Racing 92's Galacticos 'pushing' Scotland's Russell to be at 100%

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Scotland fly-half Finn Russell said Racing 92's star-studded back-line is pushing him to improve before this weekend's French Top 14 home game against La Rochelle.

Russell, who confirmed this week he was staying with Racing despite reports linking him with a mid-contract move to Japan's NEC Green Rockets, will miss Saturday's second round fixture after only returning to pre-season last week following the British and Irish Lions tour.

Despite his absence, the Parisians can still name the likes of France centre Virimi Vakatawa and Gael Fickou as well as Australia full-back Kurtley Beale among their three-quarters.

"They're some of the best players in the world," Russell told AFP and newspaper Midi Olympique on Tuesday.

"I think 'I better try to play pretty well today to be at their level'. If you're at a lower down team then you can get away at playing 60-75 percent and it's good enough.

"Whereas here you want to be pushing myself and them and they do the same back. I always want to be at their level. It's vice-versa," he added.

Russell, who turns 29 later this month, has returned to the French capital after a summer where he featured in the Lions' Test series defeat to Rugby World Cup winners South Africa.

The Springboks conceded just two tries during the three games and face Australia over the two coming weekends before also playing New Zealand twice in The Rugby Championship.

"Everyone thinks you can't attack against them but I quite like it, because if they come up hard and you have a good enough pass you can beat them with that," Russell said.

"It will be interesting to see how they go against a team like New Zealand.

"They've got Richie Mo'unga in 10, they have David Havili at 12 who's a good ball-player then Damian McKenzie, Jodie or Beauden Barrett in the back there. With all these threats who can run, kick, pass, there's definitely going to be a lot of space somewhere," he added.

- O'Gara 'doing something right' -

This weekend, Russell will be a keen observer at the Paris La Defense Arena with former Racing 92 team-mate Donnacha Ryan now working under La Rochelle director of rugby Ronan O'Gara as a forwards coach.

Ex-Ireland and Lions fly-half O'Gara took the club from the Atlantic coast to the Top 14 and European Champions Cup finals last season and spent four years at the French capital as defence coach before Russell arrived in 2018.

"Part of me coming here was I thought it would be great to work with him. He then left to go to New Zealand," Russell said.

"I wouldn't be surprised if he was Ireland coach soon enough.

"I don't know how much Andy Farrell's got left but if 'ROG' has got La Rochelle to two finals, he's obviously doing something right," he added.

Elsewhere, Japan's Kotaro Matsushima is set to make his first appearance of the season as Clermont host Castres.

Matsushima's fellow Test full-back in France's Melvyn Jaminet will make his maiden Top 14 appearances as Perpignan welcome Biarritz, also promoted this season, after the 22-year-old full-back made his Les Bleus debut during July's Australia tour.

Fixtures (all times GMT)

Saturday

Montpellier v Brive, Perpignan v Biarritz, Clermont v Castres, Pau v Lyon (all 1300), Bordeaux-Begles v Stade Francais (1515), Racing 92 v La Rochelle (1905)

Sunday

Toulouse v Toulon (1905)

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