Planet Rugby recaps some of the biggest transfer news, rumours and movements in the world of rugby union over the past week.
From Siya Kolisi to Manu Tuilagi to the next Scotland head coach and everything in between, here is our full rundown of the rumours and transfers.
Siya Kolisi’s Test career, Manu Tualgi on the move
Kolisi mulling over Test career: The big report out of South Africa this week is that Springbok captain Kolisi is considering his international options. Sunday newspaper, Rapport, states that the Bok captain wishes to reach the 100 Test cap mark for South Africa – he is currently on 75 – and is in discussion with Racing 92 and his representatives about his Test future, which may rest on whether Rassie Erasmus and Jacques Nienaber stay in charge after the World Cup. He is set to make a final call post the showpiece in France.
Tuilagi to Paris: Racing 92 could finally get their man after failed attempts to the England centre in 2019. According to The Rugby Paper, Tuilagi is looking at his options after the World Cup, and the salary cap limitations will make it difficult for Sale Sharks to retain his services. Racing 92 were keen on signing the centre back in 2019 and reportedly offered him an £830,000 per year deal. The Parisian side wants to fill the void left by retired Virimi Vakatawa. Francis Saili has performed well this season but is on a short-term contract; more on that below. Japanese and American sides are reportedly keen on making him a marquee signing.
Hill to return to Wales?: Cory Hill is considering returning to Wales from Japan, according to Warren Gatland. The secon- rower made two appearances under Wayne Pivac before leaving for Japan, signing for the Canon Eagles. “There’s been chat about Cory potentially coming back; some of the other coaches have been watching his performances in Japan,” Gatland said.
Urios joins Clermont: Following the abrupt departure of Jono Gibbes at Clermont, the Top 14 side has moved swiftly to replace him with Christophe Urios joining the squad. Urios recently parted ways with Bordeaux-Begles, but he does have previous success, winning the Top 14 with Castres in 2018.
Cockerill to Montpellier: The French club are looking to strengthen their coaching staff, with Richard Cockerill in talks to join the side before the World Cup, according to L’Equipe. He is being offered the forward coaching role, with discussions understood to be progressing well. Cockerill would need to be released from his contract with England to complete the move, while Gibbes is also believed to be on Montpellier’s shortlist.
Mallinder to Scotland: The Rugby Paper reports that Jim Mallinder has emerged as the front-runner to replace Gregor Townsend as Scotland’s head coach after the World Cup. The former Sale Sharks and Northampton Saints head coach is the Director of High Performance at the Scottish Rugby Union.
Bordeaux, Carlu Sadie and Francis Sailli
All Blacks flyer shortlisted by Top 14 clubs: Two Test All Blacks winger Leicester Fainga’anuku has caught the eye of two Top 14 clubs eager to secure his services, namely Clermont and Bordeaux, according to Midi Olympique. Clermont are looking for a replacement for Damian Penaud and are in the market for a player who can play in the centres and on the wing. Meanwhile, Bordeaux have signed Penaud, but Santiago Cordero and Geoffrey Cros’ contracts are expiring, while Italian international Federico Mori has signed for Bayonne.
Lucu stays at UBB: France scrum-half Maxime Lucu is in talks over a contract extension with Bordeaux, which will see him remain at the club until 2027, Sud Ouest report. As stated last week, Bordeaux is also keen on signing Bulls flanker Marco van Staden.
Scots line up Sadie: Sharks prop Carlu Sadie is reportedly off contract at the end of the season and is the target of Scottish side Edinburgh, with WP Nel set to retire, according to the Rapport.
Saili in demand: Former All Blacks centre Saili has caught the interest of Toulon ahead of next season, according to L’Equipe. He joined Racing 92 from Biarritz following Vakatawa’s retirement; although he could remain in Paris permanently, Toulon is keen to bring him on board.
Saints signings and rumours and Spencer on the rise
Ribbans to RCT: Northampton Saints and England lock David Ribbans is in advanced talks with Toulon, according to L’Equipe. The South African-born second-rower joined Saints in 2017 from the Stormers and qualifies for England through his grandfather.
🗣️ "Steve wants us to play for each other, for the team and for badge. I just got this real sense of passion from him – it was really powerful and impressive."
🏴😇 Our exclusive with England and Northampton Saints' David Ribbans.
— Planet Rugby (@PlanetRugby) January 14, 2023
Cruse to Franklin’s Gardens: Experienced hooker Tom Cruse has joined Northampton Saints until the end of the season as injury cover.
Prince Spencer on the rise: Payton Spencer, the son of former All Blacks ace Carlos, has signed for the New Zealand sevens as he takes his first steps into professional rugby. The 18-year-old is fresh out of school and has penned a two-year deal with the side.
Chiefs add to coaching staff: Paul Feeney and Ross Filipo have joined the Chiefs’ coaching staff ahead of the Super Rugby Pacific season.
Eddie Jones’ targets with Australia and Suntory
Jones targets League trio: Wallabies head coach Eddie Jones has reportedly moved quickly to attract league stars to rugby union. According to The Daily Telegraph, some high-profile rugby league stars off contract this year are on RA’s interest list. Sydney Roosters youngster Joseph Suaalii is believed to be on top of the list, including Will Penisini (Parramatta) and Tolu Koula (Manly).
Eddie and Billy to reunite in Japan?: Billy Vunipola’s CV looks to be doing the rounds. Last week speculation rose when Tom Willis signed for Saracens. Now, the Daily Mail reports that Vunipola could join Suntory Sungoliath in Japan, the team Jones is an advisor to and will continue to be despite taking up the Wallabies coaching role.
Alaalatoa re-signs: In another boost for Jones, star Wallabies prop Allan Alaalatoa has committed his future to the Brumbies and Rugby Australia until 2027. His deal takes him through until the next World Cup and keeps him on Australian shores for the British and Irish Lions tour.
La Rochelle deals, Josh Adams and Semi Radradra
Rhule rules out a move: Champions Cup winner Raymond Rhule has penned an extension with La Rochelle until the end of the 2024/25 season. The centre/wing has played over 60 times for the French side since arriving from Grenoble in 2020.
🤌 @Rhule11 sera Jaune et Noir jusqu'en 2025 😏
🗣️ "On a créé quelque chose avec les garçons, donc c'est un grand plaisir de continuer ici. Quand tu es bien dans un projet, tu veux y rester et faire quelque chose de plus !" 💬#Rhule2025 | #FievreSR https://t.co/kIEUnH9Bwu
— Stade Rochelais (@staderochelais) January 18, 2023
Sclavi extends: Los Pumas prop Joel Sclavi has reportedly signed a three-year extension with La Rochelle. The powerful prop, who can play either side of the hooker, has enjoyed a breakout 18 months with the French club, earning a Test debut for Argentina last year.
Filling a Tuisova-sized hole: Lyon is in the market for a centre/winger to replace Josua Tuisova, who will join Racing 92 after the World Cup. The club could replace one Fijian superstar for another, with Semi Radradra linked with the side. According to Le Progrès, Radradra’s injury struggles have the club second-guessing. His contract at Bristol Bears expires at the end of the season, and the tightening of salary caps means he is unlikely to remain with the Premiership club.
Adams in demand: Lyon’s search for Tuisova’s replacement has seen them turn their attention to Wales and Cardiff winger Josh Adams. According to WalesOnline, the Top 14 club is willing to offer Cardiff a fee to release him from the final two years of his contract.
Jacob Stockdale and London Irish extension
Cut price Stockdale to stay: Ireland winger Jacob Stockdale will remain at Ulster on a two-year deal. However, the 26-year-old will accept a reduction in pay as he will no longer be centrally contracted to the IRFU, with Ulster fitting the bill entirely, according to the Belfast Telegraph.
London Irish lock in Puma: London Irish back-row forward and Argentina international Juan Martín González signed a contract extension with the Exiles this weekend. A massive boost for the Londoners.
Connacht contract extensions: It’s been a busy week in Galway with hooker Dave Heffernan committing his future to the province for a further two years, lock Niall Murray also for two, and scrum-half Caolin Blade for three.
The Cherry on top: Scotland hooker Dave Cherry was named in Gregor Townsend’s Scotland squad for the upcoming Six Nations, and two days later, Edinburgh confirmed that he signed a two-year contract extension.
Exeter exodus but will Jack Nowell stay?
Exeter exodus: Exeter Chiefs’ departures list is rapidly growing ahead of next season, with former club captain Joe Simmonds agreeing to join Top 14 side Pau next season. The 26-year-old follows brother Sam out the door at Exeter with Luke Cowan-Dickie, and Dave Ewers.
Homesick van Heerden: Another Exeter Chief exit with Ruben van Heerden leaving the side to join the Stormers on a short-term deal. Rob Baxter explained: “I think English rugby and the club wasn’t quite what he [van Heerden] expected to be, and he was very open and honest about it and said he didn’t feel he was playing to his potential because wrapping it up, he was just homesick. He had no interest to go another club, he only wanted to go home, and he asked if he could look for opportunities in South Africa, which he did.”
Third Chief to join Montpellier: Philippe Saint-André looks to have snapped up a third Exeter Chief in the form of tighthead prop Harry Williams. Montpellier is in the market for a new tighthead, with Mohamed Haouas heading to Clermont next season. The success of Zach Mercer has certainly encouraged Saint-Andrè to scout in the Premiership.
Nowell to stay?: While many head to the exit, Exeter may hold onto one of their stars, with The Rugby Paper reporting that the Premiership club is stepping up their attempts to keep Jack Nowell on their books. Baxter has openly admitted that the speedster could leave at the end of the season but looks to be moving to retain his services.
Ben Lam, Harlequins, Tigers, and Freddie Burns
Lam to leave: Williams joining Montpellier could lead to Ben Lam’s departure, according to Midi Olympique. The club would need to open a JIFF spot in their squad, and Lam has been in talks with other Top 14 clubs. The former Hurricane has underwhelmed since arriving from Bordeaux this season, scoring twice in 10 games.
Robson to stay in Pau: Simmonds could link up with former Wasps scrum-half Dan Robson at the French outfit. The scrum-half joined the side after Wasps entered administration and has reportedly extended his stay with the side.
Quins captain commits: Harlequins captain Stephan Lewies re-signed with the Famous Quarters ahead of the 2023/24 season. He has racked up over 50 appearances with the club. The club also announced the signing of Bristol Bears scrum-half Will Porter, who joins the Londoners before the new season.
Two new Tigers: Leicester have confirmed the signing of former Wasps prop Tom West until the end of the season and have added former Paul Roos Gimnasium versatile forward Cameron Miell, who has joined the club’s Academy set-up.
Whiteley to Welford Road: Leicester have added to their scrum-half ranks with Tom Whiteley joining from Bristol Bears on a permanent deal with immediate effect.
Burns signs for Highlanders: The man that landed Leicester Tigers’ match-winning drop goal in the final last season is off to Dunedin. Freddie Burns will join the Highlanders for the 2023 Super Rugby Pacific season after being granted an early release from his contract at Leicester.
NEW SIGNING ✏️ Introducing former English International @FreddieBurns , who's signed with us for the 2023 Super Rugby Pacific season.
Read more at the link below:https://t.co/zhFK3kOoIf pic.twitter.com/3S2SySL2se
— Highlanders (@Highlanders) January 22, 2023
Final four signings
Herron off to Colomiers: Former Ulster and Harlequins fly-half has signed a deal with Pro D2 side Colomiers. He heads to the side on a two-year contract next season and is the club’s fourth new addition for 2023/24.
Prolific Portugues poacher lands in the PRO D2: Os Lobos’ centre Rodrigo Marta will move up a least one division in France next season after inking a three-year deal with Colomiers. The Portugal star is currently the top scorer in the Nationale league – one league down from the Pro D2 and two from the Top 14 – and is a player to watch out for during the World Cup later this year. Colomiers are in contention for a playoff spot in the Pro D2 and could secure promotion.
Portugal centre Rodrigo Marta showed his prolific finishing skill with this superb 50 metre effort vs Georgia last weekend. This try was his 19th in 24 caps (6th in 6 tests in 2022, & his 3rd try in his past three matches playing against Georgia). pic.twitter.com/QHoDOgyoW6
— Tier 2 Rugby (@T2Rugby) July 19, 2022
Delibes re-signs: Toulouse youngster Dimitri Delibes re-committed to the French club until 2026, according to RMC Sport. According to the report, several Top 14 teams shortlisted him, including Toulon and La Rochelle.
Puma joins Old Glory: Argentina prop Ramiro Herrera will play in the Major Rugby League in 2023 after signing with Old Glory DC. He heads to the USA after a 12-year stint in France playing for Stade Francais, Castres, and La Rochelle.