Rugby rumours and transfers: Brodie Retallick, Billy Vunipola, Manie Libbok and more

Planet Rugby recaps some of the biggest rugby transfer news and rumours over the past week including Brodie Retallick, Billy Vunipola and Manie Libbok. Credit: Alamy
Planet Rugby recaps some of the biggest rugby transfer news and rumours over the past week including Brodie Retallick, Billy Vunipola and Manie Libbok. Credit: Alamy

Planet Rugby recaps some of the biggest transfer news, rumours and movements in the world of rugby union over the past week.

Eddie in, Dave out: In a shock move, Rugby Australia sacked Dave Rennie as the Wallabies head coach and replaced him with former England head coach Eddie Jones. The 62-year-old Australian previously led the Wallabies from 2001 to 2005, while Rennie won just five of 14 Tests in 2022. Full story.

Gatland finalises Wales coaching staff: Warren Gatland named his 37-man squad for the upcoming Six Nations, and at the same time, he finalised his coaching staff by announcing the arrival of Jonathan Thomas, who will be responsible for the contact area. This comes after the additions of Alex King and Mike Forshaw to the coaching team.

Gleeson leaves: Martin Gleeson was the last to go as Steve Borthwick completed his backroom staff ahead of the Six Nations. The former rugby league star and Wasps attack coach joined Jones’ backroom team in August 2021, but with Nick Evans linking up with the team, he has been shown the door.

Back-row shuffle

Saracens snap up Tom Willis: Former Wasps back-rower Tom Willis has inked a deal with Saracens ahead of next season. The 23-year-old stood out for Wasps before the club entered administration, prompting his move to Bordeaux. He returns with England aspirations on his mind.

Bordeaux’s replacement: With Willis leaving Bordeaux, the club is reportedly turning their interest to Bulls back-rower Marco van Staden. After struggling with concussions, the 27-year-old re-joined the Bulls from Leicester Tigers and has been back to some of his best form. Midi Olympique reports that he is still under contract until 2024 but could be prized away from Loftus.

Vunipola nears exit: Speculation that Billy Vunipola will leave Saracens has resurfaced following Willis’ signing, with the England back-rower reportedly on the shortlist of several Top 14 and Japanese clubs.

Brodie, Payne and Libbok

Brodie Retallick on the move: Reports from New Zealand state that 2023 will be Retallick’s final year in the Black jersey as he returns to Japan. The veteran lock has reportedly signed a three-year deal with the Kobelco Kobe Steelers and will link up with the side after the World Cup.

Payne takes Clermont reins: Top 14 heavyweights Clermont announced the departure of Jono Gibbes with immediate effect this week. The former La Rochelle boss was shown the door after the side’s loss to Leicester Tigers in the Champions Cup. Clermont sit 10th overall in the Top 14 and head to Cape Town this week, knowing they will need a full house of points to keep their Champions Cup hopes alive. Former Ireland back Jared Payne has the reins on an interim basis, while L’Equipe reports that former Bordeaux coach Christophe Urios has been lined up to fill the role permanently.

Libbok to replace Russell?: Racing 92 are in the market for a fly-half following the confirmation that Finn Russell would leave the side to join Bath at the end of the season. The Top 14 giants have already announced the signing of Siya Kolisi, but could add another South African to their payroll in Stormers pivot Manie Libbok. South African newspaper Rapport reported that Racing are interested in his services, while the Stormers wish to sign him on until 2027.

One club man Malherbe

Malherbe stays: More news from Cape Town as the Stormers announced that one club legend Frans Malherbe had signed a three-year contract extension with the franchise.

Hanigan to leave Waratahs: Clermont is set to continue their recruitment for next season. Midi Olympique reports that the Top 14 side is closing in on a deal for Wallabies and Waratahs’ forward Ned Hanigan. The side has confirmed the signings of prop Mohamed Haouas, hooker Folau Fainga’a and back-rower Pita Gus Sowakula.

Wilson joins Harlequins: The Famous Quarters announced the addition of Danny Wilson to their backroom staff, with the former Glasgow boss joining Quins ahead of next season as their lineout and contact coach.

Joseph to remain in Pau?: Midi Olympique report that former U20s Player of the Year, Jordan Joseph, could sign a permanent contract with Pau. The 22-year-old is currently on loan from Racing 92, and his current deal with the club expires at the end of next season.

Burger is back: Former Wasps centre will return to the Premiership after signing a deal with Northampton Saints ahead of next season. The former Lions and Bulls captain joined Japan Rugby League One side Toshiba Brave Lupus after Wasps entered administration.

Marx not Munster bound: Springboks World Cup winning hooker Malcolm Marx was linked with a move to Munster last week, but Denis Leamy quickly silenced the rumours when he told The42.ie, “I’d like to work with Malcolm Marx, but there’s nothing in it.”

Ewers leaves Exeter

Ulster signs Ewers: Ulster announced the signing of Exeter Chiefs’ flanker Dave Ewers ahead of next season. The 32-year-old joins a host of players leaving Exeter at the end of the season, while his signing at Ulster does hint that this may be the last season of Duane Vermeulen’s career.

Gloucester duo off to Ealing: The Rugby Paper reported this week that Cherry and Whites legend Billy Twelvetrees will join Ealing Trailfinders next season and will be joined by clubmate Jordy Reid.

Sione stays: In form, Glasgow Warriors and Scotland centre Sione Tuipulotu signed a contract extension with the Warriors this week. The 25-year-old has also been named in Gregor Townsend’s Six Nations squad.

Porch pens new deal: Connacht announced that exciting outside back John Porch had put pen to paper on a new two-year contract at the United Rugby Championship outfit. There was speculation that he would leave the Irish province, but he has opted to add to his 17 tries in 72 appearances for the side.

Bok coaches safe: Afrikaans Sunday newspaper Rapport have revealed that Rassie Erasmus and Jacques Nienaber can begin preparations for the World Cup knowing their jobs are secure post the tournament in France. The paper spoke to Erasmus’ lawyer, Frikkie Erasmus, who confirmed that the Springbok DOR’s deal runs until 2025 but does include an exit clause if he wishes to depart after the World Cup.

Bulls bring Immelman home: Edinburgh outside back Henry Immelman will leave the Scottish capital at the end of the season, signing with South African URC team, the Bulls. The 27-year-old has played all his senior professional rugby in the Northern Hemisphere and said he looks forward to being closer to his family in the Republic.

Boudehent confirms La Rochelle exit: Speedster Pierre Boudehent has confirmed that he will leave the Champions Cup holders at the end of the season, signing with Parisian club Stade Francais.

READ MORE: Loose Pass: Musical chairs in the coaching world including Eddie Jones’ shock switch, Owen Farrell’s availability and red mist in Europe

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