Planet Rugby recaps some of the biggest transfer news, rumours and movements in the world of rugby union over the past week.
Vern Cotter, Samoa coaching staff
Blues confirm new head coach: Former Fiji head coach Vern Cotter has signed a two-year deal to become the Blues’ boss, replacing Leon MacDonald. Cotter joins the New Zealand Super Rugby Pacific side alongside assistant coach Jason O’Halloran.
Manu Samoa complete Rugby World Cup coaching staff: Samoa have announced their coaching staff for the Rugby World Cup. Head coach Seilala Mapusua with be assisted by Leinster attack coach Andrew Goodman, former Blues head coach Tana Umaga, forwards coach Tom Coventry, backs and skills coach Tusi Pisi and scrum coach Mahonri Schwalger.
Jonathan Joseph, Rhys Webb, Mohamed Haouas, Henry Arundell, Marcus Smith
Biarritz sign Test trio: Pro D2 side Biarritz made a late splash on the market by signing three internationals on Friday. Former British and Irish Lions duo Jonathan Joseph and Rhys Webb join the club, as well as disgraced France prop Mohamed Haouas. The front-rower was set to join Clermont ahead of the new season but, after being found guilty of domestic abuse and aggravated violence, Clermont were able to broker a deal to cancel his contract. When asked by RugbyRama to comment on the controversial signing, Biarritz responded: “Nobody banned Mohamed Haouas from playing rugby. On our side, we are only respecting the presumption of innocence.” The club are also set to sign Robin McClintock, Antoine Domercq and Zach Kibirige.
🗣️ “Nobody banned Mohamed Haouas from playing rugby. On our side, we are only respecting the presumption of innocence.”
🇫🇷 Biarritz have signed three internationals ahead of the 2023/24 season.https://t.co/mrHbVq6RMW
— Planet Rugby (@PlanetRugby) July 1, 2023
Arundell secures Racing 92 move: It has been rumoured for some time now but Racing 92 have made it official with England outside back Henry Arundell signing a two-year deal with the Top 14 club. The former London Irish star joins Thomas Laclayat, Will Rowlands, Siya Kolisi, Clovis Le Bail, James Hall, Tristan Tedder, Josua Tuisova and Wame Naituvi at the Parisian club.
Racing 92 give up on Smith: According to L’Equipe, Racing 92 have abandoned their attempts to lure Marcus Smith away from Harlequins after the Rugby World Cup. Frustrations over the length of negotiations led to their decision as they continue to keep tabs on the market for a new fly-half.
Akker van der Merwe, Luke Cowan-Dickie, Agustin Creevy
Van der Merwe leaves Sale: Springboks hooker Akker van der Merwe has left Sale Sharks after he was granted an early exit from his contract to return to South Africa for personal reasons. The popular front-row is believed to have signed with Bulls, with official confirmation from the Pretoria outfit imminent.
Creevy replaces Akker: Shortly after confirming Van der Merwe’s departure, Sale announced the arrival of veteran Los Pumas hooker Agustin Creevy. The experienced forward joins the Premiership finalists following the collapse of London Irish.
Cowan-Dickie heads to Sale: It’s to be officially confirmed but England hooker Luke Cowan-Dickie is also expected to sign with the Sharks. His move to Montpellier fell through after a failed medical and is set to join Sale, who are looking to fill the void left by Ewan Ashman and Van der Merwe.
Bulls signings, Currie Cup losses, Kade Wolhuter
Jake White adds to his squad: The Bulls have added further signings, with Van der Merwe still yet to be confirmed. Stravino Jacobs has re-signed with the side following the departure of Sbu Nkosi, with Stormers winger Sergeal Petersen and Pumas speedster Sebastian de Klerk also signing with the URC side. The Bulls have also raided the Sharks’ ranks with prop Khutha Mchunu and loose forward Mpilo Guemede signing with White’s side. Fly-half Jaco van der Walt has also returned to South Africa, joining the Bulls with Willie le Roux also set to join the squad.
Give the man a Gaviscon, he’s put on the afterburners 🔥 Sebastian de Klerk is LETHAL 😮 pic.twitter.com/IGdNHQkjbI
— Official Blue Bulls (@BlueBullsRugby) June 30, 2023
Currie Cup records losses: The Rapport states that the sponsor-less 2023 Currie Cup recorded losses of around R300,000 (about GBP12,600) per game. While some matches were profitable, most weren’t, and an administrator told the newspaper that one of the biggest reasons was the poor stadium attendance.
Lions target Wolhuter: According to The Rapport, the Lions are targeting Western Province and Stormers fly-half Kade Wolhuter. The Johannesburg outfit could lose Jordan Hendrikse to the Sharks.
Jack Goodhue, Vakhtang Abdaladze, Ben White, Lima Sopoaga
Castres capture Crusaders centre: In a massive coup for the club, Castres announced the signing of All Blacks and Crusaders centre Jack Goodhue ahead of next season. He has signed a one-year deal with an option of second with the Top 14 club.
Brive sign Leinster prop: Pro D2-bound Brive added another recruit as they look to bounce back to the Top 14 quickly, announcing the signing of Georgian international Vakhtang Abdaladze on a two-year deal.
Toulon sign White: Another deal that has been rumoured for some time now has officially been confirmed. Former London Irish scrum-half Ben White reportedly had offers from Edinburgh and Glasgow Warriors but has instead put pen to paper on a deal with Toulon. The Scotland international has signed a one-year deal with the French outfit.
🇫🇷 « 𝙅'𝙖𝙞 𝙝â𝙩𝙚 𝙙𝙚 𝙨𝙤𝙧𝙩𝙞𝙧 𝙙𝙪 𝙩𝙪𝙣𝙣𝙚𝙡 à 𝙈𝙖𝙮𝙤𝙡 𝙥𝙤𝙪𝙧 𝙡𝙖 𝙥𝙧𝙚𝙢𝙞è𝙧𝙚 𝙛𝙤𝙞𝙨 »
Les premiers mots de @BenWhite_98 🗣
🏴 « I can't wait for the first time running out in front of the fans at Mayol »
First Interview for Ben White as 🔴&⚫️
— RCT – RC Toulon (@RCTofficiel) July 2, 2023
Sopoaga heads to Japan: Former All Blacks and soon-to-be Samoa international Lima Sopoaga has signed with Japanese club Koto Blue Sharks. He heads to Japan after leaving Top 14 club Lyon and is joined at his new club by Sam Chongkit and Tom Rowe. Sopoaga has been named in Samoa’s Rugby World Cup training squad and is set to join the Japanese side after the tournament.
Les Kiss, Tom Savage, Clermont
Former Exiles boss weighs up his options: The Rugby Paper reports that former London Irish boss Les Kiss is in demand and is in talks with Super Rugby and United Rugby Championship teams. The Reds are reportedly interested in his services after bidding Brad Thorn farewell after the 2023 season.
Savage set for Cherry and Whites return: The Rugby Paper also reports that lock Tom Savage could return to Kingsholm ahead of the new season. The second-rower has spent the past four years in Japan and could return to Gloucester – the side he represented over 100 times.
Clermont signings: The Top 14 club confirmed the signing of Caleb Timu as a Rugby World Cup joker this week and announced that Waratahs-bound Miles Amatosero will remain at the side until the end of the year. Meanwhile, they added former Northampton coach Ian Vass to their squad.