New Scotland captain Finn Russell has distanced himself from a comparison with Lionel Messi, insisting the comment he made during the filming of the new Six Nations Netflix series was firmly a tongue-in-cheek remark.  

During the eight-part series, Russell compared himself to Messi by saying, when asked to describe himself to non-rugby fans, “some people might say I’m good to watch - if you’re a football fan you might say like Messi”  

But speaking to the media for the first time since being named as Scotland co-captain for this Six Nations, the 31-year-old explained.

“I was asked to describe myself for a non-rugby fan, and I jokingly said I’d be like Messi if you were a football fan - and that’s just taken off by the looks of it.” 

“That was just a jokey comment, but you see the way he plays he sets up a lot of boys. 

“I wouldn’t say I was at his level. However, it’s a similar position.”   

When asked about the similarities, Russell said: "We wear number 10 and that’s about it. He’s won a lot more trophies than I have.” 

For the next few weeks, Russell will park any talk of comparisons with other sporting legends and focus on trying to end that wait for a major trophy.  

He comes into the championship in good form with Bath and believes a change of scenery has been good for his game.  

“My game has probably changed a little bit from going to England - it’s slightly different to France.  

“The World Cup was a learning curve for me, then moving to another team, becoming the starting 10, solidifying my place and taking control of that team - that has changed me again.  

“In the last 18 months there have been quite a few changes in my life, and that has maybe changed me as a player as well.” 

Those changes – including the birth of his daughter Charlie in November 2022 – have helped prepare him for taking on the captaincy, which he’ll share with Glasgow back-row Rory Darge. 

It is four years since his public falling out with head coach Gregor Townsend saw Russell miss all of that year’s Six Nations, but the Bath playmaker believes he’s matured in that time.  

“If you go back a few years it’s a very different position you’re in as a player compared to now, so it’s hard to compare.  

“I’m 31 now, which isn’t old in terms of life but I am one of the older guys in the team.” 

Russell believes moving to Bath, and playing in the Premiership, has been a good test for him after five years at Racing 92. 

He said the physicality of the English top flight has required some tweaks to his own game.  

“In France it’s quicker, high pace, high attack style. We have been playing like that at Bath this year, but there is potentially more emphasis on the set piece and the kicking game, and there is more structure to that. 

"With the players we’ve got at Bath, we’re great at getting the ball back in the air - that’s a real strength of ours as well as the running game, so it’s balancing the two.  

“Bath has been a great move for me - it’s a new challenge and a slightly different way of playing and I have to adapt to that.” 

Looking forward to next weekend’s Six Nations opener, Russell knows Scotland have a great chance to end two decades of defeats in Cardiff but admits Wales will be a better side than the one thumped 35-7 at Murrayfield last season.  

“They’ll be a very different team this year,” he said.   

“They have got quite a few young players and they’ll all be looking to prove a point in front of Gats to solidify their place. 

“It’ll be tough, it’s always tough down at the Principality, but we need to focus on ourselves and get right some of the things we got potentially wrong at the World Cup.” 

Russell acknowledges that for Scotland to be successful, they must add a ruthless streak.  

"That ruthlessness we probably lacked at the World Cup.  

“It’s about how we let things go and bounce straight back and grow as a team mentally. 

“Like in the South Africa game, when the pressure’s on, it’s about how we can continue to play our game and not go into our shells. There’s a lot we can learn as a team from the World Cup, especially the South Africa and Ireland games. 

“We’re getting another chance so quickly. It’s about showing we have learned and coming back stronger.”