Former England international Ugo Monye has described Finn Russell as “flaky” and says the Scotland stand-off is under mounting pressure ahead of this weekend’s Calcutta Cup clash which he claims and will be his biggest game in a Scotland jersey.
Monye is convinced England will target the stand-off from the start following Gregor Townsend’s surprising decision to substitute his play-maker in the second half of the Scots’ win over France.
Russell turned in a sub-standard display in the defeat to Wales that opened the Six Nations in Cardiff and was both good and bad against the French. And, although he rates the Glasgow Warriors fly-half, Monye reckons Russell’s ‘maverick’ nature means the English will try to force the 25-year-old into costly mistakes on Saturday at BT Murrayfield.
Monye said: “Finn Russell coming off is a huge admission that you’ve got a 10 who hasn’t shown the prowess or the ability to be able to close out games. And that’s a massive worry at international level. This is a huge game for Finn Russell, maybe his biggest in a Scotland shirt. He’s had his doubters – last year at Twickenham, away in Wales – and got taken off in the last game, against France. This game, he’s really got to front up.
“I don’t know what the forecast is for Murrayfield this weekend, but he better pack factor 50 – he’s going to be under incredible heat from the England back row and the backs. They’re going to get stuck into him, because they know he can be a flaky player at times.
“The one word I hate to describe any fly-half is a ‘maverick’. I hate it. Flair, that’s absolutely fine, skilful is brilliant. Maverick, for me, describes a player who can win you a game and lose you game, all within about three phases. I can’t have it.
“I look at Finn Russell and he’s a wonderfully talented player, with a wonderful skill set, but he’s a maverick fly-half.
“If he wants to come and chuck the ball around and play, and chip and chase and all the rest of it, I just think England will swallow it up and I think they force him off the pitch.”
Russell’s performance aside, Monye insists he can only see one outcome this weekend – a victory for England.
Speaking to BBC 5 Live, the former Lions winger added: “I do know Murayfield is a tough place to go to, and Scotland are a lot better at home. But England will beat Scotland in every [type of] game. Their attacking game is better and if it was an arm-wrestle they’d beat them at that. I just think England are a better team.
“I find it too hard to build a case as to why England are not going to win. If it’s dry, you’d back England, and if it’s wet the front five will beat people up and tackle to death. That’s just what they do.”