Finn Russell's former captain says he's so much more than just a 'maverick'
The 76-cap scrum-half said that the Racing 92 fly-half is far more than simply a flashy player, which was evident in the British & Irish Lions third Test against South Africa, where he replaced Dan Biggar in the opening minutes of the match.
Russell has always distanced himself from the “maverick” tag as well, and he helped dispel that reputation in Cape Town with an impressive display in what was his first Lions Test, despite being on the losing side. The Scot missed the opening two Tests with an Achilles injury, and his former captain feels his absence was felt in those matches.
“He just changed the way the Lions were able to play,” the 2017 Lions tourist Laidlaw said.
“It wasn’t all him, but he was a big, big part of it. He brings other people into the game. In the previous Tests, you probably struggled to see the back three get their hands on the ball but in that third one, it was about the quick transfer of his pass.
“Playing against that blitz defence, he’s able to get the ball round the edges. South Africa were quite narrow at times and because he’s got that lightning quick catch/pass, he’s able to get the ball into space.
“If it wasn’t for his injury, I think he would have been involved in the second Test as well. That ‘maverick’ tag he gets, I really don’t get it at all. For me, he’s just a really good rugby player. He plays what he sees all the time. If the option is there to kick, he’ll kick, if it’s on to run, he’ll run. He just sees the best option.
“I just believe he’s an excellent rugby player who is willing to push boundaries. What he’s done really well in France and Scotland is [improve] that game management side of things as well.
“I was gutted for him when he picked up that injury, but the way he responded was credit to him as well. A lot of people looking from the outside think he’s not professional, but he really is.
“I know he worked really hard behind the scenes to get himself fit. A tear to your Achilles is a pretty big injury in any circumstance. He did excellently to get himself back on his feet and get involved.”
Russell has recently been linked with a big-money move to Green Rockets Tokatsu in Japan, where he could face Laidlaw, who made the move to Shining Arcs following his international retirement in 2019.
Sign up to our mailing list for a weekly digest from the wide world of rugby.Sign Up Now