Six Nations: Scots ‘can bounce back’ - Finn Russell

SCOTLAND stand-off Finn Russell insists head coach Vern Cotter will not be swayed from his methods - even after the shock of suffering an RBS 6 Nations whitewash.

Finn Russell drives forward during Scotland's 40-10 defeat to Ireland. Picture: SNS
Finn Russell drives forward during Scotland's 40-10 defeat to Ireland. Picture: SNS

The Dark Blues strutted into the Championships after an encouraging Autumn campaign expecting much - but stumbled to five straight defeats.

It was a bitter blow following the steep rise in anticipation produced by last year’s announcement that Clermont Auvergne coach Cotter was heading across the Channel.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

But the Top 14 winner was forced to admit Saturday’s 40-10 loss to title-chasing Ireland had exposed his side’s flaws with “brutal clarity”.

Finn Russell drives forward during Scotland's 40-10 defeat to Ireland. Picture: SNS

However, the 53-year-old is adamant Scotland can make the kind of improvements that will make them a force at this year’s World Cup in England.

No doubt the post mortem over the next few days will see pundits dissect Scottish displays and offer the Kiwi advice on how he can salvage his side’s hopes going into the tournament - but playmaker Russell insists Cotter will stick to his own vision.

The Glasgow number 10 said: “I don’t think we need (a Plan B). Our attack is working really well. We’ve scored tries in every game.

“The attack has been really good at times. It’s just been that last pass that hasn’t gone to hands.

“As individuals if we tighten this up back at our clubs over the next few months going into the World Cup then the team will come back better.

“If we can do that, the passes that are not finding their man or the turnovers that cost us won’t happen and will lead to tries.

“So I wouldn’t imagine (there would be any knee-jerk reaction to this campaign). A lot of the stuff we have played over the last few weeks has been good rugby. It’s just been small mistakes that at this level cost you.”

David Denton raised eyebrows on Saturday when just over an hour after he and his Scotland team-mates had trudged off the Murrayfield turf following their seventh straight Six Nations defeat, he claimed the squad still believed they could challenge for the World Cup.

Russell, though, measured his expectations ahead of the Scot’s opening clash with Japan in Gloucester on September 23.

He said: “I think we can turn it around. Having lost five games, no-one is going to be overly confident. No-one will expect us to do whatever.

“Every team’s target is to win the World Cup but for us after this Six Nations it will be about going down there, putting in some good performances and hoping results take care of themselves.

“For us as a team right now, it’s about building on the promising moments we have shown over these last five games.

“Losing five games isn’t the best Six Nations but on the other side for us, there have been a lot of positives and a lot of good rugby we can look back at. It is better but it is the small margins that are holding us back.”

Russell’s first Six Nations campaign was a sobering lesson for a player with barely a year of top-level rugby under his belt.

He showed flashes of ingenuity at times but also sat out the last-gasp defeat to Italy after a disciplinary panel banned him for a “reckless” challenge on Wales’ Dan Biggar in his side’s second match.

But the 22-year-old insists the requirements of the international game are fast sinking in.

“The big lesson for me is that in each game we have had a 10 or 20-minute spell where we have been on top but then fallen asleep or taken our foot of the gas for five minutes,” he said.

“That lets the other team score a try and put the pressure back on us.

“For me as a playmaker and a decision-maker trying to organise guys round the pitch, I have to learn from that and how I can get the team back on the front foot.

“I’m young and I’ve only had one year of pro rugby so these last four games I’ve learned a lot.

“Saturday was my ninth cap, so I’m still learning about playing at this level. Things happen in the split-second in these internationals and you can find yourself down by five or 10 points like that, so it does let you see as a young player just how quick the game is and how good the teams are that you are up against.

“Even though we lost all five games, I’ve still learned loads.”