It has been a funny few weeks for Finn Russell since it was finally confirmed, midway through Scotland’s autumn Test series, that he is bound for France.

Things continued to go pretty well with the national side thereafter but, setting aside the inevitable teasing from his teammates regarding the life changing money he is set to receive from his new employers, his return to club duty has proven tricky.

As a senior figure, playing the position he does, his contribution obviously came under particular scrutiny after they lost a second home match in the European Champions Cup and if the line-up for the return match in Montpellier could be put down to that being a dead rubber for Glasgow and an opportunity to expose a future play-making candidate to a tough European test, his omission for the first of the derby matches had the potential to be more significant.

Loading article content

Glasgow’s defeat at Murrayfield, failing to take advantage of Edinburgh being reduced to 14 men, offered him something of a reprieve, even if his side was winning when he took to the field for the final half hour, only to be beaten with the last move of the match.

Little wonder, then, that he mostly opted for a safety approach on Saturday, in contrast to Glasgow’s gung-ho pursuit of Pro14 bonus points that has helped draw them so far clear at the top of their Pro14 Conference and he admitted that it had been very much his call to kick for goal whenever the opportunity arose, albeit one that had the backing of coach Dave Rennie, who has seemed less than pleased with some of his team’s options of late.

“It was a decision made on the field,” said Russell.

“We had a tight game last week and we wanted to get ahead of them. Keep the scoreboard ticking over. It was 3-0 at half-time and we wanted to build a lead.

“There was a slight wind behind us (in the second half), not too much, but as Dave said if we can have them chasing the game, 9-0, 12-0 behind then they have to force a few things. It wasn’t a set plan of ours beforehand. We went to the corner at times. When we were 9-0 up we had a few cracks to the corner. The most important thing was to keep the scoreboard ticking over and keeping ahead.”

Doubtless any disappointment at being left out of the starting line-up over the previous couple of weeks would have been assuaged by knowing what he has to look forward to, but he is clearly wishing the very best to his long-time midfield collaborator Peter Horne, the man who had pulled on the No.10 jersey in three of the previous four weeks.

“Peter had a game against Montpellier and he played really well so he got a game last week and I got a game this week. It is the sport we are in,” Russell observed, philosophically.

“It does not matter what position you play in. A guy will come in and if he does well he deserves the spot the following week. I was lucky to get the game this week.”

There was, then, no point to prove on Saturday apparently and his motivation was merely what it always is.

“You just go out there and go and try your best every week. You don’t go out there thinking you have a point to prove, you don’t want to overplay it and try and force things,” he asserted.

It was far from a trademark Russell performance, however and he paid tribute to the men most responsible for the victory on a day when Zander Fagerson, a contributor at the coal-face at tighthead prop, earned the man-of-the-match award ahead of those occupying what are normally the more eye-catching roles in in the back five of the pack and the backs.

“The forwards were good. We managed to build phases. They got us into the positions we wanted,” said Russell.

“The driving maul went well, the scrum was good, the set piece decent and our pick and go was good. We gave away a few penalties in the first half when we were down in their 22 that we will want to tighten up on, but grinding out a game like that is always pleasing. If you run away with games you can take it for granted almost, whereas when you’re in a fight the whole game and remember it was just 3-0 at half time, it was all to play for.

“I felt the whole game we were in control and we could have potentially scored a few tries but we managed to grind it out and do what we had to do.”

It was, meanwhile, a day which provided him with an opportunity to prove that his mind is still on his job with Glasgow Warriors.

“The only point I made after that break was that mentally we were switched on,” he said of the unprecedented experience of being on the pitch when the first half ended early because of a crowd evacuation.

“Mentally for us it was making sure we were ready mentally rather than physically because the body was fine to go and mentally we could not switch off. There was chat depending how long the break was we may not go back on. There were a few things going through our head, the biggest being that mentally we had to be switched on.”

Doubtless his coach would be among the first to endorse that message.