Rugby rumours and transfers: Departing All Blacks, Bernard Laporte, Jack Willis, retiring legends and more

Jared Wright
rugby transfers Planet Rugby recaps some of the biggest transfer news, rumours and movements in the world of rugby union over the past week. From legends of the game retiring to All Blacks departing, the Fiji head coach role, Semi Radradra's departure and the knock-on effects, and where will Jack Willis be next season? This and more in our full rundown of the rumours and transfers. Planet Rugby recaps some of the biggest rugby transfer news and rumours over the past week incuding Beauden Barrett, Bernard Laporte, Jack Willis and more.

Planet Rugby recaps some of the biggest transfer news, rumours and movements in the world of rugby union over the past week.

From legends of the game retiring to All Blacks departing, the Fiji head coach role, Semi Radradra’s departure and the knock-on effects, and where will Jack Willis be next season? This and more is covered in our full rundown of the rumours and transfers.

Richard Cockerill, Vern Cotter, Bernard Laporte, Simon Middleton, Sam Bedlow, Jake Pollledri

Cockerill’s Montpellier switch confirmed: Richard Cockerill will leave his role at England Rugby to join Montpellier as forwards coach, the RFU have confirmed. The 52-year-old will continue to work with England throughout the Six Nations before linking up with the Top 14 club.

Cotter cut ties with Fiji: Vern Cotter immediately vacated his role as Fiji head coach this week. While the statements from both parties did not specify the reasoning for his departure, Midi Olympique reports that the Fijian Rugby Union wanted Cotter to be based in Europe throughout 2023, while the coach wished to be with his family in New Zealand.

Laporte offered Fiji job: Remarkably, the Fijian Rugby Union reportedly offered former France head coach Bernard Laporte the role vacated by Cotter. Laporte has left his positions with the French Rugby Federation and World Rugby after a two-year suspended prison sentence for corruption. Midi Olympique reported that Laporte immediately turned down the offer.

Middleton to depart: Hugely successful England Women head coach Simon Middleton will vacate his role after the Women’s Six Nations. During his time in charge, Middleton led England to a record-breaking 30-match-winning run and two Rugby World Cup finals in 2017 and 2022.

Sale to welcome Bedlow back: Sam Bedlow is on the verge of rejoining Sale Sharks, reports The Rugby PaperThe 27-year-old spent two seasons at the Manchester-based side before linking up with Bristol Bears five years ago. His current contract expires at the end of the season.

Polledri to leave Gloucester: Italian international Jake Polledri could leave Gloucester at the end of the season, with Top 14 club Bayonne a likely destination. Polledri will make a final decision in the coming days, according to L’Equipe, who states he is in advanced talks with the club.

Retiring legends

Parisse’s final season: Italy great Sergio Parisse will bring the curtain down on his glittering playing career at the end of the season. The 39-year-old will end his career at Toulon this season before he starts coaching. Planet Rugby spoke with the Azzurri legend following his announcement.

Wallaby great Giteau retires: Legendary Wallabies utility back Matt Giteau has announced his retirement from rugby, ending a career that saw him play for the Brumbies, Western Force, Toulon, Suntory Sungoliath and the LA Giltinis. Giteau played 103 Tests for his country, featuring at three World Cups and won three Champions Cups with Toulon and one Top 14 title. During his time with the Brumbies, he won two Super Rugby trophies.

All Blacks to head Japan, Waratah stays

All Blacks half-backs head to Japan: Toyota Verblitz have signed All Blacks centurions Aaron Smith and Beauden Barrett ahead of the 2023/24 Japanese Rugby League One season. The pair link up with former New Zealand head coach Steven Hansen at the club. While Smith has signed a long-term contract that brings an end to his Test career after the World Cup, Barrett is working with New Zealand Rugby on a return after his stint in Japan. The two most-capped backs in All Blacks history, Smith (114) and Barrett (112 – second equal with Dan Carter), are part of an exclusive group to have won Rugby World Cup and Super Rugby titles.

Savea heading to Kobe: “Plain and simple – it’s to set up my family. The money’s good, I’m not going to lie,” Ardie Savea said this week ahead of his move to Japan next season, where he will join the Kobe Kobelco Steelers. “It’s an opportunity to set up my family and also to try something new. It’s a bit of a challenge, and hopefully, it puts me on my toes,” he added.

RTS set for league return: Speculation over All Blacks centre Roger Tuivasa-Sheck’s future continues to mount. Rumours suggest that he will return to rugby league with the Sydney Roosters. “The rumours I keep hearing is Roger (Tuivasa-Sheck) back to the Chooks. That’s what I keep hearing,” Brian Fletcher said on SEN’s The Run Home with Joel and Fletch. “I’m not geeing you up, the rumours are getting very, very strong,” he added.

Pietsch stays: The Waratahs have secured the services of rising star Dylan Pietsch, with the outside back signing a two-year extension, keeping him in sky blue until the end of the 2025 season.

Habosi leaves Drua: Fijian superstar winger Vinaya Habosi has had his contract terminated by the Fijian Drua for a ‘high-level breach of the Club’s Code of Conduct’. The Super Rugby Pacific side did not clarify what the breach was that led to his contract termination with immediate effect. The speedster has signed to join Racing 92 after the Super Rugby Pacific season, but it is yet to be seen how his deal with the Top 14 club will be affected.

Premiership re-signings and rumours

Exiles offer Jackson a new deal: Paddy Jackson and London Irish are in advanced talks over a contract extension, according to The Rugby PaperThe fly-half has been in lengthy negotiations with the Premiership club and drew interest from French clubs, including Perpignan and Racing 92, the former signing Tommy Allan ahead of next season.

Segun sticks with Sarries: According to The Rugby Paper, Saracens flyer Rotimi Segun has signed a multi-year contract extension with the club. The 26-year-old was out of contract at the end of the season but looks set to remain at StoneX Stadium.

Brown is back: Harlequins legend Mike Brown secured a move back to professional rugby by signing a short-term deal with Leicester Tigers. The outside-back previously represented Harlequins, where he won two Premiership titles, and Newcastle Falcons. Brown has made 72 Test appearances for England and featured in three Six Nations winning campaigns for the national side.

Cokanasiga commits: England winger Joe Cokanasiga will remain at the Rec next season after signing a new deal with Bath. He joins Tom Dunn, Will Stuart, Sam Underhill, Cameron Redpath and Ben Spencer in extending his time at the club.

Quins trio re-sign: Promising Harlequins trio Bryn Bradley, Conor Slevin and Jamie Benson signed contract renewals with the London-based club.

Lawday extends: More good news for Harlequins fans with flanker Tom Lawday extending his stay at the Stoop. He first arrived at Quins in 2019 and has amassed over 70 appearances for the club since.

Bears rubbish Tipuric talk: Bristol Bears poured cold water over rumours linking Justin Tipuric to Ashton Gate, Bristol Live confirmed this week.

Hodge stays at Sandy Park: Confirmed. Josh Hodge has signed a contract extension with Exeter Chiefs, extending his stay with the Premiership club he has represented 37 times since joining from Newcastle in 2020.

Semi Radradra and Josh Adams

Lyon snap up Semi: Fijian superstar Semi Radradra will return to the Top 14 next season, with Lyon securing his services on a two-year deal despite late bids from Clermont and Bordeaux, as per Midi Olympique. Lyon is also eager to sign young props Valentin Simutoga and Sacha Lotrian.

Adams to join Radradra?: Josh Adams could follow Radradra in joining Lyon next season, with the French club continuing discussions with the Welsh star. According to Midi Olympique, Adams’ decision to leave Cardiff two years before his contract expires will depend on whether the WRU will adjust the eligibility laws for players abroad, as he will not meet the current 60 cap threshold by the start of next season.

Adams comments on reports: Asked about the links after the loss to Ireland, the Wales winger said: “Yeah, well, I am. I am under contract at Cardiff, and that’s where I am staying. You know how it is sometimes. There are a lot of things being thrown in the mix. But I haven’t heard anything from anyone. I am just concentrating on the here and now, really.”

Bears find Radradra replacement: According to Bristol Live, Pat Lam has found a replacement for Radradra, with Fijian Drua star Kalaveti Ravouvou, set to sign for the Premiership side. The deal is said to be announced shortly, with Ravouvou joining after the 2023 Super Rugby Pacific season.

Jack Willis, Racing 92 and Bordeaux

Toulon target Racing winger: Louis Dupichot has caught the attention of Toulon, who are in the market for a JIFF qualified outside back. The Racing 92 player can play wing and full-back and is in the final year of his contract with the Parisian side.

Joseph available to Lancaster: Racing 92 coach Stuart Lancaster will have powerful number eight Jordan Joseph at his disposal next season after he completes his loan deal with Pau. Racing president Jacky Lorenzetti confirmed as much in a column for République des Pyrénées. There were reports that Joseph could sign a permanent contract with Pau.

Bordeaux track Chiefs centre: After failing to reclaim the services of Radradra, Bordeaux have now shifted their focus to Chiefs centre Alex Nankivell as the club looks to wrap up its transfer dealings for next season. They are also reportedly interested in Toulouse centre Pierre Fouyssac.

Bordeaux and Jack Willis: Midi Olympique add that Jack Willis is still a target for Bordeaux, while Toulouse is keen to keep hold of the flanker, but his Test ambitions mean that he is seeking a contract in the Premiership. Bordeaux are also eager to sign a lock with Colomiers’ Alexandre Ricard, one target after they gave up on signing Romain Taofifenua.

Top 14 signings and prop news

Propping with La Rochelle: Los Pumas prop Joel Sclavi has penned a contract extension with La Rochelle after arriving at the club in 2021. He has re-signed until 2026 with the Top 14 side. Since his arrival, he has gone on to earn a maiden Test cap and represented the club 26 times.

Lyon signs Toulouse scrum-half: Highly rated scrum-half Martin Page-Relo has signed a two-year deal with Lyon ahead of next season. The 24-year-old has played ten times for Toulouse this season, starting half of those.

Ravai gets Reds lifeline: Fijian prop Peni Ravai has been handed a chance to extend his career after signing a one-year deal with the Reds. The Test prop was forced into retirement last July after a neck injury made him ineligible to play professional rugby in France. The 32-year-old front-rower can add to his 36 Test caps for Fiji with the World Cup looming.

United Rugby Champions re-signings and rumours

Zas sticks with Stormers: Leolin Zas will wing it with the Stormers until 2026 after signing a three-year contract extension with the Stormers. The prolific finisher made his Stormers debut in 2016. He was the top try-scorer in the United Rugby Championship last season, dotting down 11 times as the side claimed the inaugural title.

Bulls sign Pumas star: Sebastian de Klerk is reportedly joining the Bulls, signing a three-year deal with the side he represented at youth level. The 22-year-old will join the side from the Pumas after the Currie Cup. He was named the Currie Cup player of the year for 2022. He told Netwerk24 that he had signed with the Bulls and will add considerable pace to the URC side’s backline.

Eoin De Buitléar joins Connacht’s pro ranks: The hooker has signed a two-year deal with his home province and will join the professional ranks next season.

Munster quartet commit: Munster Rugby and the IRFU confirmed the contract extensions for Niall Scannell and Rory Scannell, with Edwin Edogbo signing his first senior contract and John Ryan returning to Munster next season.

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