Edinburgh, March 24 (AFP/APP): Finn Russell has returned from concussion to be included in Scotland’s side for Friday’s Six Nations trip to France.
Russell was ruled out of last weekend’s 52-10 rout of Italy and there were concerns the Racing 92 fly-half might not be released for a re-arranged match that falls outside the tournament’s scheduled window. “It is an important game for Finn as he plays in France and I’m sure he looks forward to it more than any other,” Scotland coach Gregor Townsend told reporters on Wednesday.
“I am sure he is itching to get back out there and play for Scotland and lead this team.” The match should have taken place last month but was postponed to this week — six days after the scheduled end of the Six Nations — because of a coronavirus outbreak in the French camp.
Scotland reached an agreement with the English Premiership over player release but were limited on overall numbers, with Saracens winger Sean Maitland missing out.
“Look, it’s much more satisfactory than I thought it was going to be on Saturday, when none of our (England-based) players were going to be available and we were putting together a team of home-based players plus Finn Russell,” said Townsend. “I’m glad we got a resolution. It is a complex situation.”
“In the past when Six Nations games have been postponed they have been played months and months later or the following season like last year and 2001 with foot and mouth (livestock disease). In a (British and Irish) Lions year it is good that we get to play now and not wait until September or October. Everyone in our squad was very keen this game took place this weekend.”
Scotland captain Stuart Hogg, who plays his club rugby for English and European champions Exeter Chiefs, has been retained but moves to his familiar full-back position after covering for Russell. Les Bleus have a chance to win the title after denying Wales a Grand Slam last week, but Scotland could finish second — which would be their highest finish in the Six Nations. If France score four tries or more and defeat Scotland by at least 21 points, they will be crowned outright champions.
It is 22 years since Scotland last beat France in Paris, with fly-half Townsend one of the stars in a 36-22 victory. Scotland, however, have already ended one away ‘hoodoo’ this year, beating England for their first win at Twickenham since 1983. That victory followed Scotland’s long wait for a win on Welsh soil during last year’s Autumn Nations Cup. Both of those fixtures, as will be the case at the Stade de France on Friday, were played behind closed doors because of Covid-19 restrictions.
“We hadn’t won in London for 38 years, hadn’t won in Wales for 18 years,” said Townsend. “So this is another number, another record that we’d like to take away. “And it’s a big opportunity with no crowds in the stadium. “I’d hope they (France) would know we’re a tough opponent for them.”
Scotland (15-1) Stuart Hogg (capt); Darcy Graham, Chris Harris, Sam Johnson, Duhan van der Merwe; Finn Russell, Ali Price; Matt Fagerson, Hamish Watson, Jamie Ritchie; Grant Gilchrist, Sam Skinner; Zander Fagerson, George Turner, Rory Sutherland
Replacements: David Cherry, Oli Kebble, Simon Berghan, Alex Craig, Nick Haining, Scott Steele, Adam Hastings, Huw Jones
Coach: Gregor Townsend (SCO)
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