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AFP/File / Andy BUCHANAN
Scotland coach Gregor Townsend (left) and fly-half Finn Russell

Scotland coach Gregor Townsend believes he has his strongest squad in his two-year tenure but if they are to shine at the World Cup then Finn Russell will have to be at his sparkling best.

The dynamic fly-half, who turns 27 this month, is the key man as Scotland seek to progress past the quarter-final stage for the first time since 1991, when they lost to England in the semi-finals.

That match, a 9-6 defeat, is remembered for Gavin Hastings’ missed close-range penalty, which still haunts the former fullback.

Russell, who was within seconds of playing in a semi-final in 2015 but for a controversial penalty awarded to Australia, is the heartbeat of the team — if he plays well then Scotland generally click.

His no-look passes and dummies spark an exciting backline and he has no intention of changing his style, even if it carries a high risk.

“I need some consistency but I’m

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