SIX weeks on from Finn Russell walking out of the Scotland camp prior to the side's opening game of this Six Nations, there has finally been some positive news about the exiled fly-half’s relationship with head coach Gregor Townsend.

Last weekend, Townsend revealed he had taken part in ‘positive’ conversations with the Racing 92 man, and that Russell was due to take part in a conference call with Scotland’s coaching team in order to pass on his insider knowledge about French rugby and the players he has played with and against during his year-and-a-half plying his trade with Racing.

However, when assistant coach Danny Wilson revealed that Monday’s call had not happened, there were concerns the relationship between Russell and Townsend was not healing quite as seamlessly as some had hoped.

However, scrum coach Pieter de Villiers has now confirmed the planned call with Russell has happened, albeit a few days late, and the 27-year-old’s contribution this week will, hopes de Villiers and his fellow coaches, give Scotland an edge as they take on France at Murrayfield on Sunday.

“Finn is at Racing working with some of the players who play for France and some of the coaches who are involved with France so he is obviously invaluable for us in terms of information,” said de Villiers.

“It’s so we can get a bit of info to do our prep as best as possible.”

There has also been contact with Johnnie Beattie, who played in France for eight years before his retirement in January and de Villiers revealed the coaches have been picking their brains about potential gameplans for this weekend’s clash.

“We talked bits and bobs of strategy and tactics in French rugby that we will hopefully use. That is the first time I've spoken to (Finn) and we spoke rugby - about technique and strategy.”

De Villiers himself is likely to have some useful information to impart about the French side, who are going for the grand slam. The South African-born prop played for France for eight years, as well as playing his club rugby with Stade Francais for fourteen years.

The 47-year-old may have retired as a player in 2008 but having played alongside current French national coach, Fabien Gaulthie, as well as team manager Raphael Ibanez, de Villiers is familiar with the style of rugby the French have been playing this Six Nations and so is confident he knows what to expect from the visitiors on Sunday.

“I have a little bit of an insight into how the French play," he said.

"With the French you need to do well up front at the set-piece and in terms of the physicality, and once you get that done you're in the game. But if you don't do well there then it's going to be a long day at the office. That's especially the case against this French team who have taken to those traditional values.

“Fabien is an all-round coach and he's particularly good at attack, but after the World Cup (where they reached the quarter-finals) there's been a greater stress on defence and physicality.

“They've certainly changed their approach a bit to become a bit less predictable and give less turnovers. So we'll have to front up to that, but Scotland have also proved to be very physical and to have a good set-piece so I think it will be a very good battle.”

De Villiers, who worked with the South African national team for six years, only joined the Scotland set-up at the start of this year’s Six Nations build-up but already he has had a significant impact on the quality of the squad’s scrummaging. Dramatic improvements are already obvious and de Villiers admits even he has been somewhat surprised as to how quickly the front row players have been able to take on board his advice.

“This is probably the group that has responded the quickest ever,” he said.

“Knowing the players now, it isn’t a surprise because I see how much they work on and off the field and how disciplined they are in terms of putting in the effort.

“So it was a matter of a few changes here and there, a few suggestions. A bit of endurance work in certain areas helped, but I thought the base was very solid and that's why they reacted quickly.

“It's been fantastic working with this group. The players I've walked in on are top end players whose work on and off the field is excellent, whose work ethic is outstanding. I think that's the reason why we progressed so quickly, because the base was very solid. It's been a real privilege to work with these guys.”

And de Villiers, whose contract with Scotland ends in a few weeks but is keen to secure an extension, gave a particular mention to Rory Sutherland, who was something of a surprise pick in Townsend’s squad for this tournament but has performed outstandingly so far.

“Rory is very driven,” the scrum coach said.

“I could see a guy who was very happy to be back in the set-up. There's a lot of pride there and a lot of honour for him to play for Scotland. I also think it's important that he's a hard worker, keeps his head down and gets stuck in.

“That's worked well for him because he's obviously got natural attributes, but working hard at this part of the game is really important and Rory has done that, so hats off to him.

“He's done well to keep his place because it's hard to get there but even tougher to stay there. I know he'll put the effort in.”