Rugby transfers and rumours: England stars off to France, Saracens take Owen Farrell gamble and Springboks reshuffle

Jared Wright
England back rower Lewis Ludlam, Saracen fly-half Owen Farrell and ex-Springboks forward Duane Vermeulen.

England back rower Lewis Ludlam, Saracen fly-half Owen Farrell and ex-Springboks forward Duane Vermeulen.

Planet Rugby recaps some of the biggest transfer news, rumours and movements in the world of rugby union over the past week.

Cheetahs and Springboks coaching rumours

Duane Vermeulen to join the Springboks’ set-up: The double Rugby World Cup-winning forward has been linked with roles at the Stormers and Bulls since his retirement, and while the former was very much on the cards, it looks as if he will link up with Rassie Erasmus in the Test set-up. According to Afrikaans newspaper Rapport, Vermeulen will take up a coaching role with the Springboks while also fulfilling some of Erasmus’ current director of rugby roles.

Erasmus to step down from DoR role: The same report states that a restructuring at the South African Rugby Union will lead to Erasmus focusing on his head coach role with the director of rugby position becoming obsolete. Erasmus could still fulfil some of the duties, with Vermeulen and other assistants doing the same while the restructuring is still being ironed out.

Ruan Pienaar to take up coaching gig: The former Springbok back is set to be offered a coaching role at the Cheetahs. The 39-year-old could go straight into the head coach position, with current boss Hawies Fourie being lined up by Boland to fill their vacancy. “Ruan has so much knowledge of the game and experience, we would like to involve him, he will add a lot of value,” Cheetahs director of rugby Frans Steyn told Rapport.

Jan Serfontein to stay in France: Springbok centre Serfontein has been linked with a return to South Africa recently with the Bulls and Sharks interested in his services. However, a change in management at Montpellier has reportedly swayed his decision and, according to L’Equipe, he has now signed a one-year extension with the French club with the option of a second season.

Lewis Ludlam and Courtney Lawes

Lewis Ludlam to depart: Northampton Saints have confirmed that the England international will leave the Premiership club at the end of the season. Where he will be going has yet to be confirmed, but he has been heavily linked with a move to Toulon along with fellow England international Kyle Sinckler.

Courtney Lawes to Brive? The Northampton Saints legend has reportedly picked Pro D2 outfit Brive as his preferred destination despite interest from several French clubs, according to reports. It is also reported that he is hopeful that Saints will offer an acceptable extension so that he can remain at the club, but he looks set to depart at the end of the season.

Saracens rumours

Sarries guru wanted in France: Saracens’ recruitment guru Nick Kennedy could follow Owen Farrell to France next season with The Rugby Paper reporting that Racing 92 and La Rochelle are eyeing up a swoop for the highly-rated coach who notably picked out Theo McFarland from obscurity.

Alex Lozowski backed at ten: According to The Rugby Paper, Saracens will gamble with Lozowski as their starting fly-half next season after pulling out of their attempt to sign Paddy Jackson as a replacement for Owen Farrell.

Marchant denies talks with Saracens: Former Harlequins centre Joe Marchant has denied reports that he will be returning to the Premiership with Saracens next season. The England midfielder joined Stade Francais after the World Cup and had been linked with a return to England but said in a press conference this week that the reports were untrue.

Busy week in Bath and Manchester

Busy week in Bath: The Premiership club confirmed a handful of contract extensions this week, following the same trend they set last week. Scotland international Cameron Redpath has re-signed until 2027, along with England lock Charlie Ewels. Recent Wales call-up Archie Griffin signed ‘a variation to his long-term contract’, which will keep him in the West Country for at least the next three seasons. Meanwhile, hooker Niall Annett is sticking around until the end of next season, with Sam Harris re-signing until 2026.

Juan Schoeman returns to South Africa: According to Rapport, the Bath prop has signed a deal with the Lions and will depart the West Country Premiership side at the end of the season.

Sale signings: Sale Sharks announced that four rising stars have all penned contract renewals with the Premiership club. Props Asher Opoku-Fordjour and Tumy Onasanya, lock Ben Bamber, and centre Rekeiti Ma’asi-White have all extended their stays in Greater Manchester.

Bevan Rodd re-signs: Staying in the North West and England prop Rodd has also extended his contract in a huge boost to Alex Sanderson’s squad going forward. The highly-rated loosehead has signed a two-year top-up to his current contract, keeping him at the side until 2027.

Cobus Wiese heads home: The Sale forward revealed to Rapport that he will be making the move to the Bulls next season. He has been linked with a move back to South Africa with his current contract expiring, and the back-rower confirmed that he wishes to be closer to his family following the birth of his first child.

More Premiership talk

Johnny May leave Gloucester: The England winger has reportedly spoken to Saracens, with his current contract with the Cherry and Whites expiring at the end of the season.

Trio re-sign with Newcastle: Some good news coming out of the north of England as three players inked new deals with the Falcons. Sebastian de Chaves signed a two-year contract with the side, as have homegrown talents Adam Scott and Freddie Lockwood.

New signing and a re-signing at Glasgow

Scott Cummins extends with Glasgow: Scotland lock Cummings will continue his long association with Glasgow after extending his contract until the summer of 2026. The 27-year-old has spent his entire career with the Warriors and will now be at Scotstoun for at least another two and a half years after having his impressive form rewarded with a new deal.

Rory Sutherland set for Scottish switch: According to a report by The Rugby Paper, the Scotland loosehead prop has signed a two-year deal to join the Glasgow Warriors. Sutherland was left without a club during the 2023 World Cup after being released by Ulster and has since been plying his trade in the Top 14 with Oyonnax.

Cardiff and Benetton

Cardiff signings After confirming the signing of Bristol Bears and Wales international fly-half Callum Sheedy, several players have committed to Cardiff this week. Corey Domachowski, Gabriel Hamer-Webb, Jacob Beetham and Liam Belcher all extended their contracts with the URC side.

Paolo Odogwu extends: Italian international back Odogwu has signed a contract renewal with Benetton until 2027, the club confirmed this week. The talented back arrived at the club following a short stint at Stade Francais following the collapse of Wasps.

Change at Clermont

Samoan international stays with Clermont: Fritz Lee, who skippered Samoa during the Rugby World Cup, will reportedly stay on at Clermont for another season, extending his career past his 36th birthday. According to La Montagne, he has signed a one-season contract extension with the side.

Clermont release Los Pumas stars and others: Christophe Urios looks to be balancing his books and finalising his squad for next season, and in doing so, it looks as if the Top 14 club will release Tomas Lavanini. According to a report by La Montagne, Rabah Slimani wants to extend his career for another season but is also being lined up for a coaching role at the club, while Lavanini is set to depart as Clermont need to cut their budget and adhere to JIFF policies, making it challenging to retain the Puma. He is set to be joined by Jules Plisson and Marvin O’Connor, who are also leaving the side, as well as Julien Heriteau and Thomas Roziere.

French clubs circle Rebels

Wallabies stars could land in France: With the Melbourne Rebels entering administration, The Roar reports that Australian Super Rugby sides and Top 14 clubs are lining up to snap up the top stars. The report states that Taniela Tupou is likely to remain in Australia, but the same cannot be said of Rob Leota. Meanwhile, Carter Gordon and Josh Canham are being closely looked at by Australian sides, but the former is attracting interest from abroad along with Tupou. Lukhan Salakaia-Loto is another who is attracting interest from clubs in the north and locally after he returned to Australia from his stint with the Northampton Saints.

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