Abraham Papali'i (R) spent three seasons with Irish province Connacht
Paris (AFP) - Samoan back-rower Abraham Papali’i said Brive are fully aware of “tricky” Finn Russell’s ability before facing Racing 92 in the French Top 14 on Saturday.
Fly-half Russell has been omitted from Scoland’s autumn Tests squad due to a lack of “consistency” according to head coach Gregor Townsend.
The 30-year-old has scored 87 points and claimed three try assists in eight games for his French outfit this season.
“Racing are a big club, big budget, star players. We’ve done a bit of homework on them,” Papali’i told AFP this week.
“They have Finn Russell at 10, he’ll be running the show a lot. It’s hard to figure out the way he plays because he’s so tricky.
“We’re going to have to keep an eye on him,” he added.
Brive, the 1997 European champions, based in a town of just 46,000 people in central France, sit 12th in the league table having won just twice this term.
After October 15’s heavy home defeat to Toulouse they sacked coach Jeremy Davidson and replaced the ex-Ireland forward with the club’s former lock Arnaud Mela, who was already there as a lineout specialist.
“I have no idea what goes on behind closed doors, in that coaching office or management I tend to focus on what’s going on in the team room with the boys,” 29-year-old Papali’i said.
“Jeremy was a good coach and an even better man. I wish him all the best,” he added.
Papali’i is in his second spell in France after spending a season with rugby league outfit Lezignan, near the Mediterranean coast, in 2016⁄2017.
The loose-forward born in Auckland to Samoan parents still keeps an eye on the 13-man code especially with the ongoing World Cup.
This Sunday his country of origin face France for a place in the quarter-finals of the tournament.
“It’s really fun to watch because it’s mainly attack or defence, hardly any stoppages,” the former Sydney Roosters all-rounder said.
“I think Samoa will have to put up a big fight in the game,” he added.
- ‘Crazy’ atmosphere -
Abraham Papali'i (top) has scored once in seven Brive appearances this season
Papali’i has yet to represent the Pacific Island nation in the 15-player game but has his eyes set on doing so at the Rugby World Cup despite facing competition for a back-row place from the likes of ex-All Black Steven Luatua, Clermont’s Fritz Lee and Lyon’s Jordan Taufua.
“I’d love to play for Samoa. It would be a huge honour and privilege for me, my wife, my family, my parents,” the ex-Connacht loose-forward said.
“In terms of competition I feel like all I can control is how I play each and every week.
“Playing in the World Cup is the goal,” he added.
This weekend, Papali’i’s club will welcome six-time former champions Racing to a packed Stade Amedee-Domenech.
“When I ran out for Lyon in round one, the atmosphere was buzzing,” he said.
“Every home game the fans are crazy, really supportive, really passionate and it’s good to see.
“It gives us that confidence,” he added.
Fixtures (times 1500 GMT unless stated)
Castres v Clermont (1300), Brive v Racing 92, Montpellier v Stade Francais, Perpignan v Lyon, La Rochelle v Pau, Bayonne v Toulouse (1905)
Bordeaux-Begles v Toulon (1905)