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OPINION | Matty Russell Departs Warrington- So How Do Toronto Best Use Him?

It was announced yesterday that Matty Russell would be departing the Warrington Wolves after four seasons at the club to join Championship leaders Toronto Wolfpack.

The 24-year old scored 31 tries in 97 games for the Wolves, mostly under former boss Tony Smith, and joins the Canadian outfit on a deal until the end of 2020.

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The Scotland international has fallen out of favour this season, with the arrival of Josh Charnley pushing Russell further down the pecking order behind Charnley, Tom Lineham and perhaps Mitch Brown too.

So now that Russell has joined the Wolfpack, the question is this- how do Toronto get the best out of their new recruit?

Many a Warrington fan would argue that his position in the team will be a crucial factor.

Russell arrived at Warrington from NRL side Gold Coast Titans, having forged himself a respectable reputation as a full-back.

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From the number one slot, he was able to use his speed to join plays around the ruck and step into the offensive line with great ease.

However, Tony Smith moved the Scot to one of the wing spots, and seemingly thought that was his best position.

Some Warrington supporters would disagree.

Many felt that Russell was perhaps hindered by some poor defensive positioning and his weakness under the high ball.

The fact that he is 5ft 11in meant that the likes of Ryan Hall, Tommy Makinson and Mahe Fonua could outjump him with ease, especially given that they had the run on him.

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Given his former role at the back, the ex-Wigan Warriors man would often drift inside when his side were defending their own line- understandable given his natural instinct to sweep up the mess, wherever the attacking play was.

However, this would leave space on the outside which sides exploited on numerous occasions- one lofted pass over the top and Russell, as well as his inside centre, would be woefully placed to deal with the danger.

These two flaws meant that Russell would never be as comfortable playing out wide as a natural winger, something that Toronto must have considered when bringing him to the Lamport Stadium.

Nevertheless, the arrival of fellow full-back back Gareth O’Brien to the Canadian side raises the questions of whether head coach Paul Rowley sees him as a winger or not.

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Rowley admitted that he saw Russell as someone who could play both at one and five- it will be intriguing to see how he manages to fit Russell and O’Brien into the side, and whether he moves the former Warrington and Salford star into one of the two playmaking positions.

Toronto will be happy to have captured such a talented player, still in the prime of his rugby league career.

Now it waits to be seen as to where he fits into the positional plans of Rowley and co.

Where do you think Matty Russell plays his best rugby?

I am a 19-year old Sports Journalist at the University of Chester. I have been writing for three years and currently work as part of the Widnes Vikings media team. I also contribute to Widnes'/Warrington Wolves' match-day programme. To see my work, follow me @J_M_Messenger

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