Finn Russell says 'big changes' are needed before he plays for Scotland again

By Sports Desk February 09, 2020

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."

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."

Related items

  • Rugby Australia reports provisional deficit of 9.4 million AUD for 2019 Rugby Australia reports provisional deficit of 9.4 million AUD for 2019

    Rugby Australia (RA) reported a provisional deficit of 9.4 million Australian dollars in 2019 after holding its annual general meeting on Monday.

    The meeting was held via video conference and RA was unable to provide full financial accounts due to uncertainty because of the coronavirus pandemic.

    RA said it operated at a loss in 2019, as it expected, in a Rugby World Cup year and due to fewer domestic Test matches.

    Increased expenditure in community rugby, high performance and marketing and corporate, including the Israel Folau settlement, led to its deficit.

    RA chief executive Raelene Castle last year labelled reports the governing body paid Folau eight million AUD after his sacking as "wildly inaccurate".

    "These are unprecedented and extremely uncertain times for our world, not only our sport with the global pandemic of COVID-19," RA chairman Paul McLean said in a statement.

    "To put it simply, there is no way of knowing what damage this crisis will have on our game, or for how long it will continue to impact us.

    "It has forced us to make some extremely difficult decisions, and there will be even harder decisions to come as we continue to navigate the implications of the virus on the game's finances.

    "It was important for us today to review the year and reflect on our learnings from 2019, however the uncertainty that we are facing regarding our immediate future naturally led the discussion at the meeting."

  • Coronavirus: Ewels denies Bath player revolt over pay cuts Coronavirus: Ewels denies Bath player revolt over pay cuts

    Bath captain Charlie Ewels has slammed reports suggesting the club's players revolted after being asked to take a pay cut due to financial pressures caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

    Earlier this week, chief executive Tarquin McDonald announced Bath had asked players and staff to take a 25 per cent cut, with several other Premiership sides taking similar measures.

    Sunday's edition of The Rugby Paper suggested Bath players were planning to reject the request, something England lock Ewels rejected.

    "You might have seen the front page of The Rugby Paper today and if you did, given what we are all experiencing at this time, it would be fair if you felt a sense of disbelief or even disgrace at the headline which reads 'Bath stars revolt over pay cuts'," Ewels wrote in an open letter to Bath supporters.

    "As captain of our club, I can categorically say that these reports are not true, and as a playing group, we are not in revolt against our club. In fact, it's quite the opposite, we wish to work with the club through this extremely challenging time so we can get back to where we all want to be, playing rugby at the Rec again.  

    "Everyone at Bath Rugby is committed to working through this together, and the players within the squad that I am fortunate enough to serve as captain are no different. We play rugby for a living and we understand that if we are not playing games, then there is no money coming in. It is a difficult time for everyone at the club, however, we are all on this journey together.

    "We as players understand everything happening across the globe is having a huge impact, and that impact is reaching far beyond us. I can say that I 100 per cent support the principle of the pay cuts, as do the majority of players at the club, believing they are what is right to guide the club through this tough period.

    "Like players at all other clubs, we have been guided by the advice of our union the RPA during this hugely uncertain time. We are seeking answers to some specific questions regarding players on lower salaries and players coming to the end of their contracts.

    "However, we are discussing these questions openly and transparently with Stuart [Hooper, director of rugby] and Tarquin and I know we will find the right answers in due course. We will do what is right for the future of our people, our club and our game." 

  • Coronavirus: Foster agrees big pay cut, doubts All Blacks will play in July Coronavirus: Foster agrees big pay cut, doubts All Blacks will play in July

    New Zealand head coach Ian Foster has agreed to a "big" cut in his salary during the coronavirus pandemic.

    Foster confirmed he and his fellow coaches have already reached an agreement with New Zealand Rugby, while discussions with players are also at an advanced stage.

    "Our coaching group has definitely taken a big cut," Foster said to Newstalk ZB.

    "That's already been agreed to - with rugby when there's no games, there's no revenue, and that's a tough thing. There's been a lot of shaving of the programmes inside and what it's also come down to is cutting.

    "It's a different sort of process for players but I know they're willing to go into that space too.

    "Theirs is a more complex [situation] - but it's a given and they understand that. It's just a matter of working it through so all the different levels of players are dealt with fairly.

    "I haven't heard one player yet who doesn't accept that it's going to happen. There's a real willingness of those involved in the game to get behind this and do whatever it takes to make sure [the game] survives."

    Foster believes the three home Test matches scheduled for July, two against Wales and another against Scotland, are unlikely to go ahead.

    He wants the All Blacks players to maintain a base level of fitness, though conceded a "short period" would still be needed after the lockdown to up their levels to full match readiness.

    "If you look at the probability, there's a reasonably good chance that international travel and borders won't be down across the world at that point, so in that case the All Blacks won't be playing in July,” he added.

    "[If we keep players at peak fitness] they'll just blow out mentally and get really frustrated with that because there’s so much uncertainty.

    "We want the players to settle down then we'll start expecting fitness levels to be at a certain point that when the lockdown finishes and we do start to think about a starting point for rugby again."

© 2020 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.