Finn Russell’s talent and potential have been widely acknowledged for a while now but he is currently producing such a sustained level of excellence that his name is becoming increasingly linked with that L-word.
There is a lot of water to flow under the bridge before Warren Gatland names his British and Irish Lions squad for the summer tour to New Zealand but Russell’s latest stand-off masterclass in Glasgow’s 23-7 win over Racing 92 on Friday, in which he outclassed the great Dan Carter for the second week running, surely has him firmly in the mix.
The first half in particular, when Russell was at the heart of everything as Glasgow raced into a decisive 18-0 lead, was probably as well as the 24-year-old has played.
“I felt I played well last week and this,” said Russell, with understated modesty. He expressed frustration at the slight drop in quality in the last half hour which saw a bonus point go begging. Let’s hope that doesn’t come back to haunt the Warriors in the notoriously devilish quest to reach the European Champions Cup quarter-finals, a feat they have never achieved before.
“The whole team took confidence from [the previous weekend’s 23-14 win in] Paris. We knew how tough it was going to be, because they’d be zero from three if they lost, so we knew how much they were going to want it.
“Our forwards did an amazing job and fronted up, and physically we just beat them. I believe we can qualify. We’ve still got two tough games left, Munster at home and Leicester away, but I believe we can qualify.
“There was frustration in the changing room at the end. The last 30 minutes got a bit loose. Gregor [Townsend, the Glasgow coach] said ‘great win’ but if we’d kept on playing the way we did in the first 50 minutes, we probably should have got the bonus point.
“There definitely is frustration at getting three tries in 50 minutes and then nothing else, but we’ll take a lot from the game.”
Townsend certainly feels that Gatland and his staff will have taken notice of his player. “What the Lions selectors want to see is how the players play in the bigger games,” said the coach. “Finn has played really well now against Racing twice and Leicester. He thrives on these big games.”
Credit must go to the fast-improving scrum-half Ali Price, who provided the crisp service that allowed Russell to flourish and scored a try for the third straight game. “I don’t want to say too much because his head will get too big,” said Russell with a smile about his half-back partner. “But he’s been playing so well. It’s unlucky for Henry [Pyrgos] that Ali is on the form he is, both when he came on for Scotland and then here. It’s great for me as a ten that I’ve got a nine inside me who’s on form like that.”
The Glasgow players have a few days off now before turning their attentions to the 1872 Cup clash with Edinburgh, where Russell could be up against his old mucker Duncan Weir. “I’m looking forward to it,” said Russell. “It will be different, going against someone you’re mates with, but it’s generally always like that when you play Edinburgh. You know them all from Scotland.”