The Racing and Scotland fly-half talks Maradona, Mastermind and muscles with Mark Palmer
What’s the funniest thing you’ve seen on a pitch?
Alex Dunbar trying an up-and-under against Wales in 2015. I’d been sin-binned, so Alex slotted in at stand-off and attempted this kick that was meant for Tim Visser but went backwards 10m and straight out on the full. The best bit was Eck turning to Greig Laidlaw and trying to blame him, for reasons I’ve never quite been able to understand.
Any practical jokes you can tell us?
I’m still wondering if Stuart Hogg’s hair at the end of the Six Nations was a practical joke. Ryan Wilson and John Barclay used to give him frights, but he’s getting his own back on all of us with that wig.
What really annoys you?
There’s not much that really gets to me. The boys at Racing ask me why I’m always happy, but that’s just the way I am: pretty chill.
Do you have any nicknames?
At Racing, Simon Zebo calls me ‘White Chocolate’. Back in the day at Glasgow, Chris Fusaro had boys referring to me as Finn ‘The Muscle’ Russell as I didn’t do much in the gym.
What’s your most embarrassing moment?
On a rugby field, there are maybe things others see as embarrassing which wash over me. Off the pitch, it’s probably something on a night out, but nothing I can remember.
Who’d you like to be stuck in a lift with?
I’d rather be in there by myself, if I’m honest. A few boys got stuck in the lift at the Scotland team hotel a couple of years back and were all going on about how uncomfortable it was having to squash together on the floor.
The worst person to be trapped with would be someone tall – or Wilson.
If you could have one superpower, what would it be?
I’d love to be able to control time, to go back to moments where you were really happy or you’d like to change, and then to be able to fast-forward to being out of lockdown.
I used to strap my wrists before games but at a certain point I stopped because I understood it doesn’t really make a difference. It was more of a routine than a superstition.
If you could be one team-mate, who would it be?
I’d be Hoggy for his pay cheque but then you’ve got to have that hair! Jonny Gray could be alright because he sleeps half the day, but he’s always got sore shoulders or knees. I don’t fancy being a forward.
Maybe Duhan van der Merwe; he scores a lot of tries, gets a lot of the glory and is in real good shape. He’s 110kg and super fast – you can’t go far wrong with that.
What’s the silliest thing you’ve ever bought?
Probably my Wattbike because I never use it! People would probably see a lot of what I buy as silly because it’s expensive, but it’s not silly to me.
If your house was on fire, what’s the one thing you’d save (people and pets are safe)?
The Supreme motorbike I bought when I shared a flat in Glasgow with Ali Price. It’s cool and stylish. I don’t have much that’s sentimentally valuable in Paris, but I’d probably grab my PS5!
Who would be your three dream dinner party guests?
Rihanna looks like good fun, and Conor McGregor would be a real laugh too. If I’m allowed to pick someone who’s no longer with us, I’ll go for Maradona. He’d have loads of good stories and then it could turn a bit wild.
The best advice you’ve ever received?
Half the advice I receive goes in one ear and out the other! The thing that’s most stuck with me is just to be yourself, be happy and enjoy yourself. Be you and don’t try to change.
What’s your guilty pleasure?
I play PlayStation a lot but I don’t feel guilty about it! I love sweets but I’m trying to ease back. The same goes for French baguettes. I’ve been here three years and I’ve had comfortably enough to last a lifetime.
What would be your Mastermind specialist subject?
Cars or sport, although I don’t know anywhere near as many random facts about the latter as someone like Ali or Mike Blair.
Any hidden talents?
My whole family can juggle. Me, my dad Keith and younger brother Archie can do it with fire as well.
What would you like to achieve outside of rugby?
I’m designing an app at the moment to do with photography, so hopefully that will be successful.
How’d you like to be remembered?
As a real serious guy who never had fun at the weekend. Nah, joking aside, I’d want to be remembered as a guy who enjoyed playing rugby. Who played at a really high level but had good fun doing it. Who wasn’t too serious, didn’t go about shouting at folk or having a go at them. A guy who was dead relaxed but could turn it on when he had to.
This article originally appeared in the June 2021 edition of Rugby World magazine.
Follow Rugby World on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.