It’s been another busy week with rugby rumours and transfers, and Planet Rugby brings you five of the top stories ahead of the weekend.
New coaches in Edinburgh, Queensland, Pretoria and Suzuka
A busy week on the coaches’ front, with three positions being filled.
In Australia, the Queensland Reds announced that ex-London Irish head coach Les Kiss would take over from Brad Thorn at the Super Rugby side. The 58-year-old has signed a two-year contract with his hometown team.
Kiss was reportedly a target for Edinburgh, who were looking to fill Mike Blair’s void, but have instead announced that former Sharks’ head coach Sean Everitt will take charge of the side as the new senior coach.
Everitt has signed an initial one-year contract with the Scottish outfit and arrivals at the side following a brief consultancy stint with the Bulls.
Meanwhile, Italy head coach Kieran Crowley has been unveiled as Honda Heat’s new coach.
The Japanese club based in Suzuka secured promotion to next season’s top division of Japan Rugby League One.
Crowley will vacate his role as the Azzurri boss after the Rugby World Cup and be replaced by former Stade Francais coach Gonzalo Quesada.
Finally, the Bulls have added to their coaching staff next season with the arrival of former Springbok and Stormers lock Andries Bekker.
He joins the Pretoria outfit following the departure of Russell Winter to Kubota Spears and will take care of the Bulls’ forwards and breakdown going forward.
Since his retirement, Bekker has been coaching the Kobe Steelers in Japan, where he worked closely with ex-All Blacks assistant Wayne Smith.
Gareth Anscombe heads to Japan
Japan Rugby League One side, Suntory Sungoliath, have confirmed the signing of Wales flyhalf Gareth Anscombe.
The 32-year-old joins the Japanese club after Ospreys released him at the end of the 2022/23 season.
His move is likely to rule him out of contention for the 2024 Six Nations, but he will be available to Warren Gatland for the Rugby World Cup later this year.
“It is a great honour coming to play for a team like Sungoliath; I can’t wait to get over to Japan and play in front of the fans and experience the Japanese lifestyle and culture,” said Anscombe on confirmation of his move.
After a blockbuster World Rugby U20s Championship in South Africa, France star Posolo Tuilagi has signed a contract extension with Perpignan.
Understandably, the Top 14 side are eager to retain his services long-term after he played a starring role as France lifted their third successive title.
He has signed a one-year extension to his current deal with Perpignan, with that added year keeping him on their books until at least the end of the 2025/26 season.
The ambitious Top 14 club just escaped relegation last season and have made big signings to avoid a lowly finish next term.
— USAP (@usap_officiel) July 15, 2023
They have strengthened up front with the signings of props Pietro Ceccarelli and Nemo Roelofse from Brive and Stade Francais respectively. They have also signed Springbok lock Marvin Orie from the Stormers and a host of back-rows in Patrick Sobelo (Lyon), So’tala Fa’aso’o (London Irish), Jaco van Tonder (Clermont) and Ewan Bertheau (Biarritz).
They have also signed backs Tommy Allan (Harlequins), Apisai Naqalevu (Clermont), Jean-Pascal Barraque (Clermont), Tevita Veredamu (Lyon) and Louis Dupichot (Racing 92).
Brad Shields (Hurricanes) and Tristan Teddar (Racing 92) are the two standout players who have left the club.
Anthony Watson to stay at Leicester, Marcus Smith re-signs
England outside back Anthony Watson is set to re-sign with Leicester Tigers despite interest from abroad and Premiership rivals Saracens.
According to the Telegraph, Watson has signed a groundbreaking short-term deal with the RFU that will pay him up until the end of the Rugby World Cup.
Leicester Tigers will then be able to swoop in for his signature after freeing up space in the budget.
It would be a major boost for Leicester, who have already signed Sam Carter, Mike Williams, Matt Rogerson, Kyle Hatherell, Joe Powell, Kieran Wilkinson, Josh Bassett, Solomone Kata, Ollie Hassell-Collins and Jamie Shillcock ahead of the new season.
Meanwhile, Harlequins ended all speculation around Marcus Smith’s future, announcing that the fly-half has signed a contract extension with the Premiership side.
The 24-year-old was linked with a move to Racing 92 to replace Bath-bound Finn Russell at the Top 14 club.
However, Smith will instead remain with the Londoners, adding to his 140 appearances and 1,287 points for the side since his debut during the 2017/18 season.
🗣️ “We’re looking forward to the impact Marcus will have in Quins colours next season and beyond.”
✍️ After months of speculation, Marcus Smith has penned a contract extension!https://t.co/xvdokis6Tj
— Planet Rugby (@PlanetRugby) July 19, 2023
Rugby World Cup jokers
It’s a term we become oddly familiar with every four years as the Top 14 clubs scamper to sign players on short-term deals to cover for their players who will be representing their countries at the Rugby World Cup.
This year is no different, and after the likes of Noah Lolesio and Jake Gordon were snapped up by Toulon along with Wales and Lions legend Alun Wyn Jones, more clubs have moved to add depth during and after the tournament.
This week, Brumbies hooker Billy Pollard became the latest Australian to head to France, signing with La Rochelle, who are set to be without France international Pierre Bougarit.
Top 14 champions Toulouse have done the same, adding Colomiers full-back Max Auriac to their payroll, with Thomas Ramos, Melvyn Jaminet, and Ange Capouzzo expected to feature in Test rugby’s showpiece event.
They have also brought in veteran hooker Piula Faasalele with Peato Mauvaka and Julien Marchand, expected to be in Fabien Galthie’s final Les Bleus squad.
Toulouse have already added Leo Banos (back-row), Billy Searle (fly-half), George Tilsley (winger), Setareki Bituniyata and Kakeuru Okumura (both outside backs) to their ranks as cover.
Scarlets prop WillGriff John has reportedly joined Racing 92 as World Cup cover after the Welsh region released him at the end of last season.
Former London Irish and Northampton Saints lock Api Ratuniyarawa has joined Bayonne as cover, despite currently being in Fiji’s squad to prepare for the tournament.
Meanwhile, former Montpellier hooker Jérémie Maurouard has joined Perpignan.
Prop Hayden Thomspon-Stringer, who has joined Pau as a World Cup joker, will join the Waratahs ahead of the 2024 Super Rugby Pacific season, according to a report by The Roar.
Finally, former Newcastle Falcons back-rower Carl Fearns is returning to France to join Carcassonne on a one-year deal.