SCOTLAND co-captain Finn Russell met the press this [Wednesday] afternoon to look ahead towards the start of the Six Nations, which kicks-off for his side with a trip to Cardiff to take on Wales a week on Saturday. The first question was inevitably about the new Netflix documentary series ‘Six Nations: Full Contact’ which provides a fly-on-wall insight into what went on behind the scenes during last year’s tournament.
The series went live this morning with one clip in particular featuring the charismatic Russell capturing attention –
— Guinness Men's Six Nations (@SixNationsRugby) January 24, 2024
Here is what the bold Russell had to say about that and the start of the Six Nations –
1. So you reckon you rugby’s answer to Lionel Messi?
“I was asked to describe myself for a non-rugby fan, and I jokingly said I’d be like Messi if you were a football fan – and that’s just taken off by the looks of it.”
2. Messi won the football World Cup in 2022 while you and Scotland flew home after the pool stage of the last two rugby versions!
“I know, I know. Shame I can’t say the same. He’s won a lot more trophies than I have.”
3. But there are similarities?
“What? We wear No 10 and that’s about it.”
4. You’re both playmakers?
“Yeah, I think the actual positions in football are different now. That was just a kind of jokey comment, but you see the way he plays he sets up a lot of boys.
“I wouldn’t say I was at his level. However, it’s a similar position.”
5. Messi was 37 when he won the World Cup and you are only 31, so you’ve still got time?
“I’ve got a couple more in me, then … two more to potentially get it. Ach, we’ll see. We need to win a Six Nations first, don’t we
“That seemed to get blown up out of the series, hasn’t it? Making headlines from a passing comment. Cheers Netflix, you’ve done me over there!”
6. Talking of the Six Nations, you seem to be coming into it in good form after your switch from Racing 92 to Bath over the summer?
“Yeah, it’s good. I’m enjoying life at Bath. We’ve had some great results. Not at the weekend against Toulouse, but I think we played really well, and to go to potentially the best team in Europe and have chances to beat them was great for us. And now the confidence and belief is building in the team.
“Coming back into camp, I’m trying to keep pushing what we’ve been building over the last few years – that belief and confidence in the team. Get to know the new boys and how we can all get on to the same page as quickly as possible.
“My game has probably changed a little bit from going to England – it’s slightly different to France. Maybe having a kid and growing up a bit has changed me as well. The World Cup was a learning curve for me.
“And then moving to another team, becoming the starting 10, solidifying my place and taking control of that team – that has changed me again. I’d say in the last 18 months there have been quite a few changes in my life, and that has maybe changed me as a player as well.”
7. What’s the biggest difference between playing in France and England?
“In France it’s quicker, high pace, high attack style. We have been playing like that at Bath this year, but there is potentially more emphasis on the set-piece and the kicking game, and there is more structure to that. In France there wasn’t as much structure on the kicking side. Even though the attack coaches were brilliant, I think the mentality is to have a go on counter-attack, and the kicking game is seen as more negative rugby.
“Whereas in England with the players we’ve got at Bath, we’re great at getting the ball back in the air – that’s a real strength of ours as well as the running game. So it’s balancing the two and putting them both together. It’s potentially a different way of playing.
“It’s been fine. I can have my say on certain things, but I’ve got to go there and fit in to what the strengths are there and adapt as quickly as possible. That’s why Bath has been a great move for me – it’s a new challenge and a slightly different way of playing and I have to adapt to that and grow as a person.”
8. Are you worried that your goal-kicking has gone off the boil?
“No, I’m quite happy. I think I’ve not been kicking well this year – I’m down about 65 per cent if that. I’m not sure what’s been going on with that, so I’m trying to work on it. That’s something I’ll ideally fix up for the Six Nations. I don’t think it’s anything to do with the pressure or having different responsibilities, it’s more just something is not quite clicking yet. I feel like I’m not far off getting back to where I was, however it’s just not quite working. Ben Spencer was kicking [for Bath] last week and the week before.
“I’m not kicking anywhere near where I used to be – I’m 15, 20 per cent off where I used to last season. It’s quite a big difference – a kick or two a game, which when you get to a high level makes a big difference. I don’t know if I’m kicking this weekend or what. I’ll find out tomorrow or Friday when I go back in.
“I’d imagine so [that I’ll kick for Scotland during the Six Nations] but I’m not sure yet. We’ll get down to that next week when we come back in and it’s Test week. This week’s been more about getting shape, getting everyone up to speed and getting everyone’s on the same page.”
9. You’ll face a new look Wales team in the opener but Scotland’s record in Cardiff is pretty woeful?
“We had a good tournament last year, winning the first two games. We beat Wales at home but Gatland had just taken over and they’ll be a very different team this year.
“Looking at their squad, they’ve got quite a few young players and it could be their first taste of Six Nations rugby and they’ll all be looking to prove a point in front of Gats to solidify their place.
“It’ll be tough, it’s always tough down at the Principality, but we need to focus on ourselves and get right some of the things we got potentially wrong at the World Cup.”
10. Do Scotland need to be more ruthless?
“Yeah, that ruthlessness we probably lacked at the World Cup. When we went behind against Ireland, how we bounce back from that and get on to the next job that we’ve got on the pitch. It’s about how we let things go and bounce straight back and grow as a team mentally.
“Like in the South Africa game, when the pressure’s coming on, it’s about how we can continue to play our game and not go into our shells. So there are a lot of things we can learn from that as a team from the World Cup, especially the South Africa and Ireland games.
“The Six Nations is not too dissimilar to those group stages in that you’ve got to get out quickly and have a sprint start if you want to have a chance of winning this tournament.
“We know we need to get out quickly the first two, three, four games – and that’s pretty much the tournament done!
“The first two games are so important, but especially this first one away to Wales. If you can get out quickly and get a little bit of momentum after the first game, second game you’re in a good place.
“That’s me saying that as if it’s all going to go well but we all know the challenge that lies ahead.”