Gloucester have said that reports of new signing Carl Fearns reneging in his contract with the Premiership side are “unfounded and unwelcome” after it was claimed that the back-row was having second thoughts over his planned summer move.
27-year-old Fearns has agreed a long-term contract with the Cherry and Whites from the start of the 2017/18 season, with the English back-row set to return to the Premiership after leaving Bath in 2015 to join French Top 14 side Lyon Olympique Universitaire.
However, a report in French newspaper Midi Olympique claimed on Monday that the Liverpool-born player was considering signing a new extension with Lyon, raising fears over his Premiership return and the possibility of a club-vs-club row. Lyon did contact Gloucester earlier in the season in the hope of reaching an agreement to buy-out the deal, but this was rejected by the English side.
Gloucester have now moved quickly though to halt talk of any disagreement and confirm that Fearns has already signed a “long-term contract” with the club, tying him down from next season in a move that also makes him available for England selection once again.
A Gloucester Rugby statement on Monday read: “Carl Fearns has signed a long-term contract with Gloucester Rugby and is a key part of the club’s plans moving forward. His arrival is keenly anticipated and we very much look forward to welcoming him to Kingsholm.
“The club were contacted by Lyon recently to ask whether we would consider releasing Carl from the contract that he signed back in November, an approach which Gloucester Rugby turned down. Having secured Carl’s signature on a long-term contract, we are disappointed to have to comment on this type of speculation.
“As the first of the club’s external signings announced for next season, Carl will be a key player in Gloucester colours. His superb form for Lyon this season has understandably caught the eye of many observers.
“However, Carl has committed his long-term future to Gloucester Rugby from next season, and any stories suggesting otherwise are both unfounded and unwelcome.”
The Independent also understands that Fearns is unlikely to be playing Gloucester under Philippe Saint-André, despite the former France head coach being linked with the vacant role at Kingsholm. Laurie Fisher stood down from the role at the start of the month following the 30-27 defeat by Harlequins, and with Mohed Altrad’s proposed takeover of Gloucester still hanging in the balance, a replacement for the Australian is yet to be appointed.
It’s claimed in France that billionaire Altrad intends to bring in Saint-André once his takeover bid is approved by European Rugby, given he already owns French side Montpellier, but it’s understood that Saint André is not interested in the current role at Gloucester.
Furthermore, the Lions head coach, Johan Ackermann, is reported to have been offered the chance to leave the Super Rugby franchise for Gloucester, with the South African claiming he has already been offered to job earlier this month.