FINN RUSSELL completed his transformation from Scotland squad pariah to once again being the national team’s golden boy yesterday with a masterclass performance during which he featured prominently in all eight of the tries his team scored against Argentina. He also kicked six conversions and was named man-of-the-match ahead of hat-trick hero Darcy Graham.

There was one blot on his copybook when he was blindsided by a hulking opponent and gifted the Pumas possession for the first of their four tries scored by Jeronimo de la Fuente, but that moment paled into insignificance compared to the huge impact he made with his pass selection, pass timing, kicking game and general decision making.

Head coach Gregor Townsend made the big call not to select Russell in his initial Autumn Test training squad but deserves credit for swallowing his pride to bring the maverick playmaker back into the fold midway through the campaign, before handing him the crucial No.10 jersey against both New Zealand last weekend and Argentina yesterday.

Last night Townsend praised Russell’s all-round performance against Argentina but stressed that Adam Hastings and Blair Kinghorn are still viable options at stand-off heading in to the Six Nations in the New Year.

“He was very good today,” acknowledged the coach. “There are parts of his game that maybe don’t get talked about a huge amount. He had three tackles in a row, so showed his competitiveness there.

“He was working out that the defence was rushing up on his outside and taking that space. He’s got a very good carrying game, a really good fend and off-load, and that created line-breaks. And the 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 and they led to good opportunities today. Stuart Hogg’s try was from a very good pass by Finn and later he hit Blair Kinghorn who created a

try for Darcy in the corner. So, all in all, it was a very good display.

“He’s now the man in possession and he’s played really well the last two weeks, so it will take something from Blair and Adam to change that. But there is competition in that position.”

Townsend also praised the performance of his back three, who scored five of the team’s eight tries, with Graham claiming his hat-trick while Duhan van der Merwe and Hogg dotted down once each.

“Stuart has been full of energy, he’s one of our best players, and when you look at the back three which played together the last three weeks, there is multiple threats there,” he said.

“We have a very, very strong runner who has had a couple of good moments in defence in Duhan, and a guy on the other side who is a nightmare to play against I would imagine and is scoring lots of tries, and then there is Stuart who is a creative player with a really good all-round game. He’s an excellent kicking game, can finish off tries as he showed today, and can also put other players away.

“That’s a really good mix in the back three, and today we got them the ball more and I thought the midfield did really well to get them involved.”

It was a pleasing way to end an Autumn campaign which started slowly, and Townsend believes he and the team can now look forward to 2023 – a World Cup year – with a justified sense of optimism.

“We’re a match for anyone and I think we’ve shown that,” he said. “World rugby is so competitive. The week after we lost to Australia by a point, they lose in Paris by a point, and they were leading for most of the game.

“Meanwhile, England lost to Argentina, Argentina lost to Wales the following week, and then Wales lost to Georgia. So, it is a moment for a team to come through. And for us, there is no better time to do that than next year with the Six Nations and a World Cup.

“You’re constantly learning and building, and one area we talked about was being in games right until the end. Today was slightly different in that we were well ahead but that is something we will have to work on, never thinking a game is won or lost because the teams are so competitive and coming back at you.”