Clubs worldwide are completing some last-minute business on the transfer market ahead of the 2023/24 season, with the Rugby World Cup fast approaching.
This means that it has been a busy week with rugby rumours and transfers, and Planet Rugby brings you five top stories ahead of the weekend.
Dai Young’s replacement and Cardiff re-signings
Cardiff Rugby and director of rugby Dai Young officially parted ways earlier this month, and the Welsh side are now close to confirming his replacement.
Young was suspended in late April over allegations of bullying, but he stepped down from the role despite being cleared of those accusations.
With the 2023/24 season around the corner, Cardiff have yet to announce his replacement who will be revealed imminently, according to Wales Online.
The report states that former Wales attack coach Rob Howley was a serious contender for the role, but the top brass are instead opting for continuity by promoting Matt Sherratt.
Sherratt is in his second spell with Cardiff, having also coached at Ospreys and Worcester and a brief stint with Wales in 2017.
Meanwhile, the Welsh region has announced a host of re-signings ahead of the new season.
Seven academy stars have signed new contracts with the side; they are Alex Mann, Mackenzie Martin, Cam Winnett, Jacob Beetham, Gwilym Bradley, Evan Lloyd and Rhys Barratt.
Teddy Williams has also re-signed with the side along with the highly-rated back Ben Thomas.
Lastly, the side announced the signing of South African fly-half Tinus de Beer from the Pumas.
United Rugby Championship finalist, the Stormers, are strengthening their squad for next season.
The Cape Town-based outfit has hung onto the services of star centre Ruhan Nel, who revealed to Netwerk24 that he has signed a new deal with the Stormers until 2026.
He follows Springboks fly-half Manie Libbok in committing to the Stormers on a long-term deal after he turned down Racing 92’s advances.
John Dobson has already recruited Warrick Gelant, who returns to South Africa after one season in France, while ex-London Irish star Ben Loader will also join the 2021/22 URC champions.
That’s not the only business the Stormers have done on the recruitment side, with winger Courtnall Skosan joining the side from Northampton Saints.
Ex-Junior Springbok and Bulls forward Hendre Stassen has reportedly signed a four-year deal, too, after making his return from a doping ban during his stint with Top 14 side Stade Francais.
🗣️"The 25-year-old back-five forward was highly touted in his youth but has spent the last four years fighting a legal battle for his career."
🇿🇦 Hendre Stassen is set to make his return to a rugby pitch this weekend.https://t.co/B1T4ZjOst4
— Planet Rugby (@PlanetRugby) July 22, 2023
Finally, the Stormers are also set to welcome former Bulls prop Lizo Gqoboka to their ranks ahead of the new season. The 33-year-old front-row played over 100 times for the Bulls after joining the side back in 2016.
In Johannesburg, the Lions are also completing some last-minute business as they are set to sign former Sharks, Brumbies and Lyon back-five forward Ettienne Oosthuizen.
The lock/flanker was released by Lyon in 2020 due to a heart ailment, which he has since recovered from to return to professional rugby.
The side are also set to sign Jean Droste from the Cheetahs as well as the Griquas’ Johan Mulder and Hanru Sirgel.
Los Pumas find new clubs
In a massive coup for the club, Saracens announced the signing of Argentina back-row Juan Martin Gonzalez with the young star securing a contract to remain in the Premiership.
It is reported that Saracens beat Top 14 giants Racing 92 and Premiership rivals Bristol Bears to secure Gonzalez’s services after he was left without a club following London Irish’s demise.
After missing out on Gonzalez, Bristol Bears moved to sign his team-mate Santiago Grondona, who starts against the Springboks this weekend.
The 24-year-old returns for a second stint in the Premiership, having played for Exeter Chiefs and London Irish before heading to Pau mid-last season.
Meanwhile, prop Rodrigo Martinez signed for the Dragons after he was left without a club, when he initially joined London Irish ahead of the 2023/24 season.
Finally, Benetton have signed back-row, Santiago Ruiz.
The Italian side also announced that powerhouse flanker Seb Negri has signed a three-year extension that will keep him at the club until 2028.
Bordeaux pounce to sign France U20 superstar
After a stellar World Rugby U20 Championship title run, several France U20 players have been thrust into the spotlight and have been courted by Top 14 clubs.
One of those stars is back-row Marko Gazzotti who has signed a four-year contract with Bordeaux.
He lit up the entire tournament 🔥
— World Rugby (@WorldRugby) July 18, 2023
Gazzotti was one of the superstars for France during the tournament in South Africa, with Bordeaux beating Toulouse to his signature.
The 18-year-old joins the Top 14 outfit from Pro D2 side Grenoble and is yet another sharp signing.
Bordeaux have already announced the signings of tighthead prop Carlu Sadie, flanker Raphael Lakafia, lock Adam Coleman, flankers Pete Samu and Tevita Tatafu, centre Ben Tapuai and winger Damian Penaud.
Wallaby’s Toulon stint comes to a swift end
After signing a short-term deal as a Rugby World Cup joker, Jake Gordon will not feature for Toulon during the 2023/24 Top 14 season.
Unfortunately for the Wallabies scrum-half, he has suffered a concussion in training with the Top 14 club and will return to Australia.
“It’s a fairly significant concussion which cannot allow him to assume his role as World Cup cover,” said Toulon head coach Pierre Mignoni.
“Unfortunately, he has between four to eight weeks (out), his career is not in question, but he is not able to be on the pitch immediately.”
Toulon are now in the market for additional cover as they are set to be without new signing Ben White and possibly Baptiste Serin during the Rugby World Cup.
“We are looking for someone available now, it is not easy, but we will find someone”, Mignoni added.