SCOTLAND head coach Gregor Townsend praised Finn Russell’s all-round performance against Argentina, highlighting that the stand-off is more than just a box of tricks with ball in hand, but also a shrewd game manager and a committed defender.
The two men have a tumultuous past but appear determined to put any personality clash to one side for the sake of the national cause, and Russell produced a stand-out performance in helping the home side to eight tries in their final Autumn Test – albeit against an ill-disciplined Pumas outfit who played an hour with 14 man after the 22nd minute red-carded of Marcos Kremer, and nine minutes of the second half with only 12 men following quick fire yellow-cards for second-rows Matias Alemanno and Tomas Lavanini.
“A very good display,” was Townsend’s overall assessment of the stand-off’s display. “There are parts of his game that maybe don’t get talked about a huge amount. He had three tackles in a row, so showed his competitiveness there.
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“He was working out that the defence was rushing up on his outside and taking that space. He’s got a very good carrying game, a really good fend and offload, and that created line-breaks. And the little kick through in the second half was the right thing to do and created a try for Cam Redpath.
“His passing skills are up there with the best in the world and maybe we expect that, those great passes, but they led to good opportunities. Stuart Hogg’s line off him was from a very good pass from Finn and later he hits Blair Kinghorn and Blair creates a try for Darcy Graham in the corner.
“He’s now the man in possession and he’s played really well the last two weeks, so it will take something special from Blair Kinghorn and Adam Hastings to change that,” Townsend added.
The coach was also full of praise for his back three, who scored five of the team’s eight tries with Darcy Graham claiming a hat-trick while Duhan van der Merwe and Stuart Hogg scored a try each.
“Stuart has been full of energy. He’s one of our best players and when you look at the back-three which played together the last three weeks, there is multiple threats there,” he said.
“There’s a very, very strong runner who has had a couple of good moments in defence in Duhan, there is a guy on the other side who is a nightmare to play against and is scoring lots of tries, and then there is Stuart who is a creative player with a really good all-round game, an excellent kicking game, can finish off tries as he showed today, and who can also put other players away.
“That’s a really good mix in the back three, and today the midfield did really well to get them involved.”
It has been a mixed-bag Autumn series, with Scotland suffering a frustrating loss to Australia, then making hard work of beating Fiji, before letting a golden opportunity to claim a first ever win over the All Blacks slip through their fingers last weekend. While this was certainly a positive end to the campaign, Townsend recognised that one swallow does not make a summer.
“At half-time, when they scored, we knew it was going to be a tricky second half, so I was delighted with the way the players adapted to different situations,” he said. “I think three of their tries were from turnovers and one was an intercept, but we stayed calm and trusted that what we were doing in attack and defence was having a big effect on Argentina.
“It was a real professional job in the second half, but more than that there was a lot of creativity and I thought the bench made a big impact which is something we took from the New Zealand game when their bench upped the energy.
“You’re constantly learning and building, getting our best players on the ball as much as possible, going through long sessions of defence, but also you have to learn from the things that haven’t gone as well for you.
“One area we talked about was being in games right until the end. Today was slightly different in that we were well ahead but that is something we will have to work on, never thinking a game is won or lost because the teams are so competitive and coming back at you.
“I think taking opportunities is still a work-on. We were held up over the try-line twice today and we were close to the try-line on four or five occasions last week and didn’t score.
“Being consistent in your performances, which we weren’t in last year’s Six Nations, is an aim for us this year – to be tough to beat in all five games.
“It is an on-going process. Whenever you think you’ve got it [rugby] sorted, it will come back to bite you, so you’ve got to be on top of it all the time.”
Townsend added that he was not overly concerned about the team coughing up a try soon after Argentina had been reduced to 12 men.
“I think it was just one incident, really,” he reasoned. “The space is obviously more evident when the opposition is down to 12 so maybe we were trying to rush the ball to get into that space rather than doing the narrowing up of the defence or getting the contact right.
“I think we got held up over the try-line on a couple of occasions during that period and while these are things you want to work on, I think, in the main, the players did what was right to create opportunities and we’ve got the players to finish them off.”
Meanwhile, Scotland captain Jamie Ritchie was tight-lipped about his yellow-carding during the second half of the match for his role in a 20-man brawl. “I just saw someone going for Darcy and he’s my wee mate so I look after him,” he said.
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Fourth choice 10 wins the game for Scotland its David and Goliath stuff it really is. He wasn’t good enough at the start of the month then next minute he knuckles down and is a bolter in the squad, over taking a guy that’s so good at rugby he can play back three as well! he even put his own wee spin on the game, doing something you don’t often see at BTMurrayfieldBTBTBT, he kicked the ball through the big pointy sticks instead of to the left or right of them. the referee was so impressed that he even gave us 7 points for a try instead of the usual 5 can you believe it ! just shows the depth really if that’s what the 4th choice can do imagine what the 3 in front can wow depth for you isn’t it. Gregor was so impressed with him after the game and that must mean a lot coming from a guy that didnt speak to you since the six nations
Last 6N Finn Russell walked about the pitch like he just needed to turn up.
I can’t explain the difference in the way his club side and Townsend manage him but there’s obviously more to this than meets the eye.
Russell wanted to play when the call came and he played well after all.
Not at all like someone who doesn’t respect his coach……
Great performance overall by Scotland and righted the Argentinian Tour result earlier in the year though FR not selected! Should have beaten Australia and Kiwis, so our base is getting there, ready for a very difficult RWC2023. Six Nations will be crucial in finely blending our impressive talent pool and plenty room for Blair Kinghorn and Cameron Redpath, Marcus Bradbury, etc. so Scotland in a good place and hopefully Toonie can stop with his inane observations/opinion about the best 10 out there!
I cannot add anymore to the comments above regarding Finns performance. The fans love him and it seems so do the players. Toony maybe less so:) Anyway..did anyone spot the clear out on Sione immediately after his tip tackle for which he was carded? At first and second glance looked awfully similar to the red card clearout on Ritchie. Had the whistle gone? Does that matter in cases of foul play?
As said above it is a privelege to watch Finnn Russell. Like most games I watch him play at Racing.
The ‘gritted teeth’ acknowledgment (of the outstandingly bloody obvious) lets you see the challenges Russell has when involved with Scotland. Townsend would probably call it ‘an opportunity’ for him.
If Russell wa qualified to play for France, would he be in the current French team? That is the French team favourites for the world cup!!
I may be biased in favour of Russell, based on rugby skills, ability to run and manage a game, create pace that allows others to play better around him. Even tackles!
So yes, I am sure he would be the first choice number 10 for France.
Finn was outstanding yesterday. An absolute privelege to see him play like that. He brings so many options right on the tackle line. Comments about his defence are spot on. He has always been a brave tackler. Just don’t see how Townsend can stay in his job having staked so much on moving on from Finn. His interviews are painful to listen to. How can the senior players have any belief in him? Sadly, I don’t see an SRU led by Dodson making the change needed.
Cracking game the team has flourish with Finn coming back, great to see Hoggy playing well possibly not being captain has taken the pressure off to allow him to play. Need to find away to get Kinghorn in the set up.
Wonderful to watch Townsend’s through gritted teeth “praise” for Russell.
Pleased to see Blair get a late run and make a contribution. We really need to find a way of using his pace – but not at fly half.
BK looks like a 15 to me. Not sure about his tackling, but he is some athlete. Why can’t we see him there?
Finn defence has always been fantastic and he is as brave as a lion unlike show pony Hastings whose defence is on par with Hogg. Gloucester hide him in defence as every team knows to send big runners down the 10 channel as he will literally jump out the way.
if only the Gloucester coaches had your insight and knowledge eh?
Hopefully Townsend has at last seen the light with Finn. ‘His passing skills are up there with the best in the world and maybe we expect that.’ Yes we do, which is why we want him in the team – and at the risk of stating the obvious, if you don’t pick your best players then you don’t win matches. ‘He’s now the man in possession and he’s played really well the last two weeks, so it will take something special from Blair Kinghorn and Adam Hastings to change that.’ An encouraging turnaround considering this autumn series started with the coach giving it big licks about how Kinghorn and Hastings would push each other for ownership of the ten jersey, while refusing even to acknowledge Russell’s claim. It is the kind of nonsense that we’ve been putting up with for years now and what a great pity that it required an injury to young Adam for Finn to be brought back in from the cold. Hopefully with him firmly back on the horse, we can enjoy a decent showing in the Six Nations and a consistent run-up to the World Cup. Selection is everything.
But no mention of Ritchies non-HIA despite him receiving a blow direct to the head with excessive force and him lying on the ground clutching his head in what looked like significant discomfort.
Cracking game – bonkers 10 minutes apart – had it all for the spectator. That was a very mature Finn out there, tore them apart without the reckless stuff. It’s not just the backline, he drives the whole team forward, and it looks like the team have faith in him which is something you can’t buy. Sione suddenly makes sense at 12 playing off Finn, although I did like the look of Redpath/Tuipulotu at 12/13 later as well. Need a settled approach to 6N to start to build on last two games – no more tinkering for tinkering sakes pls GT!
Shedding 6kgs would have helped David 👍
I agree though, Finn does not get nearly enough credit for his defensive duties, he’s brave and in this modern rugby age, has worked out if you take there legs they come tumbling down surprisingly quickly 🤷♂️
It’s not just the glamorous stuff he’s good at, but his overall game management is so much more mature 🙂
Finn’s defence was superb yesterday – great line speed, went low on some big men, then back on his feet and into the defensive line. Not sure what happened against France last year but great to see him playing with that sense of defensive commitment