It’s been another busy week with rugby rumours and transfers, and Planet Rugby brings you seven top stories ahead of the weekend.
Anthony Watson’s future is in the news again, with new reports stating that Leicester Tigers hope to hang onto the England star for at least another season.
SportsMail report that Leicester have held ‘last-gasp talks’ with Watson in a bid to retain his services despite interest from Top 14 clubs, particularly Castres. Leicester announced the list of players that would leave the club at the end of the season with Watson’s name omitted, which is another indication that he could stay.
Former England and Wasps winger Christian Wade looks set to remain at Racing 92 next season. The 31-year-old returned to rugby this season after chasing his NFL dream and has been a hit in the Top 14, scoring seven tries in nine games for the Parisian club. He joined the side as injury cover for rugby league convert Regan Grace, who missed the entire season after back-to-back Achilles injuries.
L’Equipe report that incoming head coach Stuart Lancaster and future Racing 92 chairman Laurent Travers have decided to keep Wade next season and release Grace from his contract. It still needs to be determined if Grace will chase a contract elsewhere in union or if there is a chance he could return to league with St Helens. The 26-year-old has not played a single minute for Racing.
Top 14 flyers
Monty Ioane could return to Europe ahead of next season after his stint with the Melbourne Rebels. The Italian international winger was granted an early release from Benetton to be closer to his family in Melbourne but now looks set to return to Europe after one Super Rugby season.
🇮🇹 Non male @MontyIoane, non male 👏
— Guinness Sei Nazioni (@SeiNazioniRugby) March 10, 2023
According to RugbyRama, Premiership, Top 14, and Italian sides have all attempted to sign the speedster ahead of next season but add that Lyon have secured his services. His arrival is yet another boost to the side who are losing superstar Fijian Josua Tuisova to Racing 92 at the end of the season. They have already confirmed the signings of Semi Radradra, Vincent Rattez and Thaakir Abrahams to compensate.
France winger Matthis Lebel has signed a new deal with Toulouse which will keep him at the club until at least 2026. The 24-year-old has played five times for France and drew plenty of interest in the Top 14 as his contract expired at the end of the season. It’s another massive boost for Toulouse, who have also extended the contracts of Jack Willis, Santiago Chocobares, Dimitri Delibes and Emmanuel Meafou.
Hardly breaking news, but Montpellier have officially announced the signing of England and Exeter Chiefs number eight Sam Simmonds. He comes in as a like-for-like replacement for Zach Mercer, who leaves the club to join Gloucester next season.
Staying with the back-rowers, Pete Samu looks set to officially be unveiled as Bordeaux-Begles’ new signing ahead of next season. The Brumbies confirmed the powerhouse back-rower’s departure this week, which was accompanied by the news that scrum-half Nic White would be joining the Western Force.
Good and bad news for the Wallabies
Meanwhile, The Roar reports that Tom Wright will remain at the Brumbies, signing a two-year extension with the side. Wright reportedly attracted interest from Premiership and Top 14 clubs after Rugby Australia paused contract negotiations to complete Joseph Suaalii’s signing.
Wallabies’ prospect Miles Amatosero looks set to remain in France despite attempts to bring him back to Australia. The Waratahs announced the signing of the promising 20-year-old on a two-year deal, fighting off competition from his current employers and Bordeaux. However, in the latest twist, Midi Olympique reports that the 6’8, 125kg second-row is set to stay at Clermont as cover for the Rugby World Cup, with the deal potentially becoming permanent.
Staying with the Australians, Sydney Roosters coach Trent Robinson says Suaalii won’t be released from his contract this year or next. Suaalii is set to make the switch to union in 2025, but there were reports that it could happen sooner. Robinson said, “Those reports haven’t come from inside this club. That’s been speculation outside. That’s not even been a discussion inside this club.”
Stephen Jones returning to France?
Toulon are looking to replace Franck Azéma ahead of next season, with the coach joining Perpignan in order to be closer to his family. In their search for a successor, L’Equipe reports that former Wales fly-half and coach Jones has emerged as an unexpected candidate. The report states that the two parties are discussing the move with director of rugby Pierre Mignoni keen to link up with his former Clermont teammate once again. Jones has not held a role since Warren Gatland released him from the Wales coaching staff ahead of the 2023 Six Nations.
Leinster leavers and Chris Farrell
The42.ie reports that Leinster scrum-half Nick McCarthy will leave the Irish province to join a Major League Rugby side following his call-up to the USA Eagles team. The 28-year-old was born in the US but moved to Ireland when he was young. It is believed that he could link up the Rob Kearney-co-owned Chicago Hounds, where he could join Dave Kearney, who confirmed his departure from Leinster this week, and Connacht wing Adam Byrne.
Former Munster centre Farrell has signed a two-year extension with Oyonnax, keeping him at the side until 2025. Farrell left Munster mid-season after the Irish province granted his release after the side he would not be involved in due to “ongoing legal proceedings concerning his alleged involvement as a witness to an alleged crime in 2017”.
Glasgow re-signing and leavers
Argentinian flyer Facundo Cordero has agreed to extend his contract with Glasgow Warriors for the 2023/24 season, with the deal subject to visa approval. The speedster joined the Scottish URC side mid-season after departing Exeter Chiefs but is yet to make his senior debut for Franco Smith’s men.
Meanwhile, Glasgow confirmed their departing players at the end of the season: Sam Johnson, Lewis Bean, Cole Forbes, Simon Berghan, Cameron Neild and Ryan Wilson.