Finn Russell has no Scotland retirement plans as stand-off reveals post World Cup calls with Gregor Townsend and Lions hope

The Scotland talisman says he has no plans ‘to finish up any time soon’

Finn Russell’s latest World Cup disappointment has not dented his enthusiasm to play for Scotland as the talismanic stand-off declared he has no intention of making himself unavailable for the national team any time soon.

The 31-year-old was gutted at suffering a second successive pool-stage exit in France in October, but he revealed his desire to pull on the dark blue jersey remains as strong as ever. “No, not at all,” he said when asked if his appetite for international rugby had been diminished by his World Cup experience. “If anything it’s given me a bit more of an appetite to get back into it with the national team again and try to get a few more wins and try to win something.”

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Fellow Scotland star Stuart Hogg retired from rugby in the summer aged 31 but Russell, who is just a few months younger than the former full-back, aims to still be operating at a level that allows him to go to his fourth World Cup in 2027. The fly-half, who recently joined Bath following five years in France with Racing 92, will turn 35 a week before the showpiece in Australia begins. “Hopefully,” he said. “Age-wise, I’ll be able to make that. It’s just about whether or not I’m playing well enough, so hopefully I am. I’ve got no inclination to finish up any time soon internationally.”

Finn Russell has reiterated his desire to represent Scotland at the next World Cup.Finn Russell has reiterated his desire to represent Scotland at the next World Cup.
Finn Russell has reiterated his desire to represent Scotland at the next World Cup.

This year’s World Cup, in which Scotland were well beaten by South Africa and Ireland, cut deep for Russell. Instead of taking a holiday immediately afterwards, he chose to throw himself straight into club rugby with new side Bath, making his debut as a substitute against Newcastle just a week after the demoralising defeat by the Irish. But as one of Scotland’s vice-captains, he has been in contact with head coach Gregor Townsend to dissect the tournament with a view to improving for the upcoming Six Nations.

“I came straight into something new after the World Cup so that didn’t allow me to reflect on it as much as others might have,” he said. “I think that’s fine though. It’s always in the back of your mind. I had a call with Gregor just to chat and give my opinion on how we could have done better at the World Cup, how we could develop, and how we could use it as a learning curve for both of us and the whole team.

“We were both chatting about how we thought the World Cup went, where we can grow and develop from it, how we can get better as a team and us both as individuals – me as a player and him as a coach. It wasn’t like we were blaming each other or anything like that, it was just a good conversation to get us going in the right direction. The style of rugby we’re playing is very exciting and we’re scoring tries but obviously against Ireland in particular we had a disappointing result. We’ll have to address a few things from the World Cup that didn’t go as planned and we’ll have to grow as a group and get better but I’m looking forward to the Six Nations coming round and trying to achieve something.”

Russell himself is in a good place. Following five years in Paris, he and his young family have enjoyed “a very easy transition” to life in Bath over the past couple of months. After starting seven of the in-form Gallagher Premiership side’s last eight matches, the stand-off feels fit and fresh. “I’m feeling good,” he said, speaking ahead of Saturday’s Champions Cup trip to Cardiff. “I came straight back after the World Cup and played the next week so I didn’t have a week to dwell on the World Cup. I just wanted to get on to the next thing and get a new focus straight away.

Russell held debrief chats with Scotland head coach Gregor Townsend.Russell held debrief chats with Scotland head coach Gregor Townsend.
Russell held debrief chats with Scotland head coach Gregor Townsend.

“After a few games, I had a week off and went to New York with my partner so it was nice to get away and relax. Even though the World Cup was frustrating, it’s been good to get back in here and get some good results. It’s been a new challenge with a new team and I’m feeling fresh. I’ve settled in very smoothly, easily, quickly, which has been brilliant and rugby-wise we’ve been playing well. So far, so good. I’m enjoying it.”

In addition to the usual club and country matters, the prospect of a third British and Irish Lions tour will soon be on Russell’s horizon. The Scottish superstar went to New Zealand in 2017 and South Africa in 2021 and is a likely contender to be involved again in Australia the summer after next. “It’s something I know is coming up and it will be at the back of my mind but my main focus for now is doing as well as I can with Bath and Scotland and then we’ll get to the Lions when it comes round,” he said. “I think everyone in the UK and Ireland will have that as their goal after the World Cup but it’s quite a while away. I just need to do my job for Bath and Scotland.”

Russell also reckons Scotland will benefit from having burgeoning backs Ben White and Blair Kinghorn plying their trade at the top level in France. Scrum-half White, 25, joined Challenge Cup winners Toulon after the World Cup following the demise of London Irish, while 26-year-old full-back Kinghorn moved from boyhood club Edinburgh to Top 14 giants Toulouse earlier this month. Russell believes it can only be a good thing for Scotland to have two key players – both of whom scored tries in the Champions Cup last weekend – spending their prime years in a league he holds in the highest regard.

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“I think it’s good moves for the two of them, they’ll have great fun playing over there,” Russel added. “They’ll learn a lot and they’ll be challenged in a way they probably won’t have experienced before with the language, the lifestyle and the style of rugby. But I think both of them will adapt really well and they’ll grow as players as well as men. They’ll get to learn about the French mentality, French rugby and the individuals. That’s knowledge that you don’t really get until you’re out there playing. It will be great for the national team and it will be brilliant for the two guys personally.”