Finn Russell says Scotland need to improve mentally to make next step

Co-captain has his say on evolution of team after Six Nations campaign ends with defeat in Ireland

Finn Russell believes Scotland need to be mentally stronger if they are to find the consistency to mount a serious challenge for the Six Nations Championship.

The Scots ended their tournament with a 17-13 defeat to Ireland in Dublin but produced a performance which far exceeded the pallid showing against Italy the previous week. The result means Ireland are Six Nations champions and Scotland have missed out on the Triple Crown.

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The loss in Rome was the low point in a campaign which included wins over Wales and England and an unfortunate home defeat by France which hinged on a contentious TMO decision. Russell, the Scotland co-captain, expressed his frustration at the up and down nature of the team’s performances and some "soft mistakes", while recognising the resolve they showed at the Aviva.

Finn Russell looks on during Scotland's defeat by Ireland in Dublin.Finn Russell looks on during Scotland's defeat by Ireland in Dublin.
Finn Russell looks on during Scotland's defeat by Ireland in Dublin.

“The defensive efforts that we put in were outstanding and that’s what it should be every week,” Russell said. “It’s a bit frustrating that we weren’t able to do that week-in, week-out in this campaign but the boys showed passion and how brave we are, coming to play Ireland at the Aviva with them having the title on the line. The performance we put in was outstanding. There are areas that we still need to work on and get better at, but as a whole I was really proud of the boys.”

Scotland have ended the campaign with two wins, one fewer than last year. Asked if the team were progressing or regressing, Russell said: “Today we are progressing. The mentality we had today, especially in defence, was brilliant, but throughout the campaign we need to get mentally stronger. We need to get better at putting in performances week-in, week-out, and putting in 80 minute performances. We’ve had spells in this championship where we have been brilliant but at the same time we’ve had spells where we’ve let teams get on the front foot and build momentum.

“We are progressing. It’s tough only winning two games but I think this campaign will make us better come the summer and November and the next Six Nations. My personal opinion is that mentally we need to get a lot better and not drift out of moments in the game. We need to be in every moment of the game and that’s a big work-on for us. Against Ireland, I think we were there for 90 per cent of the game but there were a couple of moments that allowed Ireland into it and against the best team in the world you can’t do that.

“For every sports team that happens. Every individual sportsman or woman too. We are growing and today showed that yes, we had a couple of moments where we made mistakes or not the right choice, but we bounced back. When you have these moments when you drift, the most important thing is getting back into the moment. We were able to do that today and moving forward we need to keep that mentality. You’re going to have moments where mentally it is tough, but we need to make sure we are looking out for the guys around us and getting them back in as soon as possible.”