Finn Russell to return for Scotland against France

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FILE PHOTO: Six Nations Championship - Scotland v Ireland

(Reuters) - Scotland’s first-choice flyhalf Finn Russell will be available for the re-arranged Six Nations clash against France next week after being ruled out against Italy this weekend, coach Gregor Townsend said.

Russell has been going through concussion protocols this week after going off against Ireland in Scotland's narrow 27-24 defeat at Murrayfield last Sunday.

Townsend said his recovery has gone well and he expected Russell to play a full part in the build-up to Scotland’s final Six Nations outing against France in Paris next Friday.

The game was postponed after a COVID-19 outbreak in the French camp but is now confirmed for the Stade de France on March 26.

Russell could have played against Italy on Saturday had the game not been first on the weekend’s Six Nations schedule, said Townsend.

Players who suffer concussion injuries follow a strict six-day protocol but it is less than six days between last Sunday’s 1500 GMT kickoff and this Saturday’s meeting with Italy, which starts at 1415.

“You can make it technically on a six-day turnaround if you are within the timescale. Finn has had no symptoms since Sunday evening and he has gone through all the various stages, which included training with us on Thursday. He will do contact on Friday and be available after Saturday,” the Scotland coach said.

Russell’s absence has led Townsend to experiment against Italy by moving captain Stuart Hogg to number 10. The British and Irish Lions fullback starts for first time at flyhalf for Scotland in what the coach said was a "good opportunity" to see what he could do in the position.

Hogg has acted as cover at flyhalf during games, including in the final quarter against Ireland last week.

"It gives us a better balance to the team," Townsend said. "We're keen to see him play there if he's going to be, at times, a reserve 10 in our squad.

"Fullback is his position but given his experience, leadership ability and all-round skill-set we do see him as being able to cover other positions and this is an opportunity for him to do that," the coach added.

(Writing by Mark Gleeson; Editing by Toby Davis)