Finn Russell's Racing 'flying' ahead of Champions Cup quarter-final

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Finn Russell (Getty Images)
Finn Russell (Getty Images)

Scotland flyhalf Finn Russell said Top 14 league leaders Racing 92 are on top of their game form before heading to Clermont in Saturday's European Champions Cup quarter-final.

The Parisians have won their two opening domestic fixtures of the new campaign which included last Friday's convincing 41-17 victory over Montpellier.

"Hopefully we'll go into this game flying and come out with a win," Russell told AFP on Monday.

"Even though we played pretty well the first two games, it was in the back of my mind subconsciously. It's hard not to when it's such a big game," he added.

The hosts, without a home defeat in Europe since April 2018, have been given a local exemption to allow 10 000 people into the Stade Marcel-Michelin despite national coronavirus guidelines capping public gatherings at 5 000.

Russell is yet to experience the 'Yellow Army' environment and said he planned to talk to former Scotland team-mate Greig Laidlaw, who left Clermont at the end of last season, ahead of the fixture.

"It'll be great to have more fans there. It's also going to make it harder for us, it's a great challenge for us to go to Clermont and win in front of their home support," Russell said.

"I'd imagine it's one of the best, they always sell out and it's a great place to play," he added.

Beale ban 'shame'

The visitors will be without close-season signing in Australia fullback Kurtley Beale who has been suspended for three weeks for a dangerous tackle in last weekend's league win.

Russell, who will make his Test return later this year, said he expected Ireland's Simon Zebo to make his injury comeback to replace the 92-time Wallaby.

"A big shame for us. He's started pretty well here, apart from the red card. It was just an incident. He's still learning the players and how they play," Russell said.

"We have other great players to fill in for him. Zebo is fit and ready to go. Louis Dupichot is a great full-back too, we have great depth in the squad at Racing," he added.

Fleet-footed Zebo and France centre Virimi Vakatawa's contracts at the Paris La Defense Arena are up at the end of the season.

Media in France and elsewhere claim Zebo could leave and various high-spending English clubs are interested in Vakatawa.

"Hopefully they sign on again. We play some great rugby here," Russell said.

"With these boys we're building a great team and a great backline. Hopefully we can keep them all on and keep building for the next few years."

Elsewhere this weekend, PRO14 champions Leinster host title holders Saracens in a re-run of last year's final.

Record four-time winners Toulouse welcome Ulster and there's an all-English tie on Sunday as Northampton Saints head to Exeter.

Fixtures (SA times)

Saturday

Leinster (IRL) v Saracens (ENG) (16:00), Clermont (FRA) v Racing 92 (FRA) (18:45)

Sunday

Toulouse (FRA) v Ulster (IRL) (13:30), Exeter Chiefs (ENG) v Northampton Saints (ENG) (18:30)

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