Scotland are a genuine rugby force, says Russell


Edinburgh (AFP)

Finn Russell believes Scotland can already claim to be a genuine force despite their poor away record as they look to ditch their tag as rugby's nearly men.

Gregor Townsend's team head to Rome for their final Six Nations match on Saturday after their slim title hopes were wiped out by a 28-8 defeat at the hands of Ireland in Dublin.

The team have not won a championship clash away from home for two years but Glasgow fly-half Russell says Scotland are heading in the right direction following their emphatic victory over Australia in November and their first win against England in a decade.

If they beat Italy in Rome, Scotland will record three wins out of five matches for the second year running, a feat last achieved back in 1996 which, for Russell, would be proof that they are no longer also-rans.

"In my first Six Nations I don't think we won a game and that was four years ago," said the 25-year-old, who joins Racing 92 this summer.

"We are building. The 'nearly men' tag isn't the kind of name we want to have and we are definitely working to change that.

"Against Ireland we worked very hard to put the second-best team in the world under a lot of pressure, we put New Zealand under pressure in the autumn, so it shows that on our day we can be there against the best."

He added: "It has been a decent competition for us, although there are a lot of things we can look back on and we could have worked on in the Wales and Ireland games and it could have potentially have been different. It has been a successful competition for us."

Italy are mired in another tortuous campaign that has seen them ship 23 tries and record four straight defeats.

But Russell said results do not give a true reflection of their growth under Conor O'Shea.

"They have a lot of danger in attack, a lot of flair, in attack and defence they are solid so we need to stick to our game plan, what we know, and hopefully that will take care of itself," he said.