RWC23: Scotland v Tonga: Townsend backs Russell to bounce back from Springbok disappointment

Head coach admits that springbok defeat was not one of the talismanic playmaker's finest days

Finn Russell during the Scotland team open training session at Stade Nicois on Monday. Image: © Craig Watson -
Finn Russell during the Scotland team open training session at Stade Nicois on Monday. Image: © Craig Watson -

SCOTLAND head coach Gregor Townsend has backed star stand-off Finn Russell to bounce back from a frustrating first match at this World Cup against South Africa last Sunday, when the enigmatic playmaker struggled on back-foot ball to create game-breaking opportunities for the rest of his team.

“What do I expect from him at this World Cup? That he plays at his best level,” said Townsend. “It didn’t happen for him, but above all for the team, against South Africa and so it is up to him, me and the team to improve our performance and to bounce back against Tonga. We must bounce back and we must win, and then we must beat Romania to set up what would be a kind of last-16 [knockout] match against Ireland to progress.

“How the fly half plays depends on how the game is going, whether the ball is quick or slow and whether the opposition defence manage to limit his influence.

“For the last six years, Finn has often played good match after good match and I know he will come back strongly. We’ve seen it in training this past week. He has a lot of pride in this group and they have a lot of trust in him.”

Scotland play Tonga in Nice on Sunday  at 4.45pm UK time.

RWC23: Scotland v Tonga: Mum’s the word for Cam Redpath

About David Barnes 3991 Articles
David has worked as a freelance rugby journalist since 2004 covering every level of the game in Scotland for publications including The Herald/Sunday Herald, The Sunday Times, The Telegraph, The Scotsman/Scotland on Sunday/Evening News, The Daily Record, The Daily Mail/Mail on Sunday and The Sun.


  1. Kreill goes off, as he should have, S A can’t use line speed against Finn Russell. He now has more time and, more importantly, space to play his game. Scotland suffered again from poor officiating and I am baffled by the silence of fans, pundits, coaches, etc. regarding the blatant favouritism shown by all in officialdom in this World Cup.

  2. As many have already alluded to on here, Russell couldn’t do much piano playing when the piano was continually being shunted backwards. We just about hung in physically in the first half, had a 10 mins period of actual physical dominance in the scrum (from 30-40 mins) and then crumbled completely in the second half. No out-half in the world would have been able to do much under those circumstances. Perhaps the only criticism I might level at Finn is that he should have gone for place kicking into the corners alot more purely in the hope he could alleviate some of the blitz defence misery we endured and get some joy in the line-out in SA’s 22. Unfortunately, our line-out didnt function well on the day, so even if he had achieved quality kicks into that area we might have done nothing at all with it. Russell also defended bravely in the 2nd half when we were under the cosh, he put his body on the line.

    In short, the entire team needs to find another gear this weekend and make a statement against Tonga or our WC might look to be in jeapordy. Romania will tell us nothing, they are whipping boys. To have any real momentum and feel good going into the Ireland match we must put a score on Tonga and announce we are here to front up to the bigboys.

  3. A coach’s answer depends on the question asked. We do not know from this article what the question was but it sort of suggests strongly to me a journo questioning Russell’s performance.
    But I see no finger pointing at Russell in the response. Just pointing out that the stand off depends on the pack etc, which we all know. And saying everyone need to up their game.
    I have to wonder what journo sought to imply it was Russell’s fault.

  4. Like most games, that game was settled by the battle of the forwards. We lost the breakdown as well as the lineout. If I had one criticism of the backs – which is pretty harsh because they had very little possession – it would be that they were too flat against a brilliant blitz defence. I am pretty certain Ireland’s backs will be deeper this weekend, have more time and space, and look a lot more dangerous than we were.

  5. Yes I distinctly don’t recall watching us not catch a lineout, not make any yards and seeing darcy graham fluff the only chance we had, and thinking aye Finns the problem here. Scotland were south africa’d plain and simple. When the shit hit the fan the whole team bottled it and played like they had only just met. Credit to Finn for sticking at it and putting in the hits as usual.

    • Aye it was Finn that kept the a ore respectable. Heartening to see the squad modelling suits on social media today rather than working on set pieces…..nothing been learned from prev RWC and 6N and yet GT has an extension….madness given so e of the coaches that are going to be available post RWC.

      • Absolutely because the best way to prepare is non-stop rugby training to ensure you are fresh for the game isn’t it?

        Oh wait a moment …..

  6. I’m not sure pointing at Russell is good management here. Need to point to the lineout performance, ruck speed, and ball carriers making hard yards as well as the overall tactics for dealing with a rush defence before calling out anyone.

    • It’s almost as if he has to find a reason to be critical of Russell being [for him] off form yet seemingly myopic to what I thought were the majority of the the lost lines-out and other factors.

    • Where does he point the finger at Russell. Journo asks a question about Russell. Townsend says they Al have to do better. Journo creates a headline which does not reflect the conversation. But does generate clicks

  7. The lineout was the key factor against SA. Seemed to over complicate things from the start. To have had any chance agains SA our set piece had to be perfect.

    • We made the lineout complicated for ourselves. We imploded. But its how we respond to it. I hope we go back to our original set plan as it should have been – just keep it simple from set piece and build. Its how we choose to manage and control pressure. Pressure on the opposition and the pressure they apply. Recently we have been a team who seams to soak up pressure and take the game to the opposition. However SA sucked it out of us. Ireland the same. Teams will look at how SA achieved this. I hope we learn and play a plan B when required and build, control the phases and suck the life out of the opposition. If we can do this then we can get out of this group and build in confidence…

      • Agree…except that looking at the records v South Africa and Ireland we show no evidence that we ever learn to play a different way for 80 minutes against them that gets results. I just don’t see anything different v Ireland….the proof will be in the pudding. Ill change my outlook only if we actually find a way to win.

  8. The thing with Finn is, even when, as in the South Africa game, it isn’t happening for him – he never retreats into his shell and hides. He always stays positive and tries to make things happen. He will be fine; he’s the last player in our squad I worry about.

    We need some of the others to find their inner Russell, and if they do, we will put Tonga to the sword.


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