Scotland flyhalf Russell answers critics

Sun, 25 Feb 2018 06:53
Large finn russell celebrates v england 2018 800

REACTION: Finn Russell insisted there was nothing "risky" about his game after playing a key role in ending Scotland's decade-long wait for a victory over England at Murrayfield on Saturday.

The flyhalf was instrumental in creating all of Scotland's three tries in a shock 25-13 defeat of the reigning Six Nations champions.

Russell had been well below his best during Scotland's tournament-opening 7-34 loss to Wales and was withdrawn by coach Gregor Townsend during their come from behind 32-26 victory over France in the second round.

But it was a different story for the Glasgow playmaker on Saturday.

Russell's grubber kick sent Huw Jones in for Scotland's first try against England and his two passes, including the one that sent Sean Maitland in at the corner, were crucial to their second.

And two minutes before the interval, Russell's well-timed pass allowed Jones to go charging through England's midfield for the centre's second try and Scotland's third.

Scotland captain John Barclay had backed Russell to come good against arch-rivals England in the latest edition of rugby's 147-year-old foundation international fixture.

And after the game had vindicated his prediction, blindside flank Barclay said of Russell: "He's one of the best stand-offs [flyhalves] in the world I believe."

But the modest Russell told reporters: "Today the team was world-class, not just an individual”.

England's 2003 World Cup-winning coach Clive Woodward had criticised Russell for having the temerity to smile while the national anthems were played during the Wales-Scotland match.

The 25-year-old Russell, however, said proving pundits wrong was of no interest to him.  

"That's sport, that's the game we play in. You get the highs and the lows. Last week we won and some people said I wasn't so good and against Wales the whole team got a slating. 

"That's the job we're in. You've got to accept the highs and the lows."

No member of this Scotland team had ever before been on the winning side against England and Russell, who is set to join Paris club Racing 92 at the end of the season, added: "It's not quite settled in yet. 

"It's an experience I've never had and a feeling I've never had."

Russell's approach is sometimes described as "risky" in a sport where a 'safety-first' style is all too often equated with being pragmatic, even when an attacking option is indeed the percentage play.

As for the decisions that led to Scotland's tries, Russell said: "They're not risky. I know what's happening.

"A lot of folk might look thinking it's risky, and there is a certain extent of risk, but I back myself and I back the boys around me."

This was arguably Scotland's best performance since Townsend took charge last year.

Scotland pushed world champions New Zealand close before the All Blacks won 22-17 at Murrayfield in November.

But there was never any danger of similar heartbreak on Saturday as Scotland threw the Six Nations title race wide open. 

"Unfortunately we lost against New Zealand, but we played well against Australia, and then today we clicked again as a team," Townsend said.

This was just England's second defeat in 26 Tests under coach Eddie Jones, who said: "For some reason at the start of the game, we lacked intensity.

"I think we showed a lot of courage and character to get ourselves back in a position where we could have conceivably won the game," the Australian added.

"Full credit to Scotland, they were outstanding today."

Players and coaches from both camps played down the significance of a pre-match scuffle in the tunnel involving England's Owen Farrell, who scored all the visitors' points, and Scotland's Ryan Wilson. 

"A scuffle before the match?," said Russell. "I didn’t see that. 

"I don't know what happened. I’m not sure. I leave it up to the bigger guys."

Agence France-Presse

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