Rugby rumours and transfers: Springboks’ referee coach, Wales exodus, retiring All Black 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 Premiership signings and re-signings to potential retirements in France to South Africa hiring a referee coach and everything in between, here is our full rundown of the rumours and transfers.
Leicester Tigers and Harlequins
Lamb extends: The second re-signing announced by Quins this week was that of second-rower Dino Lamb, who has made over 70 appearances for the senior side since running out for his debut in September 2017.
Five Tigers commit: Leicester Tigers announced five re-signings ahead of next season, with Dan Cole, Charlie Clare, Dan Kelly, Harry Simmons and Dan Richardson all penning new deals with the club.
Busy week for the Tigers: It’s been a busy week at Welford Road with the Tigers announcing four new signings in flanker Kyle Hatherell, hooker Finn Theobald-Thomas, full-back Jamie Shillcock and winger Josh Bassett.
England hopeful commits to Quins: Uncapped England hooker Jack Walker has extended his stay at the Stoop, having arrived at Harlequins ahead of the 2021/22 season.
😍 Jack Walker recommits to Harlequins!
✍️ We are delighted to announce @wacker96 has signed a new deal with the Club!
📬 Delivered by @dhlexpressuk.#COYQ pic.twitter.com/GJ81XOwlR5
— Harlequins 🃏 (@Harlequins) January 25, 2023
Saracens, Exeter and Sale Sharks
Vunipola nears Sarries exit: Billy Vunipola is not short on offers for next season with his Saracens contract expiring. The England number eight is reportedly drawing interest from Suntory Sungoliath in Japan, but Midi Olympique reports that Brive are tabling an ambitious offer for the back-rower. Brive have just got a boost in financial resources from billionaire Ian Osborne and hope to sign the 30-year-old, reportedly on Racing 92’s radar too.
Tom Ellis has joined Saracens: Bath flanker Tom Ellis joined Saracens as short-term cover. Injuries and Six Nations call-ups have left Saracens short on back-rowers.
Woodburn and Hodge to re-sign: Olly Woodburn has re-signed with Exeter Chiefs, and Josh Hodge will follow him, according to The Rugby Paper. The report states that Hodge is in advanced talks with the club to renew his contract.
Sharks to depart: Sam Hill and Dom Barrow are set to leave Sale Sharks at the end of the season, according to The Rugby Paper.
United Rugby Championship (URC) and Springboks
Moriarty wanted in France and England: The contract freeze in Welsh rugby could see Ross Moriarty return to the Premiership next season. According to The Rugby Paper, Exeter Chiefs and Northampton are interested in Moriarty, who played for Gloucester between 2012 and 2018. French Top 14 clubs Stade Francais and Bayonne are also believed to be interested in the Welsh international.
Returning Bull: The Bulls announced that forward Jannes Kirsten would return to the Pretoria-based side from Exeter Chiefs ahead of next season. He has signed until at least 2026 with the Bulls. He left the Bulls in 2019 to join Exeter but returns after winning the Champions Cup and Premiership with the English side.
Dayimani stays at Stormers: Hacjivah Dayimani has signed a contract extension that will see him remain in Stormers colours until at least 2025. “Hacjivah is a special player who brings something completely unique to our team, so we couldn’t be happier to have him extend his contract with us,” head coach John Dobson said on the confirmation of Dayimani’s re-signing.
What an absolute pleasure it was to sit down with @Hacjivah and talk about breaking boundaries, the Stormers and more.
Such an inspirational person. https://t.co/fNIkw2TdSo
— Dylan Coetzee (@DylanCoetzee241) January 24, 2023
Aki not off to Munster: Connacht boss Andy Friend dismissed rumours of Bundee Aki joining Munster as ‘Paper talk’. “I’ve no doubt he’ll be here. It’s all just paper talk as far as I’m aware,” Friend commented.
Boks to hire ‘referee coach’: The Springboks coaching staff are reportedly considering making use of an expert referee analyst as part of the planning for the 2023 World Cup. According to Rapport, Rassie Erasmus is considering employing a so-called ‘referee coach’ and presented the idea to SA Rugby executives.
Bordeaux, Montpellier and Clermont
Bordeaux lock in Lucu: France international scrum-half Maxime Lucu has committed his future to Bordeaux until 2027, a massive coup for the Top 14 side. His extension for the club follows the signings of Damian Penaud and Tevita Tatafu, while the likes of Ben Tameifuna (2025), Cyril Cazeaux (2026), and Thomas Jolmes (2025) are locked in beyond next season.
Bordeaux tracking Jack: Tom Willis will be back in the Premiership next season, but his brother Jack Willis might not join him, with the flanker currently drawing interest in France. Jack joined Toulouse after Wasps entered administration and is now reportedly in talks with Bordeaux, the team Tom joined. Bordeaux are keen to strengthen their back-row ahead of the new season, having never really replaced Cameron Woki after his departure to Racing 92, report via Midi Olympique.
Tu’inukuafe to retire: According to L’Équipe, former All Blacks prop Karl Tu’inukuafe could retire at the end of the season despite being contracted to Montpellier until 2025. The 29-year-old is reportedly struggling with a back injury and considered retiring before he joined Montpellier at the start of the season; he has played just three times for the side.
Vahaamahina to call time on his career: L’Équipe also reports that former France Test lock Sébastien Vahaamahina could be forced into retirement after several concussions, the most recent of which occurred in the Champions Cup tie against the Stormers in December. The 46-Test cap lock played his final international for France during the 2019 Rugby World Cup when he was red-carded for elbowing Aaron Wainwright in the quarter-final.
Bayonne interested in Hodge: Bayonne have already wrapped up some serious business for next season with Luke Tagi, Arthur Iturria and Federico Mori joining the club. However, that looks to just be the start of their dealings with the club, reportedly in talks with Wallabies back Reece Hodge and Georgian international Gela Aprasidze, according to Midi Olympique.
Evans to quit Wales: Cardiff fly-half Jarrod Evans admitted this week that he might be forced to leave Welsh rugby this summer due to the game’s financial stalemate in Wales. “This is my last season on my contract, and I’ve got to do what’s best for my family,” he said. He added: “It’s not something I’ve ever experienced as a professional player. Normally contracts are all sorted by December, but we’re going into February, and still, there’s no chat.”
Netflix and Six Nations: City A.M. reports that the Six Nations unions and Netflix producers have yet to agree on the level of access for the upcoming documentary series. The report adds that some of the six unions are open to a significant level of access, while others are cautious about giving Netflix too much content without having an editorial eye.
No plans for Boks Six Nations entry: Six Nations chief executive Ben Morel is adamant that his organisation have no plans to expand the championship or change its participants. Rumours have been circling for some time that South Africa would join the tournament but Morel has poured cold water over the rumours. “There is no conversation about expanding the Six Nations right now, the entire focus is on finding the right solution and improvements to the July and November windows and finding a more competitive narrative for those fixtures,” Morel told the Telegraph.
Scotland adds to coaching team: Glasgow Warriors assistant coach Pete Horne joined the Scotland coaching team along with Brad Mooar ahead of the Six Nations.
Glasgow Warriors assistant coach Pete Horne will support the Scotland coaching group during this year's Guinness Six Nations, while Brad Mooar will also join the management team on a consultancy basis.#AsOne pic.twitter.com/rXhrBgvfAd
— Scottish Rugby (@Scotlandteam) January 25, 2023
Peel to join Borthwick’s staff: As mentioned in last week’s transfer rumours and transfers, Richard Cockerill is set to depart the England set-up and head to Montpellier or Brive after the Six Nations. Borthwick looks have found Cockerill’s successor in Saracens coach Ian Peel. He is to join the Test team at the end of the current season, just in time for Rugby World Cup preparations, via SportsMail.
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