Former Springbok, Brent Russell has signed for French Top 14 outfit Clermont Auvergne and will join up with his new teammates in the next few days.
The 28-year-old signed for Saracens last season, but a broken collar bone within days of his arrival in August 2007 restricted his first team appearances. He has not featured in the first XV this season after a shoulder injury in pre-season ruled him out of the first few weeks of the new campaign.
But the now fit-again former Stormers and Sharks speedster would have found his first team opportunities limited following the development of the likes of England U20 international Noah Cato and recent performances of Chris Wyles added to the other back three options within the Saracens squad.
Following discussions with Russell, Saracens director of rugby, Eddie Jones has agreed to let him join Clermont.
“Brent is at the stage of his career where he needs to be playing regular first team rugby and we are unable to offer that at this time,” Jones told the club’s official site.
“We have strength in depth across the back three and in the last two weeks we have seen the exciting steps forward that Noah Cato has taken, while Chris Wyles continues to impress following his arrival on secondment from USA Rugby.
“Also, with players like Kameli Ratuvou, Richard Haughton, Francisco Leonelli, Rodd Penney, Edd Thrower and Dan Scarbrough within the squad, we have a number of options.
“With that in mind, when this opportunity arose for Brent to move to one of the leading clubs in France, we felt it would be wrong to stand in his way. He’s very popular with players and supporters alike and we all wish him the best for the future.”
Russell admitted the move to France had come out of the blue but he was looking forward to kick-starting his career in the Top 14.
“The offer from Clermont came out of left field and was totally unexpected. I had high expectations for my season here at Saracens – especially after some good pre-season training – and I was looking forward to playing some great rugby when I damaged ligaments in my right shoulder.
“Apart from the series of injuries, I have been very settled and happy here at Saracens and have made some very good mates who I will really miss.
“However, the life of a professional sportsman is all about taking one’s opportunities and the offer from Clermont is a good one.
“I am really looking forward to getting involved in the French style of play and feel that playing in France will suit my game. I am looking forward to the challenge.”
Russell will in all likelihood have to focus on playing at fullback with opportunities on the wing hard to come by at Clermont, with the likes of French internationals Julien Malzieu and Aurélien Rougerie in the club’s ranks – as Fijian winger Vilimoni Delasau found out when he left the club to join Montauban this year.