Finn Russell has told his Scotland team-mates not to let stage fright wreck their final World Cup audition on Saturday.
Gregor Townsend’s squad have one final chance to shine against Georgia in Tbilisi before the head coach announces the 31 players he will be taking to Japan.
Racing 92 playmaker Russell is normally the coolest performer in the Dark Blues camp but he has extra reason to be calm in the lead-up to Townsend’s squad unveiling at Linlithgow Palace next Tuesday given his role as the Scottish attack’s undisputed leading man.
The stand-off’s place is all but guaranteed but he is aware some of his colleagues still have some convincing to do in order to book their seat on the plane to the Far East.
But he urged the rest of Townsend’s hopefuls to stay relaxed when their moment under the Dinamo Arena spotlight comes as he admitted fluffed lines could be costly.
Russell said: “You’ve got to look forward to these games. If you’re going to get tense then you might not perform as well.
“I think you’ve got to go into it full on, wanting to play, wanting to perform and wanting to do your best.
“I know there might be pressure on players to perform and get a win away from home. But if you over-think it and worry, ‘If we don’t play well or if we lose then we might not get on the flight’ then the chances are you won’t play well because you’ll be making it too complicated rather than sticking to what you know and trust. It’s better if you back yourself.”
The only thing now likely to prevent Russell from facing Ireland in the Scots’ Group A opener at the International Stadium in Yokohama on September 22 is injury.
Yet with a second clash with the powerhouse Georgians to come at Murrayfield six days after Saturday’s Tbilisi Test, he is aware there are still a couple of hurdles to overcome.
The pitfalls were made clear this week when Exeter lock Sam Skinner was ruled out of the tournament as a result of the hamstring injury he sustained against France last weekend.
But Russell lived up to his laid-back reputation as he shrugged off the suggestion the next couple of games were all about staying out of trouble.
He said: “You can’t go out thinking about not getting injured. It’s a contact sport and injuries are going to happen. That’s the way it is.
“Fraser Brown got injured towards the end of last season and Sam’s been injured now. Personally, I don’t think about that and neither will many of the boys.
“If you have a niggle, you might be a bit more cautious about it but if you’re going into a game you can’t be thinking, ‘What if I try to tackle a guy and this happens or if I jump to catch a ball and that happens?’ you’ll probably end up in bad positions because you’re being cautious trying to get out the way of it.”
Scotland recovered from their five-trying pasting in Nice to beat Les Bleus 17-14 in Edinburgh last Saturday.
They will now look to improve on a miserable away record that has produced just three wins from their last 11 matches on the road but Russell is wary of the Lelos.
He said: “Georgia will be tough. They are getting better every year. There are a couple of Georgian players who play with me at Racing (Guram Gogichashvili and Vasil Kakovin), so it will be fun for me going up against them.
“Knowing the quality those guys bring to Racing shows their national team are getting better and they are getting more and more depth. We’ll have to be at our best to fly out there and win.”
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