Finn Russell says there is a Scotland-England element for him to Saturday’s Champions Cup final – and that could spell bad news for Exeter.
Racing playmaker Russell has an enviable record against English opposition in the past three years.
Since the start of 2018 his two appearances against the Eddie Jones-coached auld enemy have brought a win and a draw for Scotland – the latter after a Russell-inspired recovery from 31-0 down.
His six European Cup ties against Premiership opposition, for Glasgow and Racing, have been equally successful – with five wins and just a single defeat.
“There is obviously a French-English rivalry to this game,” the Stirling-born 10 said in Corsica yesterday, where Racing are housed in a protected bubble preparing for Saturday’s final.
“But it’s different being a Scottish player in France against an English team. For me there’s a Scottish-English rivalry there.”
Russell tapped into that in the semi-finals when conjuring a sensational late match-winning try assist against Saracens.
And with this game set to get the go-ahead, after both clubs came through testing Covid-clear yesterday, he has an opportunity to climb over another English club and plant The Saltire at the summit of European rugby.
Notwithstanding, of course, that Exeter have not one but four Scots in their squad, including national captain Stuart Hogg!
Russell, 28, insists his focus is exclusively on executing the game plan for a club beaten in two of the past four European Cup finals.
“You can’t look at anything else to get you going or drive you,” he said. “It’s how we can play to win. This is a massive moment for the club.”
Racing are leaving nothing to chance, having feared a Covid outbreak a fortnight ago would derail their hopes.
The Parisian outfit was forced to postpone its Top 14 match against La Rochelle 11 days ago after nine members of staff tested positive for coronavirus.
They were able to return to action last weekend, but then immediately flew to Corsica to escape the rising infection rate in the French capital.
“I believe we are all going to be okay for the weekend,” said Russell.
Exeter know the threat posed by the mercurial Russell but in what he terms the “biggest game in the club’s history”, director of rugby Rob Baxter says they will address it as a team.
“It won’t be a one shot thing,” said Baxter, who has wing Jack Nowell back fit and available for selection. “There are things we are going to have to do as a team. We are not zoned in on one guy.”
“We are not zoned in on one guy,” said Baxter, who has wing Jack Nowell back fit and available for selection. “There are things we are going to have to do as a team.”