After missing Scotland’s opening rounds of the Six Nations earlier this year, Finn Russell made a 25-minute cameo – coming off the bench for Scotland for the first time in his six-year international career – to become the 44th player to make a half-century of test appearances for the side.
“It was good to get back,” he said post-match.
Russell was all-smiles during his time on the pitch, and with Scotland running in eight tries in their 48-7 win, he enjoyed being back wearing the thistle.
“I always enjoy being out there. Even if it wasn’t my 50th cap, or my first game back, or if it was the World Cup, you’d see the same smile,” the 28-year-old added.
Current COVID-19 restrictions meant the game was played without any supporters inside Murrayfield, but Russell was still able to share his special moment with his family.
“We had a presentation in the changing room afterwards for the guys [Duhan van der Merwe and Oli Kebble] winning their first caps, and me for my 50th,” the Racing 92 fly-half revealed.
“There were no families here but just to play for your country, it is like having a family of your own. Fraz [Fraser Brown] was around when I won my first cap for Glasgow Warriors, and I won my first cap [for Scotland] at the same time as Blair Cowan.
“We’re so close we’re almost brothers when we play together. There’s no family but it is good having the boys here.”
He described his own milestone as an “amazing achievement” after making his debut against USA in June 2014 and fast becoming a pivotal part of the Scotland set-up, as well as earning selection for the British and Irish Lions in 2017.
“Obviously I was on the bench, so I knew it was potentially going to happen.
“It’s a big achievement but I didn’t think like that at all during the week. I just wanted to get ready for the game, play the game and then after we can enjoy the moments we have together.”
Russell believes his game has improved since his last involvement with the national team, and he credited Racing 92 for helping with that development.
“I think I’ve got the kicking game, passing game, things like that.
“Being at Racing and being able to throw these long passes – most of the time I just chuck it straight to Virimi [Vakatawa]. But personally I think there is a bit more accuracy, maybe knowing when I want to run, knowing what works, just go wide sometimes.”
The fly-half joined up with the Scotland squad after playing in the Heineken Champions Cup final, after which a picture of him and international team-mate Stuart Hogg went viral on social media.
The Racing 92 man revealed exactly what was being said as Hogg, and his Exeter team-mate Jonny Gray, shared a moment with their former Glasgow Warriors colleague.
“We were just chatting away,” he said. “It wasn’t even about rugby, we were just chatting and having a laugh.”
Russell also reflected on Scotland’s performance as they returned to action with a big win over Georgia, ahead of their Six Nations finale against Wales in Llanelli this weekend.
“We had chances first half and second half that we maybe didn’t finish but we still created that space, just getting the ball wide to the danger men, that worked. Even at international level it still works. It’s not something I have focused on, it is just how I am playing.”
And when asked about try-scoring debutant wing Duhan van der Merwe, he joked: “Aye, he’s alright.”
Russell added: “When he’s playing for Edinburgh he’s got more time on the ball, but with his try, for me it was great to see him working off his wing and getting inside me. After the game I just said to him ‘If I’m at 10, make sure you’re on the inside there, I’ll put you in for a few tries!’.”
Russell has faced Wales five times in his international career, but with only one win in those, and Scotland winless in Wales since 2002, the fly-half knows they have work to do.
“Wales will pose different threats in defence but different opportunities for us to score against.
“I have played against them a few times and they are a tough defence to break down.
“It is a Six Nations game so there is something to play for and getting a few points could change the position in the standings.”
It was a memorable return to Scotland duty for Finn Russell against Georgia, and the mercurial fly-half will hope to be back in blue as Scotland look to end their 18-year wait for a win in Wales this weekend.