The Toulouse rugby players, who will challenge the English this Sunday January 21 as part of the 4th and final day of the first round of the Champions Cup, have praised one player in particular: Finn Russell, the Scot's former Racing 92 starter, Bath's N.1 attacking asset. But this represents a serious weak point.
It was Ugo Mola who brought the matter to the table. Bath described the club's qualities and spoke of its current good health, and although he did not want to “identify it with the arrival of a single man”, the Toulouse manager “wanted to say a little bit that Bin Russell had nothing to do with it. He's not new to playing total rugby.”
The Scottish international fly-half (age 31; 74 caps) arrived in England last summer after five seasons at Racing 92.
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“I think he's in the right place in terms of what he can do because Bath has always had this desire, in a closed English Championship, to provoke a lot, attack a lot, counter-attack a lot. Backs Mola. The Bath jersey suits him very well. He's a pretty incredible player, a match winner.”
“He has the ability to single-handedly make a team win.”
A praise that speaks volumes for the fear inspired by one of the most talented rugby players of his generation, a week after sacrificing his former teammates. “He's obviously a world-class player, one of the best fly-halves in the world now and for many years,” confirmed new State fullback Blair Kinghorn, who works alongside Russell in selection. The way he makes his team play and the way he attacks the line always makes him dangerous. He's nervous in front of the line. “Can pass the ball in a way that makes defending difficult. He also has a good kicking game and can offload. I have the opportunity to play with him. Scotland so it will be fun to face him in a Toulouse jersey.”
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However, Russell isn't sure that a lot of people in the “red and black” camp will be laughing if he gets around the Statist defense a little easier. “He's an Antoine DuPont. We saw him against Racing where he was very good, he reads situations well and knows how to keep the man strong.”
Pressuring him to derail
After achieving this with Marcus Smith a month ago at Harlequins, the Toulouse defense will once again be responsible for limiting the opposition N.10's field of action. “We know he's trying a lot, he's taking a lot of initiative, and if we can put pressure on him to better protect him and his allies around him, that could turn against him and against them,” Dupont reveals. When solutions are blocked, it's always difficult to play.”
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There could be more for Russell, whose desire to play hard to contain could prove too dangerous for his teammates if Toulouse were to track him down.
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