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Hogg primed to tackle Russell before welcoming him back into Scotland squad

Stuart Hogg and Finn Russell may be friends reunited in the Scotland squad – but they will be at each other’s throats this weekend.

The pair come at Saturday’s Champions Cup final from opposing sides with Hogg spearheading Exeter’s ‘double’ bid and Russell pulling the strings for Racing 92.

Fourteen years have passed since Hogg last played against Russell – half a lifetime during which he has played 76 times for his country and toured with the Lions.

Yet it is the move to Devon which the Scotland captain says has taken his game to another level.

“I came down here to improve myself as a player and a person and get in a position to contribute to winning trophies,” said the fullback.

“We’re in a perfect position right now. This is a huge, massive opportunity and I’m absolutely buzzing.

“I’m playing some of the best rugby I’ve played in a long, long time. Of all my rugby decisions this is hands down the best I’ve ever made.”

Everything is going for Rob Baxter’s Chiefs right now, with confirmation yesterday that lock forward Jonny Hill faces no additional punishment for his no-arms clear out on Bath’s Taulupe Faletau at the weekend.

But that is no surprise to Hogg, who has kept a close eye on Exeter since first being approached by the club in 2017.

“With the talent here I knew it was only a matter of time,” he said. “I have no doubt that if we faithfully execute our game plan we can come away with the trophy.”

Russell will have plenty to say about that, which won’t surprise Hogg either, as “he’s one of the most naturally gifted rugby players I’ve ever come across”.

Hogg said: “Finn is the one guy we have to be wary of as he can change a game in a heartbeat and, without a shadow of a doubt, will be on his ‘A’ game.”

What Racing need to bear in mind is that Exeter will too. Very few teams that Chiefs suffocate with their defensive blanket live to tell the tale.

Bristol's European Challenge Cup final against Toulon, in Aix on Friday, will be played in front of a crowd after authorities in France granted tournament bosses permission to sell 1,000 tickets.

But Exeter-Racing remains behind closed doors at Ashton Gate.

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