Finn Russell plans to delve deep into his box of tricks to outsmart Scotland teammate Stuart Hogg when Racing 92 collide with Exeter in Saturday’s Champions Cup final.
The long-time friends will face off at Ashton Gate for the first time since their early teenage years and as mavericks with a flair for producing the unexpected, they bring a touch of genius to their teams.
Russell admits they know each other’s game inside out, prompting the mercurial Racing fly-half to consider trying something different at Ashton Gate.
“When I played against Stuart – I was chatting to him the other day – I was saying it was probably me doing a lot of the kicking down towards him,” Russell said. “I know what attacking threats he has got and maybe we can target him in defence or in the air.
“It’s good knowing him but at the same time it’s also the other way round – he knows how I like to play and he knows what I might look for and he might be able to counter that. Maybe I’ll play with my left foot this weekend to try and throw him off a little bit!”
Brilliant news to start your Thursday morning with ?https://t.co/F2yIc59L9y
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) October 15, 2020
It was Russell’s vision that finally unlocked Saracens’ defence in the semi-final as his combination with lethal centre Virimi Vakatawa created a match-winning try for Juan Imhoff.
Russell and Vakatawa are working brilliantly in tandem and the half-back, who was recently recalled by Scotland after repairing his relationship with head coach Gregor Townsend, insists they are a natural fit.
“Virimi isn’t bad, is he? He’s a good guy off the field, he gets on with everyone. He speaks French and English, which helps me,” Russell said. “If I can’t think of what I’m trying to say he’ll translate and maybe get my point across. He adds so much to the spirit of the team.
“We know if we get the ball to him there’s a high chance that he’ll be able to create something or threaten a defence so much that they’ll have to do something different to stop him. It’s great as a 10 to play outside him.
“Our relationship happened quite quickly and naturally. We get on really well off the field and have a laugh, but then we both understand each other well on the field. For me it’s simple – I just give the ball to Virimi. It’s easy.
“The more we have played together and trained together, the more the relationship has grown. Whether it’s a chip over the top, like the semi-final, or a miss pass, he backs me to put it in the right place if he gets into the right place.”
Best of frenemies next Saturday ? https://t.co/3R0zMI5xJN
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) October 11, 2020
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