Townsend glad Scots will have England-based stars for France match

·3-min read
Optimistic - Scotland coach Gregor Townsend expects to field a full-strength team for the rearranged Six Nations fixture against France

Scotland coach Gregor Townsend is looking forward to having his full-strength squad available for next week's Six Nations match against France after talks with English clubs over player release reached a "positive outcome".

The third-round match should have been played last month but was postponed because of a coronavirus outbreak in the French camp.

As Friday's new re-arranged date falls outside the tournament's scheduled window, clubs are no longer obliged to release players as would have been the case under World Rugby regulations had the match gone ahead as planned.

That left Scotland contemplating travelling to Paris without skipper Stuart Hogg, lock Jonny Gray and Sam Skinner, all of whom play for English and European champions Exeter.

But a statement issued by tournament organisers on Saturday said: "Six Nations Rugby are pleased to confirm that an agreement has been reached with Premiership Rugby for the release of Scottish players for the final rescheduled fixture of the 2021 Guinness Six Nations Championship, France v Scotland."

It also thanked Premiership club owners for their "understanding and cooperation in these exceptional Covid-affected circumstances."

The statement was issued several hours after Scotland thrashed Italy 52-10 at Murrayfield in their penultimate match of this Six Nations.

Townsend, speaking before the statement was published, said: "I've just been told the negotiations are coming to an end and it's going to be a positive outcome which is great to hear."

- 'Compromises' -

He too thanked all those involved for creating a situation where "we can have the strongest squad we can have going to Paris for a really important game for us and the tournament".

Former Scotland fly-half Townsend added: "I'm sure there were compromises and some financial contributions as well. It's great we can have our players ready for this massive game next week."

A Premiership spokesman said Friday they were considering an exception to their longstanding policy of not releasing players for non-England matches outside agreed windows provided they received "reasonable reimbursement".

Scotland fly-half Finn Russell should be available as well, with his Paris-based club Racing 92 set to release him after the Top 14 and the French Rugby Federation agreed that the hosts would have access to all their players.

Russell missed the win over Italy with concussion but is expected to be fit for Friday's match in Paris.

He is set to rejoin a Scotland squad who will travel to France having run in eight tries in what was their biggest Championship win.

Scotland hooker Dave Cherry scored two tries on his first Test star, with wing Duhan van der Merwe also crossing twice.

"We had a lot of fun," said Hogg, deputising at fly-half in place of Russell. "We got ourselves into good positions. Maybe at times just lacked that clinical edge, but we had a lot of fun.

"I think I am satisfied - I was just saying we can get better."

France are in action later Saturday, when they will try to deny Wales a Grand Slam at the Stade de France.