Finn Russell walked out on Scotland a year ago but he’ll be staying in camp for all seven weeks of the 2021 Guinness Six Nations because of French Covid-19 protocols.
The Racing 92 stand-off didn’t play in the championship last year after a dispute saw him leave Scotland headquarters at Oriam just a few hours after arriving a week before the first game against Ireland.
Those issues were patched up in discussions with head coach Gregor Townsend over the course of the first Covid-19 lockdown. The stand-off was back in the fold for the Autumn Nations Cup before injury against Wales curtailed his involvement.
This time French government requirements mean Russell won’t be able to return to Paris despite Scotland’s more open camp for the Six Nations.
‘It looks like he will be here for the whole period’
“At this moment it looks like it will be staying with us, and he’s staying this weekend,” said Townsend at the “remote” championship launch online yesterday.
“Given the restrictions there are on travelling between the UK and France, more of them from the French side and a quarantine regulations he would have to go through, it looks like he will be staying with us.
“That may change as the Covid situation changes all the time, but as things stand it looks like he will be here for the whole period.”
Scotland have golf simulators, an endless supply of coffee and cake as well as a flotilla of food trucks on call to help with “bubble fatigue”. But it will be a more open camp for the Guinness Six Nations than that in the autumn.
Two Covid-19 tests a week, stipulated under new championship rules, allows for movement between Oriam and the outside world.
‘We need to be in the best place possible’
The physical and mental well-being of the squad is paramount, said captain Stuart Hogg, who with Jonny Gray will return to Exeter this weekend.
“We need to be in the best place possible so we are in a good place mentally to perform on the training field and in games,” said the skipper.
“There’s a lot of different ideas that we’ve got around camp. We’ve revamped our team room, we have golf simulators, we have coffee and cakes coming in, and lots of different food trucks. We’re always looking for feedback from the guys.
“Obviously it is a challenge to be away from family for long periods of time. But we realise we are in a privileged position to continue to do what we love doing. We’re going to make the most of it and hopefully lift the nation.”
Well-being ‘a huge priority’
Head coach Gregor Townsend said that well-being was “a huge priority during the autumn and even more so now”.
“We are well aware that players find it tough during this period anyway with all that is going on in society,” he added.
“We are hopeful they will come forward if they are struggling and there will be solutions to help them through this period.”
Increased testing meant there was no strict bubble this time, but the risk of the virus coming into camp would be minimised as much as possible.
“Players will have the freedom to go home if that’s what they want to do,” he said. “Or if they want to stay around a supportive environment we have here then they can.
“There will be solutions if anyone is struggling.”