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Exiled Scotland fly-half Finn Russell says he “doesn’t have a personal relationship” with head coach Gregor Townsend and that “it’s not really possible” for him to be in the squad.
Russell, who has missed both of Scotland’s Six Nations defeats this month, told the Sunday Times that the approach from coaches “hasn’t been working” for him or the team.
The 27-year-old was not considered for the opener against Ireland after a breach of team protocol following an incident at the team hotel.
And Townsend said he spoke to Russell on Sunday last week to inform him he would not be selected for the Calcutta Cup meeting with England, which Scotland lost 13-6.
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“Eight years I’ve had him [Townsend] as a coach, and I don’t really know him at all,” said Racing 92 player Russell, who also worked with the Scotland head coach while at Glasgow.
“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.”
Speaking after the defeat by England on Saturday – but before Russell’s interview was published – Townsend replied “yes” when asked if Russell could feature against Italy in Rome on February 22.
He offered the same response to a follow-up question on whether he would attempt to speak to the playmaker with a view to bringing him back into the squad.
‘It’s not really possible for me to be involved’
The events which led to Russell’s departure from the camp in the week before the tournament reportedly involved a dispute around the amount of alcohol the fly-half consumed at the team hotel.
He then missed training the next day, which ultimately led to him being told by Townsend he would not be considered for selection against Ireland – a game Scotland lost 19-12.
Russell contends that the team’s leadership group had agreed a limit of two beers after a game – a decision he had not been part of due to his late arrival in camp having played for Racing.
And he says he was frustrated when fellow members of the squad objected to him ordering a third beer after having two with his dinner.
It had been reported that he left camp rather than assisting with the team’s preparations for the Ireland Test, but Russell maintains he was given the choice by Townsend whether he wanted to return to play for Racing in Paris.
“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,” Russell said.
“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.
“I need to do what makes me happy and makes me play my best rugby. People can see the scenario as they want. But I need to do this for myself.”