One beer.

That was all he wanted – a third beer on a Sunday night when Finn Russell had been playing and travelling that day, unlike almost all the rest of the squad.

Scotland’s Six Nations chances depended on us having every available player in top form, but instead we lost the man who is arguably our best player. All over a third beer.

You couldn’t make it up.

The narrative about alcohol put about by ‘sources’ seemed to indicate that Russell had gone on a bender. Suddenly we know the row was all about a third beer on a day when the guy had played a hard game – has everyone in the Scotland squad management forgotten what it’s like to play and get a few beers afterwards?

Prior to that fallout, the dogs on the streets knew that Finn Russell and Gregor Townsend did not get on. We were supposed to believe that they had reached some sort of working arrangement, that all was fine in the Scotland camp.

Aye, right.


The third beer was just the catalyst for what has been coming for months, a split between head coach and chief playmaker that was always going to end in tears. Read on and I’ll tell you why.

The Finn Russell saga has cast a huge cloud over the tournament for Scotland’s squad and fans. They can deny it all they want, but when your chief playmaker is exiled, and even though Adam Hastings has done well, such monumental rows as this one affect players.

The fans just find it all so sad, because they have been deprived of watching a brilliant player who, on his day, is the catalyst for so much that is good in Townsend’s squad. Put it this way, I think we would have beaten both Ireland and England if he had been playing.

Let me make it very clear. After reading what both men have to say, especially Townsend’s remarks to my old colleague Tom English on the BBC website yesterday, there is as much chance of them building bridges as there is of Boris Johnson getting his fanciful, delusional Union Bridge between Scotland and Northern Ireland.


And like BoJo’s nonsense, there is too much lying too deep, creating obstacles to a bridge. In the Union Bridge’s case it’s the 1,000ft depth of Beaufort’s Dyke and all the munitions, radioactive waste and chemical weapons dumped in it, and between Townsend and Russell the seemingly unbridgeable chasm has its roots in something quite appalling – the utterly disgraceful treatment of Finn’s father Keith by the Scottish Rugby Union.

I have it on very good authority that the advice that Finn should seek counselling was because the stand-off has indeed been deeply affected by what the SRU did to his father in sacking him. Who wouldn’t be?

Remember that employment tribunal judge Joseph D’Inverno said that Keith’s summary dismissal from the headship of domestic rugby in May, 2017, was “both procedurally and substantively unfair."

The evidence was particularly damning about chief executive Mark Dodson, which is probably why board member Lesley Thomson QC’s full review of the matter is still under wraps.

Finn Russell has to operate for Scotland knowing what the blazers at Murrayfield did to his father – and they are all still there. I wonder why he even bothers to turn up.

In relation to the breakdown in the ‘relationship’ between Russell and Townsend, as I view it there’s serious faults on both sides.

Russell should have abided by the team rules even though they were decided in his absence. He should have made his criticisms of Townsend known in private, not in the press. He should apologise profusely to the rest of the squad because believe me, I know he is off the Christmas card list for most of them for being too arrogant in this issue.


As for Townsend, he should have managed the situation much better, and Stuart Hogg as captain should have become involved, though personally I think the captaincy has been a terrible appointment for the player himself as he is clearly struggling with the responsibility.

Very pertinent are the words said to Tom English by Townsend: “Players have freedom to play within a structure.”

Well that’s a lulu. Most Scottish fans are struggling to see what this ‘structure’ is, and it has certainly not been successful. Has everyone forgotten Scotland’s failure at the World Cup?

The next match against Italy is utterly crucial for Townsend. If we do not beat them then we will be dependent on beating either France at Murrayfield to avoid the wooden spoon. His ‘structure’ better work in Rome and in the rest of the tournament or questions will be asked about his continuing in the job.

In the meantime, he and Russell need to sort out their relationship. Can I suggest they agree on a mediator with sporting management experience then meet somewhere quietly and talk things out over a beer. Or even three?