A world first Scottish Rugby Blog exclusive interview for you here. Last week former Scotland, London Irish and Saracens hooker Robbie Russell was kind enough to sit down and let us pick his brains about a few things, including Scotland’s chances tomorrow, his career highs and lows and his current business – running Shudoo, an online designer shoe store. Robbie Russell earned 28 Caps for Scotland between 1999 – 2005, including appearances at 2 Rugby World Cups.
Scottish Rugby Blog: How do you think today’s Scotland team compares with the ones you played in? Do you think we’ve got a chance against Ireland or England in the coming weeks?
Robbie Russell: I am not sure the results are as good in recent years however the team has some quality players. I don’t think there is a great difference however I may be a bit biased!
We used to have a great home record against Ireland so hopefully we can see that restored. I believe we have a real chance against both Ireland and England although I see England improving as well and that will make it tough at Twickenham.
SRB: In your career who was the toughest front row opponent you came up against – any real masters of the dark arts?
RR: I came up against plenty of tough front row players, many of whom had a few tricks up their sleeves. I think my first awakening to the dark arts of front row play came from the amateur days when playing for Aberdeen Grammar in 98.
SRB: You were born in Australia, so what did it feel like scoring a try for your adopted country (Scotland) against your country of birth (Australia) in RWC2003, which was held in Australia?
RR: It was fantastic. The whole 2003 WC experience was an amazing time. I was worried I wasn’t going to get off the bench in that game. When I got on the field I remember one of the Aussie players (Nathan Sharp who was an old uni mate) heckling a bit, so it was nice to get over the line.
SRB: That World Cup trip was when you had the idea for your shoe business too, wasn’t it?
RR: That’s correct. At the end of our campaign we had some spare days so I met with an Australian supplier and decided to import a few hundred Ugg boots and started selling them online (www.shudoo.co.uk). Being online meant I could still run the business even when away in camp with the Scotland side. We even used some of the Scotland players as models on our website in the early days!!
SRB: Both countries have a fairly small player base in competition with other sports (football in our case, any number of things in Australia’s). Apart from the odd scrum, a lot of the Aussies seem to have better basic skills than us – do you think there are there things that they do over there at a younger age (in schools for example) that the Scottish setup could look to emulate?
RR: I seriously believe the weather plays a big part and if it wasn’t for that, skill levels across the countries would be the same.
During school years, all year round you are able to go outside and play ball games of all descriptions in Australia. This really helps development and breeds a sporting culture. The weather conditions in Australia encourage taking more risks and because things come off more, you keep doing it and get better.
SRB: As a London Irish man presumably you are glad to see their resurgence in the Premiership. But as a former Saracens man, what do you think of the current revolving door of players and staff at Saracens, and rumours of it becoming basically a South African franchise?
RR: Revolving doors at Saracens is nothing new! There was plenty in my time as well.
There is always a lot of speculation about the club and they love being in the media. I am uncertain as to what is going to happen there but it will be sad if the club loses its history and disappointing for some of the boys who have served their whole careers there. I imagine it will be more concerning for the RFU, but that’s the nature of the Premiership now.
I am delighted to see the successes at London Irish. I feel they’re a great club and deserve some silverware soon.
SRB: Many thanks for your time Robbie, all the best in the future.