Finn Russell: I might just kick a lot against South Africa


Finn Russell (left) and Stuart Hogg celebrate the win over Australia at BT Murrayfield on Sunday. (Photo by Ross Parker / SNS Group)

“I might just kick a lot to try to throw them off a little bit,” he said, a mischievous grin on face.

Whether he does or doesn’t may depend on the weather. The early forecast is mild and bright which may encourage Scotland to run the ball, something that would also appeal to their creator in chief.

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Russell’s unpredictability is one of his great strengths and it was just a shame we never saw more of him in South Africa in the summer. An Achilles injury kept him out of the first two Tests but you got the impression Warren Gatland may have been reluctant to start with him in any case. He was selected on the bench for the third Test but an early injury to Dan Biggar saw Russell replace him in the 11th minute.

Finn Russell takes the game to Australia. (Photo by Ross Parker / SNS Group)

The Scot was a breath of fresh air that day, lifting the Lions out of their torpor. Ultimately, it was not quite enough and the boot of Morne Steyn proved decisive, the veteran’s late penalty giving the Boks a 19-16 victory and a 2-1 series triumph.

Russell said after the tour that he would have liked to have seen the Lions play a bit more rugby, arguing that their conservative style played into South African hands.

Looking back now, he concedes that the tourists did set out to attack more in the third Test.

“Our plan that week was to play more expansive rugby and that suited the way I like to play,” said the Racing 92 man. “It is not just me, it is the whole team alongside each other. It is not just one man that is going to beat the Springboks it is going to be a full squad effort, that starts with the boys doing all they can from now.”

Finn Russell nailed the match-winning penalty against the Wallabies. (Photo by Paul Devlin / SNS Group)

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“A couple of times we ran from deep when I thought we had advantage when we didn’t,” he said, “but if it is on I am happy to have a go from my own 22 and have a crack at it. My mindset is if it is on I take it. We played expansive at the weekend and quick rugby but we have to take into account that we have to try and win the territory. The plan may change depending on the weather and I am not sure what the forecast is.”

Australia’s two wins over South Africa in the Rugby Championship stripped the Springboks of their cloak of invincibility. They finished the tournament strongly by beating New Zealand in their final game but there is a sense that an on-form Scotland have a real chance of beating the Boks for the first time in 11 years.

“I watched the games last week but from the other side, so looking at what South Africa did against Australia, so we’ll be looking at it the other way around this week,” Russell said.

“I chatted to a few of the South African boys who were over in Paris at one of the Racing games. Basically they expected Australia to run everything but they actually kicked everything, which was a different approach from them. It’s just a small thing but I think they were on to something so I might just kick a lot to try to throw them off a little bit.

“Or maybe halfway through the game we’ll decide to change how we’re going to play. That’s all the stuff we’re going to work on in the days leading up to the game.

“Teams in the Rugby Championship also showed that there are ways to break them down and turn their strengths into weaknesses. We have picked up a few things about how we can attack them and defend against them.

“I am just looking forward to testing myself against the best team in the world. That’s why you play sport.”

Russell and Sam Johnson linked up well in the win over Australia and the stand-off feels the Scotland midfield is gelling nicely, with Chris Harris adding balance.

“That relationship between Sam and myself is really important,” said Russell. “The involvement you’re seeing 12s get in world rugby is getting higher and higher, and they’re almost like a second playmaker.

“For me, I played with Sam at Glasgow and I’ve now played with him for years with Scotland so I think we’ve got a really good relationship where we bounce well off each other, as Sam also does with Chris Harris at 13. Sam and Chris have got a really good partnership, and after the summer tour with the Lions Chris and I know each other better now.

“I think we’re building a nice partnership in midfield, we knit well together. The more time we have training together and chatting about certain things the better we’ll become.”

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Publish date : 2021-11-09 22:03:25

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