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Finn Russell headed for a fascinating meeting of minds with coach once of Leinster or Munster

Whichever coach the Scot plays under next season, he could thrive - or grow frustrated

It goes without saying that Racing’s international talent would have been a big pull factor for Stuart Lancaster when opting to swap Dublin for Paris. However, one name who looks unlikely to be playing under the English coach is Finn Russell, with the Daily Mail reporting he is on the verge of leaving Racing to head to Bath next season.

Were the west country club to pull off such a coup, Russell would nonetheless still be playing under a former coach of an Irish province; step forward Johann van Graan.

The South African could well have a midfield trio of Russell, exciting young Scot Cam Redpath and England international Ollie Lawrence (who signed after Worcester went under) at his disposal next season.

Penny for your thoughts, Munster fans? Van Graan’s legacy at the province splits opinion, but the most frequent criticism aimed at him centred around his game plan; for many, the attack was overly pragmatic. With Russell in tow at The Rec next year, pragmatism just won’t do and the Scotland outhalf certainly is not one to shy away from philosophical disagreements with coaches. Just ask Gregor Townsend.

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All that considered, The Times Scotland is reporting that Russell to Bath isn’t quite a done deal and La Rochelle could still swoop in and get him to put pen to paper.

His prospective coach on the south west coast of France? None other than Ronan ‘Keep Ball Alive’ O’Gara.

Belfast’s unavailability is a boon for Cork

“North of the country starved of International representative rugby :(”

So said one Ulster fan on Twitter in response to the IRFU announcement that the Ireland women’s side will play both of its home 2023 Six Nations clashes in Musgrave Park.

With the U20s all but certain to return to their spiritual home in Cork, it means that none of the big three representative national sides will play home Six Nations games outside of Leinster or Munster. In the last campaign, the women’s side hosted Scotland at the Kingspan Stadium.

The main factor from an avoiding Belfast point of view is availability. Ireland’s two home Women’s Six Nations matches against France and England are on April 1st and 22nd respectively. The first weekend of April will see Champions Cup last-16 ties, meaning the Kingspan could well be in use if Ulster are at home. Ulster also have a home URC match on April 21st, so a Six Nations game there the next day is out of the question.

Not to mention how, with Munster’s recent 41,400 Páirc Uí Chaoimh sell-out in mind, the desire for rugby in Cork looks as strong as ever and the IRFU have responded in kind.

The venues for the 2024 Women’s Six Nations will be revisited; the decision to use just Musgrave is for 2023 alone.

An ear-bashing for the head of English rugby

RFU chief executive Bill Sweeney appeared in front of a select committee for the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) in Westminster during the week, the financial failure of Wasps and Worcester the discussion point.

Conservative MP Julian Knight took a particularly unfriendly line of questioning towards the head of English rugby. Knight is an MP for Solihull and his constituency office is just 30 miles from Sixways, home of now former Premiership club Worcester. No doubt the anger of the locals was ringing in Knight’s ears as he barely let Sweeney get a word in edgeways, so significant was his ire.

Julian Knight MP: You all just lived in isolation watching other clubs, for example in other sports, go through similar circumstances to what happened to Worcester, you were completely asleep on the job Mr Sweeney and so was your board in this instance, do you accept that?

Bill Sweeney: I don’t, I believe there are learnings from this . . .

JK: You have to wait for a club to collapse to take learnings or can you not see it from other sports, Mr Sweeney?

BS: We’ve taken the learnings . . .

JK: You’re not being paid you take learnings, you’re being paid to ensure your clubs survive, why have you failed in that? . . . If you look behind you, you’ll see people from Worcester and they’re furious at your failings. You, frankly, have failed in this instance and so has the RFU. Should you not be looking at your own positions?

To be fair to Sweeney, he took it like a champ.

Word of Mouth

“As a great rugby man that he was, great character of the game, so our thoughts are with his family, friends and all his loved ones. It’s hard, isn’t it? Jeepers. But how he has conducted himself, all the funds and the work that he has done in recent years . . . it’s a tough one.” - Leo Cullen on the untimely passing of former Scotland and Lions lock Doddie Weir, who died after a battle with Motor Neurone disease.

By the Numbers: 21

Wales’ lead over Australia with 25 minutes left in the second half of their clash on Saturday. Dave Rennie’s Australia side ended up 39-34 winners to wrap up a torrid 2022 for Wayne Pivac that could leave his job as Welsh coach in jeopardy.

Nathan Johns

Nathan Johns is an Irish Times journalist