Finn Russell has brushed off suggestions Scotland are a one-man team – insisting it will take a collective effort to make their World Cup campaign a success.
Critics of Gregor Townsend’s side claim the Scots only soar when stand-off Russell is on song. But the talismanic playmaker is adamant he is only able to pull off his party tricks of audacious faints and no-look passes with the help of his colleagues.
Scotland will need the Racing 92 star to be at his maverick best if they are to escape the group stages when they travel to Japan in two months’ time. But Russell says he has no plans to do it all on his own and will instead rely on a support network to help Scotland shine in the land of the rising sun.
“I’d only been playing professionally for about 18 months, maybe a little more, at the last World Cup in 2015,” said the 26-year-old at the squad’s temporary training base at St Andrew’s Old Course Hotel.
“Now I’ve got five and a bit years under my belt and it is different. I developed as a player, as a man. I’ve matured and got more experience. The position as a 10 or a 12 means you are at the heart of the attack, so I’ll be trying to help my team out and take the lead on the attacking side.
(Continue reading below…)
“As a 10, everyone looks to you for how we can start an attack. I know when I first came into Scotland, I looked to Greig (Laidlaw) because he was one of the experienced ones. You have to look at the other folk around you for help. I like that. It does have to be a collective approach.
“No team can rely on one individual. I’ll try and take a lead on the attacking side, but I’m going to be going to my centres, my nines, my full-backs, whatever, and asking them what they think because they’re doing their job as well.
“I don’t really know how to play wing, so I need to know what they want from me, and they need to know what I want from them. When the team plays well it’s easy for me, the 10, to be the guy that’s controlling the game. If I’m on my game then it’s going to be easier for them.
— Scottish Rugby (@Scotlandteam) July 30, 2019
“It works hand in hand, but I don’t believe it’s one individual that’s going to get us to the quarters or semis or final, wherever we get to. It’s going to have to be everyone on the same page.”
There is certainly evidence to back up those who believe Scotland are at their most dangerous when Russell performs.
March’s Twickenham thriller saw England threaten to blow Townsend’s hesitant line-up away before half-time – only for Russell to urge a change of tactics in the dressing room before spearheading a stunning second-half fight.
It still hurts ? pic.twitter.com/sone0xNZwA
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) July 28, 2019
But if Scotland want to plan for life beyond a pool containing Ireland, Russia, Samoa and the hosts Japan, then the out-half admits he cannot afford the sloppy periods that cost them during this year’s Six Nations.
He said: “I need some consistency, but I’m still going to keep playing the way I’m going to play. At the World Cup with four group games, you need to be at the top of your game to get out of the group.
“I’m just going to make sure I’m in the best shape I can be, and prepared as well as I can for the World Cup.
“I don’t want to look back and think if only I did this or that differently. I’m just going to keep doing the same, but I want to be in the best shape and mentally in the best place I can be for it.”
WATCH: Part one of Operation Jaypan, the two-part RugbyPass documentary series on what the fans can expect at the Rugby World Cup
Sign up to our mailing list here and we’ll keep you up to the minute with weekly updates from the world of rugby.