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The admiration Chris Boyd has for Finn Russell after Friday night

By PA
(Photo by PA)

Northampton boss Chris Boyd could only admire Finn Russell after the Racing 92 fly-half orchestrated a 45-14 Heineken Champions Cup victory at Franklin’s Gardens on Friday night. Russell played a central role in four of his side’s five tries as he linked brilliantly with Kurtley Beale to put a disappointing Saints team to the sword on the opening day of the tournament.

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“Finn Russell passed well, kicked well, ran the game well. He is a quality footballer,” Boyd said about Racing talisman Russell. “When Finn plays behind a pack that gives him front-foot ball he is an absolute handful.

“When you play someone like Finn Russell, it’s not him you have to get at, it’s the ball he picks up. I enjoy watching Finn play, he’s a quality player. Racing lived up to their Test match status. Just about everyone in their team has played Test rugby and some of them are world-class.

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Ex-All Blacks prop John Afoa guests on RugbyPass Offload

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Ex-All Blacks prop John Afoa guests on RugbyPass Offload

“They are desperate to win the competition and they have a roster that could threaten. I’d expect them to be there somewhere around the end.”

Saints trailed 13-0 after just eight minutes and they never recovered as flanker Wenceslas Lauret ran in a hat-trick and wing Juan Imhoff plundered two touch downs. 

“I can’t fault the intent. We tried hard, but at times we were naïve and at times we were sloppy,” Boyd said. “At times we were in trouble physically and didn’t get enough of our game on the field. We conceded too many points early and really didn’t stay in the hunt long enough to threaten at all.”

Northampton visit Ulster next Friday, with Dan Biggar a major doubt after he limped off with a thigh injury, but Courtney Lawes should be back after recovering from Covid-19. “Ulster is a game that we need to get some points out of if we want to stay in the Champions Cup,” Boyd said.

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“Courtney was coming back from the return-to-play protocol for Covid. The return to play is different for a normal human being, so we were hopeful he’d be right, but he didn’t get enough of his training in to be available for this game.”

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Shaylen 1 hours ago
Jack Willis' Champions Cup masterclass proves English eligibility rules need a rethink

If France, Wales, England, Scotland and Ireland got together and all changed their eligibility laws in the same way SA has it would be absolutely bonkers. All players from all nations involved in Europe would be fair game as would their coaches. The investment in rugby would be supercharged as teams would rush to create dream teams. Transfer markets would be super charged, salary caps may change, private investment would grow as rich backers first buy clubs and then put money into their clubs in an effort to land the best players. The richest clubs and franchises would benefit most but money and players would move across borders at a steady flow. Suddenly countries like Wales and Scotland would have a much larger pool of players to select from who would be developed and improved in systems belonging to their rivals within superstar squads while their clubs receive large sums in the transfer market. The Six Nations would experience a big boost as the best players become available all the time. The Champions cup would become even more fiercely contested as the dream teams clash. Fan engagement would grow as fans would follow their favourite players creating interest in the game across the continent. Transfer markets and windows would become interesting events in themselves, speculation would drive it and rumours of big transfers and interest in players would spread. All of this is speculation and much of it would not eventuate straight away but just like in football the spread of players and talent would create these conditions over time. The transfer markets in European football is proof of this. Football had the same club vs country debate eons ago and favoured an open system. This has made it the largest game in the world with global interest and big money. Rugby needs to embrace this approach in the long run as well

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Jon 7 hours ago
Waratahs 'counter-culture' limits Wallaby options for Joe Schmidt

This is a bit dramatic for me, I think the Rebels and Force cultures would be very strong, and if a player is chosen from either, you can be confident they are in a good head space and ready. Whether they quite have the technical or tactical foundations of the other two states is where one would way their risk of selection. I see no need for Schmidt to worry about that risk in this squad. The main reason I could see a predominance of players from Brumbies and Reds, is simple cohesion. What might the coaching group make of what’s lacking in the Tahs, and to a lesser extent Rebels and Force’s, franchise? Certainly sides (players) that are running irish plays like we saw from that lovely McDermott long ball with have a head start. I hope the players can continue it at International level. Really liked what I saw of Wright (don’t know player focus and just hadn’t seen a lot of him anyway) in that game, can see him being a glue in a Wallaby side too. A with the similar worry of selecting players like Ryan, I think it unfounded to worry so much about forward balance at the moment. Including both Wright and Skelton in the same lineout is not going to lose you games gainst Wales. Nor will any unknown weakenss Wales might find in Ryan be exploited to any great extent. It is the perfect time to introduce such a young player. What other shortcuts might Schmidt want to make now, just a year out from hosting BIL? When Gamble came on the scene I thought he had a Pocock ability to break game apart along with performing the role of a openside well. I would be very keen to drop Leota/Hooper for Gamble, and in your squad make up, include Uru as a lock. Did you forget to remove Vunivalu from your team? Would you have Meafou in your squad if you could?

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