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