Press Pass with Calum MacRae
Get the latest from Defence Coach Calum MacRae as he spoke with press ahead of Sunday's Heineken Champions Cup Round of 16 clash with Racing 92 in Paris.
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On facing a Racing 92 side without stand-off Finn Russell
“Yeah, Finn is on very good form at the moment. He’s been really influential for Scotland over the Six Nations, and he’s a maverick. He’s one of these people who have game-breaking ability.
“I spent a fair bit of time last week prepping, getting stuff ready for him, and then when the red card came I can’t say I wasn’t disappointed. Because ultimately he’s a very influential player for them.
“I can’t see their game changing too much around their DNA as a team. We had a strategy to try and counteract Finn playing, but I see now their 10 is likely to be [Antoine] Gibert. He played last week against Bayonne. We’ll just prepare as normal for that.
“Any time that you’ve got a world-class 10 not on the field, it hopefully makes it a slightly more straightforward job for us.”
On facing Racing 92's dangerous back line
“They’ve got game-breakers particularly from 13 out. Virimi Vakatawa is a guy I know from the 7s - he played consistently for France there - and he’s at the centre of a lot of their attacking play.
"He’s got a phenomenal step and offload game with the power that he’s got.
“And also when you’ve got the likes of Teddy Thomas, [Juan] Imhoff and Kurtley Beale around him there, once he gets his nose through the line or he gets a positive carry, good things tend to happen with those guys interplaying.
"So it will be really important that we try and reduce the amount of time and space that he has on the ball.”
On keeping his side calm in defence
“I think we’ve got form against France teams the last two or three years in the competition, and we’ve stepped up in those big games and put some really good performances in.
“We’ve got some quality players as well. By and large we’ve had some good defensive performances in those big games, so we just go back to what we’re about.
“We respect the threat that they pose and the scenarios that they will challenge you in and the type of ball that they like to play off.
"It’s just making sure you strangle the game so they don’t get a flow of those opportunities and you reduce the number of times they actually get involved in the game.
“It’s just what we can control. We’re in charge of the type of ball that we kick to them, we’re also in charge of how well prepped we are round their strike plays from what they’ve done previously.
"So we just take the right sort of quality going into the game of really high-quality preparation.”
On taking inspiration from Scotland's underdog performance in Paris
“Yes, we absolutely take inspiration. It’s a common thing that if you stay in games and you’re consistently competitive - as Scotland have been right throughout the championship - then good things happen.
“This weekend will be no different but the main thing is that we control the things we can control so we can actually apply pressure to the areas of Racing’s game we have identified.
"They have got a high amount of quality in their team but I wouldn’t be doing my job if I didn’t identify areas where we can apply pressure and make it really uncomfortable for them.”
On the fitness status of returning Scotland players
“Yeah, obviously it was a pretty attritional game they had and there are a couple of bumps and bruises but by all accounts all the injury assessments have been done and everybody should be good to go in relation to selection this week. So that’s a positive.
“From a club point of view you are always holding your breath during the last game of the Six Nations to see what bumps and bruises you get but fortunately, other than some superficial stuff that we just need to manage in the early part of these guys’ week, the main thing is that we’re fresh and ready to get the detail in and there good to go for the weekend.”
On having a full squad with internationalists back involved
“Everyone knows it’s been a funny season, it’s been well documented.
“It’s not an excuse, it’s just the reality of the situation. But with the boys coming back, there’s a number of them who have been in the system, particularly in the defence, and they’ve been at the club for a number of years now and they know what our system principles are, they don’t change too much.
"Therefore, apart from a couple of little bits of detail Stevie Lawrie might put a bit more focus on, they should be slotting straight back in.
“It’s great to have them back and obviously they’ll be buoyed by a really competitive championship.
"They’ve come back with smiles on their faces from last week and it’s a great venue to go to to play in a competition we absolutely love being involved in.”