Rugby rumours and transfers: Jack Willis, Josua Tuisova, Brad Shields and much more
Planet Rugby recaps some of the biggest transfer news, rumours and movements in the world of rugby union over the past week.
This week, Rugby Australia continued to lock in talents ahead of the 2025 British and Irish Lions series while Eddie Jones starts to piece together his coach staff. Several CVs are doing the rounds in the Top 14 as the clubs look to confirm their squads for next season while there was a number of re-signings in the United Rugby Championship.
Gregor Townsend, Adam McBurney, Richie Gray
Townsend keen to stay: Scotland head coach Gregor Townsend admitted that he is willing to stay on as head coach after the Rugby World Cup. The former fly-half has been linked with several roles in France and England and asked if he wanted to stay on, he replied: “Yes, at this stage, but it’s not the time to be answering these questions. When you’re just off a victory, the crowd are behind the team, and you’re connected with the players, of course, it’s a great feeling, but I don’t want to commit to anything right now. There’s conversations that have started, and I imagine they will start up again after some time off. Those weren’t happening a few months ago, so we’ll see how they develop.”
Edinburgh hooker extends: Experienced hooker Adam McBurney has penned a new one-year extension with Edinburgh. The Scottish-qualified front-rower joined the capital side from Ulster in 2021 and has since scored six tries in 20 total appearances.
Gray stays at Glasgow: Scotland second rower Richie Gray has penned a one-year contract extension with the Glasgow Warriors. The 32-year-old has been a mainstay at lock for his hometown club and has made 95 appearances to date across both of his spells with the Warriors.
Josua Tuisova, Masivesi Dakuwaqa, Yannick Youyoutte
Josua Tuisova: The Fijian star has made headlines in France over the last week after reports emerged that he was not keen on joining Racing 92. Tuisova was reportedly unhappy with the lack of international schools for his kids to attend. L’Equipe spoke to Racing 92 president Jacky Lorenzetti commented on the reports stating that he does not believe any club would be able to front up the funds to secure Tuisova’s services from the Parisian club. He added that there are plenty of international schools in the area. It is reported that it would cost any club upwards of 500,000 euros to pry Tuisova away from Racing 92, with whom he signed a pre-contract before next season. Lorenzetti confirmed that Tuisova would become of the Top 14’s highest-paid players next season.
Dakuwaqa extends with MHR: Fiji star Masivesi Dakuwaqa has signed a two-year extension with Montpellier, having joined the side in 2021.
Toulon sign Youyoutte: The French club have confirmed the second signing from rivals Toulouse. According to L’Equipe, lock Yannick Youyoutte will follow number eight Selevasio Tolofua to Toulon next season, signing a three-year deal with the side.
Jack Willis, Rob Simmons, Bernard Le Roux
Willis stays with Toulouse: England flanker Jack Willis will not return to the Premiership next season. Planet Rugby understands that he has signed a one-year contract with the option of a second with Toulouse. It was recently reported that he was awaiting a reasonable offer from a Premiership club, which ultimately did not come. Bordeaux and several other Top 14 clubs were interested in his services, but Toulouse managed to hang onto the Red Rose star, who has impressed during his time in France.
BREAKING: My player contact at Toulouse has just advised that England flanker Jack Willis has signed a one year contract with one year option to remain with @StadeToulousain #SixNations2023
— James While (@jameswhile) March 14, 2023
Clermont court Exiles lock: The Top 14 outfit need to recruit in the second row despite the signing of Los Pumas star Marcos Kremer with Miles Amatosero leaving the club and Sébastien Vahaamahina likely to retire. Tomas Lavanini might still re-sign with the side, but Clermont is targeting London Irish lock Rob Simmons in the meantime. According to La Montagne, the Wallabies Test centurion could join the side ahead of next season.
Le Roux to retire?: France international Bernard Le Roux could be forced into retirement, having last played in September last year. In an interview with RMC Sport, Jack Lorenzetti said that ‘retirement is looming’ for Le Roux, who has suffered several head knocks.
Australian transfers and news
Amatosero returns to Australia: The Roar reports that Australian lock Amatosero will leave Clermont at the end of the season to join the Waratahs. The mammoth second rower is set to be in Eddie Jones’ plans, while the 20-year-old’s signature boosts the team after losing Emmanuel Meafou to France.
Wallabies’ coaching staff: Eddie Jones is starting to piece his coaching staff with the World Cup on the horizon. According to L’Equipe, former Castres coach Pierre-Henry Broncan is one of the names on his shortlist. Jones has been in France to watch the Six Nations action and watched Will Skelton play for La Rochelle. Jones also met with Broncan, who previously worked with Bath and is also being courted by Fiji.
McReight re-signs: Wallabies flanker Fraser McReight has re-signed with Rugby Australia until 2025. The 24-year-old debuted for the Reds in 2019 and is closing on 50 appearances for the side. He earned a Test debut for the Wallabies in 2020 and has 10 Test caps. His two-year extension with the Wallabies will see him remain in Australia until the 2025 British and Irish Lions series.
Gamble stays: The Waratahs have locked in 26-year-old flanker Charlie Gamble until the end of the 2024 season. He debuted for the Waratahs in 2021 and has been an integral part of the team ever since. Meanwhile, the Tahs have also brought in prop Sateki Latu as cover for the Super Rugby Pacific season.
Wright joins Brumbies: The Super Rugby Pacific side added Tuggeranong Vikings’ lock Jack Wright to their squad following some early season injuries.
Brad Shields, Tyrel Lomax, David Havili
Shields set for Hurricanes return: Former Wasps back-rower Brad Shields is set to return to New Zealand ahead of the 2024 Super Rugby Pacific season. According to L’Equipe, the England international will return to his country of birth and rejoin the Hurricanes. He joined Perpignan from Wasps during this season. Shields headed to England in 2018, signing for Wasps and qualified for the Red Rose through his parents.
Lomax re-signs: All Blacks prop Tyrel Lomax has re-committed to New Zealand Rugby (NZR) until the end of 2026. His extension means he will stay at the Hurricanes and Tasman until the end of the 2026 season. The tighthead prop has played 23 times for the All Blacks.
Havili stays until 2025: Versatitle Crusaders back David Havili has resigned with NZR until 2025. The Nelson-born utility has played 25 Tests for the All Blacks and will remain with the Crusaders under his current contract. He has won six titles with the Crusaders in Super Rugby and a pair of NPC titles with Tasman.
Jackson Garden-Bachop, Josh Bekhuis, PJ Sheck
Garden-Bachop off to France: According to La Montagne, former Hurricanes fly-half Jackson Garden-Bachop will leave Japanese club the Kintetsu Liners to join Top 14 side Brive ahead of next season.
Bekhuis joins Highlanders: The Highlanders have added veteran lock Josh Bekhuis to their squad for the remainder of the Super Rugby Pacific season as injury cover. Wellington prop PJ Sheck joins him.
Jack Nowell, Ollie Thorley, Ali Crossdale
Nowell to join La Rochelle: England and Exeter Chiefs winger Jack Nowell is reportedly moving to French Top 14 club La Rochelle. The Daily Telegraph report that he has signed the deal. Previous reports said La Rochelle offered the winger a contract worth £200,000 more than Exeter Chiefs were willing to offer.
Thorley re-signs: Rapid winger Ollie Thorley will remain a Cherry and White next season after penning a contract extension with Gloucester. The 26-year-old has scored over 30 tries with the club since his debut.
Gloucester sign Llewellyn: The Cherry and Whites announced the signing of highly-rated Cardiff centre Max Llewellyn ahead of next season. The son of Wales great Gareth Llewellyn, Max qualifies for Wales and England. He has made almost 40 Cardiff appearances and is a former Wales Under-20 international.
Crossdale to stay at Perpignan: Former Wasps flyer Ali Crossdale is set to re-sign with the French side activating his optional year offered to him when he joined the club.
Billy Twelvetrees, Jordy Reid, Teddy Williams
Twelvetrees and Jordy Reid: According to The Rugby Paper, Ealing Trailfinders are closing in on deals for Gloucester stars Billy Twelvetrees and Jordy Reid.
Lock off to Exeter: The paper adds that Wales lock Teddy Williams is set to leave Cardiff at the end of the current season, and Exeter Chiefs are the front runners for his services. He would join fellow Welshman Christ Tshiunza and Dafydd Jenkins at the Premiership side.
Diamond to Bath: Finally, the paper reports that Steve Diamond could join Bath’s coaching staff before next season as part of a shake-up in the structure.
Connacht continues squad build: The Irish province’s team for next season is starting to take shape, with two further signings announced this week. 22-year-old Leinster academy back rower Seán O’Brien and sevens star Andrew Smith have signed with the side.
Leinster re-signings: The URC league leaders have announced a host of re-signings this week. Michael Ala’alatoa, Tommy O’Brien and Luke McGrath have all signed extensions with the province, joining Cormac Foley, Scott Penny and Joe McCarthy.
Munster academy: The province confirmed this week that Cian Hurley would move up from the academy to the senior squad next season, with Chris Moore extending his time at the province. Finally, James French has left the side for another playing opportunity.
Exeter sign Painter: Exeter Chiefs have signed prop Ehren Painter from Northampton Saints. The 133kg, 6ft 3in front-rower has played 84 times for the Saints and has represented England at u20s level.
Davison joins Saints: Northampton Saints signed England international Trevor Davison from Newcastle Falcons. The 30-year-old prop arrived at Franklin’s Gardens with immediate effect. He joins the side following the departure of Painter to Exeter. Davison made over 100 appearances for Newcastle before heading to Northampton.
Heffernan heads north: Meanwhile, Newcastle Falcons have signed Oisin Heffernan. He arrives at Kingston Park until the end of the season—the English-qualified prop who hails from the west of Ireland and came through with Leinster. He has spent the last four years at Nottingham.
Sisi re-signs: Having made his return from injury, Zebre captain David Sisi has signed a new deal with the Italian club until June 2025.
Bigi stays: In more good news for the Zebre pack, hooker Luca Bigi has also extended his contract with the side until 2025. The experienced hooker has played 46 times for his country and 41 times for Zebre.
Iachizzi signs Benetton extension: There is further good news for Benetton fans following the signing of Malakai Fekitoa. Test lock Edoardo Iachizzi has signed a three-year extension with the club.
Fly-half re-signs: Staying with the Italians, Benetton has also confirmed that Tomas Albornoz has re-signed until 2026. The Los Pumas international played for the Jaguares before joining the Italian club and recently returned from injury for the URC side.
Luka Khorbaladze, Tomas Lezana
The next Niniashvili? According to French website allrugby.com, Lyon has signed Georgian youngster Luka Khorbaladze. The u18 superstar has reportedly signed a three-year academy deal with the French side. His pace and ability to play wing and full-back have drawn comparisons to current Lyon and Georgia star Davit Niniashvili.
Tomas Lezana: The Pumas back rower has joined PRO D2 side Montauban immediately after struggling for game time at the Scarlets.
Amosa signs for Agen: Samoan international Afaesetiti Amosa has signed for Agen and immediately joins the side. The experienced number eight has played over 100 games in the Top 14 during his previous spells with Colomiers, La Rochelle and Bordeaux.
READ MORE: Who’s hot and who’s not: Ireland and Johnny Sexton make history, superb French half-backs and unfortunate Freddie Steward