Some people draw attention whenever they play. They can’t help it, they just do. They’re the players that get people talking, divide opinion and have the much-coveted ability to ‘put bums on seats.’
Finn Russell is one of those players. Every time there’s a game and he’s playing there is an assurance that something memorable is going to happen. A pass that you’ll be wanting to tell your mates about at the pub; a kick or a step or a dummy that you’ll practice next time you’re out with a ball. No more was this the case than on last Saturday’s Champions Cup game between Racing 92 and Munster.
Here, Russell once again produced a piece of skill that provided all the talking points after the game. Turning the rugby pitch into a stage, the Scotsman took the ball off the back of the ruck, chipped it through the oncoming Munster defender’s legs with a grubber before collecting his own kick and sliding under the uprights.
If you haven’t heard about it, then you’ve been living under a rock. If you haven’t seen it, then you’re lucky because BT Sport have done a two-minute video on YouTube that shows the try over and over again from every angle. Watch it, it’s phenomenal.
Finn Russell’s allure is predicated on his ability to take risks. Unlike most fly-halves of the modern day, he’s willing to take players on rather than ferrying on to the more traditionally creative players wearing numbers eleven to fifteen.
This has sometimes led to criticism. Going into the England game in last year’s Six Nations, for example, Russell was under pressure for his defensive frailties and accused of flying too close to the sun. That game he produced a phenomenal performance, including two assisted tries and a miss-pass worthy of winning the Man of the Match award all by itself (again, consult with YouTube for details).
This is a testament to the man and player his is, and if this form continues, he will certainly be forcing his name into contention for the Number 10 shirt in the 2021 Lions tour. With Farrell outside him to free him up, Russell certainly has the skill to unpick a South African defence where England failed.
Either way, his ability to produce moments of magic is surely making him one of the most exciting players in club rugby at the moment.
By Will Sewell.