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Finn Russell's next step as a rumoured Racing 92 exit beckons

By Ian Cameron
Finn Russell is seen taking part in a training session during British & Irish Lions Tour at BT Murrayfield Stadium on June 25, 2021 in Edinburgh, Scotland. (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

Scotland flyhalf Finn Russell is thought to be considering his next move as his time at Racing 92 appears to be coming to an end.

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It was widely reported earlier this month that All Blacks playmaker Beauden Barrett is being sought in Paris, following his likely involvement in the 2023 Rugby World Cup. The Parisians have also been linked to French star Matthieu Jalibert, who’d obviously work from a JIFF perspective.

If Barrett or even Jalibert were secured, it’s nigh on impossible to see Russell sticking around at La Defence Arena. His contract will naturally terminate at the end of the current season, so an exit looks on the cards. While the 30-year-old has enjoyed some amazing moments in the light blue and white of Racing, there’s been no silverware since he joined from Glasgow Warriors in 2018.

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While any potential Barrett or Jailbert signing would be made under Laurent Travers, there is also regime change coming in the form of ex-England head coach Stuart Lancaster.

How Lancaster’s arrival plays for Russell is anyone’s guess.

The Englishman espoused a “comfortable in chaos” philosophy at Leinster, which on the face of it sits well into Russell’s shoot-from-the-hip, gunslinger approach. On the flip side, Lancaster has always been hot on team culture, which might not necessarily gel with Russell’s more individualistic impulses.

One consistent rumour is that Japan may be the next step. Russell was rumoured to have been offered an enormous contract by the Green Rockets in 2021 – a deal that would have made him the highest-paid player in the sport. He turned them down then, but could he resist another fortune being thrown in his lap?

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The counter-argument to Japan is that at his age, competing for silverware in one of the top four leagues may still hold priority over a lucrative payday in a less demanding league. The reality is that in the Top 14 or Gallagher Premiership, Russell could potentially have his cake and eat it on that front.

A return to Scotland can’t be entirely ruled out, although any such homecoming could be predicated on who is in charge – both at club and Test level. With 23-year-old Ross Thompson being developed at Glasgow and Blair Kinghorn, 25, growing as a 10 at Edinburgh, it may well suit the SRU to have Russell playing elsewhere.

Sources from within Scottish rugby circles unanimously told RugbyPass that they believed a prodigal return is likely off the menu for now at least.

One rumour voiced to RugbyPass even had him off to Graham Rowntree’s Munster. While Irish provinces have been known on occasion to stretch the budget for big-name imports, given the IRFU’s policy on playing Irish-qualified talent in key positions like 10, it seems highly improbable.

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Could Super Rugby be an option? The relatively modest contracts on offer in Australasia suggest not. However, there might be a personal draw for Russell in New Zealand in particular, where the Scot spent a formative spell back in 2013.

A 21-year-old Russell was a recipient of the John MacPhail Scholarship, which allows Scotland’s best young players to to spend a gap year in Canterbury.

He played for Lincoln University and helped them go on an unexpected cup run before being voted the division’s Most Valuable Player (MVP) award.

Wherever the mercurial Scot has played – or indeed will play in the future – being MVP has become something of a habit.

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