Excitement is building in the Bath camp before the Semi-final

Excitement is building in the Bath camp before the Semi-final

Finn Russell is used to carrying the weight of a nation and now finds himself shouldering the dreams of a city as he prepares for The Play-Offs with Bath Rugby.

Russell’s arrival has helped inspire a turnaround in fortunes at The Rec, Bath’s cathedral of rugby on the banks of the Avon which has become a far happier place for supporters this season.

The Scotland fly-half’s first season in blue and black has coincided with a rise from eighth to second and a first top-four finish since 2019/20 was sealed with victory over Northampton Saints on the final day.

Last season’s beaten finalists Sale Sharks visit Somerset on Saturday for the right to feature at Twickenham, where Russell is no stranger, and the prospect of rewarding the club’s loyal fans with a big day out is driving him on.

“Everyone in the city seems to be loving it, they were queuing down the street to get Play-Off tickets,” he said.

“It’s brilliant and it’s such an exciting thing to be part of and it’s something very different for me.

“Coming from Glasgow then to Paris, I wouldn’t say either team was the main thing in either city. There are big football teams in both cities and so many other things in Paris.

“It’s nice to have a change and have something different in terms of having the whole city behind you.

“There is pressure and responsibility to go out and perform as it’s not just the team we are representing, it’s the whole city. That’s been something new but something I’ve really enjoyed.

“It’s obviously very different to Paris but my partner and I are loving it and that has shown on the field. Hopefully we can now do something special for the club.”

Russell contributed 128 points across the regular season and was among the quartet nominated for Gallagher Player of the Season, ultimately claimed by Henry Slade, at the Premiership Rugby Awards.

Whether ‘shushing the Shed’ at Kingsholm or taking risks at Ashton Gate, the mercurial fly-half has been as watchable as ever in his maiden Gallagher Premiership Rugby season and has learned plenty along the way.

“The standard has been really good,” he said. “With 10 teams, it’s much more intense. Seven or eight teams could have been in the top four, which shows how tight it is.

“Every game and every point counts. We had a game against Bristol away when I tried a crossfield kick which lost us a losing bonus point. Had we got that, we’d have been guaranteed a play-off before the Northampton game.

“You can’t afford to lose soft points like that one but thankfully we made up for it in the end.”

An Anglo-Scottish rivalry awaits at The Rec this weekend with Russell set to line up against George Ford.

The stand-offs have 171 international caps between them and Russell will be calling on all his big-game experience as he aims to steer Bath to a first Final in nine years.

“I have been in quite a few semis and finals and having Ben Spencer at 9, who has won Champions Cups and Premierships, is also a big help,” he said.

“Sale have a lot of experience as well and from 1-23, it should be an exciting match-up.

“There are so many good 10s in this league and (George) Ford is definitely one of them.

“There is so much competition every week and that’s what you want. You want to be pushing yourself week in, week out.”

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