Finn Russell openly questions Warren Gatland's Lions tactics
Russell – who played a starring role in the third Test – said the Lions didn’t play enough rugby across the series, a fact that left him frustrated as he watched on, injured, on the sidelines in the first two games of the series.
Speaking on the Scottish Rugby podcast, Russell said he felt Gatland’s tactics played into the Springboks defence.
“I thought that all three Tests we should have played more rugby and gone at them a little bit more,” said Russell, who was speaking from Paris. “The first two Tests we played off nine for two phases and I kind of felt that played into their defence.
“We weren’t doing much out of the back of it. We were keeping the attack narrow instead of having a wide attack.
“The first ten minutes of the third Test, there was still quite a bit of kicking and a lot of play off nine. There wasn’t much rugby that actually got played.
“I was sitting on the bench thinking we are doing the same as in the last two games even though we’ve spoken about being a little bit more expansive.
“With coming on early enough, I was able to try and play that style of rugby.”
Russell said that playing flat in the third Test against the Springboks’ blitz defence was critical and something that hadn’t been done all series, until he came on at least.
“I kept saying to the boys make sure we get as flat as we can and get the ball out of the hands quickly. If you are confident in your skills and flat enough on them, they can’t recover when you throw that pass across the front and kick to the edge.
“That’s how I’ve always played, so it’s fine for me.
“My mindset was that whenever I got on I was going to run it and play everything. That’s what I thought was best to take them on.”
“We had chances where if it had gone slightly differently we could have still won the game.
“Everyone was upset and down that we lost the game, but the overall performance was a really good one.
“We went out there and did everything we could to beat them and we actually went at them instead of just waiting for them to crack or for a miss kick.
“We actually went out and played some good rugby and had a go at them.”
Gatland hasn’t ruled out leading future Lions’ tours, so Russell’s comments don’t come without risk. Joe Marler’s criticism of the Gatland regime in 2017 was posited in some quarters as one of the main reasons he had been overlooked for the tour of South Africa.
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