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Finn Russell backs Scotland's approach after narrow Australia defeat

Published 14/11/2016

Finn Russell reckons Scotland have improved over the last two years
Finn Russell reckons Scotland have improved over the last two years

Finn Russell reckons Scotland's risk-reward balance is bound to tilt in their favour if the Dark Blues continue making the kind of brave calls which lit up their narrow defeat to Australia.

Vern Cotter's team put on a display full of swagger against the Wallabies on Saturday, with the chip from stand-off Russell that teed up Huw Jones' opening try the sensational highlight.

Yet they still found themselves stumbling to a narrow 23-22 defeat as Bernard Foley nailed a late conversion to snatch victory away from the Scots for the second time in a year.

Australia's fly-half kicked the controversial late penalty which denied Scotland a place in last year's World Cup semi-finals.

But Glasgow playmaker Russell believes Scotland's attacking display showed they are moving in the right direction.

He told Press Association Sport: "The first try was a pre-worked play. We knew how Australia defended off that line-out so we came up with a plan to overcome it. We ran it all week and it came off all three times we ran it on training.

"It was maybe a bit more high risk than a normal pass but when the space is there and you know it is on because you have executed it before then you don't see it that way.

"As players, we like to play that exciting style of rugby and it is the gameplan Vern has drawn up for us too. We just try to execute it as well as possible.

"It's a fun game for us to play but it's also a tough style to defend against. When the opposition can't predict what's coming it makes it harder for them to defend.

"We hit it up the forwards, we threw it wide, we put chips in, we offloaded. When there are so many different things coming at you when you're defending, that's hard.

"Yeah it's high risk at times but we have the confidence and self-belief to pull it off.

"We showed that by scoring three tries against one of the best teams in the world. Okay they beat us by a point but attacking-wise we feel we're in a good place."

Perhaps a more pragmatic approach was required in the closing 10 minutes as the Scots held on to a 22-16 lead.

With the Aussies temporarily down to 14 men following Will Skelton's yellow card, Cotter's team held the numerical advantage yet allowed themselves to be pinned back before Tevita Kuridrani grabbed the crucial score which set up Foley's kick for victory.

But Russell insists confidence in the Scotland changing room has not been dented.

"The boys were gutted after the game and yeah it's another defeat but we need to take the positives out of it as much as possible," he said.

"The guys who were on the pitch will have learned so much, especially the last 10 minutes when we couldn't hang on despite having extra men.

"The quicker we can learn from games like that and results like that, the better we will get.

"That's twice we have pushed Australia close in the space of a year. The one at the World Cup was so tough to take and we felt we should have got the win at the weekend as well.

"We were ahead the whole game and they only took the lead at the death. But even after the clock had gone two minutes past dead I still believed we would get our chance, maybe a penalty or a drop-goal, to win it.

"That is the belief that Vern has instilled in us though. He's made us realise we are good players and good enough to beat these teams."

That will be put to the test when Russell and his colleagues take on Argentina in Edinburgh this weekend.

Russell admitted: "We will definitely have to be at our best if we're to have a chance against Argentina.

"We are building from the weekend and I believe the boys will learn quick enough from that game to make sure it doesn't happen again."

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