Scotland fly-half Finn Russell expects to face a wall of noise in Paris today but the Glasgow playmaker aims to silence the massed ranks of home fans at the Stade de France.
The 22-year-old will earn just his sixth cap against Les Bleus as Vern Cotter’s men kick off their Six Nations campaign.
Three of his appearances have come on home soil – with last year’s summer tour wins in Canada and the USA his only foreign exercises. But neither of those Tests came close to matching the atmosphere he can expect to come crashing down on him in Saint-Denis.
An 80,000-strong crowd is expected to cheer on Philippe Saint-André’s men in their Championship opener – with Russell believing that emotions are likely to be further cranked up as Paris hosts its first major international sporting event since last month’s terrorist attacks in the city.
Russell knows that the first strains of La Marseillaise will signal the start of a French charge but if the Scots can survive the opening exchanges, he believes a hush could fall over the home crowd and dent their hopes of victory.
“I’ve only had two games away from home but they are nothing compared to what my first Six Nations match will be like,” he said. “I’m really looking forward to it, although I may be taken aback by it on the day.
“I know the crowd will get on my back but I see myself as being a bit different. The more stick they give me the better. I see it as a bit of fun.
“I know if I’m kicking or get on the ball I’m going to have all the jeers in the background. I’ll take it all in and just pretend it’s a training session. If I can do something good I’ll see it as though I’ve got one over on them. Hopefully I can keep them all quiet.”
He added: “With the recent attacks we can expect France as a country to come together. Saturday will be a big event for them and the crowd will come into it and play their part.
“I’d imagine it will be a sell-out so we will have 80,000 French supporters going hard at us for the first 20 minutes.
“I imagine it will be hard at the start of the match but I believe if we can soak all that up we can then take them back and have a crack from there. But that first 20 minutes will be key.”
Scottish hopes are high following their encouraging autumn performances against Argentina, New Zealand – who they pushed all the way before losing out – and Tonga.But their Parisian form book offers little encouragement.
Just two wins in the last 46 years – in 1995 and then again four years later – suggest there could be more disappointment this weekend.
Russell is well aware of the threats but still sees reason to be optimistic. “France are a team that, one to 15, are just world class,” he admitted. “If they turn up on the day they can beat anyone. They can be hot and cold but it’s pretty clear they have done well against us at home – two wins in 46 years proves that. But hopefully it will be our year.
“They have a lot of weapons and we will have to be on our guard. The back three are very dangerous – Yoann Huget and Teddy Thomas can score from anywhere so we have to make sure we don’t give them any loose kicks.”
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