Rugby World Cup: Finn Russell wants great performance against Samoa "for ourselves and the nation"
Finn Russell admitted Sunday’s humbling by Ireland in the World Cup opener was the lowest moment in his Scotland career but with a characteristically half-glass full outlook expressed complete confidence that kind of performance won’t be repeated.
The 27-3 loss to the Irish was the 27-year-old stand-off’s 47th cap and won’t be one he cherishes too much but he is keen to get another chance against Samoa in Kobe on Monday to produce an individual and collective performance he feels is a more accurate reflection of his and the team’s abilities.
“I don’t think there’s one boy who came off the pitch who would think they’d had the best game. I include myself in that,” said Russell at the squad hotel today.
“For all of us we know we can do better and we’ll be focusing on that this week.
“It’s always understandable that the fans aren’t happy. We know we can play better and our aim is to win games, play as well as we can and make the nation proud of us. It’s understandable, we’ve got to take it on the chin and move on to next week, turn things around and put out a great performance for ourselves and the nation.”
Scotland have now conceded nine tries in the first 15 minutes of Tests this year and Russell knows it is a failing which can’t go on if the national team want to build a consistent winning record.
“Ireland were nine points up at 12-3 then one kick ahead comes back off the posts, if that bounces half a metre to the left or right it’s a 22 drop out [instead it was a scrum-five which Ireland scored their third try from to go 19-3 up after 24 minutes],” said the Racing 92 playmaker.
“So these fine margins against the best teams in the world... I don’t know how you answer how they got 16 points ahead but that’s one way they got an easy seven points. A few phases later they scored.
“They are very clinical in that area, scoring easily. We need to go back and fix that this week.
“If you go a couple of tries behind early on it’s going to be difficult to get back at international level. We managed to do it against France in the warm-ups there. I believe we are capable of it.
“Ireland are the No 1 team in the world and the weather didn’t help but that’s no excuse for the first 24 minutes when they went 16 points up. Looking on to the next three games we need to make that a focus point for us and make sure we start well, whether that’s the things we do in the week building up, in the training sessions, or the warm-up before the game.
“I think the players this week will be mentally and physically in the right place and know what they want to do. I believe we will come out with some fire in the belly after the weekend.”
Russell believes the players can channel the anger they have felt since Wayne Barnes mercifully blew the final whistle at the rain-soaked Yokohama International Stadium on Sunday and take it out on the Samoans in a controlled, disciplined and focused manner.
“I think you can,” he said. “The frustration a couple of days after the game was definitely there but I think we now have to put that behind us and move on to the Samoa game.
“If we try and play and win on frustration and anger it’s not going to happen. We need to stick to our structure, stick to what we do and not think we’re going to beat them on anger. That’s not how you win international Test matches.
“We had a training session today and we’re going to have to put Ireland behind us now and get on to Samoa.”
Drop goals have never been part of Russell’s repertoire - remarkably he has never converted a single one in his professional career - insisting his focus is always on tries.
All very well, but already in this World Cup it has been shown to still be a valuable avenue to get crucial points on the board.
Russell famously botched a drop-goal attempt in a tight finish to a November Test against Argentina, which was almost costly until a late Greig Laidlaw penalty secured the win.
“I’ve tried a few in my career and never got one. I need a bit of practice,” said Russell.
“France won when Camile Lopez hit the drop-kick against Argentina and South Africa hit one against the All Blacks as well. It’s a great way to get three points if you can do it.
“It’s something I’ll have in the back of my mind if we need it at the end of the game, or just to potentially get an advantage somewhere in their half to have a go.
“It could be one of the things you look for against Samoa, if you’re under a lot of pressure in defence you’ll look for it. If it’s tight towards the end we can have a go there. I’ll be practising it, I’ve had a few shots and not got it so hopefully the next one I’ll get.”