Finn Russell: Scotland fly-half’s relationship with head coach Gregor Townsend ‘better than it ever has been’
Scotland playmaker Finn Russell insists that he is a changed man and that there won’t be any repeat of the issues which have plagued his relationship with Gregor Townsend.
The fly-half is a genuine game-changer for the national team, but he has been in and out of the squad after often failing to see eye-to-eye with his head coach.
In 2020, he was axed ahead of the Six Nations for a breach of team protocol and was then surprisingly omitted for the 2022 Autumn Nations Series.
Following Adam Hastings’ injury, Russell returned to the squad and impressed in the games against New Zealand and Argentina.
Having also decided to take a more professional approach to rugby – driven by the news that he was going to become a father to Charlie – the 30-year-old will go into the upcoming tournament as Scotland’s first choice fly-half.
“Everything pretty much changed overnight after I found out (his partner) Emma was pregnant. Maybe I was waiting for something serious like a baby to come along and give me a reason to settle down. It gave me a reason to change. Not necessarily grow up, but take more responsibility. Some might not agree but I’m more responsible now,” he told the Mail on Sunday.
“Before Covid I was going out, having fun, making good money and spending a lot of money. If we’d had a big win I’d go wild. If we’d lost, I’d be picking up my spirits by having a laugh and forgetting about it.
“I used alcohol to deal with different scenarios, without really knowing it. I couldn’t go out for two years during Covid and I realised how much money I was saving.
“I didn’t really care before, because every month the money was coming in. I don’t look back and regret it because it was good fun and I was playing good rugby, but things are different now.
“When I was living on my own I was just playing PlayStation, ordering food and playing PlayStation again.
“I’d stay up playing PlayStation until 2am and then sleep until midday on my day off. PlayStation was just a way to block things out. I was tired all the time, I put on weight and things eventually catch up with you.”
Finn Russell kicked this penalty to help Racing 92 to a last-minute win over La Rochelle tonight. #R92SR pic.twitter.com/VePTAOwiur
— EK Rugby Analysis (@ek_rugby) January 28, 2023
That change in lifestyle has helped him to be more relaxed, both on and off the field, as well as improve his relationship with Townsend.
“The times when things blew up with Gregor were when I was frustrated by the rugby side of it. My relationship with Gregor is better than it ever has been; both of our lives have changed over the last few years,” he said.
“I would go out for a drink as a release because I never really switched off from rugby. Now you come back and wind Charlie, or whatever job you need to do to help out.
“Your mind’s not on rugby all the time. You’re looking for those reactions, a smile or a laugh, when you touch her hands or feet. It’s nice. The happier I am, the more I’m enjoying things off the field and the better I am on it.”
Now the wrong side of 30, Russell is potentially getting towards the end of his career, but the playmaker believes that he still has plenty of time remaining.
“I’d like to play for Scotland for as long as I can,” he added. “The World Cup is this year and the next one is Australia in 2027. I’ll be turning 35 then, who knows? Jimmy Gopperth (Leicester Tigers playmaker) is almost 40 and still playing.
“It’s not one more contract, and I’m done, but I’m trying to get things sorted off the field, in case I have to stop early. Fortunately, I’ve not had too many injuries so I’ll just keep going as long as I’m enjoying it.”
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