Rumours that four French and English clubs are setting up bids to prise Finn Russell away from the Glasgow Warriors should come as no surprise – and he certainly won’t be the last Scot to be courted.
Toulon, Gloucester, Bath and Montpellier are all apparently interested in acquiring the Scotland stand-off whose stock has shot up after his performances in direct opposition to All Black legend Dan Carter in the Warriors’ recent games against Racing 92.
Russell has a year left on his contract with the Warriors, but as Glasgow fans discovered when Fijian favourite Leone Nakarawa went from Scotstoun to Racing in the summer, even binding contracts are no detriment to the cash-rich clubs in the Top 14 and Aviva Premiership.
Racing, backed by millionaire owner Jacky Lorenzetti and the new T14 TV deal money, simply bought out the final year of Nakarawa’s contract. The four clubs pursuing the 24-year-old are proposing something similar.
Already this season Toulon had been courting Russell’s Glasgow and Scotland team-mate Jonny Gray, another young talent developed by the Warriors into a world-class player.
Gray – whose brother Richie is already in France playing at Toulouse – is also in mid-contract and reportedly declined their approaches, but the pressures on Scottish Rugby to finance deals to keep top stars at home are growing ever more acute.
Prop WP Nel at Edinburgh is out of contract at the end of this season and is bound to be offered huge incentives to move to France or England. Scottish Rugby did secure full back Stuart Hogg on a new deal earlier this season but is unlikely to be able to finance new contracts for all their big-name players.
Earlier this season Scottish Rugby CEO Mark Dodson secured permission from member clubs to seek outside finance for the pro teams with a view to trying to level the financial playing field for Glasgow and Edinburgh.
There’s been no public developments since and no hints that inward investment is forthcoming to help Scotland retain their best players north of the border.