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Russell still in credit with Scotland skipper Barclay

© AFP/File | Scotland's captain John Barclay holds the winner's trophy after the Six Nations international rugby union match against France February 11, 2018


Scotland captain John Barclay proclaimed Finn Russell one of the "best stand-offs in the world" as he backed the No 10 to shine against England at Murrayfield.

Russell is capable of attacking brilliance but the downside is that the fly-half's errors can be just as spectacular.

Both sides of Russell's game were visible during Scotland's 32-26 victory over France last time out in the Six Nations.

Russell was taken off in the 65th minute at Murrayfield by Scotland coach Gregor Townsend -- himself a bold No 10 in his playing days -- with the steadier Greig Laidlaw moved from scrum-half to fly-half to oversee a come-from-behind win.

There was talk Russell might be dropped for Saturday's Calcutta Cup clash with England, the Six Nations champions.

But Townsend insisted there was never any doubt over Russell's place, while former England fly-half Stuart Barnes tweeted Friday: "Don't think Scotland has a chance unless they move the heavy English artillery around. Russell might do that, Laidlaw cannot."

- 'Thrives on pressure' -

Russell had a miserable time during Scotland's woeful 34-7 loss to Wales in their tournament opener but Barclay said: "I have seen him not play his best game then bounce back and win man-of-the-match.

"Finn is one of the best stand-offs in the world in my opinion, based on how he played in the autumn games and summer tour.

"The scrutiny is always huge on the No 10 and the nature of the beast.

"Finn is exactly that sort of character. He thrives on pressure. He loves that element of the game."

Clive Woodward, England's 2003 World Cup-winning coach, slammed Russell for smiling his way through the national anthems in Cardiff.

But Barclay said the 'happy go lucky' demeanour of Glasgow's Russell, who will join Paris club Racing 92 at the end of the season, was deceptive.

"He is very relaxed but that should be not be mistaken for not taking the game seriously," the skipper explained. "He's that guy driving the team."

Barclay knows what a home win over England, who thrashed the Scots 61-21 at Twickenham last season, with Jonathan Joseph scoring three of their seven tries, would mean to Scotland fans.

- 'Braveheart' -

As a boy, the now 31-year-old Barclay was among the crowd at a rain-lashed Murrayfield when Scotland, with fly-half Duncan Hodge scoring all their points, denied England a Grand Slam with a shock 19-13 win back in 2000.

It was one of the most memorable encounters in the 147-year history of rugby's oldest Test.

"The Calcutta Cup captures the imaginations of Scottish fans, the media, everyone," said Barclay.

"Kids love it. They watch Braveheart and they love that element of it."

Murrayfield was where Chris Robshaw, captaining England for the first time, led the the visitors to a 13-6 success under then-coach Stuart Lancaster in 2012.

"It will always have a lot of fond memories for me," said Robshaw, now 'back among the ranks' under Lancaster's successor, Eddie Jones.

Australian coach Jones launched his England career with a 15-9 win at Murrayfield two years ago and Robshaw said: "They're always close games up there, nip and tuck games. A lot will come down to discipline as we saw with France. Greig Laidlaw just kept chipping away."

Barclay and Robshaw will have prepared to be involved in some thunderous battles between the back-rows.

But Barclay, who plays his club rugby for the Llanelli-based Scarlets, was shook up in a different way by a recent earthquake that struck south Wales.

"It was scary," Barclay recalled. "I don?t know what was going on.

"My five-year-old ran through and said 'it wasn?t me Dad?.

"I've survived the earthquake so I should be ok this weekend."

© 2018 AFP