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Varsity Match 2017: Ever present Archie Russell makes hard yards for Cambridge University

By Mark Taylormark.taylor@iliffemedia.co.uk

Jake Hennessey in action for Cambridge University. Picture: Keith Heppell.
Jake Hennessey in action for Cambridge University. Picture: Keith Heppell.

Outside centre ready to face Oxford at Twickenham

In a Michaelmas Term of ever changing personnel, one constant has been the defence-splitting presence of Archie Russell.

Few players have appeared in as many fixtures as the 22-year-old Selwyn College management studies student, with plenty already having been said about the disrupted build-up.

But fortunately for the Light Blues, Russell has been in the centres through thick and thin, and that has allowed him to create an impressive partnership with Jake Hennessey.

“It’s been going well so far,” said Russell. “He brings good energy. I wouldn’t say we’re the biggest centres you’d get but we’ve both got pretty decent skills and Jake is a good distributor as well, and that’s why he sometimes steps in at No 10.

“We both want to run with the ball as much as we can. Whenever we get the chance, we both want to get it out wide.

“He’s got a pretty good pass and can throw it out wide so we can get it into the space in those channels so it’s been good.

“We’ve got the skillset to take it wide, and we have dangerous players out there with Charlie [Amesbury], Kingy [Henry King] and Ollie [Phillips].

“I think we can really damage teams doing that so hopefully it will be good going into the Varsity Match.”

It is Charlie Amesbury and Ollie Phillips that bring a wealth of knowledge from the highest levels of the game to an otherwise youthful backline, and they are proving invaluable in the development of those around them.

And that point is not lost on Russell, who represented Scotland at the World Rugby Under-20 World Championship in Italy in 2015.

“The back three have such experience and they are really comfortable in these sorts of games,” he said. “They have been there before so many times, these high-pressured matches.

“As well, they bring the x-factor I guess, so if we do get it wide to them they should be able to do something.

“You are confident that if you give them a one-on-one out wide they should be able to either make a break or get over the gain line.

“And in the forwards, the last couple of games have been really good. We’re getting our consistency back and all our players back from injury.”

“It’s taken a while to get everything working seamlessly but I think in the Bodgers game we got that perfect and we just have to build on that.”

And Russell will be hoping that his year continues to go from strength to strength.

He was described as one of Ayr’s most consistent players as they won the Scottish Premiership title last season, and that was all done while studying mechanical engineering at Strathclyde University.

So it is very much like for like for Russell in balancing his rugby and his studies.

But he has taken a slightly different direction with his academia at Cambridge.

“I was thinking about staying on there [Strathclyde] to do a master’s degree, but I got the offer to come down here,” said Russell.

“I’m doing technology policy. There are quite a few people on my course who were doing engineering, and social sciences or economics.

“It’s actually quite a mix of people on my course, but it’s really interesting stuff, learning about new and innovative technologies that are coming out and the process that has to take place for these things to go from an invention or an idea to actually getting introduced to society.”

So the move to Cambridge is working out in all regards for Russell, whose brother is Scotland international fly-half Finn Russell.

And he will emulate his illustrious sibling by stepping out on one of the biggest stages of his career so far tomorrow, at Twickenham.


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