Greig Laidlaw has warned Ireland to beware Finn Russell after revealing the Scotland stand-off is in the mood to wreak further havoc after masterminding the dismantling of England.
The Glasgow playmaker came under sharp scrutiny as he opened his NatWest 6 Nations campaign with a pair of sub-par displays against Wales and France.
But he was back to his flamboyant best pulling the strings for Gregor Townsend’s side as they roared to a stunning 25-13 Calcutta Cup triumph over England two weeks ago.
The 25-year-old - who will make a big-money switch to French giants Racing 92 this summer - played a crucial part in two of the Scots’ three tries and was named man of the match at Murrayfield.
It was a delight to see for his right-hand man Laidlaw and the scrum-half reckons Russell has rediscovered his groove at just the right time as Scotland aim to blow the championships wide open with victory over Joe Schmidt’s Grand Slam-chasers.
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“When Finn’s in that confident mood we feel as though we can break any defence in the world,” said the vice-captain ahead of Saturday’s Aviva Stadium showdown. “We’ll need him to play well on Saturday.
“It’s brilliant to play with and alongside him. The players around him love having him there as he has such a sharp pass.
“I thought Finn was exceptional against England. He’s a world-class player. He may have had a couple of sticky moments in the first two games but you are never going to get it all your own way in Test rugby.
“When Finn’s having tough times it’s about players chipping in on either side of him to make sure we are all pulling in the same direction.
“I thought he was tremendous last time out. The way he attacked and found space for players around about him, he makes it look very easy at times but I can assure you it’s not.”
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Russell produced the moment of the match against the English when he looped a 30-yard pass over the heads of two opponents and into the hands of Huw Jones as the Scots romped up field to score their second touchdown.
It was a flash of pure inspiration which proved his soaring self-belief had refused to crack in the face of the criticism he faced following his disappointing start to the tournament.
Laidlaw - who took over at 10 when Russell was hooked with 20 minutes left against Les Bleus - said: “I wasn’t worried about him, I felt he was in a good place.
“Finn’s a strong character, he likes a laugh and a joke but he’s serious about his rugby and that’s a side some people don’t see from him.
“He’s determined and such a hard worker in training on his skill set and that shone through in the game.”
Laidlaw admits his side will need to show similar levels of resolve as they look to beat the Irish in Dublin for the first time in eight years and keep their title hopes alive.
“In the context of the Six Nations now, this weekend is a bigger challenge than the England game,” he said. “If we are serious about challenging for the title then we need to win this game and clearly Ireland are unbeaten.
“It’s going to be a huge test for us and one which we need to meet head on and we are looking forward to it.”
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