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'It's an important game for Finn': How Scotland believe the Russell effect can work in their favour in France

By Liam Heagney

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Gregor Townsend is hoping the unusual mathematics surrounding this Friday’s rearranged Guinness Six Nations match between Scotland and France will play right into the hands of fit-again out-half Finn Russell who is back in the No10 jersey having missed last weekend’s win over Italy. 

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Russell suffered a concussion in the March 14 loss to Ireland, unavailability that resulted in Stuart Hogg starting as Scotland out-half versus the Italians. However, Russell is now back in harness and ready for a fixture that has multiple equations surrounding it. 

A win for France with a four-try bonus point and a 21-point margin of victory would see them crowned Six Nations champions for the first time since 2010. Alternatively, a first win away to French since 1999 could elevate Scotland into a best-ever Six Nations second-place finish if they defeat the hosts with a bonus point.

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Scotland’s Finn Russell on the prospect of finishing second in this year’s Six Nations
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Scotland’s Finn Russell on the prospect of finishing second in this year’s Six Nations

It’s a scene set for some high-scoring entertainment and Russell, the playmaker who has been based in recent years in Paris with Racing 92, will look to wield a decisive influence. “It’s an important game for Finn given that he plays in France,” said Townsend after naming a Scotland XV in which Russell is one of four changes. “I’m sure this is a game he looks forward to more than any other of the year.

“He didn’t play in our last game and went off injured in the game against Ireland previous to that. I’m sure he is just itching to get back out there, play for Scotland and lead this team in attack, be really connected with those around him. There will be opportunities that present themselves for a player like Finn as he scans the defence and sees what is on offer and as long as we are connected around him we should be able to take them.

“We feel that we are capable of going there and getting a result and we need more than just a win, we need to win by a few points to get to third and potentially get to second. We have shown that we can play very well away from home and if we do deliver an 80-minute performance we will be more than just competitive. 

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“We have played France a couple of times in the last twelve months, both have been both close games. We didn’t fire many shots in our game against them in November but it was right down to the last minute of that game and then a year ago we played some really good rugby against them. I would hope they know we would be a tough opponent for them.”

Scotland enter the match on the back of some much-improved away form, defeating England and Wales recently on their travels and they will now look to bridge a 22-year gap back to their last away win over France. “I hope so. We hadn’t won in London for 38 years, we hadn’t won in Wales for 18 years so there is another number in there, another record that we would like to take away.

“Our players can take a lot of confidence in those two performances at Llanelli and Twickenham and the fact this is an opportunity more than any other as there are no crowds in the stadia. We felt that in our two home games and when we played away from home this season.

“If we are able to replicate that performance (against England) we will certainly be in with a shout of winning the game because it is the best I have seen us play over the last few years and we matched England that day upfront. It will be very relevant to our chance of success this weekend against the French pack, whether that is set-piece or just in terms of the collisions around their carry. We are looking forward to the challenge because France could go out and open up their game. 

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“They have played some really good attacking play but it is based on a long kicking game and a solid defence. If they start moving the ball from anywhere it will be a great game to watch but our defence should be as concerned as it would be excited about the chance of getting the ball back.”

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'It's an important game for Finn': How Scotland believe the Russell effect can work in their favour in France

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