Finn Russell recalls rise from bricks to World Cup

Finn Russell and team-mate Greig Laidlaw model the shirts Scotland will wear during the forthcoming rugby season. Pic: SNS
Finn Russell and team-mate Greig Laidlaw model the shirts Scotland will wear during the forthcoming rugby season. Pic: SNS
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This time four years ago, Finn Russell was in the middle of pre-season training with new club Falkirk and was working as a stonemason. Now he is on the cusp of an appearance at the biggest rugby tournament in the world.

Stand-off Russell admits he sometimes has to pinch himself regarding the journey he has been on in such a short space of time, but now that he has made the Scotland No.10 jersey his own, he is in no mood to hand it over to anyone else.

Barring any injuries in the four warm-up games – which begin on August 15 with Ireland away – the 22-year-old will be one of head coach Vern Cotter’s key picks in the 31-man squad that travels to Gloucester for the first World Cup match in September.

In fact, he will turn 23 on the day that they play Japan in the intriguing Pool B encounter – and few would bet against him turning in a star performance.

In the last year he has earned nine Scotland caps and won the Guinness PRO12 with Glasgow Warriors, so it is unsurprising that it seems like a lifetime ago to him that he was moving from Stirling County to Falkirk.

“When the last World Cup was being played in New Zealand, I was a stonemason, so I didn’t really watch it to be honest because the timings were all different. I was up for work early and things, but I remember reading about the rugby in the paper and that was about it,” Russell recalled.

“I was starting to play for Falkirk at the times and just keeping an eye on things Scotland-wise. I was 18, nearly 19, moving to a new club to get game time and just see what happened.

“Never could I have imagined I’d be where I am now preparing for a World Cup myself, but I got an academy contract with Glasgow back in 2012 and things have gone from there.”

Russell may have learnt a lot in the four years as he alludes to, but it is in the last year that he has undoubtedly found out the most about his own game.

He has gone from a fringe pro player to one of the first names on the team-sheet for club and country and he explained: “I learnt so much during the season we just had.

“As a young player getting 20-25 more games under my belt at a high level was crucial and I learnt loads from every match I played.

“From a year ago to now at Glasgow we worked out a way to grind out wins sometimes. I’m looking for me and some of the other Glasgow boys to bring that trait into this Scotland team.

“In the Six Nations we suffered some tight defeats. Now we want to turn those into wins in the warm-up matches and in the World Cup.”

Behind Russell in the queue in the Scotland training camp waiting for a chance to play stand-off are Duncan Weir, Ruaridh Jackson, Peter Horne and Edinburgh Rugby’s own Greig Tonks. “I guess the stand-off position was mine in the Six Nations, but it’s the World Cup now and a different competition,” said Russell. “It’s almost back to a blank slate and everyone’s gunning for it. You’ve just got to go out and train as well as you can. The best man will get the jersey, so we’ll wait and see what happens.

“Everyone is going to get a chance in the warm-up games to show what they can do, so everyone has got to believe they will get that chance and back themselves and do what they need to do [to make the final World Cup squad].”

Russell was speaking at BT Murrayfield as it was announced that the shelf life of Scotland’s fastest-selling kit is to be extended for the rest of the season.

The Macron-designed home navy and alternate white kits, launched recently for the showpiece event, will have the World Cup logo replaced by national team sponsor BT and BT Sport for all other matches that the country play outwith the tournament.

Scotland will wear the kits for the first time during the warm-up Tests, beginning next month.