Finn Russell says he can be trusted for Lions despite maverick tag
Finn Russell insists he can be entrusted to execute the British and Irish Lions’ gameplan against South Africa in defiance of his maverick tag.
Russell is in contention to start Saturday’s match against Emirates Lions in Johannesburg after arriving too late into the tourists’ Jersey training camp to feature against Japan.
The Scotland fly-half is competing with Dan Biggar and Owen Farrell for the role of ringmaster when the Test series opens on July 24 amid the perception he would be a riskier option given his genius is occasionally accompanied by moments of calamity.
As one of rugby’s most exciting players with the tools to unpick any defence, he must also persuade Warren Gatland that he can be the onfield general needed to topple the Springboks.
It was Russell’s performance in Scotland’s historic win against France during the Six Nations that convinced Gatland there is now more balance to his game, resulting in his Lions selection, and the Racing 92 playmaker is confident he can perform any role required of him.
“It depends what sort of game we want to play against South Africa. They’re the world champions,” said Russell, who is set to be named in the matchday 23 when Gatland names his team on Thursday morning.
“We’ll have a gameplan to play against them and whether it’s a kicking game or running game I’ll have to adapt to whatever Warren wants. I’d like to think I can do both.
“I’ll get a feel for how we want to play and go from there. I like to run the ball a little bit, but I also have to adapt.
“In Test matches you have to play slightly differently – in the Six Nations I kicked it more than normally.
“In France there’s a big focus on running the ball, holding the ball. Against South Africa we’ll have to play a lot more tactically and force pressure on them through the kicking game.
“All three fly-halves are in the same position. We’ve all got one goal, which is playing in the series.
“Everyone has been training their hardest and the decision is up to Warren and the coaches as to who they pick in the Tests. The only thing I can do is train and play at my best before it.”
While it was Russell’s control against France that caught Gatland’s eye, the 28-year-old still revels in producing the fireworks that make him favourite for highlights reels.
“The maverick thing has been said since I came through. At Scotland or Glasgow it was an open game, so that’s where the tag came from I suppose. It’s kind of just stuck. It doesn’t bother me either way,” he said.
“If I see it’s on I have confidence in my skills, so I will always have a crack. You’ve got to make a decision in a split second of what’s best to do.
“If the space is there I’m not afraid to have a go and try something, whether it’s a miss pass or whatever.
“Again, that’ll come depending on how we’re going to play the game in South Africa. You get a feel for the risk-reward options and how we’re going to play the game.”
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