Elliot Daly warns England to beware threat of "free and fearless" Finn Russell

Elliot Daly still wears the scar from his last meeting with Finn Russell and has warned England to be on their guard.

Scotland might not have beaten the auld enemy at Twickenham for 38 years, but a bulk of this England team were burned by Russell only four months ago.

Daly, Maro Itoje, Jamie George and Billy Vunipola were in the Saracens team whose European Cup title defence was ended by Russell’s brilliance.

Owen Farrell was there too in Paris the day the Scottish fly-half produced a moment of magic to win the semi-final for his club Racing 92.

Daly said: “The way he plays is very free and fearless, you have to be ready for everything.

“You always have to be on your toes and anticipate some stuff that you wouldn't anticipate from other players.

“I've played against him a few times now and it’s understanding what he sees in the game and trying to work out what he'll do.”

England have not made a good job of that in recent times. In 2018 Russell inspired Scotland to their first victory in the fixture for a decade.

The following year at Twickenham he took charge at half-time with the Scots 31-0 down and masterminded an epic six-try turnaround to snatch a draw.

But it was Saracens’ Champions Cup semi-final back in the autumn which is the most recent – and painful – point of reference for Daly.

“We switched off a little bit and that was the game sorted,” said the fullback, recalling how Russell unpicked the Londoners’ defence with a sublime chip for Juan Imhoff’s try to win the tie.

“If you look back on that game, we could have stopped that if we were a bit more alert. That try came in the 70th minute, so it's about doing it for the full 80 and not switching off.

“It's about anticipating him. You can't get it right every time, he might do a few things that come off, but you have to stay in the moment and limit them.”

England have spent much of the week in socially-distanced outdoor meetings around a campfire at St George’s Park plotting their strategy for Saturday’s clash.

“It's like Love Island without the weather,” quipped Daly. “We've got the fire pit and we've got blankets and gloves in case we want to stay out there until the bitter end.

“We're definitely taking Covid seriously,” he added. Russell too, evidently.

The Six Nations was last night finally given the green light to go-ahead as planned.

Rugby’s marquee tournament had been in doubt due to French Government concern over the spread of the UK strain of Covid-19.

The authorities in Paris had already called a halt to two rounds of the European Cup club competition.

And with the eight-week showpiece set to kick-off this Saturday there was concern that no decision had been made.

But France's sports minister yesterday announced that quarantine restrictions would be eased.

Roxana Maracineanu said UK teams travelling to France, or the French team re-entering, would be exempt from a seven-day isolation period.

"It was a decision everyone in rugby was awaiting," Maracineanu told French television.

“The decision has been taken within government to ensure that the Six Nations championship is held on the scheduled date, starting February 6, with a bio-secure bubble, as was the case with the Tour de France.”

A Six Nations spokesperson responded: “We welcome the decision of the French Government and continue to work on the preparations for the Championship.”

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