Scotland squad: Finn Russell returns, while three uncapped in 40-man panel
By Michael Cantillon
Last Updated: 12/10/20 6:14pm
Finn Russell has been recalled to the Scotland squad for the first time since the 2019 Rugby World Cup, after a period in exile.
Racing 92 fly-half Russell, who was banished from the squad before the 2020 Six Nations due to disagreements with head coach Gregor Townsend, has been named in the former Glasgow Warriors' coach's latest squad of 40 players ahead of the international Tests to come.
There are also call-ups for three uncapped players as Glasgow Warriors prop Oli Kebble, Edinburgh wing Duhan van der Merwe - both South African born - and Harlequins scrum-half Scott Steele are included.
Scotland face Georgia on October 23 before travelling to play Wales in their final Six Nations Test on Saturday, October 31. They will then face Italy away, followed by France and Fiji at Murrayfield between November 14 and November 28, in addition to one final playoff fixture on December 5.
Within the squad, there are five of the 23 forwards selected who were not part of Scotland's 2020 Six Nations campaign earlier this year.
In addition to the uncapped Kebble, Glasgow second row Richie Gray is recalled, having last played for Scotland in March 2018, as is club team-mate and flanker Rob Harley, who last featured for his country in February 2019.
London Irish flanker Blair Cowan also earns a surprise recall, with the 34-year-old having last played for Scotland over four years ago in February 2016. Scarlets back-row Blade Thompson also earns a recall having last played at the 2019 World Cup.
In the backs, Harlequins centre James Lang returns, having last played for Scotland in June 2018, as do Glasgow centre Nick Grigg and Edinburgh wing Damien Hoyland - making returns since March 2019 and June 2017 respectively.
"We are very much looking forward to coming back together as a coaching and playing group after such an unprecedented and challenging period in our sport and across society in general," head coach Townsend said.
"There was a strong feeling that we were growing as a team during the Six Nations earlier this year, making progress from game-to-game as well as building closer bonds within the squad. Our aim is to keep this momentum going as we take on Georgia and Wales before competing in the Autumn Nations Cup in November.
"The squad we have selected is formed by the majority of the players we worked with in the Six Nations alongside players who have grabbed their opportunity in the past few weeks and have been in form for their respective teams.
"Given the lack of games since March, there will be opportunities for players outside the squad to break into our group over the next few weeks, but for now the focus is on this group that will be in camp from tomorrow. It will be great to see some familiar faces, welcome a few back into our squad and also introduce some new players to Test match rugby."
Saracens centre Duncan Taylor, Northampton centre Rory Hutchinson and Sale wing Byron McGuigan were all unavailable for selection due to injury.
Forwards (23): Simon Berghan, Jamie Bhatti, Fraser Brown, Blair Cowan, Scott Cummings, Cornell du Preez, Matt Fagerson, Zander Fagerson, Grant Gilchrist, Jonny Gray, Richie Gray, Rob Harley, Nick Haining, Oli Kebble, Stuart McInally, Willem Nel, Jamie Ritchie, Sam Skinner, Rory Sutherland, Blade Thomson, Ben Toolis, George Turner, Hamish Watson.
Backs (17): Darcy Graham, Nick Grigg, Chris Harris, Adam Hastings, Stuart Hogg (Captain), George Horne, Damien Hoyland, Sam Johnson, Huw Jones, Blair Kinghorn, James Lang, Sean Maitland, Ali Price, Finn Russell, Scott Steele, Duhan van der Merwe, Duncan Weir.