Finn Russell will not play for Scotland in this Guinness Six Nations but discussions have begun which could see him return to play for this country in the summer tour to South Africa and New Zealand.
Russell and head coach Gregor Townsend spoke by telephone multiple times last week and agreed a resolution was needed to the impasse between the pair that has seen the stand-off absent from the national team camp since before the opening game against Ireland.
It’s understood both agreed that Russell should not return to the camp during this Six Nations, but further meetings would take place to work out any remaining disputes with a view to the stand-off joining up for the summer tour, which involves two tests against the world champions and Scotland’s first test match in New Zealand for 20 years.
It’s also believed that Russell will be involved in a Scotland coaches’ meeting by conference call this week to give his insights into the French team and key players ahead of the game against them next Sunday at BT Murrayfield.
Russell, who played and scored a try for his club Racing 92 in their 49-0 rout against La Rochelle on Saturday, now has three weeks off as the French Top 14 goes into a break for the rest of the Six Nations.
But it’s understood it was a mutual decision between the player and Townsend that he should not return to the national team camp, partly due to remaining issues that need to to be clarified and because the coaching team see the final two games of the championship against France and Wales as a pair, as they are separated by just six days.
The understanding is that once the championship is over Townsend and Russell will meet face-to-face for further detailed discussions, but the three or four phone calls the pair shared last week – including two on the Sunday after the game in Italy – have been described as “positive”.
Russell has also been in contact with senior players in the squad who have been kept informed of the process.
Scotland are unlikely to call on Russell even if his replacement for the first three games, Adam Hastings, was to suffer serious injury over the next week or so. The present back ups Rory Hutchinson and Duncan Weir will fill any gap required having been involved in sessions since the squad gathered late in January.
Russell left camp only a day after they gathered due to a dispute over squad protocols which meant he would be suspended from the opening game of the championship against Ireland.
An interview with Russell in a Sunday newspaper after the second game of the championship against England when the player claimed he had “no relationship” with Townsend fuelled the dispute further.
Russell went public because he felt the national coach and the SRU had misrepresented the dispute and that the governing body’s statements implied he had a drink problem.
There has been one personnel change to the Scotland squad for the final two games, with Edinburgh lock Lewis Carmichael joining up and Cornell du Preez being sent back to his club Worcester.
Forwards – Simon Berghan (Edinburgh), Jamie Bhatti (Edinburgh), Magnus Bradbury (Edinburgh), Fraser Brown (Glasgow Warriors), Lewis Carmichael (Edinburgh), Luke Crosbie (Edinburgh), Scott Cummings (Glasgow Warriors), Allan Dell (London Irish)
Matt Fagerson (Glasgow Warriors), Zander Fagerson (Glasgow Warriors), Grant Gilchrist (Edinburgh), Tom Gordon (Glasgow Warriors), Nick Haining (Edinburgh), Stuart McInally (Edinburgh), Willem Nel (Edinburgh), Jamie Ritchie (Edinburgh), Sam Skinner (Exeter Chiefs), Rory Sutherland (Edinburgh), Ben Toolis (Edinburgh), George Turner (Glasgow Warriors), Hamish Watson (Edinburgh).
Backs – Chris Harris (Gloucester), Adam Hastings (Glasgow Warriors), Stuart Hogg (Exeter Chiefs, capt), George Horne (Glasgow Warriors), Rory Hutchinson (Northampton Saints), Sam Johnson (Glasgow Warriors), Huw Jones (Glasgow Warriors), Blair Kinghorn (Edinburgh), Sean Maitland (Saracens), Byron McGuigan (Sale Sharks), Ali Price (Glasgow Warriors), Henry Pyrgos (Edinburgh), Matt Scott (Edinburgh), Kyle Steyn (Glasgow Warriors), Ratu Tagive (Glasgow Warriors), Duncan Weir (Worcester Warriors).