JOHN Barclay said on the eve of the game that Finn Russell had the happy habit of bouncing back quickly from flawed performances and so it proved, as the stand-off put in a man-of-the-match display in the 25-13 triumph over England. Eddie Jones, the England coach, had been as complimentary as the Scotland captain in the days leading up to the match, saying that Russell was world-class.
But the player himself was having none of it after the game – or at least, he would not accept that the praise should only go to him. “I don’t know,” he said when asked if he agreed with Jones’ assessment. “You’d have to ask the other players and the coaches – I’m not going to rate myself.
“But no, I think for a 10 to be world-class you’ve got to have the boys around you that help you out, and today everyone played so well. We had the game plan and everyone executed that, so for a 10 that makes it easier, for me, running those balls out the back and you’ve got boys running off you.
“I couldn’t have played like I did today without the boys round me giving me the support and knowing their game plan as well as I did. I think today the team was world-class, not just an individual.
“I think it was similar to the way we played in the autumn as well,” he continued when asked if this was the best Scotland performance he had been involved in. “If you look at the New Zealand and Australia games we played a similar level of rugby. Unfortunately we lost against New Zealand, but we played well against Australia, and then today we clicked again as a team. That’s the kind of performance and result that we managed to get.
“I think all week we’ve been building well and we’ve trained well. We were 22-6 at half-time and we knew England were going to come back. They got an early try in the second half and put us under a bit of pressure, but we managed to get back from that and keep playing our game and not really panic, which was great to see.
“Even towards the end, although we’d won the game when it was 80 minutes, they still kept coming at us but we didn’t lie down. We didn’t let them score although we’d won, we still fronted up, and I think our defensive performance today was outstanding. It was amazing from everyone.”
A lot of players would err on the side of caution in their next game back after a patchy display such as Russell had against the French, but here he was back to his adventurous and sometimes hair-raising approach, throwing long floated passes from time to time which at least from some vantage points looked to be risking interceptions. “Nah they’re not risky,” he insisted. “I know what’s happening.
“I can do that with the trust I’ve got in the boys outside. The belief that they’re going to back me up whatever I do. It’s a team, it’s a family. We’ll back each other no matter what happens or how you play. That doesn’t really affect me.
“I don’t know if Joseph was expecting it,” he said of his pass to Huw Jones that Jamie Joseph looked close to. “I knew where the space was and threw it. Maybe if he’d jumped he might have picked it off, but he didn’t. From playing with each other so much, Huw saw the pass coming and ran into the space which was created.
“It’s one of these things. 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 to be able to throw that catch those kind of balls. It’s the belief we’ve got as a team and as individuals.
“It’s a team thing. One boy might mistakes or might not – it doesn’t matter how well you play, it’s a team performance at the end of the day. And today the team were outstanding, which was brilliant to see.
“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. We’ve managed to bounce back against France and obviously today. That’s the job we’re in. You’ve got accept the highs and the lows and we’ll enjoy the high tonight.”
And precisely how big a high was it? “I don’t know,” Russell added. “It’s not quite settled in yet. It’s an experience I’ve never had and a feeling I’ve never had. It was amazing to go out and beat England. Not even just beat them but the way we played. We played so well and executed the game plan – well, not as well as we could, but well enough. There are still things to work on, but it was a pretty good performance.”