Finn Russell’s emergence as a world-class stand-off will be recognised with a big-money move to Montpellier in time for season 2018-19, the one after next.
According to a well-placed source in France, Russell, who was pivotal in Scotland’s stunning 24-19 win over Australia in Sydney on Saturday, has signed a pre-contract agreement with the French giants.
The move – ending Russell’s six-year spell with Glasgow Warriors – will enable the 24-year-old to team up again with the former Scotland coach, Vern Cotter.
Many felt Cotter was ushered out of Murrayfield’s back door at the end of last season with undue haste after a highly successful stint with Scotland. Some will see this as a small act of revenge by the New Zealander, who has not been slow in spending Mohed Altrad’s money at Montpellier. But the Syrian-born businessman who backs the French club can afford it – he is said to be worth in the region of €1.5 billion (£1.3bn).
Cotter is said to be earning €1 million a year, making him the highest-paid rugby coach in the world. Russell’s pay package has not been revealed, but the Scot will earn a multiple of his current salary. His Scotland half-back partner, Greig Laidlaw, will reportedly be on €350,000 a year at Clermont next season.
Frans Steyn will leave Montpellier at the end of next season, so Russell is effectively replacing the South African, but the Scot will have to be at his best to get any meaningful game time since the 28-year-old stand-off Aaron Cruden, with 47 All Blacks caps to his name, joins Montpellier this summer. He was the No 1 stand-off in New Zealand for several years and still would be were it not for the prodigious talent that is Beauden Barrett. Understandably reluctant to play second fiddle to Barrett until the World Cup in 2019,
Cruden has made his own big-money move to Montpellier and will have his feet under the table before Russell arrives.
Given his current form, you wouldn’t want to bet against the Scot who has been called up to the Lions squad by coach Warren Gatland.
Russell was unlucky to have missed the original cut and may yet have a say in the Tests. Gatland may not appreciate Russell’s rugby talent but it did for the Wallabies at the weekend.
Despite being targeted, Russell took the ball to the line as always and he combined with Ali Price to stop Tevita Kuridrani in his tracks with a tackle on the Scotland line. A little later he threw an unsighted inside pass that fell perfectly for Lee Jones, then jumped to his feet and cleared a yellow jersey out of the ensuing ruck.
And when Russell charged down Will Genia’s clearance kick he had the presence of mind to run the ball behind the posts before touching down. In contrast Israel Folau flopped lazily over the Scotland line for his second try and Bernard Foley missed the crucial two-point conversion.
Russell’s true worth will be revealed next weekend when he misses Scotland’s Test in Fiji.