off played under Townsend at Glasgow Warriors before his big-money move to Paris-based French giants Racing 92 in the summer of 2018. Townsend took over as Scotland coach in June 2017. “We’ve not got a personal relationship," added Russell.

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“[With the coaches at Racing 92] it’s a much more personal relationship. It’s like it was with Scotland under Vern [Cotter, the Kiwi who Townsend replaced as Scotland boss].

"When we’re training and playing, they’re my coaches, but with that we can have a good, honest chat and blether away like you would with family and friends. They treat you like an adult. After a game, they understand it’s your time to do what you need to.

"If you start coming in late for training or going out during the week, that’s when it’s a problem. 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 want the best for Scotland and so I’ve questioned the environment to try and make it better. We [him and Townsend] 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.

“People might not think it’s the right thing to do, but for me I believe it is. I believe we need change, it needs to move in a different route. We’re tracking along a road and it’s not been working for us, and it’s especially not been working for me."