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The Finn Russell aspect that 'doesn't get talked about enough'

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

What a difference 14 weeks can make. It was October 19 when Gregor Townsend played with fire, axing Finn Russell from the squad of 40 named for the Autumn Nations Series and instead placing his faith in Blair Kinghorn and Ross Thompson jostling Adam Hastings for the No10 Scotland shirt. Russell soon got back in, injury forcing the coach’s hand, and with the Paris-based out-half going on to impress versus the All Blacks and Argentina at Murrayfield, the current perspective surrounding the 30-year-old is radically different.


With the countdown on to facing England at Twickenham on February 4 in the opening round of the Guinness Six Nations, Townsend is now very much in the business of pumping the tyres of Russell with Scotland, not slashing them. Take Monday in London at the 2023 Six Nations media launch. Just three months ago, a query regarding the then out of the loop Russell would have left Townsend shifting uncomfortably in his chair.

And now? The up-and-down relationship between the pair is currently mended and a grin broke across the face of the coach when the shout from the floor concerned whether Russell was a headstrong, difficult guy to deal with or was he all sweetness and light.

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“It’s all sweetness and light,” assured the Scotland coach about his January rapport with Russell. “Finn was outstanding in the autumn – he played his best for Scotland in two or three years. It was a really high level against New Zealand and an even better performance against Argentina, but he was great around the group like he always is.

“He is very good to work with in a training week. He is now a level of experience where he understands the game and what defences are going to do. Physically he is in really good shape too. He had a week off for Racing over Christmas, that will help him during the Six Nations because he does play a lot of rugby over in France so yeah, he will be looking forward to the championship like we are.”


Does Russell make a particular point of delivering the goods versus England as it has been a fixture where he has often thrived? “He has played for us a number of games and part of the reason we have done well is our accuracy and that is led through your 10. Your 10 gets the most catches of anybody in the team so he is going to lead the attack and he has done that really.


“He is a very competitive player, Finn. This doesn’t get talked about enough. He is a laidback person, even laidback on the field, but he is competitive and maybe the England game makes him even more competitive and he tackles harder.”

New Scotland skipper Jamie Ritchie also sang the praises of Russell. “He’s not a controversial character, he’s not a confrontational character in and around the group. He is a great person to have around, a great person for the young lads to learn off, for us all to learn off in fact.

“He is really diligent in his analysis, he is always at the laptop watching training back, watching the opposition we have got coming up at the weekend looking for opportunities and stuff you see at the weekend doesn’t happen by accident. Yeah, he is a great guy for us to have around the squad.”


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