Gregor Townsend admits Finn Russell is now the man “in possession” of Scotland’s number 10 jersey going into the Six Nations after the fly-half produced a magnificent display in Saturday’s 52-29 victory over ill-disciplined Argentina.
The Racing 92 stand-off was controversially omitted from the initial squad named last month for the autumn series, with the head coach raising concerns about his “form and consistency” at club level as he instead placed his faith in Blair Kinghorn and Adam Hastings.
However, Russell, on the back of impressive form at club level and injury to Hastings, was handed a recall to the squad ahead of the third autumn Test against New Zealand last weekend.
After impressing against the All Blacks, the 30-year-old was the man at the heart of Scotland’s eight-try triumph over the Pumas as he firmly re-established himself as Scotland’s main option at number 10.
“Yes, he’s now the man in possession,” said Townsend. “Finn’s played really well the last two weeks and it will take something (special) from Blair and Adam to change that.”
Asked about Russell’s display, Townsend said: “He was very good. There are parts to his game that maybe don’t get talked about a huge amount.
“I said to him in the changing room he had three tackles in a row in the first half, so he showed his competitiveness there.
“He’s got a very good carrying game and his offloads created really good line-breaks.
“His little kick-through in the second half was the right thing to do and created a try for Cam Redpath. His passing skills are up there with the best in the world.
“Maybe we expect those great passes, but they led to some really good opportunities. It was a very good display.”
Townsend was pleased to see his team end their autumn series with a high-scoring win over the Pumas after an unconvincing victory over Fiji was sandwiched by agonising defeats at the hands of Australia and New Zealand in the previous Tests.
“We would have taken that before the match,” he said of the scoreline. “When they scored right before half-time we knew it was going to be a tricky second half, but I’m delighted with the way the players adapted to certain situations.
“What we did in attack and defence had a big effect on Argentina and I loved the energy in the last 10 minutes.”
Argentina head coach Michael Cheika felt his side, who had Marcos Kremer red-carded in the first half and then had three players sin-binned in the second, left themselves too stretched after the break.
“There were some key errors in the second half that took away opportunities to stay in the match,” he said. “At a certain point, you’ve just got to stay in it, stay as close as you can when you are down a man like that. I felt like we could win the game.
“We certainly had the effort to win the game, but I think we tried to solve some situations on our own, just lacked a bit of concentration at key moments and that cost us directly with tries.”