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6N: Townsend would welcome back Russell only if team player

EDINBURGH. Scotland (AP) — Scotland coach Gregor Townsend would welcome back Finn Russell for the Six Nations on condition the estranged flyhalf shows he's a team player. Russell was disciplined for an alcohol-related breach of team protocol on Jan. 19 at their hotel. Instead of staying with the team to help Scotland prepare for its opening match against Ireland in Dublin this Saturday, Russell left last week. He played for his Racing 92 club in France over the weekend.

Russell's experience and stature made him the first-choice 10, and Townsend said on Monday, “The door is open for any player. "He is unavailable not because of injury, he is not available because of what went on, and there has got to be a link to where he would be in terms of, is he with the team? Is he able to live up to the standards expected of a team player and a Scotland team player?

"But the focus is so much on us preparing for Ireland that these are questions for a later time." Townsend held a "positive" meeting with Russell the next night, last Monday, but the pair has not been in contact since Thursday, when Russell left the Scotland camp.

Townsend said, after the Monday meeting, he believed they were “in a really good place” and Russell would return. "It didn't happen and we have moved on. Because we have to prepare for Ireland, that is our focus, and we will see after the Ireland game what happens."

On the incident, Townsend said: "Finn was drinking and a couple of players said to him, ‘Stop drinking.’ When I saw him around quarter to 12, he decided to leave and his parents picked him up and he left after a five-minute conversation with me, and we didn't see him until the following evening."

Hooker Fraser Brown described the mood in camp as excellent. “As a group of players, we have certainly not performed well on the pitch over the last couple of years, so all we wanted to do was have a set of standards where we all pull in the same direction,” Brown said. "The idea is everyone in this squad buys into that. It was unfortunate what happened on Sunday, but we just want a group of guys that are all here pulling in the same direction and wanting to achieve on and off the pitch together."

While Russell's absence has caused many to further write off Scotland's chances of upsetting Ireland, Brown supported backup flyhalf Adam Hastings and defended Scottish hopes. “You can't get away from the fact Finn is a quality rugby player, but Adam ... has been fantastic at Glasgow,” Brown said.

"Playing with him week in, week out, I have been lucky enough to see the development in his game and not just in the last month, but from last season. He is playing so well. We have still got plenty of quality operators in our squad and the focus for us from last week up to this Saturday is how we put the best team on the park and how we can produce our best rugby.”

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