Planet Rugby recaps some of the biggest transfer news, rumours and movements in the world of rugby union over the past week.
Premiership departures confirmed
Tigers’ leavers: Leicester Tigers announced their departing players, and the list includes Jimmy Gopperth, Chris Ashton, Calum Green, Sean Jansen (Connacht), Kini Murimurivalu, Hosea Saumaki and Eli Snyman (Benetton). Meanwhile, Tom West and Sam Wolstenholme joined the side mid-season and are off to Saracens and Bristol, respectively. Freddie Burns, Bryce Hegarty, Nephi Leatigaga, Nemani Nadolo and Lachlan Shelley all left during the current season. Richard Wigglesworth retired to become interim head coach, while Tom Cowan-Dickie, Tom Horton, Gabriel Oghre and Joe Taufete’e also left during the current campaign.
Leaving Sale: Former captain Jono Ross will hang up his boots at the end of the season as will Will Cliff and Byron McGuigan, while Ewan Ashman departs for Edinburgh. Academy graduates Ben Carlile, Elliot Gourlay, Kieran Wilkinson and Matt Postlethwaite will all leave the club. As will centre Sam Hill, Jason Woodward, Ryan Mills and Dom Barrow.
Exiting the Exiles: London Irish confirmed that the following players would be leaving the club: Isaac Curtis-Harris, Facundo Gigena, Ollie Hassell-Collins, Isaac Miller, Hugh O’Sullivan, Tom Parton, Rob Simmons, James Stokes, Mike Willemse, Giosuè Zilocchi, Kyle Cooper, Logan Trotter, Louie Kirkham, Oran Murphy and Oliver Stirling.
Luke Cowan-Dickie, Tolu Latu, Jack Boyle
Montpellier move off? Cowan-Dickie’s transfer saga seems to have come to an end, with Montpellier reportedly unable to sign the Test hooker. According to Midi Olympique, he has failed his medical examination forcing the Top 14 side to cancel his contract.
Next target: With the Cowan-Dickie move seemingly off, Montpellier are looking to beat Sale to the signing of Wallabies hooker Latu. They are set to swoop for the 30-year-old who returned to Australia for the 2023 Super Rugby Pacific season after Stade Francais terminated his contract early for off-field alcohol-related issues and on-field discipline.
Chiefs chase Boyle: Meanwhile, The Rugby Paper reports that Exeter Chiefs are looking to sign Leinster and Ireland U20s prop Boyle. The 20-year-old loosehead prop has featured just twice for the Champions Cup finalists this season.
John Mitchell, Israel Folau
Red Roses coaches: The RFU confirmed this week that Mitchell will become the Red Roses’ head coach following the 2023 Rugby World Cup. Meanwhile, Charlie Hayter will move into a more embedded role as the head of women’s performance. Former Red Roses captain, Sarah Hunter, has been appointed to the role of transition coach and Lou Meadows has been promoted from her role as U20s head coach to attack coach for the women’s senior team.
Folau to feature for World XV: Former Australia and Waratahs full-back Folau will line up in a World XV team that will tackle the Barbarians at Twickenham on Sunday, May 28. He is the latest addition on the playing front for the fixture in England, which will see Steve Hansen take on Eddie Jones in the coaching department.
🏴 The match will take place at Twickenham on May 28.
🇦🇺🌍 Israel Folau picked in World XV for Barbarians clash. https://t.co/fmuvPqCLMC
— Planet Rugby (@PlanetRugby) May 4, 2023
Joe Schmidt, John Dobson
Schmidt to return to Ireland: Former Ireland head coach Schmidt has been linked with a sensational return to Irish rugby. According to the Irish Independent, IRFU chief executive Kevin Potts has confirmed that performance director David Nucifora will leave the union next year, and the report adds that Schmidt is a likely candidate for the role. The IRFU are looking for a ‘world-class’ figure to replace Nucifora, and with Schmidt leaving the All Blacks after the World Cup, while Rassie Erasmus is another name the paper mentioned as a possible contender.
Dobson still in for Boks role: Stormers head coach Dobson caused some confusion this week when he seemingly ruled himself out of the race for the Springboks’ top job. “Once this project is much more advanced and complete and this team is really fizzing in Cape Town, only then, if I was lucky enough. But no, I want to stay here and finish what we started,” Dobson said in a radio interview with SmileFM. However, a source close to the coach told the Rapport that he ‘has not said no to anyone regarding the Bok job’ and that he was merely ‘emphasising that his full attention is currently focused on the Stormers’.
Plumtree returns to Durban: The Sharks announced that Plumtree will return to Durban for a second stint as the side’s head coach from the beginning of July. A former player at the South African side, Plumtree coached the Sharks for four years from 2008 to 2012.
Boks re-sign with Sharks: It was a busy week in Durban with Ox Nche and Bongi Mbonambi both extending their contracts at the side. Nche has signed on until 2025, and Mbonambi until 2026. This comes after Phepsi Buthelezi and Curwin Bosch committed until 2026, while Ntuthuko Mchunu and Marnus Potgieter have signed deals until 2025. James Venter and Sikhumbuzo Notshe have signed on for next season.
— The Sharks (@SharksRugby) May 3, 2023
Wilkinson to Leicester: Following the confirmation that he will leave Sale at the end of the season, Kieran Wilkinson could join Leicester Tigers. The Rugby Paper reports that Leicester are leading the way for the highly rated 23-year-old’s signature.
Ulster and Bulls
Ulster departees: 10 players have played their final games for Ulster with the Irish province. The side lost their final game of the season, falling to a defeat to Connacht in the quarter-finals. The list of departees are: Craig Gilroy, Rob Lyttle, Jordi Murphy, Sam Carter, Duane Vermeulen, Gareth Milasinovich, Jeffery Toomaga-Allen, Rory Sutherland, Declan Moore and Frank Bradshaw-Ryan.
Vermeulen set for Bulls return: Springboks number eight Vermeulen is in talks to return to the Bulls. According to Netwerk24, he could play Currie Cup for the Bulls, returning to the side at the end of May. He is set to work as a player-coach at the side.
⚪️ Duane Vermeulen has played his final game for Ulster.
🇿🇦 The Springboks veteran is now in talks to return to South Africa.https://t.co/nX6iaEDYRc
— Planet Rugby (@PlanetRugby) May 6, 2023
Urdapilleta joins Clermont: 37-year-old fly-half Benjamin Urdapilleta has quit Castres to sign a one-year deal with Clermont. Urdapilleta has spent eight years at Castres, winning the Top 14 title with the side under current Clermont head coach Christophe Urios’ tutelage in 2018.
🏻🏼 𝘽𝙞𝙚𝙣𝙫𝙚𝙣𝙞𝙙𝙤 𝘽𝙚𝙣𝙟𝙖𝙢𝙞𝙣 🟡🔵
🇦🇷 L’ouvreur argentin, Benjamin Urdapilleta meilleur réalisateur en activité du Top 14, sera bien Clermontois la saison prochaine (1+1)
— ASM Rugby (@ASMOfficiel) May 4, 2023
Van der Merwe commits to Brive: Former Springboks tighthead prop Marcel van der Merwe has signed a one-year extension. He arrived at the club at the start of the season following a stint at London Irish, having previously had two stints at the Bulls and a long term stay at Toulon.
Perpignan court Barraque: Clermont’s versatile back Jean-Pascal Barraque has an offer on the table from Perpignan, L’Equipe reports. Sparingly used this season, Barraque could link up with his former coach Franck Azema at Perpignan.
New La Rochelle coach: Former France international Remi Tales will join Ronan O’Gara’s coaching staff next season, according to L’Equipe. He is currently working with Pro D2 side Mont-de-Marsan but is set to finalise his move to La Rochelle where he will be the skills and kicking coach.
Super Rugby Pacific
Hurricanes rising star re-signs: Highly rated Hurricanes youngster Ruben Love has signed a contract extension with the Super Rugby side until 2025, the club has confirmed. Son of former Māori All Black, Matene Love, Ruben’s season has been curtailed with injuries but is set to return to full fitness next season and has signed until 2025.
Bristol prop debuts for Crusaders: Bristol Bears academy prop Andrew Turner made his debut for the Crusaders against the Western Force. Following a late withdrawal from the matchday squad, Turner was rushed into the side, having spent time training with the Crusaders during the spring and summer months.
Zebre and Benetton
Zebre re-signings: The Italian side have announced a host of re-signings ahead of next season. Hooker Marco Manfredi missed the entire 2020/21 season through injury but returned to play regularly for the side this campaign. He has signed a two-year contract extension. Full-back Jacopo Trulla has penned an extension until 2026, while prop Muhamed Hasa has committed until 2025.
Centurion stays at Benetton: Forward Marco Lazzaroni has signed a two-year extension with Benetton. Part of his deal will include a gradual integration into the commercial and events side of the club. The 28-year-old has made 129 appearances for the side since making his way through the academy to debut for the senior side.