Finn Russell: Scotland's exciting style could help win over neutrals

Finn Russell says the atmosphere for the World Cup will be something special.

Scotland stand-off Finn Russell is confident the atmosphere at the World Cup in France will be electric, and his side have the style to get the neutrals behind them.

Russell was named in head coach Gregor Townsend’s final 33-man squad for the tournament on Wednesday, and the trip to play the group games will be a homecoming of sorts for the 30-year-old, who has played for Racing 92 in Nanterre since 2018.

Though he will move to Bath after the World Cup, he has relished his time in France and enjoyed the passion from the supporters when he’s played. That continued when Scotland lost a thrilling match against Le Bleus last weekend as part of the pre-tournament preparations.

“I think after having five years there, it’s great to get to know the fans and the atmosphere and environments over there,” Russell said. “I think the French crowds are some of the best, probably the best that I’ve experienced, especially at the weekend there in St Etienne.

“That was an incredible atmosphere to play in front of, and the boys are still talking about it now. Although we lost, they’re still buzzing about the environment.”

When not supporting the hosts, the French fans will be out in numbers to take in the other matches in the tournament and their backing could be valuable, with Scotland facing Ireland, South Africa, Tonga and Romania in Pool B. Russell hopes the support will be in their favour and says style may be a factor.

“I think it’ll be great for the World Cup and I think the style of rugby that we’re playing, we’re putting an exciting style to get behind,” he said. “And I’d like to think the French crowd and the French fans will get behind us for that.

“I wouldn’t quite say it’s the French flair, but it’s not far off it.”

Scotland start their campaign against South Africa in Marseille on September 10 and there’s already huge anticipation surrounding the campaign.

Russell believes there is plenty cause for optimism in the team, but also enough to work on that everyone will be focused and striving to improve.

“Yeah, I think there’s now huge excitement building in the camp and with all the fans behind us,” he said. “However, I think that we’ve had a couple of losses that we’ve not managed to win in some tight games.

“So although there’s the excitement and there’s a lot of confidence we know we still need to get better and we know that we need to find a way to close these games out.

“Although it was tough losing at the weekend, I think now put us in a good position going into this World Cup.

“Had we beat France over there against a full strength team, you know, we might have thought we were going to win it. You never know. But I think now, after that great a performance, having a very narrow loss is tough to take.

“But it definitely shows that there’s still a lot of room for us to improve, and that’s a good place to be; playing such good rugby, but also having a lot to improve on. So there’s a lot of work over the next month before that first game, but I think it’s a good place for us to be just now.”

Head coach Gregor Townsend is happy with his squad selection and believes everyone is pulling in the right direction as the tournament approaches.

“It’s the best group I’ve ever worked with in terms of what they’re producing in the training field,” he said. “And that includes obviously, time I spent with Glasgow, Scotland over the last six, seven years and also a short time with the Lions.

“They are delivering every day a game that stresses them in terms of the skills involved and also the fitness, and we are starting to see that transferred into the games.

“It’d be nice to have another two or three games before the World Cup, but the reality is we have to be our best in three-and-a-half weeks time and we’re getting closer to that.”

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