Finn Russell back in Scotland squad for end of Six Nations

London (AFP) –

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Finn Russell's Scotland exile is set to end after he was included by coach Gregor Townsend in a 40-man squad announced Monday for the conclusion of the 2020 Six Nations and the Autumn Nations Cup.

The gifted playmaker, 28, missed the first four matches of the coronavirus-interrupted Six Nations earlier this year after he fell out with Townsend but their relationship has now improved.

The Racing 92 fly-half, who last played for Scotland at the 2019 World Cup in Japan, now has the opportunity to earn a 50th cap for his country after scheduled Tests in July away to world champions South Africa and New Zealand were postponed because of the coronavirus.

The squad features three uncapped players -- Glasgow prop Oli Kebble, Edinburgh wing Duhan van der Merwe and Harlequins scrum-half Scott Steele.

In the 23 forwards there are five players who did not feature in the Six Nations earlier in the year, with Glasgow trio Richie Gray, Rob Harley and Kebble selected alongside London Irish flanker Blair Cowan, who won his last Scotland cap in 2016.

In the 17 backs there are returns for Harlequins centre James Lang as well as Glasgow centre Nick Grigg and Edinburgh wing Damien Hoyland.

Scotland begin their autumn programme at home to Georgia on October 23 before facing Wales in Llanelli on October 31 in the rescheduled 2020 Six Nations fixture.

Townsend's men are third in the table, three points behind England and France.

The newly formed Autumn Nations Cup begins in November with Scotland in Pool B alongside France, Fiji and Italy.

"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," said Townsend.

"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."

Scotland squad

Forwards: Simon Berghan (Edinburgh), Jamie Bhatti (Edinburgh), Fraser Brown (Glasgow), Blair Cowan (London Irish/ENG), Scott Cummings (Glasgow), Cornell du Preez (Worcester/ENG), Matt Fagerson (Glasgow), Zander Fagerson (Glasgow), Grant Gilchrist (Edinburgh), Jonny Gray (Exeter/ENG), Richie Gray (Glasgow), Rob Harley (Glasgow), Nick Haining (Edinburgh), Oli Kebble (Glasgow), Stuart McInally (Edinburgh), Willem Nel (Edinburgh), Jamie Ritchie (Edinburgh), Sam Skinner (Exeter/ENG), Rory Sutherland (Edinburgh), Blade Thomson (Scarlets/WAL), Ben Toolis (Edinburgh), George Turner (Glasgow), Hamish Watson (Edinburgh)

Backs: Darcy Graham (Edinburgh), Nick Grigg (Glasgow), Chris Harris (Gloucester/ENG), Adam Hastings (Glasgow), Stuart Hogg (Exeter/ENG, capt), George Horne (Glasgow), Damien Hoyland (Edinburgh), Sam Johnson (Glasgow), Huw Jones (Glasgow), Blair Kinghorn (Edinburgh), James Lang (Harlequins/ENG), Sean Maitland (Saracens/ENG), Ali Price (Glasgow), Finn Russell (Racing 92/FRA), Scott Steele (Harlequins/ENG), Duhan van der Merwe (Edinburgh), Duncan Weir (Worcester/ENG)