IT did not take Finn Russell long to mark his return to the international fray in typically cavalier style.

Within minutes of taking the field midway through the second half of Friday night’s Autumn Series opener at Murrayfield, the flamboyant stand-off was hurling out a series of flat miss-one and miss-two passes which floated tantalisingly beyond the reach of grasping Georgian fingertips to open up space for Scotland’s players in the wide channels.

A lot has happened during the year since his last appearance for Scotland – that World Cup ending defeat to Japan in Yokohama – but one thing hasn’t changed: the stand-off has lost none of his swagger and self-belief.

“I said to them at half time that we can get them out wide,” reflected Russell. “I think when I came on, the game was slightly more open and it was good to get the two quick passes and use the width, because that was what was on, and it worked out.”

When asked about the massive grin which stretched across his face throughout his 25 minutes on the park, he said: “That is the way I play. I’m always smiling, always enjoy being out there. Even if it wasn’t my 50th cap, or my first game back after the World Cup, you’d see the same smile.”

This game was a cause of double celebration for Russell fans, marking the occasion of his reaching a half century in international appearances as well as being his first (we hope) in a new era of mutual trust and respect between the player and head coach Gregor Townsend.

Lessons have clearly been learned on both sides since that very public falling-out in January. For his part, the coach has been keen in recent weeks to press the point that an individual of Russell’s imagination, bravery and ability has to be afforded the freedom to back himself, while the player was clearly keen to get the point across after Scotland’s comprehensive 48-7 win that he understands he is part of a wider team effort.

“I came in [this week] and just took a step back,” said the 28-year-old. “I didn’t want to come in and say ‘let’s do this or do that’. Hasto [Adam Hastings] was starting so I had a chat with him about what I was thinking going into the game or things he could potentially look for, but it wasn’t me that was driving the game so I didn’t say too much or get too involved.

“I just chatted with the subs about what we might do and how the game-plan might change [later in the match]. I was more focused on making sure the subs were ready. I left the other stuff to the guys who were starting.

“I’m not going out there to say ‘it is me against Hasto’.It is a team game and I’m going to support him as much if he’s starting, or at 12, or on the bench, whatever it is. I’m going to help him as much as possible, no matter what, as I would do for anyone in the team.

“Personally, I wasn’t trying to show anything or do too much. I just went out there and played my game. It is not for me to decide who plays 10 or 12 or who is in the 23. I just went out there and had some fun, that’s why you saw me smiling.”

In the event, Hastings shuffled to outside centre to take over from James Lang, who had a dead leg, when Russell came on, meaning that both of Scotland’s principle playmakers were accommodated in the team during that final 25 minutes, when the team ran in four tries against a tiring Georgian defence. It is a combination which Russell clearly feels could be revisited.

“Usually I would slide into 12 and he would be at 10, but it was good,” he said. “I like playing with Hasto and I feel having two 10s on the field could be a very good attack; it changes the pictures a lot for the opposition. It was good for me knowing if I give him the ball, he’s got great passing, he can kick and he is another threat out there, another 10, so it was good fun having him there.”

Now the focus turns to Saturday, and Scotland’s long-awaited final Six Nations match against Wales at the Parc y Scarlets in Llanelli.

With Russell in exile, Hastings was set to start this game when it was initially scheduled in March, and Townsend will have to weigh up this week whether to stick with the player who did a good job in difficult circumstances during the first four rounds of the Six Nations, or whether to treat the game as a fresh start and pick one of the most dangerous creators in world rugby at the moment.

If Russell does get the nod, then he is in no doubt that he will be ready for the challenge – but stresses that he will be equally focused if he continues as a bench option.

“It will be a different challenge again,” acknowledged Russell. “The forwards will have to front up, obviously, and our defence will need to be slightly different and better.

“We had a few short kicks tonight that didn’t come off – if Chris Harris catches that one [from Hastings in the first half], he scores under the posts. Wales will pose different threats in defence but different opportunities for us to score against. I have played against them a few times and they are a tough defence to break down. So, I will get stuck into that on Monday.”