Finn Russell: Scotland fly-half is Richie Mo’unga’s ‘favourite 10 in the world’

 Credit: Alamy
Credit: Alamy

All Blacks fly-half Richie Mo’unga has heaped praise on Scotland playmaker Finn Russell ahead of their encounter at Murrayfield on Sunday.

The Racing 92 pivot was controversially left out of Gregor Townsend’s initial squad for the Autumn Nations Series, but returned following an injury to Adam Hastings.

It is still not guaranteed that Russell will feature this weekend, with Blair Kinghorn and Ross Thompson both options in that position, but it would be a big call by Townsend to leave him out.

Although the relationship between the fly-half and the head coach is strained, the 30-year-old remains Scotland’s most creative player.

Variety

“I love Finn,” Mo’unga said. “Over the last couple of years he’s been my favourite 10 in the world. He’s someone who can play all types of game, (with) his kicking, his running, his passing.

“I met him early on when he was in Christchurch, and we played against each other at club level. We go a way back, and to see him since then become the player he is now is awesome.

“I just know how awesome he is as a player, and he’s also a top bloke as well.”

Mo’unga explained how he got an early taste of Russell’s qualities, before the playmaker became one of the best fly-halves in the world.

“He played for basically the Canterbury B team, which is everyone who goes to Lincoln University. He had Robbie Fruean outside him, he had Jordan Taufua at number eight, and we had just enough to field a team,” the All Blacks pivot said.

“It was wet and he put on a show. He did all year.

“We were far from Murrayfield, out in the wops in Christchurch, but you definitely knew when he arrived the potential (he had).

“The sky was the limit in terms of what he could do back then, and to see him grow into the player he is, and the confidence and flair he has, it separates him from any other 10.”

All Blacks forwards coach Jason Ryan also reserved praise for Russell and knows they will have a challenge on their hands if he plays.

“He’s a great player,” Ryan said. “He spent a bit of time with my club, Sydenham, when he was in Christchurch, as Jonny Gray did as well.

“He will add a bit of variety, and will come in and want to play well and I’m sure he will lift the Scottish team. And the forward pack will have a lot to do with how that rolls for him as well.”

Half-back partnership

There has equally been a debate over the New Zealand fly-half slot, with Mo’unga and Beauden Barrett vying for the role.

The Crusaders man is currently winning that race and has formed a good partnership with legendary scrum-half Aaron Smith recently.

“Nuggy (Smith) doesn’t change much,” Mo’unga said. “He’s the same in terms of his preparation – he’s very thorough, like a robot sometimes in what he does day to day. What happened last week is going to be the same next week.

“To play the way he did shows he’s sticking to his process. He has the same energy all the time, and none of the noise outside would influence him at all because of the man he is and the man he’s grown into.”

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