Scotland's Russell sees 'tough battle' in Rugby World Cup pool

Finn Russell made his Scotland debut in 2014 (FRANCK FIFE)
Finn Russell made his Scotland debut in 2014 (FRANCK FIFE)

Scotland fly-half Finn Russell says his side face an uphill battle to emerge from a stacked World Cup group that includes holders South Africa and the world's top-ranked side Ireland.

The Scots open their Pool B games against South Africa on Sunday before confronting Tonga, Romania and Ireland in that order.

Scotland have reached the World Cup knockouts just once since 2007 but are in good form, having won seven of their past 10 Tests.

"It's going to be such a tough battle to get out of this group," 30-year-old Russell told AFP.

"That's got to be our main focus. We can't start looking ahead, we've got to just make sure that we do everything we can to try and get out of this group," he added.

Despite Scotland's impressive recent results, their record against three-time World Cup winners South Africa is poor.

They have beaten the Springboks just twice since the turn of the century.

"I think if we get them first up, then no matter what the result is, win or lose, we've got 13 days to switch off and refocus," Russell said.

"Switch off for a few days, refocus back into that Tonga game. It's quite a good first-up game."

Russell is about to embark on his third World Cup but his relationship with head coach Gregor Townsend has had its ups and downs.

He has been left out of Townsend's squad on several occasions due to differing opinions between the two.

"I've changed. I've had a baby now so that's a bit different," Russell said.

"Between me and Gregor there's been a few changes for both of us.

"But we're in a really good situation going into this World Cup which is great," he added.

Influential Russell knows the World Cup's home country very well.

Until June, he lived in the leafy south-western Parisian suburbs, playing more than 100 games for Racing 92.

Next season he will join English outfit Bath but he will miss some aspects of French life.

- 'Tour guide' -

"I think the bakeries were brilliant, the patisseries were amazing," Russell said.

"The baguettes were always one of my favourite things.

"If you do get a baguette in Britain it's not half as good as it is in France.

"Simple things like that were really nice to have every day," the 72-time international added.

After meeting the Springboks next weekend in Marseille, Scotland, ranked fifth in the world, have a fortnight break before playing Tonga up the Cote d'Azur in Nice.

"I don't know if I'll be the tour guide but I'll be there to help out with any issues, any conversations, any questions that the squad have," Russell, a fluent French speaker, said.

"I don't know Nice that well but I'll try and find a few things for us to do on the days off down in Cannes or Antibes," he added.