FINN Russell reckons whoever comes out on top in Scotland’s crunch Rugby World Cup opener against Ireland will be able to regard themselves as realistic winners of the Webb Ellis Trophy.

These two Celtic cousins meet up in Yokohama on Sunday morning, and while Ireland have edged ahead of New Zealand to sit top of the World Rankings with Scotland back in seventh, Gregor Townsend’s side will feel pretty good about their prospects over the next five weeks if they can take the scalp of Joe Schmidt’s side out in Japan.

“For us, getting Ireland first is good,” said Russell, part of the team in our last victory against the Irish, a 27-22 win on Six Nations duty in 2017. “We can go head to head and see who is best.

“Whoever wins that game is going to be in a great position to get out of the group. So it’s a massive game for both teams. I don’t mind getting them up first.


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“Both teams will be fresh, we’ll have new game plans, maybe even a few trick plays up our sleeves – you never know. They always have something planned. So we have to be on our best game to win that match.”

“Ireland went No. 1 in the world not so long ago,” said Russell. “So they’re a team who will be realistically trying to win the World Cup.

“But every team is going there to try to win it. You are not going to a World Cup for fun – you’re going because you want to win the tournament.

“For me, the first target is to get out of the group. Then in knock-out rugby, as we saw last time, anything can happen.

“It could be a bounce of the ball. It could be a referee’s decision. Anything like that.

“First and foremost, we need that good start against Ireland, get ourselves into the knock-out stages, where it’s a different game.

“Pretty much any team who gets into the knock-out stages can beat the best, on their day. Then it comes down to small margins – the bounce of the ball or a dodgy call, whatever.”