Finn Russell dismissed the suggestion that Scotland are favourites to end more than two decades without a win in Cardiff tomorrow, but insists they have a point to prove after their early World Cup exit. 

It is 22 years since Scotland sent legendary commentator Bill McLaren into retirement with victory in the Welsh capital, and despite a woeful record since, some bookmakers have Gregor Townsend’s side as favourites.  

But new Scotland captain Russell dismissed that suggestion when he faced the media.  

"With the Welsh side being slightly different to previous years, a lot of people would probably think that Scotland are potentially favourites. 

“However, I don’t view it like that. We’ve not won here in 22 years, so that shows it’s not an easy place for us to come and win. 

"We’ve got a more experienced team, but that doesn’t always count on the day. 

"Wales have some very exciting players who will be playing with freedom. That’s the danger we have in front of us. We have to lean on our experience. 

“I’m not too sure who are favourites. It’ll be an exciting game.” 

Russell was similarly nonplussed when asked about Scotland’s U-turn around having the Principality Stadium roof closed.  

READ MORE: Scotland in U-turn as they make agreement with Wales to close roof

“Personally, it doesn’t change too much. I was at Racing - who have got an indoor stadium, for five years, so I’m pretty used to it. 

“I think it will make for an exciting, fast, free-flowing game of rugby tomorrow. It does mean it will get slightly greasier inside the stadium with the humidity, but both teams will have the same conditions. 

“Whether it is open or closed, I don’t think it will change too much.” 

Russell insists Scotland have a point to prove after their early exit from the World Cup. He wants that to begin by ending the 22-year wait for a victory in Cardiff.  

“The atmosphere in this stadium is one of the best in the world.  

“When the Welsh boys put that red jersey on, they become different players from when they are at their clubs. It is a massive challenge for us to come down here to try and win. 

“We won it four years ago but it wasn’t here and was without a crowd due to Covid, so coming to a Principality Stadium packed out with Welsh fans is going to be a very different challenge for us. 

“We’ve got a few new faces and after a disappointing World Cup we’ve got a point to prove – I think both teams have.”  

As a veteran of the fixture, Russell said he’ll try to impart his experience of the venue onto the younger members of the squad.  

“It’ll be a new experience for quite a few boys in our team.  

Scotland Rugby News: Finn Russell during the 2022 game between Wales and ScotlandFinn Russell during the 2022 game between Wales and Scotland (Image: SNS Group)

“For us, it’s about building belief and confidence, and finding a way to get back to what we’ve trained this week if things don’t go to plan. 

"Everyone knows that sport can change really quickly. If they get into the game, the crowd could obviously have an influence on the Welsh team.” 

Russell did, though, admit the long losing streak has been discussed by the squad.  

“We’ve mentioned it in terms of how big a challenge it’s going to be coming down here. We can’t let anything from the outside come into the camp, like the talk about us having more experience. 

“It’s such a big challenge coming here as the records show. The main focus has been on preparing as best we can for the game, mentioning or touching slightly on the fact we haven’t won here for 22 years, but that’s not been a major focus.” 

He knows if Scotland are to end their Cardiff hoodoo, they must get off to a good start.  

“The first 20 minutes is going to be hugely important, for the crowd especially.  

“I don’t think it’s possible to keep them quiet, but if we can do our best to get ahead or to make sure we’re putting them under pressure, putting the kicks in the right place, getting ourselves into the game, that will be massively important. 

“That’s the case for every Test match, but with the crowd here it’s potentially even more important. If we do go ahead, I don’t think that will change much for either side.” 

If Scotland are to win, building a good relationship with referee Ben O’Keeffe will help, and despite having only captained Scotland once so far in his career, Russell is confident he’s built up a good rapport with the New Zealander.  

Scotland Rugby News: Referee Ben O'KeeffeReferee Ben O'Keeffe (Image: SNS Group)

“I’ve had Ben a few times and I’d like to think I’ve got a decent relationship with him.  

“At times it might be someone from the forwards who might have to put a point across to them, or Zander [Fagerson] in the scrum – I don’t really know what goes on there. 

“That’s part of the role as captain, I get the information from the boys and just try to deal with it as best I can and take the emotion out of it. I’m always quite calm on the pitch so the emotional side won’t come out when I’m trying to the ref and it’ll be a calm, chilled conversation."  

Blair Kinghorn will miss the first two rounds of the championship with a knee injury, and with the Toulouse man Russell’s main foil as playmaker-in-chief, Russell knows Scotland may have to tweak their game.  However, he’s confident Scotland can adapt.  

READ MORE: Scotland team named to face Wales in Six Nations opener

"Sione and Huw have been dipping in and out at 10 this week when I’ve had to hit a ruck.

"With the players we’ve got now we’re getting more used to filling in wherever - that’s something I spoke to Gregor about after the World Cup: stepping up in that first ball player position.

"That’s something we’ve run really well over the last couple of weeks."