Russell brings risk and reward to Racing 92

Scotland fly half Finn Russell has shown flashes of his flair in his first two games for Racing 92

The Scottish presence in France's Top 14 might be small, in every sense, but as the league enters its third round, the signs are it could prove pivotal this season.

Already Scotland fly-half Finn Russell and scrum-half Greig Laidlaw have been scoring points for their French clubs.

Laidlaw joined Clermont last summer. Russell arrived at Racing 92 this year, from Glasgow Warriors, filling the golden boots of Dan Carter.

Russell, 25, made an impressive start, scoring 20 of his team's 25 points in an away victory over big-spending Toulon in the opening round.

He has a reputation as a spectacular but unpredictable talent. Last week, he faced the 32-year-old Laidlaw and the veteran came out emphatically on top kicking 17 points to five by the younger man, as Clermont won by 23.

The two Scots look out of place among the behemoths who roam the Top 14 backfields. Laidlaw is just 1.76m and weighs 78kg. Russell might stand 1.82m and weigh 87kg but he was sarcastically nicknamed Russell "the Muscle" by Glasgow teammates.

"I don't have that much muscle," he told AFP in an interview this week, adding that the gym is "definitely not my favourite place".

Russell left school at 16 and became a stonemason. Among his "few best friends" are an "electrician and a farmer".

"I always dreamed of being a professional player but at that time, I played for the pleasure and the love of the game," he said.

"When my career finishes then if I go back to a stonemason, or whatever, I'll be happy doing that.

"I never forget. It doesn't matter that I'm a rugby player, it doesn't change me. I still have the same personality."

Most leading countries like to keep their internationals at home, but Scotland coach Gregor Townsend, who played at Castres and Montpellier, did not object to a move to France.

"If playing here makes me a better player, we'll both be happy," said Russell.

Russell resembles Townsend in his willingness to take creative risks that can prove costly for his team.

"We know what he can do, we must also accept the missed chances or the risks he brings to the team," Laurent Labit, the Racing coach told AFP.

"When you tell him not to play, he plays anyway," Labit said.

"He's not a stereotypical player, he's a player of instinct who must be allowed a lot of freedom."

Russell knows Racing have insurance in the shape of 27-year-old South African Pat Lambie, who suffered a knee injury in May as Racing lost the Champions Cup final, though both men have also played at centre.

"He's a really nice guy," Russell said. "We know both we're going to be competing against each other... the important is for the team to do well."

This weekend Racing are at home to Agen, who were thrashed by Clermont on opening day but bounced back in week two, edging promoted Perpignan by two points.

The game of the weekend is a match-up between the two teams who have won both their games and collected a bonus point as Clermont entertain Stade Francais on Saturday evening.

Both are rebounding from nightmare seasons. Last year Clermont, fresh from finally winning the French title, limped home in ninth, ravaged by injury.

One of the men they lost for much of the year was Laidlaw. This season, he played his part in the opening week at Agen, kicking 13 points as Clermont ran in 10 tries.

Stade will be without talismanic captain Sergio Parisse, who has been ruled out for up to five weeks with a calf injury.

The third team with two victories, champions Castres, a point behind the leaders, close the weekend with a visit to struggling Toulon, who have suffered two defeats.

Saturday (all times GMT)

Bordeaux-Begles v Montpellier (1245), Toulouse v La Rochelle (1500), Perpignan v Lyon (1700), Racing 92 v Agen (1700), Clermont v Stade Francais (1900)


Grenoble v Pau (1030), Toulon v Castres (1450)