FINN Russell is determined to bring the value of all the experience he has picked up over the course of Scotland’s viagogo Autumn Test Series to bear for Glasgow.
Having pronounced himself fit and ready to step back into domestic action for Warriors despite starting all three autumn Tests for Scotland, Russell accepts that, with Duncan Weir also desperate to enjoy supremacy at No 10 and Peter Horne kicking all Glasgow’s points at Scarlets last weekend, there is no such thing as a foregone conclusion when it comes to reclaiming his starting place.
Yet having played in both of Glasgow’s painful defeats at the hands of the Dragons last season, Russell is hungry to play his part in returning the complement to the men from Rodney Parade by administering a second bout of despair to Lyn Jones’ side in two months, at Scotstoun, on Sunday.
With Glasgow victorious in their last 12 fixtures in all competitions at home, since Toulon were triumphant in the Heineken Cup back in January and the men from Newport-Gwent, by bitter contrast, boasting just one success this term against the Italians of Treviso, the portents look favourable for a return to winning ways for the Warriors.
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Thus, Russell clearly has no desire to be rested after his heroics on national service: “I am fit and raring to go for Glasgow again and I just have to wait and see if I will be selected, but I feel like I have learned a lot from the Autumn Series that will stand me in good stead for Warriors over the next few months,” claimed Russell.
The stand-off continued: “Starting in all three viagogo Tests was great and the chance to play against three teams with the type of different styles that Argentina, New Zealand and Tonga all possess is something that has definitely helped me develop my game.
“[Scotland head coach] Vern Cotter is very good at getting you to play what you are up against and, particularly in the Tonga Test, I had to change things in the second half, so I’ve had to be adaptable and with big games in the Guinness Pro12 and the European Rugby Champions Cup coming along for Glasgow that is something that will stand me in good stead.”
Yet while the Dragons will hardly come to Scotstoun breathing fire, Russell rightly points to the twin helpings of misery they heaped on his side last term, when they administered two highly damaging defeats on Gregor Townsend’s side, as a stark warning.
“Our results against the Dragons were not good last season and the fact that they did the double over us is something that hurt us,” said Russell.
“I played at inside centre in the first game, which we lost 23-8 at Scotstoun and that was the low point of the season for us at home, there is no doubt about it. We were without players who were away on international duty, just like the Scarlets game last week, and we just didn’t perform.
“In the second game I was at 10 and we lost out 24-23 and that defeat cost us a seven game winning run, so although we beat the Dragons in the first game of the season at Rodney Parade, we know that they are more than capable of coming to Scotstoun and turning us over.
“Clearly, after having lost last week at Parc y Scarlets, we must make sure we do everything we can to get the win and avoid any negative momentum developing and it is a big plus for us we will be back in front of our own fans.”
Equally at home at stand-off or inside centre, Russell admits that his return to a black jersey in either position is far from a sure thing due to the ferocious competition within the Warriors’ ranks that will be re-joined with the repatriation of the club’s Scotland contingent.
Yet the 22 year-old’s astute game management, accurate kicking game and ability to make play in the teeth of the opposition’s defensive line, have now nudged him to the forefront for both club and country at fly-half, even if Russell is too modest to admit it.
“Obviously Duncy [Weir] started the season at 10 and then I have come in and got the nod in the last European game against Montpellier and last weekend at Scarlets Horny [Peter Horne] has done well, so the competition at 10 is tough,” admitted Russell.
He said: “But then you look at inside centre and Alex Dunbar has been tremendous and James Downey has a world of experience, so the message is that wherever you want to play at Glasgow you will face a real fight to earn the jersey.
“So from that point of view what is most important for me is that I have absorbed the lessons I learned from Scotland and made the most of the advice that Duncan Hodge and Vern Cotter have given me and now I am back at Glasgow I must continue to work hard and learn.”
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