Scotland assistant coach Dan McFarland would have preferred that star stand-off Finn Russell had chosen to stay at Glasgow rather than leave but concedes that the 25-year-old’s decision to head for pastures new at the end of the season was an example of “the market place”.
Glasgow Warriors confirmed on Sunday night that Russell would depart when his contract runs out in May after accepting a “lucrative” offer from an unstated club, which is rumoured to be French giants Racing 92.
“To be honest I don’t really want to go there, that’s not my remit other than to say I’d much rather see him play in Glasgow, I think we all would. It is what it is and the statements are out,” said forwards coach McFarland at Scotland’s Oriam training base yesterday as the squad began preparing for this Saturday’s final autumn Test against Australia.
Russell produced another excellent display in the rousing performance against world champions New Zealand at the weekend, kicking seven points and orchestrating a fine home attacking showing in the honourable 22-17 defeat.
Current Scotland skipper John Barclay is returning from Scarlets to Edinburgh next season and it is the SRU’s aim to have as many international players in-house as possible so they can be managed and monitored within the Scottish system and appropriately rested for the benefit of the national team.
Russell’s club coach Dave Rennie recently warned that English and French clubs would want their “pound of flesh” if the player was to leave, but the 31-times capped stand-off clearly feels it is the right time in his career to move on.
“I don’t want to go into Finn’s case in particular, but it’s definitely better for Scotland to have Scottish players playing in Scotland. Definitely, that’s on the record. It’s not a complicated issue,” continued McFarland.
“In Scotland we have a good record of managing players and making sure that their long-term welfare is looked after so they can represent their country and their clubs. That has been done well. If they are not under your control you can’t do that.
“It’s the market place, isn’t it? The thing for Scotland and the players is that they are looked after in Scotland. There’s a recognition of that. Longevity of your career and being at your best for key games are things players take into account when making decisions.”
Saracens wing Sean Maitland and Glasgow hooker Fraser Brown, who has made a speedy recovery from a knee injury, have joined the squad but McFarland gave a reasonably optimistic medical report yesterday in the wake of a full-on Test match against the All Blacks.
Hamish Watson (back), Luke Hamilton and Darryl Marfo (both ankle) are being treated by the Scotland medical staff.
“We’ve got two guys in concussion protocols [Zander Fagerson and Alex Dunbar]. They’ll work their way through it this week,” added McFarland. “The rest of the guys as it stands at the moment nobody is ruled out. They’re all in treatment and we’re hoping they’ll all be available to play.”
The doubts over Fagerson and Marfo simply adds to the litany of problems in front-row, although McFarland is not keen on using the word “problem”.
“It is a challenge, but it’s also an opportunity,” he said. “We still have to prepare for Australia. They have a good scrum and a front row that’s been together for a long time. They are just off the back of playing New Zealand, South Africa and Australia in the Rugby Championship, so they have had some top-level scrummaging.
“They’ll be ready for us and we will have a good challenge. The lads are looking forward to that. You can’t buy that experience, going against top packs and front rows.