Finn Russell: Gregor Townsend urges team focus after fly-half leaves Scotland squad

By Andy BurkeBBC Scotland in Spain
'Nothing is more important than playing for your national team'
Six Nations: Ireland v Scotland
Venue: Aviva Stadium Date: Saturday, 1 February Kick-off: 16:45 GMT
Coverage: Listen on BBC Radio & follow live text on the BBC Sport website & app

Gregor Townsend says no player will be allowed to drop below the standards set by Scotland and has urged the squad to "move on" from Finn Russell's absence.

Russell, 27, left the squad last week after being informed by Townsend he would not be considered for Saturday's Six Nations opener against Ireland.

The fly-half breached "team protocol" during a drinking session.

"Every individual has to align himself to what's to the benefit of the team," Townsend told BBC Scotland.

"If their actions are against that there will be consequences. Nothing is more important in sport than playing for your national team, even more than club level. To be with the team, to promote that team culture of togetherness, of high standards and responsibility for what you have when you're wearing that thistle.

"Every player is reminded of that every time when they come into camp. Every player works hard to be given that opportunity to play for Scotland and that will always be the case."

The head coach confirmed Russell left the Scotland camp "of his own accord" last Sunday evening and missed training on Monday before returning for a conversation with Townsend on Monday evening.

The Racing 92 fly-half informed him on Tuesday he wished to return to his club and played in their victory over Castres on Saturday.

With many wondering if Russell and Townsend can work together again, the head coach was unable to confirm if the fly-half will play any part of this Six Nations or indeed appear for Scotland in the foreseeable future.

"Let's see what happens over the next few weeks," said the former Glasgow Warriors coach.

"I had a very good meeting with him. I've coached Finn for six or seven years now so we know each other very well but the most important thing is the team. The team is what counts.

"He went back to France and that's where we are. We've moved on now. We're obviously in Spain and the team moves towards it's goal of playing to its potential against Ireland next week."

Hastings 'ready' for Ireland opportunity

Adam Hastings is likely to be the man to fill Russell's number 10 jersey against Ireland and Townsend has "huge confidence" his young fly-half is the man for the occasion.

"His performance against Exeter is one of the best performances from a Scottish 10 I've seen in the last couple of seasons," Townsend added.

"He learned his way through that game, how to take on a very aggressive defence, one of the best teams in Europe, and make the right decisions and execute well.

"He's ready for this opportunity."

'We haven't had complete performance in two years'

Scotland hooker Fraser Brown says the players have put the "shock" of Russell's abrupt exit behind them but would be happy to welcome the 27-year-old back into the squad.

"It wasn't an ideal start to the camp," Brown said. "But the way it was handled, and the way it was spoken about in the squad, made it quite easy to refocus after the initial shock of what happened on the Sunday.

"Everyone is welcome in our squad. We want to play the best rugby we can with the best players on the pitch. The door is open to everyone."

After a fifth-place finish in last year's Six Nations was followed by failure to progress from their World Cup group, Brown believes Scotland have not "put together anywhere near an 80-minute performance in the last two years".

"It's so different to when you are back at your club, there is so more much pressure [with Scotland]," he added. "There is more information which you need to get in a short period of time.

"If we can defend well for 80 minutes, we know we'll be in games. We haven't done that over the last two years consistently enough. We can't afford to have 10-15 minutes where we take our foot off the pedal and let teams run away with it."

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