Finn Russell runs the show against England but stays grounded

Man-of-the-match Finn Russell chose his moment of vindication to deflect praise to his team-mates in the wake of the glorious 25-13 triumph to regain the Calcutta Cup.

Finn Russell, left, and Sean Maitland celebrate at full time
Finn Russell, left, and Sean Maitland celebrate at full time

“Today the team was world class, not just an individual,” he declared.

England coach Eddie Jones had bestowed the world-class tag on the under-pressure Scotland playmaker in the days before the match and the 25-year-old responded with a magnificent performance, running the show, kicking intelligently and creating tries as Scotland overwhelmed their favoured rivals.

While clearly delighted to have bounced back so spectacularly from below-par displays in the opening two games, Russell remained modest in the aftermath of his scintillating show.

“I don’t know. You’d have to ask the other players and the coaches – I’m not going to rate myself,” he said when asked if he considered himself to be world class.

“But no, I think for a 10 to be world class you’ve got to have the boys around you that help you out, and today everyone played so well. We had the gameplan and everyone executed that, so for a 10 that makes it easier, for me, running those balls out the back and you’ve got boys running off you.

“I couldn’t have played like I did today without the boys round me giving me the support and knowing the gameplan as well as I did.”

Most satisfying, and impressive, was the way Russell stuck to his own instincts and style of playing, refusing to rein in his willingness to attack, try things and play on the edge.

Against Wales and, to a lesser extent France, the rewards for risk were paltry. Yesterday they were bountiful.

“Nah they’re not risky. I know what’s happening,” he said with a smile when asked about some of his passing, including a glorious one which looked set to be intercepted before landing in double tryscorer Huw Jones’s hands in the lead up to the Scots’ second try, which was finished off by Sean Maitland. “I can do that with the trust I’ve got in the boys outside,” he added. “The belief that they’re going to back me up whatever I do. It’s a team, it’s a family. We’ll back each other no matter what happens or how you play. That doesn’t really affect me.

“I don’t know if [England centre Jonathan] Joseph was expecting it [the pass to Jones]. I knew where the space was and threw it. Maybe if he’d jumped he might have picked it off, but he didn’t. From playing with each other so much, Huw saw the pass coming and ran into the space which was created.

“It’s one of these things. A lot of folk might look thinking it’s risky, and there is a certain extent of risk, but I back myself and I back the boys around me to be able to throw that and catch those kind of balls. It’s the belief we’ve got as a team and as individuals.”

The criticism he has received in recent weeks had not added any fuel to his fire, he insisted.

“Nah. That’s sport, that’s the game we play in,” he said. “You get the highs and the lows.

“You always watch the games back and you look through them. I think everyone picks up on small things. Like the kicks to touch I missed against France – that [Stuart] Hoggy kicked to touch this weekend, which was fine by me, I’ve got no issues with that at all. Greig [Laidlaw] was kicking at goal, I’ve got no dramas at all with any of that.

“Again, it’s a team thing. One boy might make mistakes or might not – it doesn’t matter how well you play, it’s a team performance at the end of the day. And today the team were outstanding, which was brilliant to see.

“Last week we won [against France] and some people said I wasn’t so good and against Wales the whole team got a slating. We’ve managed to bounce back against France and obviously today.

“That’s the job we’re in. You’ve got to accept the highs and the lows and we’ll enjoy the high tonight.”

Russell was still processing exactly how big a high he, and the rest of the team, were feeling but knew it felt different to anything else he had experienced in his career so far.

“I don’t know. It’s not quite settled in yet,” said the Glasgow man, who will join French giants Racing 92 in the summer.

“It’s an experience I’ve never had and a feeling I’ve never had. It was amazing to go out and beat England. Not even just beat them but the way we played.

“We played so well and executed the gameplan, well not as well as we could have, but well enough. There are still things to work on but it was a pretty good performance.”