England reveal plan to ‘go after’ Finn Russell in bid to nullify Scotland

Defense coach Anthony Seibold has instructed England to “go after” the Racing 92 fly-half knowing that he has the ability to shred defenses through his range of running, passing and attacking skills.

The 29-year-old has won two and drawn one of his last three Calcutta Cup clashes, on each occasion lifting his game for the oldest fixture in international rugby, and he provides Scotland’s greatest threat.

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Seibold believes the mission starts up front and wants England to use the expectation of the Murrayfield crowd against him.

Finn Russell during a Scottish team run at BT Murrayfield on Friday. (Photo by Craig Williamson/SNS Group)

“Finn’s a super talented player. He’s a key positional player. Any team’s number 10 in a lot of ways is the quarterback,” the Australian said.

“They execute the plays from an attacking perspective and they often have really effective kicking games. Finn has got both of those.

“Gregor Townsend has designed a gameplan that allows him to not only play structured rugby but unstructured as well, so we need to make sure we have a plan in place. We have done that and now we need to execute that plan.

“How do you take away his weapons? He wants time and space so he can ball play and use his really effective kicking game, both short and long, so you need to take away time and space.

Anthony Seibold, the England defense coach, looks on during the England captain’s run at Peffermill Playing Fields on Friday. (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

“That’s easier said than done of course. I think it’s a case of making sure we go after Finn Russell. Not outside our defensive system, but making sure we put some pressure on him.

“You need to win the collisions, the ruck and the ruck speed to do that. It’s not just what Finn does, it’s what their forwards do to create momentum for Finn and he plays very effectively off the back of that.

“He’s playing at home as well and we need to take away that home advantage and make that home advantage – which is most definitely a weapon – into a bit of a burden.”

Of all the duels that will unfold at Murrayfield, it is the battle between Russell and Marcus Smith that is the most intriguing.

They share similarities in their instinct to attack but, at 22-years-old, Smith is a rookie who will be making his Six Nations debut when he pulls the strings for England in a game they enter as marginal favourites.

But while among the smallest players on the pitch, Seibold insists there is no need to hide the five-cap Harlequin in defense.

“Marcus has been outstanding. One of the things that I’ve been super-impressed with is his work ethic. He’s got a real appetite to get better and he’s very confident in what he can do,” he said.

“We don’t need to hide him in the back line or get him to defend somewhere outside what he does for Harlequins.

“He’s very good at putting his body in front and there’s not a day goes by when he doesn’t work on his defence, his passing game, his kicking game or his goal kicking.

“He’s a good young bloke and I think we need to give him the time and space to have an impact.”

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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