Townsend has 'no doubt' over his team
REACTION: Finn Russell's place in the Scotland Six Nations team was "never in doubt".
This was the reaction of coach Gregor Townsend, after announcing an unchanged starting side for this weekend's Calcutta Cup clash with England at Murrayfield.
Russell, a playmaking flyhalf, was below his best during Scotland's eventual 32-26 win at home to France last time out in the Six Nations.
And with Scotland chasing the game, he was taken off by Townsend in the 65th minute against the French.
Experienced scrumhalf Greig Laidlaw moved across to fly-half and guided the team to victory in a match where he kicked 22 points, with Ali Price, Russell's house-mate, coming off the bench to take over at scrum-half.
That led to speculation about Russell's place but Townsend, himself a creative stand-off in his Scotland playing career, said there was never any question of the 25-year-old Russell being dropped when the Scots take on Six Nations champions England.
"There was no doubt he would start," Townsend said of Russell, set to join Paris club Racing 92 at the end of the season. "He played well a lot in the France game.
"He did have a couple of kicking errors, and that happens, but a lot of the positive play we had in both halves, Finn was a part of that.
"He's our attack leader, he's an outstanding flyhalf and very competitive and determined to work on the areas he needs to work on.
"He's going to be a key player for us this weekend."
Townsend added: "People are very keen to look at one error and say he's not playing well.
"A lot of parts of his game are working in well and he's put in a lot of effort to make sure he's playing well this weekend."
Victory in Edinburgh would be a massive boost to Scotland, who last beat England a decade ago and have suffered eight straight defeats by their cross-border rivals in rugby union's oldest international fixture, including a 2011 World Cup reverse, since a 15-15 draw at Murrayfield in 2010.
England, however, have lost just once in two years since Eddie Jones took over as coach after their humiliating first-round exit at the 2015 World Cup and Townsend was well aware Scotland would have to raise their game on Saturday against a Red Rose side who've already beaten Italy and Wales in the opening two rounds of this Six Nations.
"We will have to play better," Townsend said. "We know England are a bigger challenge than France currently.
"They're in great form and we won't find as many opportunities, but we have to keep looking for them.
"We have to defend better and put even more effort into the whole game, especially the second half."