Speculation mounts on Finn Russell’s future

Image: © Craig Watson - www.craigwatson.co.uk

KENNY MURRAY gave a knowing smile when asked about a story which appeared in French rugby newspaper Midi Olympique yesterday linking Glasgow Warriors and Scotland stand-off Finn Russell with a summer move to Paris club Racing 92.

“This is the second one, isn’t it? There was the Montpellier one as well,” said the Warriors defence coach.

“Everyone knows Finn’s situation: there’s clubs chasing after him. And I’m sure Glasgow Warriors/Scottish Rugby will be working to try and keep him here,” Murray continued.

“Ultimately, that will become Finn’s decision – but certainly we want him to stay at Scotstoun because he’s a big part of our team and how we play. That discussion will be on-going between Finn, Glasgow Warriors and Scottish Rugby over the next few months.”

Midi Olympique’s story claimed that representatives of Racing 92 met with Russell in Paris recently and have now made a “firm offer”. He is apparently an attractive option because “he’s less expensive” than other international fly-halves with a salary of around 450,000 euros per year. Russell is reported as being “interested in an adventure in France”.

This, of course, is just the latest in a raft of rumours currently swirling around about the 25-year-old’s future, and given the love which is being sent his direction by clubs in both France and England it would be a major surprise if his salary expectations are as low as stated above. After all, Welsh stand-off Dan Biggar is apparently going to be on £650,000 per annum when he joins Northampton Saints at the end of this season.

It was reported back in June that Russell has already signed a pre-contract agreement with Montpellier, which would see him link up again with former Scotland coach Vern Cotter, but nothing seems to be confirmed yet.

If Russell does end up at Racing, he will have to fight for his place, with Midi Olympique also reporting that Dan Carter is likely to extend his time at the club for one more year, and South African playmaker Patrick Lambie due to arrive on 1st November on a deal which will – “subject to traditional medical examinations” – run to 2021.

Russell’s market value is only going to rise if he continues to put in performances like the one which earned him the man-of-the-match gong on Friday night. Not only did he pull the strings expertly in Glasgow Warriors’ 37-10 victory over Munster at Scotstoun, but he kicked a faultless seven from seven shots at goal, extending his perfect record at the start of this season to 16.

“He played really well,” agreed Murray, before hailing Russell as one of the best tackling stand-offs in the world.

“People look at what he does in attack, which is important, but defensively we got two turnovers at the weekend as a result of Finn making really good low tackles, so people forget that part of his game. As a stand-off, he’s probably one of the best tacklers in world rugby. He’s got a lot to his game other than just his attack.”

Russell was also praised for his bravery and ability in the air after he burst his nose early in the match but didn’t let that divert his attention away from the task in hand.

“That [injury] came from a great kick reception. He’s very good in the air. His nose is a bit swollen today – which keeps him quiet,” quipped Murray.

“And, of course, he’s a very good kicker. He’s scored some important kicks for us, like that Ulster game [the 2015 play-off semi-final] when he kicked [the winner] from the touchline [with just four minutes to go]. I remember over the last couple of years, Gregor used to always talk to him about pushing his stats up because obviously it helps the team but it helps him as well to push the standard up in his kicking game.”

After hitting their straps in sensational style against Munster on Friday night, the challenge for Warriors this week is to make sure they maintain that level of intensity against a Benetton side which will arrive at Scotstoun in high spirits after picking up back-to-back wins in the league for the first time since February 2016.

“The reality is we’ve played four games – we’ve still got a lot more games to come,” said Murray.

“We know this week that Treviso are going to be on a high: they’ve beaten Edinburgh and they’ve beaten the Ospreys, they’re a smart team, scored some interesting tries and they are a really physical side. They’ve a very good forward pack, a good set-piece, very good runners in the midfield with Alberto Sgarbi there, so we know how difficult it is going to be.”

“The Munster game goes into insignificance if you don’t get the points against Treviso, so that will be the message the guys put out this week.”

Having stuck with the nucleus of the same team so far this season, Warriors are expected to freshen things up this weekend with a few changes in personnel. Murray made it clear that the strength in depth of the squad is such that rather than reduce the team’s capacity, the new faces will be expected to raise the bar.

“The players are trying to really put their marker down for selection and staying in the team, so, individually, the guys are really driving themselves to play. We are very close to getting into the European window now so guys are putting their hat into the ring for that. Self-motivation is really important,” he said.

 

About David Barnes 3956 Articles
David has worked as a freelance rugby journalist since 2004 covering every level of the game in Scotland for publications including he Herald/Sunday Herald, The Sunday Times, The Telegraph, The Scotsman/Scotland on Sunday/Evening News, The Daily Record, The Daily Mail/Mail on Sunday and The Sun.