It’s been another busy week of rugby rumours and transfers, and Planet Rugby brings you seven top stories ahead of the weekend.
The rumours linking Kolbe to a move to Japan are persisting.
And even just last week, Toulon coach Franck Azéma stated that they are looking to extend the World Cup winner’s contract, but the speculation over his future continues.
L’Equipe and Midi Olympique report that Suntory Sungoliath are looking to swoop in and exploit the exit clause in his contract for the end of this season.
It has been a busy week in Ireland! US President Joe Biden has been visiting the country and made an embarrassing gaffe about the All Blacks. However, that won’t worry Ireland rugby fans too much, with several contract extensions confirmed.
It all kicked off on Tuesday with James Ryan and Josh van der Flier signing IRFU extensions to keep the pair at Leinster. Ryan has re-signed until 2025, and Van der Flier until 2026.
Those were followed by Leinster extensions for James Lowe, Ronan Kelleher and Liam Turner.
𝐓𝐞𝐚𝐫𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐢𝐭 𝐮𝐩 𝐬𝐢𝐧𝐜𝐞 𝟐𝟎𝟏𝟕 ⚡️
— Leinster Rugby (@leinsterrugby) April 13, 2023
It wasn’t just Leinster fans who had something to cheer about during the week with Liam McNamara and Tiernan O’Halloran re-signing with Connacht. The province did confirm the departures of Adam Byrne, Leva Fifita, Conor Fitzgerald, Seán Masterson and Ciaran Booth, adding to the previously announced exits of Kieran Marmion, Shane Delahunt and Alex Wootton.
While Munster were quiet this week, Ulster announced that Harry Sheridan, Conor McKee, James McCormick, Reuben Crothers and Ben Carson would continue their development at the side. But they also confirmed the departure of Rob Lyttle.
The big news out of the Premiership this week is that the league’s all-time top scorer is hanging his boots up at the end of the season.
Chris Ashton announced that the 2022/23 season will be his last. Ashton has scored 98 tries in the Premiership since switching from rugby league to union in 2007. He has enjoyed stints at Saracens, Toulon, Sale Sharks, Harlequins, Worcester Warriors and Leicester Tigers.
😲 Impressive numbers from the Premiership's top try scorer @ChrisAshton1!
➕ He also scored 24 for Toulon!
Can he get 2 more to hit 100 in the Premiership? 🤔 pic.twitter.com/fxhJk6fhLK
— Planet Rugby (@PlanetRugby) April 12, 2023
He was not the only Premiership veteran who announced their retirement this week. Newcastle Falcons skipper and one-club man Will Welch confirmed that he would retire from rugby at the end of the current season. The 33-year-old sits joint-second on the club’s all-time appearance list, having done battle on 275 occasions.
Meanwhile, Charlie Ewels left Bath this week, signing a short-term deal with the Bulls as he looks to regain his fitness. The 27-year-old sustained an injury while on England duty last July and was effectively ruled out for the entire 2022/23 season, but has returned ahead of schedule. He will return to Bath next season.
As for Harlequins, they announced the signings of Welsh internationals Dillon Lewis and Jarrod Evans from Cardiff ahead of next season. The pair posed for pictures at the Stoop ahead of their moves to the London club.
Finally, Northampton Saints secured the services of Fiji international hooker Sam Matavesi, who will remain at the side next season.
Exeter fail to land Welsh youngster
According to a report by Wales Online, Exeter Chiefs have failed in their attempt to sign Teddy Williams ahead of next season.
The uncapped lock was included in Warren Gatland’s Six Nations squad this year but did not make his debut. He was set to sign with Rob Baxter’s side following fellow international Joe Hawkins to the Premiership club that houses fellow Welshman Christ Tshiunza and Dafydd Jenkins.
However, the report states that the second-row ‘has had a change of heart’ and looks set to remain at Cardiff.
Staying in the URC, Glasgow Warriors veteran and former captain Ryan Wilson will leave the Scottish side at the end of the season. The double centurion departs after a 13-year-long career at Scotstoun.
Top 14 rumours
We have already touched on the one rumour from France, but there are plenty more.
Starting with Georgian outside back Davit Niniashvili whose season is over, according to Le Progrès. A foot injury has sidelined him, and the report states he will miss the next four months of action. This means he should return in time for the Rugby World Cup.
Meanwhile, the lengthy negotiation process between Tomas Lavanini and Clermont is over, according to L’Equipe. The Pumas lock’s contract was expiring at the end of the season, and he reportedly rejected an extension with the side. However, the new report states that the two parties have agreed on a deal for next season, with the option of an additional optional season after that.
Staying with L’Equipe, they report that Sergio Parisse has indeed agreed on a deal to join Toulon’s senior coaching staff next season. He is set to coach the forwards once he officially hangs his boots up, joining Pierre Mignoni and Azéma’s coaching team.
🇮🇹 @sergioparisse is ready to go at a moment's notice for Italy.
— Planet Rugby (@PlanetRugby) February 4, 2023
Finally, Josua Tuisova spoke to the newspaper, confirming that he will be joining Racing 92 despite earlier reports that he wished to cancel his pre-contract agreement with the Parisian side.