Glasgow Warriors coach Dave Rennie wants Finn Russell to enjoy his Scotstoun farewell but has warned the stand-off not to push too hard for a miracle performance in tonight’s Guinness Pro14 semi-final against Scarlets.
The Scotland star will make his final home appearance for the club he has been with for six years before heading off to join French giants Racing 92 in the summer, but will be hoping his last act in a Glasgow jersey comes in next week’s Dublin final.
Rennie said: “I just want Finn to relax and do the obvious. I don’t want him to be overawed by the occasion.
“We are lucky. He has played a lot of Test footy. He has led us around the park in regard what we have done over the last couple of weeks. He is clear on his role. He is disappointed at how he went against these guys last time [a 26-8 loss in Llanelli last month] and he only got 40 [minutes].
“We are expecting better things and so is he. He is a good player, an important part of our make-up. He is in the right head space,” added Rennie after naming his team yesterday.
The Warriors coach made clear he expects Russell to use the maverick attacking instincts which have thrilled Scotstoun on many a big occasion in the past few years, but called for some savvy in what will be a huge test against the reigning champions and European Champions Cup semi-finalists.
“Yeah, I guess what I am trying to say if there is space and it makes sense to kick it we kick it. If there are opportunity to keep the ball in hand we do that,” explained the Kiwi.
“We don’t need to try and pull rabbits out of our backsides, type of thing. I have a lot of confidence in him. He has prepared well and is excited by the challenge. It is his last game at home which is pretty special.”
There is no place in the squad for Scotland centres Alex Dunbar or Huw Jones, with Rennie opting for a midfield pairing of Nick Grigg and Sam Johnson and Peter Horne on the bench, with George Horne partnering Russell at half-back. Jonny Gray returns at lock.
“We have picked George on his form,” added Rennie. “He is a bit of a freak in regards to his speed and conditioning. He is a leader, gets to the breakdown very quickly, he is consistent and electric and has a great ability to get second touches.
“He has worked really hard on his distribution game and is passing really well , likewise with his kicking game. He is a tough little bugger, he is competitive and we like that about him.”
Scarlets have selected Kiwi full-back Johnny McNicholl to replace Lions star Leigh Halfpenny, who misses tonight’s game with a hamstring injury.
The second Pro14 semi-final between Leinster and Munster takes place in Dublin tomorrow afternoon.