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Gregor Townsend welcomes Finn Russell's Glasgow return

Published 22/09/2016

Finn Russell returns to the Glasgow Warriors line-up against Ulster on Friday night
Finn Russell returns to the Glasgow Warriors line-up against Ulster on Friday night

Gregor Townsend insists Finn Russell is ready to cope with rugby's rough and tumble as he prepares to make his Glasgow return.

The Scotland stand-off has not featured for Warriors since suffering a severe head injury in last season's Guinness PRO12 semi-final defeat at Connacht in May.

Russell - who turns 24 on Friday - spent four days in an Irish hospital following a sickening collision with team-mate Zander Fagerson and even after returning to Glasgow struggled to shake off the effects of the injury.

But he turned out for former club Ayr last week against Hawick and after emerging unscathed Russell has now been given the go-ahead to resume playing duties with Townsend's team when they host Ulster on Friday night.

The Scotstoun head coach said: "We're delighted to have Finn back. It's a testament to the work of our medics, going right back to the incident which caused the injury, that he is able to return to the team.

"It's also testament to Finn's dedication and confidence that he is now available again. He has really relished being involved in the contact side of things the last couple of weeks.

"He got a real test last week down at Hawick. He had to make some tackles and carry the ball, while his match fitness was tested but he came through it really well.

"Confidence is such a huge thing when you've been through the kind of injury Finn suffered. You want to know you are in the best possible care and going through the right processes to get you back in a really brilliant position.

"So we have made sure Finn has had all the time to make that full recovery - but you have also got to drive it yourself.

"Finn was always a player who loved the contact side of the game. He's a very good tackling 10 and loves to carry ball too - he's not shied away from that.

"Even before he was supposed to be getting involved in contact at training he was getting stuck in. We'd make him wear a pink bib in training so he would stand out but we'd often see that pink bib getting a bit too close to the opposition.

"He's full of confidence but it's a big game for him to come back in to. Ulster will present a huge test but we believe he is more than ready for it."

But while Russell is ready to resume action, utility back Peter Horne is facing a six-week lay-off after injuring his hand in last week's defeat to Cardiff Blues.

Townsend said: "Peter again showed his toughness and bravery last week. I think he thought he'd just dislocated his finger and carried on.

"He has played the last four games and was due a rest but it's just disappointing the rest is going to take a number of weeks."

As well as recalling Russell, Townsend has made another five changes - including giving academy graduate Lewis Wynne his first start at open-side flanker.

Namibian international back-rower Tjiuee Uanivi will also make his first start after a couple of substitute appearances, while Greg Paterson comes in at lock.

Italian international wing Leonardo Sarto returns to the side along with the Scotland centre pairing of Mark Bennett and Alex Dunbar.

Russell will be partnered by scrum-half Henry Pyrgos in the half-backs for the sold-out Scotstoun clash.

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