Planet Rugby recaps some of the biggest transfer news, rumours and movements in the world of rugby union over the past week.
The rumours list is hot this week, with players in Wales high up on the shortlist for Premiership and Top 14 clubs, while there is a ton of whispers around the coaching ranks. Here is our full rundown.
Hugo Keenan, Peter O’Mahony, Jack McGrath, Liam Williams
Keenan commits: Ireland and Leinster full-back Hugo Keenan has signed a three-year IRFU contract that will see him continue his career in Ireland until the end of the 2025/26 season. He is the first Ireland player to secure a deal with the senior team after representing the sevens side.
O’Mahony extends: Peter O’Mahony has signed a one-year extension to his IRFU contract that will run until the end of the 2023/24 season. The veteran back-rower has started both of Ireland’s Six Nations matches this year, taking his Test cap tally for his country to 91. He has also played 171 games for Munster.
Williams off to Japan: Wales and Cardiff full-back Liam Williams is drawing interest from Japan, with WalesOnline reporting that Kubota Spears are considering putting together a deal worth £500,000 a season for his services. Malcolm Marx, Ryan Crotty, Bernard Foley and Lappies Labuschagne are on the Japanese club’s books.
Lions prop retires: Former Leinster, Ulster, Ireland and British & Irish Lions prop Jack McGrath announced his retirement at 33. The front-rower has battled with a hip injury and was not offered a contract with Ulster for the 2022/23 season. He won two Six Nations titles with Ireland, earned three caps in 2017 for the Lions and won three domestic titles, a Champions Cup and Challenge Cup with Leinster. McGrath won 56 Irish caps and played 145 times for Leinster.
𝐀 𝐖𝐚𝐫𝐫𝐢𝐨𝐫 👊
Having announced his retirement this morning, everybody at Leinster Rugby would like to wish our former player Jack McGrath all the very best.
💙145 Leinster caps
☘️56 Ireland caps
— Leinster Rugby (@leinsterrugby) February 16, 2023
Malakai Fekitoa, Alex Nankivell, Rieko Ioane
Fekitoa to leave Munster early: Former All Blacks centre Malakai Fekitoa will depart Munster at the end of the season, cutting his stay at the province short. He joined Munster from Wasps on a two-year deal but will leave after just one season. Initial speculation has linked him with a return to France, having played for Toulon in the past, while Super Rugby side Moana Pasifika has also been suggested as a potential destination.
Munster sign Fekitoa replacement: Munster have moved quickly to announce Fekitoa’s replacement, with Alex Nankivell arriving from the Chiefs ahead of the 2023/24 season. The Maori All Blacks centre was reportedly in talks with Top 14 club Bordeaux but Munster managed to secure his services. The Irish province also announced the contract extensions for tighthead prop Stephen Archer and loosehead prop Dave Kilcoyne.
Ioane denies Japan rumours: Reports emerged that Blues and All Blacks star Rieko Ioane was set to depart New Zealand after the Rugby World Cup. The 25-year-old was linked with a move to Japanese club Ricoh Black Rams. However, he denied the rumours when asked for comment after the Blues’ final pre-season game: “I haven’t seen anything – that’s news to me,” he said. “Was that before we got on the bus? Nah, that’s news to me.”
Samu Kerevi, Jed Holloway, Michael Cheika, Vern Cotter
Kerevi snubs Rugby Australia: Wallabies centre Samu Kerevi snubbed Rugby Australia’s attempts to sign him on a contract upwards of $1 million. According to The Roar website, Kerevi turned down the deal that could have seen him join any of the four Australian Super Rugby Pacific teams because RA only offered a one-year contract. The report adds that Eddie Jones had a say in the offer and advised against a long-term deal after his experience with Manu Tuilagi and England, with the centre often unavailable due to injury. The Wallabies centre recently returned from a long-term ACL injury. Kerevi will still be eligible for selection to the Wallabies but will remain in Japan, although he is to leave Suntory Sungoliath and join a rival team.
Holloway to stay in NSW: Wallabies utility forward Jed Holloway is set to remain at the Waratahs, turning down interest from Clermont. According to The Roar website, the 30-year-old is in Eddie Jones’ plans for the Wallabies with the World Cup and the British and Irish Lions tour in mind.
Cheika resigns: Los Pumas head coach Michael Cheika has resigned from his role with Japanese League One side NEC Green Rockets. The Roar states that this further fuels the speculation that he could become Leicester Tigers’ boss. Chieka will take the Pumas through the Rugby World Cup and will reportedly hand over the reins to assistant coach Felipe Contepomi.
Cotter turns down Tigers: According to Midi Olympique, Vern Cotter has rejected Leicester Tigers’ advances to bring him on as the permanent replacement for Steve Borthwick. The report adds that Perpignan are considering a move for the former Flying Fijians boss.
Laurie Fisher, Berrick Barnes, Scott Wisemantel, Paul Gustard
Fisher leaves Wallabies: Brumbies coach Laurie Fisher has confirmed that he will not be part of Eddie Jones’ coaching staff in 2023. Former Wallabies coach Dave Rennie brought in the veteran coach to help address the side’s issues with discipline. “Disappointed to not be continuing the journey with the @wallabies thru to the World Cup. Will play my part by ensuring all @BrumbiesRugby players are in a program that maximises their progress & development to be the best they can be. Enjoyed the brief opportunity.” Fisher tweeted.
Disappointed to not be continuing the journey with the @wallabies thru to the World Cup. Will play my part by ensuring all @BrumbiesRugby players are in a program that maximises their progress & development to be the best they can be. Enjoyed the brief opportunity.
— Laurie Fisher (@LordLaurie58) February 17, 2023
Wallabies coaches: Eddie Jones is starting to piece together his coaching staff at the Wallabies. The Sydney Morning Herald reports that former fly-half Berrick Barnes is set to join his backroom staff, with Scott Wisemantel returning as a consultant. Barnes is believed to be in talks about a skills and kicking role with the Wallabies and Super Rugby clubs. The former fly-half played 51 Test matches for the Wallabies. Meanwhile, Wisemantel has agreed to work as a consultant but has no plans to return full-time. He left the role he held under Dave Rennie, citing family reasons. Jones also revealed that he would bring in former AFL coach Neil Craig, a longtime advisor he put in charge of high performance when he joined England. Finally, Dan McKellar will continue his role with the Wallabies until after the World Cup.
Gustard stays in Paris: Former Harlequins head coach Paul Gustard is in advanced talks to re-sign with Stade Francais. According to The Rugby Paper, he will sign a new long-term deal with the club despite interest in his services at his hometown club, Newcastle Falcons. Gustard was also linked with a move to Wales to join Warren Gatland’s coach staff, but Sale Sharks defence coach Mike Forshaw filled the position.
Rapava-Ruskin, Harlequins, Sale Sharks, Premiership Rugby Cup
Rapava-Ruskin re-signs: Gloucester prop, Val Rapava-Ruskin, has put pen to paper on fresh terms at Kingsholm. He signed the deal before his 100th appearance for the Cherry and Whites against Harlequins.
✅ Most metres made
✅ Most dominant collisions
✅ Most turnovers
✅ Most line-breaks
✅ Most offloads
The 💯 man is staying for more. 😍
— Gloucester Rugby (@gloucesterrugby) February 16, 2023
Harlequins re-signings: Harlequins outside back Nick David is the latest player to recommit his future to Harlequins. He follows the likes of academy stars Nathan Jibulu and Will Hobson, and flanker Tom Lawday. Lennox Anyanwu, Dino Lamb, Jack Walker, Stephan Lewies, Simon Kerrod and Danny Care have all re-signed with the club, while Will Porter will join the side next term.
Sale re-signings: Sale Sharks have announced a host of re-signings ahead of next season with homegrown talents Simon McIntyre, Joe Jones, Tommy Taylor, Ewan Murphy, Rouban Birch, Sam Dugdale, Cal Ford and Arron Reed have all committed their futures to the club. The homegrown eight, who have all featured in Alex Sanderson’s first-team squad this season, have put pen to paper on deals, committing their futures to the club where their careers began.
Premiership Rugby Cup: According to Rugby Inside Line, the Premiership Rugby Cup will include Championship clubs next season. The reformatted competition is set to feature four groups of six teams.
EXCLUSIVE: We are hearing that the Premiership Rugby Cup WILL include Championship clubs next season.
The talk is there will be four groups of six teams.
— RugbyInsideLine (@RugbyInsideLine) February 16, 2023
Marcos Kremer, Ross Moriarty, Francis Saili
Kremer to leave Paris: Los Pumas forward Marcos Kremer could depart Stade Francais at the end of the season to join another Top 14 club, namely Clermont. The powerful forward is in talks with Clermont, according to RugbyRama, as the club line up a replacement for Sébastien Vahaamahina, who may retire at the end of the season due to concussions. The club also failed to lure Holloway from Australia.
Moriarty wanted on both sides of the Channel: Reports across Britain and France have linked Ross Moriarty with a move away from the Dragons. The Welsh international is not short on options, and moving back to the Premiership is on the cards with Exeter Chiefs and Gloucester interested in his services, while Stade Francais and Bayonne are keen to bring him to France.
Saili stays at Racing: Former All Blacks centre Francis Saili could remain at Racing 92 at the start of next season. He is set to provide cover for Gael Fickou during the Rugby World Cup, but L’Équipe reports that he could sign on until the end of next season. Negotiations are ongoing. Saili signed with the club following the retirement of Virimi Vakatawa due to a medical condition.
Cheslin Kolbe, Thaakir Abrahams, Aphelele Fassi
Kolbe to stay at Toulon: Cheslin Kolbe has addressed rumours linking him with a move to Japan. Reports in November last year linked the World Cup winner with a move to Japan by Midi Olympique. However, he told AFP that he would not be leaving the Top 14 club, “I’m not going to Japan, I’m not going anywhere, I’m staying here,” he said. “I still have a lot I would love to do and give back to this jersey. I’ll still be here until 2024.”
Lyon keen on Abrahams: Semi Radradra was unveiled as Lyon’s latest signing last week, and the Top 14 club aren’t done yet as they continue to pursue Josh Adams. The club wants to fill the void Josua Tuisova and Noa Nakaitaci will leave. They are now in advanced talks to sign Sharks flyer Thaakir Abrahams, according to Le Progrès. The fleet-footed winger is another player who has been likened to Kolbe with a lethal sidestep and searing pace. Midi Olympique added to the speculation, stating that Abrahams has since informed the Sharks players and staff that he will depart at the end of the season.
— Jared Wright (@jaredwright17) July 8, 2021
Powell addresses Fassi rumours: Sharks boss Neil Powell confirmed that the Sharks are attempting to hold on to Springbok full-back Aphelele Fassi, who has been linked with the Stormers. Powell said: “We are obviously negotiating, and we would like to hang onto Fassi.” The Stormers are keen to sign the Springbok with Manie Libbok linked with a move to Racing 92, with the Cape-based side willing to move Damian Willemse to cover fly-half with Sacha Feinberg-Mngomezulu and Kade Wolhurter. Still, they will need to recruit at full-back if Libbok departs.
Enzo Benmegal, Vinaya Habosi, Welsh stars
Rapid flyer stays at Racing: Rapid speedster Enzo Benmegal has re-signed with Racing 92 until 2025, with the 19-year-old agreeing to add two years to his academy contract, according to L’Équipe. The rising star drew interest from Stade Francais but looks to be staying on the blue side of Paris.
Enzo Benmegal is *eighteen* years old and already scoring tries like this in pro rugby🤯.
— EK Rugby Analysis (@ek_rugby) September 12, 2022
Fijian joins Racing early: Fijian Drua superstar Vinaya Habosi has joined Racing 92 immediately after his contract with the Super Rugby club was terminated. The Flying Fijian was set to join the Top 14 club next season but has come in early as a medical joker for the injured Regan Grace. Habosi reportedly assaulted his partner, leading to the termination of his contract with the Drua.
Francis to France: Midi Olympique reports that French Top 14 clubs are keeping a close eye on developments in Wales over the contract disputes and that Tomas Francis has a few suitors eager to snap him up if a deal is not ironed out between the regions and the WRU.
Hawkins to land in the Premiership: Ospreys centre Joe Hawkins has made a splash at Test level, debuting against Australia last November and has started Wales’ opening two Six Nations matches. According to Midi Olympique, the talented youngster could leave Wales with a move to Exeter Chiefs on the cards.
Smith to follow: Nicky Smith could follow Hawkins out the door at the Ospreys with the loosehead prop attracting interest from Bath. The Rugby Paper reported this week that Exeter Chiefs are also interested in his services.
Kingsley Jones, Scott Bemand, Matt Banahan
Jones joins Baabaas: The Barbarians have appointed Kingsley Jones as assistant coach to Eddie Jones for the Killik Cup showdown against the World XV. Jones is currently head coach of Canada’s national team and will work under Baa-baas boss Eddie Jones. He has been in charge of Canada since 2017 and led Newport Gwent Dragons, Russia, Sale Sharks and Doncaster in previous roles. Jones won 10 caps for Wales and captained his country once in 1998, and enjoyed club spells with Ebbw Vale, Pontypridd, Gloucester, Worcester Warriors and Doncaster Knights.
Bemand leaves England: Scott Bemand has decided to step down from his role as England Women’s backs coach at the end of the 2023 Six Nations. The former scrum-half was part of the coaching set-up who guided England to their record-breaking 30-match-winning run and two Rugby World Cup finals in 2017 and 2022.
New role for Banahan: Gloucester and Bath legend Matt Banahan has taken up a new role following his retirement from professional rugby, with the former winger now a citing commissioner. He debuted this weekend in the Premiership fixture between Bristol Bears and Newcastle Falcons.
— Paul Morgan (@PaulMorganMedia) February 16, 2023
Fergus Lee Warner, Alex Samuel, Blade Thomson
Warner wanted in France: Former Western Force forward Fergus Lee Warner is considering his options for next season. He joined Bath on a short-term deal from Worcester Warriors, with The Rugby Paper reporting that the 29-year-old’s CV is doing the rounds at Top 14 clubs.
Rising star re-signs with Glasgow: One of Scotland’s most highly-rated young talents Alex Samuel has re-signed with Glasgow Warriors for at least the next couple of seasons. A product of Madras College FP, the St Andrews-born 20-year-old graduated from the FOSROC Scottish Rugby academy in the summer of 2022, agreeing to terms on a first professional contract ahead of the 2022/23 season and making five appearances in Glasgow colours to date.
Scarlets back-row retires: Scotland and Scarlets back-rower Blade Thomson has announced his retirement following a head injury. The 32-year-old played over 50 times for the Scarlets since arriving from the Hurricanes – the team he won Super Rugby with – in 2018 and represented New Zealand at u20 level. He played for the Maori All Blacks too and represented Scotland 10 times, including matches at the 2019 Rugby World Cup.
Facundo Bosch, Reece Hodge
Pumas hooker stays in France: Los Pumas hooker Facundo Bosch has signed a contract extension with Top 14 club Bayonne for a further three years. Jake Polledri is reportedly on the club’s radar, too, ahead of next season.
Wallaby off to France: Staying with Bayonne, Wallabies utility back Reece Hodge will join the club in November, club president Philippe Tayeb confirmed on Saturday. “He’ll come to beef up our squad; he’s a world-class player and will bring his all-round ability to help and grow our project and the youngsters in our club,” Tayeb told Canal+.
Leon MacDonald, David Humphreys
Blues boss linked with Scotland: Mail+ reports that Scotland Rugby Union chief executive Mark Dodson has spoken to New Zealander Leon MacDonald about becoming the new Scotland head coach. MacDonald is currently in charge of the Auckland-based Blues in Super Rugby Pacific. He has been sounded out about replacing Gregor Townsend after the World Cup. Scott Robertson is reportedly on Scotland’s radar too, but with him set to take over at the All Blacks, he is unlikely to consider the Scotland job. MacDonald is in the running for the All Blacks gig too, and was listed as one of Robertson’s assistants when the Crusaders boss applied for the job in 2019.
Roberston offered RWC role: Acting Fijian Rugby Union chief executive Tevita Tuiloa revealed that he has reached out to Scott Robertson over the vacant head coach role following Vern Cotter’s resignation. Tuiloa said that he would love to have the Crusaders mentor as head coach or technical advisor for the Flying Fijians during the World Cup.
Humphreys to join the ECB: Former Ireland fly-half David Humphreys is to become the new director of cricket operations for the England & Wales Cricket Board, the Telegraph reports. He will replace John Carr, who is retiring in the summer. The job is a key and senior position at the ECB with responsibility for central contracts and touring operations for the men and women. He held similar roles with Ulster and was a high-performance consultant for the Georgia rugby team.
Major League Rugby
Hounds sign Domínguez: Highly-rated Argentine speedster Julián Domínguez has signed with the Chicago Hounds. The winger has played for Argentina u20s, Argentina XV, and the Pumas Sevens sides. In 2021, he scored nine tries in 14 games for NOLA Gold, reported by Americas Rugby News.
Arrows sign Tasi: Canadian MLR outfit the Toronto Arrows snapped up the services of Tautalatasi Tasi before the start of the new season. The versatile back has played for the likes of the Sunwovles, Waratahs and Rebels and also had a short stint in League with South Sydney.