Gregor Townsend: Scotland head coach pleased to get five English-based players for Six Nations finale

Gregor Townsend has insisted Scotland secured a “satisfactory” deal to have five English-based players released for their Six Nations finale against France.

Scotland must do without Saracens wing Sean Maitland and a string of squad players for Friday’s game in Paris, which was rearranged due to an earlier coronavirus outbreak in the France squad.

The Scottish Rugby Union finally brokered a deal with English club bosses on Saturday night to allow the release of five players for a match that now sits outside the regular Test window.

Scotland will feel Maitland’s absence most keenly but Townsend was quick to insist the SRU had managed to claw the best result from a tricky situation.

  • Finn Russell returns as Scotland change four
  • Romain Ntamack starts for France

“It’s much more satisfactory than I thought it was going to be on Saturday, when none of our players were going to be available, and we were putting together a team of home-based players and Finn Russell,” said Townsend.

“I’m glad we did get a resolution that some of the players would be available – not all of them, but most of them.

“It’s a complex situation that the game was called off and put into a schedule where there are league games going on.

“In the past when Six Nations games were postponed they were played months and months later, or even in the following season.

“That’s what happened last year and in 2001 with foot and mouth.

“To get a situation where we’re playing the week after the end of the Six Nations, that’s something the public would want.

“And in a Lions year it’s good that we’re not waiting until September or October for this match.

“So while we’ve not got all our players, everyone in our squad and our public are very keen that this game goes ahead this weekend.

“Sean Maitland was really disappointed, as was Jamie Bhatti, and the players who maybe would have come into contention.

“But the focus is now fully on the 15 and the 23 that are playing this week and are ready for this massive challenge.”

Racing 92 fly-half Finn Russell returns after concussion to take on a host of his Paris club-mates, with captain Stuart Hogg stepping back to his regular full-back role.

Ali Price will start at nine, with Chris Harris into the centres and George Turner starting at hooker.

France are gunning for the Six Nations title having foiled Wales’ Grand Slam bid in Paris last weekend.

But Scotland could still seal their highest Six Nations finish of second, should they win by more than eight points.

“We feel we’re capable of going there and getting a result,” said Townsend.

“If we do deliver an 80-minute performance we’d be more than just competitive.

“We didn’t fire many shots against them in November but that game was right down to the wire.

“I’d hope they would know we’re a tough opponent for them.

“I think it’s an important game for Finn (Russell), given that he plays in France. I’m sure it’s a game he looks forward to more than any other in the year.

“I’m sure he’s just itching to get back out there and play for Scotland and lead this team, lead the team in attack, be really connected with those around him, and there will be opportunities that present themselves for a player like Finn.”

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