Ireland internationals rip 'pathetic' Finn Russell and error strewn Stuart Hogg
France have fuelled their grand slam quest and ended Scotland’s Six Nations title dream in a stylish 36-17 win in the Scottish capital.
The French, the only remaining unbeaten team, delivered the killer blows against a strong and defiant Scotland side on Saturday with their third try right on halftime and a fourth try right after the break.
Scotland blew a great chance to lead at halftime but captain Hogg dropped a pass with the tryline gaping.
France rubbed it in when they pressed a tiring Scotland into injury time of the first half and centre Gael Fickou backed himself to beat the flagging cover for a converted try and 19-10 lead at the break.
Then, less than two minutes into the new half, France forced a turnover and the ball was quickly given to wing Damian Penaud.
He chipped ahead, the Scottish over-ran the bounce, and the trailing Jonathan Danty accepted the gift and an easy run-in.
At 26-10, France had a four-try bonus point and sucked the tension out of a packed and hostile Murrayfield, where they hadn’t won since 2014.
Scotland cost France winning the last two Six Nations, but the visitors’ counter-attacking skills and inspired defence earned a measure of revenge by handing the Scots their heaviest defeat at Murrayfield in the championship in seven years.
The French finished with a six-try statement on the road and were halfway to a grand slam and their first title in 12 years with Wales next in Cardiff in two weeks, followed by England in Paris on the last weekend.
But Scotland are out of the title race after a second straight defeat, the opening win over England a distant memory after losses to Wales and the formidable French.
Yet it was the performance of Hogg and flyhalf Finn Russell that animated the Virgin Media Sports TV panel on Irish television.
Shane Horgan didn’t hold back in his assessment of the Scottish captain, branding Hogg non-worldclass due to his propensity to cough up mistakes at crucial moments.
“I think he makes one or two big mistakes every game. I really like the way he plays, I think he’s really exciting. He wants to get involved he makes lots of breaks. He’s really passionate and he’s really committed to Scotland and he works really hard but he makes one or two errors every game. He’s not the complete player.
“He has a little bit of a weakness on his inside shoulder when defending. He has the occasional terrible day on the high ball, which we have seen with the Lions. His positional sense isn’t great. We saw him drop that ball. Even going back a couple of years ago with the try against Ireland which he dropped on the line. They’re crucial errors.
“If you want to be an outstanding, world class player, which I think he is and capable of being, you can’t allow those elements into your game and he consistently does it. As your top player, he can’t.”
Kearney was equally brutal in his assessment of the Exeter Chiefs 15, suggesting his defending is a potential weakness.
“Captain of the team, along with other big key members of this team not stepping up. On the big day, they’re the ones that need to perform,” Kearney said of Hogg. “He’s a fullback who closes the gate early. Teams will know when they’re analysing that he leaves a lot of space in the backfield. He’s caught badly out of position.”
Russell was subjected to an even more brutal appraisal.
Horgan didn’t spare the Racing 92 star, who struggled to make an impact in the face of the French defence and whose errant kick lead directly to a French try in the opening quarter. His effort level for the first try irked Horgan, who won 65 caps for Ireland.
“That is actually pathetic, for your top player, your talisman. Five minutes into the game. He doesn’t have an injury. He’s not fatigued. You’ve got a guy like Rory Darge killing himself around the field,” Horgan said.
“Then you’ve got your best player performing like that. There’s no way any team can win consistently if you’ve got players doing that.
"If Finn Russell counts himself as a really top player, have a look at the best players from the last 10 years.
"Look at Brian O'Driscoll, Dan Carter, Johnny Wilkinson.
— Virgin Media Sport (@VMSportIE) February 26, 2022
“It’s like what France were doing in their dark ages. That’s gone out of the French team. You’d never see a Springbok doing that. You’d never see an All Black doing that. If Finn Russell counts himself as a really top player, have a look at the best players of the last ten years. Look at the Brian O’Driscoll’s, the generational players, the Dan Carters’, the Jonny Wilkinson’s. They were so hard working. That was pathetic.”
Kearney tore into Russell, suggesting his Scottish teammates should be irate over the effort.
“When that comes up on the big screen in front of your teammates, and your indirectly saying, ‘I don’t really care about this team'”
“‘I’m not going to work as hard as I can.’ That’s not good enough. It’s humiliating.”
Virgin Media panelist have made a hobby horse of Scotland of late, with former national head coach Matt Williams a regular feature on the show. Recently he ridiculed his former side, saying they need to “shut up”, comments that made it back to Hogg in Scotland camp.
“They have just got to shut up. Until they actually action out and live their talk, they have got to shut up because they are making fools of themselves.
“They have done this for about four years in a row. They win a couple of biggies and then the next week they lose. And each time they come out and say ‘we’re going to win, we’re a great side’. They’re not doing themselves any favours in the rugby world.”
– additional reporting AAP
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