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The Alex Mitchell verdict on Fin Smith versus Finn Russell

By PA
Fin Smith celebrates Northampton's semi-final win (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

Alex Mitchell has warned Bath that Northampton have their own fly-half magician capable of setting Saturday’s Gallagher Premiership final alight.

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The Twickenham showdown will see Bath’s £1million Scotland ringmaster Finn Russell and Saints’ emerging England fly-half Fin Smith go head to head in front of an 82,000 sell-out crowd.

Mitchell says he is “shocked” at how quickly the recently turned 22-year-old Smith has developed in his first full season at Franklin’s Gardens, leading to his international debut during the Guinness Six Nations.

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Antoine Dupont is the GREATEST rugby player EVER – Leinster vs Toulouse reaction

Jim Hamilton and Bernard Jackman react to Toulouse beating Leinster in the final of the Investec Champions Cup and discuss Antoine Dupont who was named player of the match.

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Antoine Dupont is the GREATEST rugby player EVER – Leinster vs Toulouse reaction

Jim Hamilton and Bernard Jackman react to Toulouse beating Leinster in the final of the Investec Champions Cup and discuss Antoine Dupont who was named player of the match.

While Russell’s world-class attacking skills will generate the most excitement heading into the final, Mitchell insisted that Northampton also have a match-winner in the number 10 jersey.

“We have got exactly the same thing. Fin has been awesome. He has been such a leader,” said the England and Saints scrum-half.

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“It’s mental to think how young he is and the way he bosses boys around, regardless if it is Courtney Lawes or Alex Waller. He really does lead the squad. He has such a calm head on him for such a young lad. He has been fantastic.

“He has shocked me in a way of how good he has been in all aspects of the game, not just on the pitch but off it as well. He has really fit into the squad and all the boys love him.”

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Saints benefited from Mitchell’s own half-back expertise in last Friday’s play-off victory over Saracens after his commanding display saw him named man of the match.

The 27-year-old will embark on England’s tour to Japan and New Zealand later this month as first-choice scrum-half after following up a strong Rugby World Cup with a high-quality season in the Premiership and Europe.

He is now recognised as one of the best nines in the game, but even he finds it difficult when Toulouse and France star Antoine Dupont continues to set the bar so high – most recently in the Investec Champions Cup final victory over Leinster.

“It’s annoying when it’s your position because everybody looks at you and tries to compare you, but you’re not as good!” Mitchell said.

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“He is class and it’s nice to have someone like that to try to get after and try and do the things he is doing, which is amazing. He is one of the world’s best and if he carries on doing what he is doing he is going to be one of the best ever.”

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Turlough 1 hours ago
'Let them keep talking' - Mike Catt claps back over Bok remarks

“You want that – not hatred – but whatever it is that stirs it all up. It’s good.” Agree with this. If you can put a common motivating idea in all your players heads during a game it can produce a real Team perfromance. Erasmus is pretty expert at this. It is quite clear that the comments by Etzebeth, Allende and others were not coincidence and were actioned to create animoisty before the series in order to galvanise the South African mind set. While I understand it, I don’t like it. They result in unnessary vitriol between supporters and for what? I don’t think any of the SA players seriously believe any of these claims and with Ireland ignoring them Erasmus won’t get the escalation he seeks. The vitriol shown by some SA and indeed NZ supporters is extremely weird for NH supporters (OK, maybe England have felt it) but it just feels very odd over a sport. Ireland were more or less sh1t for the first 100 years of their rugby, they have improved significantly in the last 25 to be in a position around now (it may not last) to go into a match with the big guns with a real shot of winning. The reaction to this from some SH supporters has been bizarre with conspiracy theories of ‘Arrogance’ fueling abuse from supporters and even NZ players to Irish crowds during the world cup. I love International rugby and the comraderie between supporters. I genuinely dread and dislike the atmosphere around games with the southern giants. They take this very personally. NH teams: play them, try and beat them, enjoy the craic with their players and supporters and wish them well. SH teams wish them well and they call you arrogant in the press months later. Its just a matter of try and beat them and then good riddance til the next time.

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