This is how Bath are able to pay Finn Russell just under £1 million per season
"It's ridiculous money we're getting into now. Heading into soccer territory."
After being flagged as a move near the finish line, on Sunday, Bath confirmed on Tuesday morning that Scotland and Lions outhalf Finn Russell would be joining them at The Rec, next season, after the World Cup.
Russell turned down a contract extension that was less than his current salary and, according to The Rugby Paper, will command an annual salary of just under £1 million with the Premiership side. Thomas du Toit is also being linked with a move top Johann van Graan's side, while flanker Sam Underhill is set to be offered a contract extension to stay on.
South African outhalf Handré Pollard is said to be on £600k a season at Premiership champions, Leicester Tigers. Russell will be the new top earner, next season, with Bristol Bears star Charles Piutau just behind. Maro Itoje (approximately £800,000) is the highest paid English player in the Premiership, with clubmate Owen Farrell just behind.
Over in Ireland, Johnny Sexton (approximately €550k with added sponsorship deals) is the highest earner with Tadhg Furlong and Peter O'Mahony (€500k) just behind, on their current deals.
Russell will join Bath after what will be his fifth season in France with Racing 92. While he won a league title with Glasgow Warriors in 2015, the closest he came to silverware with Racing was defeat in the 2020 Champions Cup final. This season, Racing have suffered two losses in the Champions Cup yet lie second in the Top 14.
On House of Rugby [LISTEN from 60:55 below], Leinster and Ireland star Jimmy O'Brien spoke of how highly regarded the Scotland outhalf is.
Jimmy O'Brien on Finn Russell
Leinster star Jimmy O'Brien faced off against Finn Russell in a blow-out win for the four-time European champions over the French side, earlier this month.
O'Brien is glowing in his praise of the Scottish talisman and says how much analysis and work goes into shutting him down. He commented:
"[That Bath salary] is a crazy amount of money, but he's very, very good.
"He has such a wide range of plays. When we were scouting against him, we knew that everyone had to be switched on... he loves cross-field kicks so even when there is a ruck on the far side of the pitch, I'm telling myself that this could come at any second.
"There's then lads in the middle of the pitch thinking he could chip it, double pump [a pass] then put someone through the defensive line or pull it back real deep and go that route. He has such a range of skills that everyone has to be switched on. He's tough to play against."
In an interview with House of Rugby, back in 2020, Finn Russell reflected on that off-the-cuff playing style of his.
"I don’t deliberately try and do things like that," he said. " I’m almost just playing what comes up in front of you and, I suppose, backing my skills that I’ll be able to pull off and do whatever I try to execute.
"Occasionally it doesn’t come off quite like that but that’s part of it. When I was younger, everyone would have said, ‘That’s risky’ or ‘You’re a risk-taker’ but the longer I’ve played, the less it’s getting looked at as a risk because it’s not that much anyway. I don’t think it’s that much of a risk because I’m confident in my skills and myself in being able to do it."
How Bath are allowed spend £1m on Finn Russell's salary
Many rugby supporters will be asking how a team like Bath are able to dip so deep into their reserves to secure a player like Finn Russell, especially when many Premiership sides are struggling.
Wasps and Worcester have been relegated this season, after getting into deep financial holes, and other Premiership clubs are losing their top talents to the Top 14. Bath themselves waved goodbye to Anthony Watson, Taulupe Faletau and Semesa Rokoduguni in the summer, while Danny Cipriani was released.
While Premiership clubs must adhere to a senior squad salary cap of £5 million, they are permitted to have a marquee player that is separate to that £5m and can be paid whatever salary the club deem fit, and feel they can afford. Clubs were previously allowed two marquee players, but that was reduced to one for 2022/23, and beyond.
Marquee players in the Premiership currently include Stuart Hogg (Exeter Chiefs), Charles Piutau (Bristol), George Ford (Sale) and Owen Farrell (Saracens). Bath have not had a marquee player since Faletau joined Cardiff, so they were able to guarantee that deal to Finn Russell without ruffling feathers in the current squad.
Russell's deal is set to put him at double the annual salary of Harlequins and England outhalf Marcus Smith, who was called in as injury cover for him on the 2021 Lions Tour to South Africa.
WATCH HOUSE OF RUGBY HERE:
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- "Johnny Sexton is THE best player that Ireland have ever had" - Jamie Heaslip
- "Two Irish players are best in the world" - Rugby reacts to big Josh van der Flier and Terry Kennedy awards