PREVIEW: Russell in Six Nations exile as Top 14 returns
TOP 14, WEEK 15: Finn Russell’s Racing 92 host champions Toulouse as France’s Top 14 returns this weekend, with the flyhalf continuing his Six Nations exile due to a fall-out with Scotland’s head coach Gregor Townsend.
Russell, 27, has missed losses to England and Ireland after originally breaching team protocol and is unlikely to feature again for his national team.
“This whole situation with Scotland has been made out to be about me wanting to have a drink, when in actual fact, it’s about control, respect and trust, on and off the pitch,” Russell told UK newspaper the Sunday Times.
“I’m not turning my back on my country or the boys, this is a personal thing between me and Gregor. I want to be with them. But just now it’s not really possible for me to be involved.”
Townsend responded by saying the door for Russell’s return to the international set-up remains open.
“I’ve coached him for a lot of years. If he comes back and is willing to agree to what we are living by then, of course, he can play a part in the future,” Townsend told the BBC on Tuesday.
Since the fall-out, Russell has played a full match in Racing’s 27-0 victory over Castres on January 25, has been pictured on holiday in Dubai and has returned to club training in the French capital.
The Parisians sit fourth in the table and welcome a rejuvenated Toulouse side on Sunday, but both clubs will be without a host of in-form France internationals.
Abrasive second row Bernard Le Roux, impressive scrum-half Antoine Dupont and influential flyhalf Romain Ntamack are among internationals unavailable on a rest weekend of the Six Nations.
The trio have been instrumental as les Bleus have moved into first with victories over England and Italy.
Top of table ‘cracker’
Elsewhere, leaders Lyon head to second-placed Bordeaux-Begles on Saturday in what the visitors’former ew Zealand centre Charlie Ngatai described as a ‘cracker’ of a match.
“We don’t have too many internationals away, they don’t either so it will be a cracker of a game,” he told AFP on Wednesday.
“To really give it a good crack in Bordeaux-Begles will let us see where the team stands.
“It’s a good chance to really give it to them especially after coming off a two-week break where everybody’s fresh and ready to go,” he added.
In midfield, Fiji outside backs Josua Tuisova of Lyon and Semi Radradra are set to face each other at sold-out 33 000 Stade Chaban-Delmas.
“It will be a massive contest for two of the most dangerous in the world players going at each other. It will be a spectacle in itself,” the one-time All Black said.
Bordeaux-Begles v Lyon
Montpellier v Bayonne
Pau v Clermont
Toulon v Brive
Stade Francais v La Rochelle
Agen v Castres
Racing 92 v Toulouse