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Irish pundits not impressed by Finn Russell in his first showing

By Sam Smith

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Former Italian international Ian McKinley and Leinster wing Shane Horgan have weighed in on Scotland flyhalf Finn Russell’s first showing at 10 for the Lions.


The pair of Irish pundits, speaking on Virgin Media Sports post-match coverage,  weren’t convinced Russell is the right man to start against the Springboks, with his helter-skelter style of entertaining play too error-prone to rely on for pressure cooker moments in a test.

“If I had to say now, I don’t think he is going to be starting a test,” the Irish-born McKinley told the panel on Virgin Media Sport.

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B&I Lions coach Warren Gatland analyses the Springboks
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B&I Lions coach Warren Gatland analyses the Springboks

“You saw a few bits there, the 10-12 axis, when they do get it right, Finn Russell can win you a game at the drop of a hat.

“But I think there still are inconsistencies when it comes to top level rugby, and you are getting into the really difficult moments in a test, you need those guys to step up.

McKinley believes the Lions need a flyhalf that possesses a more even temperament, and pointed to the likes of Owen Farrell and former Lions flyhalf Johnny Sexton. He highlighted the pass Russell threw in front of his own goal line as an example of ill-thought out decision-making.

“You need the temperament of a guy like Owen Farrell, Johnny Sexton when he was back on the last tour,” he said.


“Again, there are even small moments this evening where he threw a pass beneath the posts. In the heat of a test battle, from a coaches point of view, I’m sure it can drive you demented at times.

“I would put Biggar in, and Farrell at times, at out-half ahead of him. Don’t get me wrong, seriously talented player, can produce magic when it’s needed but just in those crucial moments, I think he is far behind the other guys.”

Shane Horgan was equally opposed to having Finn Russell start for the Lions, bluntly answering ‘no’ when asked whether he would start Russell.

“He played a really Finn Russell-type of game, which is good to watch, it’s entertaining, but it always involves a few sloppy mistakes and errors. Maybe an interception, ball on the deck, poor kicks,” Horgan said.


“He just isn’t consistently good enough. We know the level the Springboks play at, if you give them those opportunities, they will score tries against you. You can’t give away those.

“For all the talent he has, the ability to unlock a defence, we saw the kick over the top on the Adams’ try, passing range was really good.

“I really like watching him play, but I wouldn’t want him to be in the box seat to deliver a test series against the Springboks if I was in the team, because he just makes too many errors.”



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