Rugby is a brutal enough game without going looking for trouble. Yet when he came back from a horrendous head injury that landed him in hospital in Ireland, Finn Russell, the Scotland fly half, admits he actually went looking for trouble, just to convince himself he could.
“That first Glasgow game against Ulster I was almost testing it, I was going into things that I normally wouldn’t go in to, trying to get a hit to see what it was like,” he said. “Ever since my first game back, playing for Ayr, I have had a few knocks on it and it has been fine, that has been good for my confidence going into things.
“I am fine. I have no issue with it at all. I even banged my face again at the weekend and it is still fine. It seems all right; it is all holding together well,” he added pointing proudly to the bruise under his left eye as evidence of his full recovery.
Russell was laid out cold after a clash of heads with one of his own players in the opening minutes of the Guinness Pro12 semi-final in Connacht in May and later X-rays revealed that not only was he concussed but he had fractures around his eye socket. It was serious enough to keep him in hospital for several days before he made it back to Scotland. He did not play again until the end of last month.
Now he is back in action again and able to shut off incidents like the tip tackle against Leicester in the European Champions Cup that infuriated so many of his supporters – “These things happen. It is part of the game I guess, I don’t think he meant it it was just one of these things,” Russell said – while frustrating the medical staff with his refusal to wear a scrum cap as an extra protection.
“I missed a couple of calls,” he explained. “Hoggy called one thing, Mark Bennett [pictured right] called another and I didn’t hear them with the scrum cap and the crowd. It lasted about 25, maybe 30, minutes before I took it off.
“Now I have found another way round the problem. I wear a bandage with a little bit of padding underneath it, that seems to be good enough. I think.”
All which means that the biggest legacy of his summer injury is that after such a serious concussion he was medically banned from driving for six months and is having to get around Glasgow by taxi and public transport.
“Because of my head, they took my licence off me – I have another month left. That has been the worst thing, not being able to drive. It is just a hassle. You have to wait to get a taxi, go by subway and taxi, it is just hassle. I am glad it is only a month left. Fortunately it is Scotland camp next week, so I will be able to get lifts back and forth with the other boys,” he said.
With a few games under his belt and having proved to himself he could take on the physical side of the game without fear, Russell was quickly recalled to the Scotland squad after missing the Japan tour because of the injury.
There is still some club action to keep him occupied but as he set off on a tour of Ayrshire clubs and schools to help promote the November Tests, in particular the one against Georgia on 26 November at Kilmarnock, thoughts were already drifting towards the opening game and the chance of revenge over Australia.
“When we saw we were going to play them again after the World Cup, everybody started to look forward to it straight away. It will be a completely different game, a different situation, a different event, but the boys will still be hurting from the World Cup,” he said.
“They have just come off the back of the Rugby Championship so they will be flying and we will have to be at our best. We will need quite a lot of craft to beat them. We are all looking forward to it, getting back into camp and getting ready for the game.”