NEVER mind whatever disagreements Gregor Townsend and Finn Russell may have had in the past. Never mind the Scotland coach’s implausible insistence just a few weeks ago that the Racing 92 stand-off was not in good enough form to merit a place in the squad for the Autumn Nations Series.

All that matters right now is how Scotland can give themselves the best chance of claiming a first-ever victory against New Zealand tomorrow. And, for that reason above all others, Russell, only recalled to the squad at the weekend, will start the match at No.10.

Speaking yesterday after announcing his team to take on the All Blacks at BT Murrayfield, Townsend declined to say whether the 30-year-old owed his return to the injury which Adam Hastings sustained last week against Fiji and which has sidelined him for the next few weeks. It hardly matters anyway.

The point is that Russell is back, one of three changes to the starting line-up from the 28-12 win over the Fijians along with inside centre Sione Tuipulotu and hooker Fraser Brown. Blair Kinghorn, who began on the bench last week before replacing the injured Hastings, must again bide his time before being called into action.

Russell has not played for the national side since the Six Nations, but it took only one training session earlier this week for the head coach to acknowledge he would be able to slot straight back in. “The last few weeks Finn has been able to show he is in really good physical shape and playing well,” Townsend said. “So he’ll be confident in his game, and he’s in form.

“The combinations he has with Ali Price and his experience – there are a few things that go into selection. But we believe all those factors mean him starting gives us more chance of winning.

“We made the decision not based on training, but on what we feel is right this week. He’s played against New Zealand a few times and most importantly has been in really good form over the last two weeks.

“Blair was on the bench last week so he has not been demoted. He is disappointed, as you want players to be upset. That means they feel they can do a better job than the player you have picked.

“Blair has developed really well and Adam had the chance last week before he got his injury. In a game at this level experience counts for a lot and Finn brings that.

“We also see what Blair can do off the bench, not just covering 10 but covering the back three as well. While he’s disappointed not to start, we’re massive believers in him and how he’s progressing as a 10. But we feel that Finn starting this week gives us more chance of winning.”

It should be added that there may yet be a dramatic twist in the tale of Russell’s return, as his partner, Emma Canning, is heavily pregnant. She has stayed behind in Paris, and if she goes into labour today, Russell plans to fly back to join her – with Townsend’s blessing.

“Emma is heavily pregnant and close to giving birth,” the coach explained. “If it happens and he has to go back, we’ll obviously support any decision he makes. Family comes before sport, and we’ve got three 10s in our squad. Ross Thompson has been training really well, so we can cover that if it happens.

“If it was today or tomorrow, he’s hoping to get back. I think if it’s closer to the game, probably not. That’s what he said to me anyway. He’s determined to be involved in this game.

“Emma’s mum came out as Finn was leaving on Tuesday morning. So this whole network is there for her.”

Meanwhile, Tuipulotu replaces Cameron Redpath, who was released back to Bath earlier this week. Mark Bennett comes on to the bench as cover at centre. Brown takes over from his injured Warriors team-mate George Turner, while Ewan Ashman again starts on the bench.

The other change among the substitutes sees veteran WP Nel return as tighthead replacement instead of Murphy Walker, who came on to make his debut in the latter stages of the game against Fiji. Now 36, Nel is set to win his 50th cap if he gets on to the field.

“I don’t know the stats, but it will probably be the most experienced squad we have put out for a number of years,” Townsend added. “We see experience being important in this game.”