Finn Russell column: ''We need to focus on beating Italy, not Vern's farewell''

Finn Russell
2017 RBS Six Nations: Scotland v Italy
Venue: BT Murrayfield Date: Saturday, 18 March Kick-off: 12:30 GMT
Coverage: Live on BBC One Scotland, BBC Radio Scotland 810MW & BBC Radio 5 live Sports Extra, plus live text commentary via the BBC Sport website and BBC Sport app

As a group we moved on pretty quickly from the England game and turned our attentions to Italy. We know if we beat them we have a chance of finishing second in the RBS 6 Nations table which is a huge motivation for us.

Twickenham was a bitterly frustrating and disappointing experience for us.

England got off to a quick start and to be fair to them they kept their foot on the gas from start to finish. We struggled to get into the game. When we did we played well but it was tough for us. They outplayed us, simple as that.

Finn Russell
Russell converted three tries at Twickenham but a losing bonus point eluded Scotalnd

We put ourselves under pressure which made things a lot tougher for us. When we scored our first try through Gordon Reid we were still in the match at 20-7 but we allowed them to hit straight back and the game just slipped away from us.

We brought pressure on ourselves rather than sticking to the game-plan and what we had worked on at training. I take a lot of the responsibility for that.

When we stuck to the game-plan we created opportunities and scored three tries, which would normally be a good achievement at Twickenham, but our defence really let us down.

Six Nations table

It's hard to know how that game at Twickenham will affect selection for the Lions squad and how many Scots are picked for the tour to New Zealand. We beat Wales and Ireland, Wales beat Ireland at the weekend, England have beaten Wales as well so it's hard to call.

We've won both our home games so far and although we had an off day at Twickenham I would hope Lions coach Warren Gatland wouldn't judge us on that one match alone.

I guess we'll see what he thinks when the squad is picked but as players our focus is firmly on beating Italy rather than anything that comes after.

It's great that we have another game to hopefully redeem ourselves and put a few things right. If we lost against Italy it would be a really disappointing end to the tournament. We feel we've made big strides with those wins over two excellent sides in Ireland and Wales so we want to back that up by making it three home wins from three.

Italy have lost every game in the championship but I think that only tells part of the story. They have definitely improved under Conor O'Shea and Ireland are the only team to really dominate them so far.

The Italians led at half-time against both Wales and England so we know we'll need to be at it right from the start on Saturday. This is also a team that beat South Africa in the autumn so no-one in our camp is taking them lightly. We know we'll need a top performance to get the job done.

Scotland v Italy - last five meetings
The sides' 2015 Six Nations meeting was followed by two World Cup warm-ups

It's Vern Cotter's last match in charge before he leaves the Scotland job. Clearly we want to send him off on a high with a good display and a win, but for the players on the field we have to do it for ourselves first and foremost. We can't think, 'We must do well for Vern'. We can't be distracted from what we need to do on the field. If we can stick to our game-plan then the result will take care of itself.

I wasn't part of the Scotland set-up before Vern arrived so I can't speak about the dynamic in the squad previously but since he's come in the team have come so far. We beat Ireland, our first opening-day win in 11 years, and then beat Wales for the first time in 10 years. We're now fifth in the world rankings, our highest ever position, and have sold out every home game at BT Murrayfield for the first time.

The things we've achieved this season shows how good Vern has been for the team over the last three years.

Finn Russell was speaking to BBC Scotland's Andy Burke.

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