Scotland fly-half Finn Russell has thrown his Six Nations into major doubt after being sent home from the team’s training camp.
The playmaker will return to Racing 92 immediately after breaching team protocol while on Scotland duty in Edinburgh this week.
It is understood Russell allegedly refused to stop drinking alcohol in the team hotel when asked to by a member of team staff on Sunday night, and then subsequently didn’t turn up to a training session on Monday morning.
The decision to send him back to his club is a devastating blow to Gregor Townsend’s hopes of restoring some pride in Scotland following their pool-stage exit in last year’s World Cup in Japan.
A Scotland spokesperson confirmed Russell will not be involved in the team’s Six Nations opener against Ireland.
“Stand-off Finn Russell will play no further part in preparations for Scotland’s Six Nations opener against Ireland, having been disciplined for a breach of team protocol during the week’s camp in Edinburgh,” the spokesperson said.
“He has returned to his club.”
Russell has been in peak form for Racing 92 in the Champions Cup, helping the Parisians reach the quarter-finals of the competition by topping a pool which included European heavyweights Saracens and Munster.
The disciplinary action taken against him by Townsend comes when the Scotland head coach is under the highest degree of pressure in his three-year tenure.
Surviving a review into the team’s performance in Japan, which saw them lose to Ireland and the hosts, the turnover among Townsend’s staff has seen Matt Taylor depart to join Dave Rennie at Australia.
While Steve Tandy has been named as Taylor’s replacement, Pieter de Villiers has also joined the Scotland set-up as scrum coach.
A winter of change has also seen Townsend elect to pick a new captain in full-back Stuart Hogg.
The Exeter Chief succeeds hooker Stuart McInally in the senior role and revealed at the launch event of the 2020 Six Nations that he had approached Townsend about the position.
“I came back after the World Cup and had a conversation with Gregor,” Hogg told BBC 5 Live.
“I asked about his thoughts on leadership going forward and said I’d like to be captain; I’d like to have the opportunity to lead this team and take us forward.
“I want to make a difference. The captains that have been before me have done terrific jobs but I want to put my mark on it.”
It remains to be seen whether Russell will be available for Scotland’s second match of the Six Nations, when they welcome England to Murrayfield with the Calcutta Cup to retain.
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