Finn Russell hasn’t visited the Louvre or been up the Eiffel Tower yet, but he has thrown himself into one aspect of Parisian culture – eating out.
“I thought about cooking, but I thought, as I am by myself, by the time I go out and buy all the bits I need I might as well just go out and eat – it costs like 18 euros, and if I buy it in and don’t use it then it’s a waste,” said the Scotland stand-off as he gave the media an entertaining update on his big-money move from Glasgow Warriors to Racing 92.
The 26-year-old, who will win his 39th Scotland cap against South Africa tomorrow, has made an instant impact in the French capital, impressing in the No. 10 pale blue and white hooped jersey, and says he has loved immersing himself in a new culture and learning a new language, even though that remains a work in progress.
“I ordered liver. I don’t like liver,” he said with a wince. “I ordered that by accident, and a guy was taking us out for dinner so I had to say I loved it, but it hasn’t been too bad. Steak and chips is easy!
“My diet has changed a lot, I think I eat a lot more bread and pasta over there, but maybe not so many sweets! But I’m not finding it an issue. My weight has not actually gone up, it has actually come down, so I must be doing something right.”
Russell said he was loving life in France but stressed that learning the language was something he is taking seriously as he looks to continue the settling in process.
“Yes, we get lessons twice a week at the club which is really good,” he explained. “I am in the beginners’ group, and then there’s boys who have been there for a year or more who are in the advanced group. I can speak probably more than I can understand.
“The rugby stuff is not that bad because things are up on a board and you are chatting through it, so you know what they are jabbering on about – which is good because you learn a lot of words because you know the context really well.
“It is when you go out to a restaurant. I can ask for a couple of tables, the problems start when they start asking questions back. I have come on a lot since going over there, which is good, but it will take a while. Speaking to a few boys who been there for five, six, seven years, they say it took them a few years to be able to speak it and understand it fluently.
“There are hard days when you are pretty tired you almost switch off, and because you can’t speak it fluently it feels like just a mumble, but some days if I am feeling good I will try to listen, understand and speak it more.”
Russell said that getting out of what had become a comfortable bubble at Glasgow was one of his motivations, along with the reported £700,000 a season salary no doubt, for his decision to join Racing and test himself in the French Top 14.
It has meant a bit more time in his own company but the gregarious Russell hasn’t found that to be a problem.
“It is only ever a few days you have on your own, because I have someone coming over at the weekend, or there is a game and we are travelling down the day before and back up the day after,” he said.
“I think it is good getting my own space. Back in Glasgow there was always people in the flat with Ali [Price], my wee sister and Emma [girlfriend] being there most nights.”
Even the ever positive Russell could not have dreamed of a better start, scoring two tries in a man-of-the-match performance in his Top 14 debut at Toulon. “It was good, a few of the guys had never won away at Toulon so it was good for the whole team,” he said. “And for me it was good to come in and have a decent game and get off to a good start.”
Russell has loved being back in the Scotland fold for this autumn campaign and is relishing tomorrow’s big game against the mighty Springboks.
“They’re obviously very dangerous, score a lot of tries from counter attack. They’re very physical too,” said Russell.
“We’ll have to get a balance on how much we throw it around. Horney [Pete Horne] at 12 has a left foot we can use and Hoggy [Stuart Hogg] has a long kick. We will definitely go for it at times. As with every game you sometimes have to slow it down, stick a high ball up, a long kick, give them a go and defend. It will depend on how the game unfolds. Me and Greig [Laidlaw] will get a feel for it.”
Scotland: Stuart Hogg (Glasgow); Tommy Seymour (Glasgow), Huw Jones (Glasgow), Pete Horne (Glasgow), Sean Maitland (Saracens); Finn Russell (Racing 92), Greig Laidlaw (c) (Clermont); Gordon Reid (London Irish), Stuart McInally (Edinburgh), Willem Nel (Edinburgh), Ben Toolis (Edinburgh), Jonny Gray (Glasgow), Sam Skinner (Exeter Chiefs), Hamish Watson (Edinburgh), Ryan Wilson (Glasgow). Replacements: Subs: Fraser Brown (Glasgow); Allan Dell (Edinburgh); Simon Berghan (Edinburgh); Josh Strauss (Sales Sharks); Jamie Ritchie (Edinburgh); Ali Price (Glasgow); Adam Hastings (Glasgow); Chris Harris (Newcastle).