Finn Russell: Scottish Rugby will 'go to war' to keep Glasgow fly-half

Finn Russell runs with the ball for Glasgow in their home victory over Racing 92 in December
Russell's two performances against Racing 92 last month made him a target for French and English clubs

At the back of the stand at Scotstoun, in the wake of Glasgow's dominant Champions Cup display in December against the monied visitors of Racing 92, Mark Dodson, Scottish Rugby's chief executive, spoke about the brilliance of the night and the man who lit it up more than any other.

Finn Russell was exceptional, a bundle of creativity, a defensive rock, a world-class player from top to toe. He picked a good night to produce one of his greatest games. In the 10 jersey down the other end was Dan Carter. Watching on from France and England? Club owners with deep pockets, vast ambition and very little patience.

It's no surprise that Russell has now been linked to four clubs - Toulon and Montpellier in France, and Bath and Gloucester in England. Each of them, it's been reported, are interested in getting him next summer.

He'll still have a year to go on his Scottish Rugby contract, which runs until May 2018, but these clubs are packing some serious financial clout. Where there's money - and plenty of it - there's oftentimes a way to make things happen.

On Thursday, the SRU's official line on the speculation was that no club has been in contact about Russell and that they would not welcome any contact.

"Finn is contracted until the end of next season and we expect him to see that out," said an SRU spokesman.

At Murrayfield, they're not naive about such things. The length of a contract can mean very little when you have clubs willing to fork out big numbers to get their target out of it ahead of time. David Denton had a year left on his deal at Edinburgh, but the SRU took the compensation from Bath and let him go.

The player wanted to go, the club thought they had ample cover for him and the size of the cheque from Bath sealed the deal.

They were similarly compensated when Racing bought Leone Nakarawa. Again, Nakarawa was made an eye-watering offer which he couldn't turn down. The union accepted that they were powerless to keep him. All they could do was drive the hardest bargain on the compensation front. They did well. A nice six-figure sum came tumbling into the coffers as a result.

Racing 92 lock Leone Nakarawa tries to tackle Glasgow's Finn Russell
Leone Nakarawa (left) returned to Scotstoun with Racing 92 last month but couldn't stop his new side slipping to defeat

The reported interest in Russell - and other clubs may soon join the list of suitors - is entirely predictable given his age, 24, and all the good years he has ahead of him.

Toulon, with money to burn, have Francois Trinh-Duc as their chief number 10, but as good as he is, he's now 30. Montpellier have the South African, Frans Steyn, but he's 29. Bath are under pressure to hold on to George Ford and Russell would be a fine replacement. All three clubs are powerhouses. It's very difficult to see Russell swapping Glasgow for Gloucester, however.

The SRU have a list of players who they say they will go the extra mile for. Stuart Hogg was one of those and, sure enough, they secured him for Glasgow on a record-breaking contract believed to be in the region of £375,000 a year. Jonny Gray is another. He's tied down to Glasgow until 2018, but Europe's big shots will be coming for him, too, soon enough.

Stuart Hogg (left) and Finn Russell share a joke after Scotland's autumn win over Georgia
Stuart Hogg (left) and Russell are two of Scottish Rugby's most marketable assets

The by-product of Glasgow's success is exposure of their best players to European markets. Alex Dunbar, Tommy Seymour, Mark Bennett, Peter Horne, Tim Swinson and Josh Strauss are all out of contract this summer and most will have admirers in bigger leagues than the Pro 12. At Edinburgh, John Hardie, WP Nel and Hamish Watson are also out of contract in May and they, too, will be of interest down south and in France.

The SRU cannot hope to keep them all. There are just too many battles to win and not enough financial power to win them. Russell, though, is in that elite-of-the-elite category, the players they will go to war to hold on to.

If and when the interest in him hardens to a firm offer, the SRU will deliver more money - but not as much as may be offered by the likes of Toulon - and will stress the welfare issue and how he is looked after at home. They will trumpet the arrival of Dave Rennie at Scotstoun, a world-class coach who will take over from Gregor Townsend, who, himself, would much rather see his main 10 in Scotland, where he has control of him, rather than in France or England, where he has no control.

Glasgow could really do with getting through to the last eight of the Champions Cup as well. They're right there, but they have much work to do yet. Russell will want to know that the club is moving forward as a European force. He's not the type of player who will content himself with the occasional Pro 12 title. He's ambitious. He wants more.

Losing Russell would be a calamity. He is a superb operator on the pitch and a marketing dream off it. Just as the SRU needed Hogg to stay in the community, be visible to young Scots and inspire them to play rugby, they need Russell to do the same.

The SRU will fight this one as hard as they possibly can.