Bryan Habana backs Finn Russell to add excitement to French Top 14

Finn Russel will be a big hit for his new club, Racing 92 ,says South African legend Bryan Habana. Picture: SNS.
Finn Russel will be a big hit for his new club, Racing 92 ,says South African legend Bryan Habana. Picture: SNS.
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Bryan Habana knows that it is hard for any rugby player to step out of their comfort zone, but the South African legend feels that Finn Russell has what it takes to succeed overseas.

The flying winger, 35, has only just retired from the professional game after a stellar career for a number of clubs and his country.

Over the last few weeks since last pulling on his boots he has been doing a lot of travelling; fulfilling charity duties, attending the Rugby World Cup Sevens in San Francisco and most recently helping the Southern Hemisphere defeat their northern counterparts in a legends golf event that also featured Stuart Hogg.

While on the various plane journeys between these engagements he has been doing a lot of looking back on his own career.

In 2013, then one of the 
hottest properties in the game, he decided to move from his homeland to French super power Toulon.

As Scotland’s prize asset Russell has made a similar move from Glasgow Warriors to Racing 92, does Habana believe the ex-Falkirk and Ayr player has what it takes to make it in the French top flight? “Without a doubt Finn Russell is a talented player. He is one of those guys that you would pay to watch because he can make things happen,” said Habana, who is an ambassador for health drink Coco Fuzion 100.

“All of us in life like our home comforts and there are a lot of things to contend with in France like the language and the laid-back attitudes at times, but I am sure his new team-mates will have been making him feel at home and part of the set-up.

“He just has to get his head down and work hard in training and let the other things take control of themselves.

“Yes, it will feel strange for him being away from Glasgow where he has grown up, but he isn’t the first foreign player to move to France and he certainly will not be the last and I believe that he can go on and become a very good playing for Racing.

“He will look to create things for the exciting Racing backline and I think it will do both him and [South African] Pat Lambie good to have another confident player vying for the No 10 jersey and they could push each other on.

“Playing in France is really exciting and you are up against and playing alongside world-class players week in, week out. I wish Finn all the best and look forward 
to keeping an eye on his progress.”

While he was teeing off during the weekend at the Buckinghamshire Golf Club as the Southern Hemisphere, captained by former US Open winner Michael Campbell, fought back to beat the Northern Hemisphere 18.5 to 17.5, Habana met up with Hogg.

It is fair to say that he is a fan of Scotland’s other big rugby talent too.

“I managed to get in a practice round with Hoggy – what a lovely guy and a great laugh he is,” Habana said.

“His golf was also better than mine which was annoying but, seriously, how unlucky was he not to play in the Tests for the British & Irish Lions against the All Blacks last year?

“If it had not been for a freak injury then I am sure he would have started in the 
No 15 jersey.

“Like Finn, he is a guy who makes things happen and gets supporters excited. He booms the ball a mile with his boot while he is one of the most exciting runners with ball in hand when he gets going.

“He is still a young guy [26] yet he has over 50 Scotland caps to his name and I saw that he captained them in a game during the summer.

“With the likes of him, Finn, Huw Jones and Sean Maitland in the backline Scotland have some really good attacking options right now and on their day they can scare most opponents.”

Back in the 2016-17 season, Habana was at Toulon when Richard Cockerill joined the coaching staff there only four days after he had left Leicester Tigers.

It has been no surprise to Habana to see how well Cockerill has done with Edinburgh Rugby to date and he gave an insight into what type of a coach the Englishman is. “He certainly knows what he wants from his players, that is for sure,” Habana recounts.

“Richard came in and was very straight with us about what he was looking for from the start and at the very heart of that was discipline and hard work.

“He spoke quite a bit of French having played over there in his career and he was a good laugh when you got a chance to speak to him away from the training pitch.

“However, come training or game day he wanted everyone switched on and focused and it is good to see that he has been doing well with 
Edinburgh.”