After secondary school, Russell worked for three years as a stonemason. He recalled that time in a 2015 interview with Newport:
On rainy days it could be pretty miserable. . . . It could be tough but I enjoyed it. I’d be making windowsills, door frames, fire places – even building walls. But compared to playing rugby, it’s night and day. If I ever have a bad day at training, I think back to what it was like working in that cold shed.