Scotland v Australia: Kurtley Beale sings the praises of his ‘miracle 10’ team-mate Finn Russell

Utility back promises Wallabies will have plan in place for negating the threat of his Racing 92 colleague

Kurtley Beale
Kurtley Beale on the attack for Racing 92 against Harlequins in a Champions Cup clash. Image: © Craig Watson. www.craigwatson.co.uk

IF YOU do not know what an opponent is going to do, how can you possibly plan to negate it? That is the conundrum which confronts any team when they come up against such an unpredictable player as Finn Russell – but it is one to which Kurtley Beale is sure Australia will find an answer when they meet Scotland at BT Murrayfield on Sunday.

The 32-year-old Wallabies full-back has a uniquely privileged vantage point when it comes to assessing the Scottish stand-off’s threat, as the pair play together for Racing 92. Australia’s defence coach Matt Taylor will have the initial responsibility of coming up with a blueprint for snuffing out the Scots attack, but Beale’s first-hand experience of Russell’s genius is sure to be invaluable too.

Having not featured in a national squad since winning the last of his 92 caps to date at the 2019 World Cup, Beale expected he would be left back in France during the Australians’ tour to Europe, which will take in trips to Twickenham and Cardiff over the following two weekends. Instead, injuries to Tom Banks and Reece Hodge have left a vacancy at full-back, and Beale looks set either to start there or to come off the bench as part of a second-half reshuffle on Sunday.


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But, for all that he may owe his place in Dave Rennie‘s squad to injuries, there is little doubt that Beale still has a lot to offer, having got back to his best since joining Racing at the start of last season. And that, too, is where Russell comes in – because the Australian not only believes that the stand-off deserves some of the credit not only for helping him rediscover top form, he also says that the Scot was one of the reasons he was attracted to signing for Racing in the first place.

“I guess before signing to Racing, Finn was probably a key ingredient for me to go there,” he explained yesterday (Wednesday). “I knew that they would play an attacking style and I didn’t really have to change too much in the way I approached my rugby, so he definitely made it easier. 

“He’s a world-class 10 with his vision in the game. And he has a real good positive influence on the guys around him in the way they play.

“He’s a great guy. He’s definitely helped me settle in, being one of the foreigners at the club, so it’s going to be an interesting week!”

In the first instance, though, as the 32-year-old went on to spell out, it will be down to Taylor to come up with a strategy for stopping Scotland’s playmaker in his tracks. And there, too, personal knowledge will come in useful, as Taylor, like Rennie, worked with Russell during his time in Scotland.

 

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Sometimes with a player as unpredictable as Russell it seems that oppositions might simply be tempted to expect the unexpected and leave it to that. But Beale suggested that, between them, the visitors’ coaching team and playing squad would make altogether more sophisticated preparations.

“You’ve definitely got to have plans in place,” he continued.  “And I’m sure Matt will have a good plan – he’s had experience of a lot of the players in the Scottish team from Glasgow and from the Scottish team in the past. 

“We’ll wait for that to come out and make sure we’re very diligent with our detail on how we want to play against Scotland. One hundred per cent we need a plan, and once we’ve got that down pat then we go out there and just let it rip and enjoy the occasion.

“The Scots are a class team – on their day they’re world-beaters. They’ve got some class danger men – Ali Price, Finn and Stuart Hogg. They’ve just come off the Lions tour and had a positive impact there, so no doubt they’ll be running the show on the weekend.”

Russell and Price certainly ended up running the show when the teams last met four years ago in another Autumn International at Murrayfield. The home side suffered a setback in the warm-up that afternoon when Hogg picked up an injury and had to pull out, but they shrugged off that blow and competed on very even terms throughout the first half, taking a narrow lead just before the interval, within a minute or so of Wallabies prop Sekope Kepu being sent off for a shoulder charge to Hamish Watson’s head. 

Scotland then ran riot in the second half, adding six tries to the two they had scored in the first half to claim a memorable 53-24 victory – a record winning margin for the fixture. “You never like losing by a big margin,” Beale said, looking back to that match. “I thought we were right in that game up until maybe the 60th minute.

“It’s always difficult playing down a man at international level, specially when you’ve got a miracle 10 like Finn Russell, who loves to attack where there’s space. And in that game there was a lot of space.”


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About Stuart Bathgate 1020 Articles
Stuart has been the rugby correspondent for both The Scotsman and The Herald, and was also The Scotsman’s chief sports writer for 14 years from 2000.

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