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Finn Russell: Tuilagi 'decoy' quip and giving Curry 'a bit of lip'

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

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Scotland out-half Finn Russell has spoken about his encounter last Sunday in Paris with England duo Manu Tuilagi and Tom Curry in the Heineken Champions Cup quarter-final win by Racing over the visiting Sale. There was plenty of chat from the Manchester club in the build-up to the fixture, Alex Sanderson describing to RugbyPass that the focus on Russell was “a black swan moment”

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Racing went on to secure a comfortable 41-22 victory to set up an all-French semi-final this Sunday versus La Rochelle and Russell has been reflecting on his team’s progress during a guest appearance on this week’s edition of The Rugby Pod

As an ex-out-half, show co-host Andy Goode was interested in finding out what it was like for Russell to have a monster No12 in the guise of Tuilagi running in his direction. “I was kind of joking with him before the game, saying ‘I hope it is going to be miss passes all the time just going straight to 13, you are not going to run it straight’, and he said, ‘Nah, nah, don’t worry, I am just a decoy today‘,” said Russell. 

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“I was thinking I don’t know if that is him playing mind games joking around or what, I am not sure. I think I only tackled him once or twice, it wasn’t actually that bad. I thought their game plan would be just nine to him and running straight at me and then trying to put them on front foot ball. 

“In the last European games Stade Francais, (Ngani) Laumape did a similar sort of approach and I thought they would do the same with him. I feel quite lucky actually, they didn’t target me that much. 

“No one really bothers me, it just depends where you are mentally,” he added about the interest he garners from opposition midfielders. “If I am there mentally and it’s a quarter-final of Europe, I am going to go and tackle and if you have to get injured, whatever, that is the way it goes sometimes. He didn’t actually run up straight that many times which was good but defence if the team is mentally there then you will be fine.”

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That said, it wasn’t just Tuilagi who was on Russell’s case as a number of the Sale forwards, including February England skipper Curry, were keen on rushing him. “No, I don’t really mind that. Yeah, they put me under pressure, they flew up and it was more sort of I’d passed and they’d hit me late off the ball or if I kick it and they’d try to hit me after I kicked it. 

“When I was in the defensive line you could hear them saying, there’s Finn can I go after him. Tom Curry was saying that one time when I caught the high ball and he smashed me after it. He was trying to give me a bit of lip which was quite funny.”

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