Finn Russell has put his sensational recent form for Scotland down to finding renewed harmony with head coach Gregor Townsend.
The pair have had a strained relationship at times but the talismanic stand-off explained how a telephone chat in November, after he had been left out of the initial squad for the autumn internationals, has helped them get “on the same page”.
Russell has looked back to his brilliant best since returning to the dark blue jersey for the mid-November Test against New Zealand, with his latest magnificent display coming in Saturday’s Guinness Six Nations destruction of Wales.
“Before I came back in the autumn, Gregor called me on the Saturday or Sunday night,” the Racing 92 fly-half explained. “I said to him before I came back in that I’d like for me and him to chat through a few things, not in terms of the stuff outside rugby, more the rugby side of it.
“There were a few things I may not have been happy with, or he might not have been happy with.
“It wasn’t a case of clearing the air, it was more about us getting back on the same page and being open and honest with each other as to where he is at mentally with his game-plan and how he wants things to run, and me having my input and saying what I think as well.
“Me and Gregor are in a much better place now than where we were a year ago. We are on the same page and I’m allowed to express myself. Not that I wasn’t before but I think the way that me and Gregor are working together is really helping me.
“I think Gregor and I get on better than we ever have done before. It’s not just us chatting about rugby, him being the coach and me being the player. It’s more just us chatting away and getting to know each other. We are both on the same page now and have a good relationship.”
Russell admits he struggled with “fatigue” last season on the back of the 2021 British and Irish Lions tour but he feels that becoming a father in November, and the lifestyle changes that has involved, has also helped him get back on track.
“If I’m happy and playing good rugby I’ll enjoy myself off the field and vice-versa: if I’m happy and enjoying myself off the field, I’ll be playing good rugby,” he said. “Last year was a poor season for me.
“I was probably tired and fatigued and didn’t really change anything myself whereas this year, partly because of my partner being pregnant, I’ve had to change my lifestyle and everything around that, and my rugby’s probably changed as well.
“There have been a few big differences in the last 12 months for me and that’s probably helping me now.”
Russell claimed the man-of-the-match award in Saturday’s 35-7 win over Wales as he directly assisted three of the Scots’ five tries and also played a prominent part in another.
“it was really good, I played well,” he said. “I pretty much did my job as a 10, which is to make the other boys look good, to create these chances for them to finish off. It was the first game my daughter [Charley] was at. It was a special game for me because she was there for the first time, we got a great result and I played quite well.
“When I wasn’t involved (for the first two autumn Tests), I missed it and wanted to get back in there so I’ve loved being back in camp. We’re playing good rugby but there’s still a lot more to come so it’s exciting times.”