Finn Russell's Top 14 bid hinges on Paris derby as Racing take on Stade Francais in play-offs

The home stretch is in sight but Finn Russell will be hoping to extend his stay in France by a couple more weeks yet.
Finn Russell's Racing 92 will face Stade Francais in the Top 14 play-offs.  (Photo by Franck Fife/AFP via Getty Images)Finn Russell's Racing 92 will face Stade Francais in the Top 14 play-offs.  (Photo by Franck Fife/AFP via Getty Images)
Finn Russell's Racing 92 will face Stade Francais in the Top 14 play-offs. (Photo by Franck Fife/AFP via Getty Images)

The Top 14 play-offs begin this weekend with Russell’s Racing 92 taking on Stade Francais in a mouthwatering Paris derby at the latter’s Stade Jean-Bouin. If they can get the better of their city rivals on Saturday, Racing will face Toulouse in the semi-finals a week later, with the final scheduled for June 17 at the Stade de France. La Rochelle are the big guns in the other half of the draw, looking to add to the domestic crown to their Heineken Champions Cup success.

Russell has spent the past five seasons with Racing but his Parisian adventure is coming to an end. He is heading to England to begin a new chapter with Bath who this week announced they had sold out their entire allocation of season tickets for next season. Anticipation is sky high for what the Scotland 10 can bring to the West Country club but there remains unfinished business in France and if Russell is going to go out with a flourish then Racing are going to have to do it the hard way. A 32-25 defeat by Clermont Auvergne last weekend saw them finish the regular season in fifth place in the Top 14, meaning they missed out on a home tie in the quarter-finals. Russell began the game on the bench against Clermont, coming on for the final 20 minutes, but is expected to start against Stade Francais who also lost their final league game, to La Rochelle, and finished fourth. “Now we have to digest this defeat, get our heads straight, recover well and work well to prepare for this play-off which awaits us, against Racing 92,” Gonzalo Quesada, the coach of Stade Français, told L’Equipe. “It will be a difficult match because Racing have already beaten us. I love this derby, it’s exciting. We will do everything to climb one more step.”

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Racing beat Stade 17-13 at Stade Jean Bouin in March but lost heavily at home to their Paris rivals on Christmas Eve, going down 48-10 at La Defense Arena, their biggest defeat of the domestic season. Racing got the better of Stade in the play-offs two years ago before losing to La Rochelle in the semis and have not won the Top 14 since 2016, two years before Russell arrived from Glasgow. Saturday’s match has been switched to an afternoon kick-off so it doesn’t clash with Paris Saint-Germain’s home game with Clermont at the Parc des Princes as Lionel Messi and Co celebrate their latest Ligue 1 triumph. Racing’s own No 10 is looking to end his stint in Paris with silverware and a win over Stade Francais would see Russell and his team-mates head to Spain for the next round. Both semi-finals are scheduled to take place in San Sebastian at Real Sociedad’s Anoeta Stadium on the weekend of June 9-10 as the Top 14 heads to the Basque country. Russell’s involvement in the play-offs means he has so far been unable to join the Scotland training camp which began on Monday and will continue for another three weeks.



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