Russell keen to make mark against France
After missing out on last weekend’s 25-13 win over Italy, Finn Russell is looking to make his return against France on Saturday at Scottish Gas Murrayfield.
The Bath fly-half is looking forward to testing himself over the next few weeks as preparations ramp up for the Rugby World Cup.
He said: “For coming into the World Cup, these next three games will be really important for myself and the team.
“That’ll be six or seven weeks that I’ve not played for so, it would be good to try and get out as quick as possible this weekend and get back to playing well.
“I might play well straight away, I’m not sure, but it’s very different going from training to playing the number two team in the world.
“They’ve got really good strength in depth, it’s always going to be a tough test match against France.
“Just now it’s maybe more about the structure and implementing a game plan, however getting a win is great to have for the confidence for the boys.
“It’s always a better environment in camp after a win, so even though it’s potentially not the most important thing it’s still really important and good for the group going forward.”
A World Cup in France will provide more familiarity to Russell than most in the Scotland group. Five years in Paris playing for Racing 92 recently came to an end for the fly-half, and the 30-year-old is delighted to be going back so soon.
Russell said: “I think in France, the following they get for rugby, it’s one of the best countries in the world I’d say for that and potentially for the World Cup it’ll be even more. I did the 2015 and 2019 World Cups but I think this is going to be the best one for us as players with the atmosphere that’s going to be there, the hype around it, and for myself it’s just trying to perform as well as I can.
“I know what the build-up to big games in France and the environment can be like, and obviously so will Richie Gray, so hopefully I’ll be able to chat to the boys and let them know what it’ll be like because it won’t be like Japan or London, it’ll be different to that every game.
“The opening game against South Africa in Marseille, I think that’ll be a massive game, I’ve never played at that stadium but I’ve heard it’s amazing. I’m looking forward to it, it’s the biggest stage in front of a country that really loves rugby so it’ll be great fun.”
Now the most capped back in the current training squad, many of Russell’s 69 caps have come alongside Stuart Hogg. But with Hogg recently announcing his retirement, Finn has noticed an immediate bond on the pitch with both Blair Kinghorn and Ollie Smith.
He said: “Hoggy had so much experience at the top level so I was able to bounce situations off him. We got on really well.
“It’s obviously different having Blair (Kinghorn) or Ollie Smith there, whoever’s playing for us.
“In training, if it’s been me and Blair in the same team, we all know Blair can play 10 really well so we’ve interacted really easy and chop and change who’s at 10 all the time.
“I think the way Blair’s been training at full back has been really good. He’s a big guy, he’s really quick so he’s got a lot of different attributes to Hoggy.
“I think the way me and him have linked at 10 and 15 has been really good, which is great to see.”
After three more Famous Grouse Nations Series matches, two at Scottish Gas Murrayfield against France and Georgia, Scotland head to the World Cup as one of three nations in the top five of the world rankings pitted against each other in Pool B. Not one to back down in tough situations, Russell is relishing the challenges ahead.
He added: “Everybody knows what we’ve got coming up with South Africa first, the number three team in the world.
“We’ve just got prepare ourselves over the next three, four weeks and get ourselves in as good shape as possible and ready to take on South Africa.
“I think two years ago (in the 2021 Autumn Nations Series) we ran them really close and just in the last 15 minutes they kind of pulled away so we know we’re capable of staying in the fight that long, it’s just getting the result over the line I suppose.
“It’s a really tough group for us, nobody’s talking about Tonga either with the players they’ve got so it’s four really tough games where we need to win as many as possible to qualify.
“It’s a challenge that myself I’m looking forward to. Sione said to me before, if you get hot for a few games in a World Cup that’s all you need.
“You can catch someone cold, or someone gets an early card, you never know what’s going to happen. I think all we can do now is focus on France this weekend and build ourselves up from there.”