Rugby rumours and transfers: Charles Piutau, Jake Polledri, Len Ikitau and much more
Planet Rugby recaps some of the biggest transfer news, rumours and movements in the world of rugby union over the past week.
It’s another busy week on the transfer scene, with Rugby Australia locking in stars ahead of the 2025 British and Irish Lions series, while there has been movement among the coaches. The Top 14 clubs are their regularly busy selves in the market, while several Fijians have put pen to paper on new deals.
Jack Kenningham, Sean Jansen and Nika Abuladze
Kenningham commits to Quins: Flanker Jack Kenningham has re-committed to Harlequins, penning a new deal with the Premiership club. He has played over 30 times for the side.
Jansen joins Connacht: Leicester Tigers number eight Sean Jansen has signed for Connacht. The 23-year-old is originally from Dunedin in New Zealand and joined Tigers in January 2022 from Otago. He has signed a two-year deal with the Irish province.
Exeter sign Georgian prop: Georgian international Nika Abuladze has signed with Exeter Chiefs, bolstering the side’s front-row options. The 27-year-old loosehead prop is due to arrive at Sandy Park later this month once his commitments at international level are completed. He has signed on until the end of the season, plus a further two years.
Saints sign Fijian lock: Northampton Saints have secured the signing of Fiji international Temo Mayanavanua from Lyon. He joins the Premiership club ahead of the 2023/24 season after over 50 appearances for Lyon. Mayanavanua is the nephew of Sevens legend Osea Kolinisau. He has played nine Tests for Fiji.
Aphelele Fassi, Ben Tapuai and Owen Williams
Fassi sticks with Sharks: Springbok outside back Aphelele Fassi has signed a new long-term deal with the Sharks. The Durban-based outfit have warded off the likes of the Stormers to secure his services.
Tapuai to leave Sharks: Former Wallabies centre Ben Tapuai is set to add France to his rugby journey by signing with Bordeaux, according to Midi Olympique. Tapuai played for Bath and Harlequins, winning the Premiership with the latter, after representing the Reds and Western Force in Australia. He moved to the Sharks in 2021 but now looks set to join Yannick Bru at Bordeaux, along with Carlu Sadie. He has reportedly signed a one-year deal with an option of a second year.
Ospreys keen to hang onto Williams: With the contract freeze over, Welsh clubs can negotiate deals with players. According to The Rugby Paper, Owen Williams is in advanced talks with the Ospreys about extending his stay.
Ian Peel, Steve Diamond and Joe Schmidt
Peel to join England: With Richard Cockerill departing the England coaching staff after the Six Nations, Steve Borthwick is looking for his replacement for the upcoming Rugby World Cup. The Rugby Paper reports that Borthwick is closing in on securing Ian Peel’s services from Saracens.
Diamond joins Edinburgh: Steve Diamond has joined the Scottish outfit as its lead rugby consultant. The former Sale Sharks and Worcester Warriors director of rugby will be with the side until the end of the season. It is also reported that former Wasps boss Lee Blackett could join Edinburgh as head coach next season, with current head coach Mike Blair becoming the side’s attack coach.
Schmidt pulls out of All Blacks race: Former Ireland boss Joe Schmidt has confirmed that he will not apply for the All Blacks head coach’s role ahead of next season. A popular figure with the players, it is understood that several senior players queried whether Schmidt would apply for the job or be involved with the All Blacks post-World Cup. The 57-year-old has poured cold water over the rumours with a brief statement ruling himself out of the running for the position.
Charles Piutau and Scott Barrett
Piutau to leave Bristol: Pat Lam has confirmed that star full-back Charles Piutau will be departing Bristol Bears at the end of the season. Semi Radradra will also be leaving the side, but the Bears have signed Max Malins.
Charles Piutau, that is INCREDIBLE!
— Planet Rugby (@PlanetRugby) March 3, 2023
Scott Barrett stays: All Blacks forward Barrett has re-committed to New Zealand Rugby, the Crusaders and Taranaki after signing a contract through to 2025. Barrett, who can play at lock and blindside flank, made his All Blacks debut against Ireland in Chicago in 2016 and has already won 59 caps for the three-time world champions.
Malakai Fekitoa, Manfredi Albanese and Jake Polledri
Fekitoa off to Benetton: Former All Blacks centre Malakai Fekitoa will join Benetton from Munster ahead of next season. He has signed a three-year deal with the side until June 2026. The 2015 Rugby World Cup winner represented the All Blacks 24 times and has since switched to his native Tonga.
Albanese retires: 21-year-old scrum-half Manfredi Albanese has announced that he will retire at the end of the season. The six-Test cap international calls time on his career ahead of completing his economics and management studies.
Polledri leaves Gloucester: Italian flanker Jake Polledri will leave the Cherry and Whites at the end of the current season to join United Rugby Championship side Zebre. The 20-Test international has signed a three-year deal with the Italian club.
British and Irish Lions, Cameron Murray and Pete Samu
B&I Lions fixtures: The British and Irish Lions are set to take on two invitational sides in 2025. The tourists will face off against a team comprising of the best of the Pacific with players from Fiji, Tonga, Samoa and Papua New Guinea, according to a report by the Sydney Morning Herald. They are also set to face an Anzac XV of All Black and Wallaby stars. Read more.
State of Origin star to consider code switch: Sydney Rabbitohs captain Cameron Murray says he will “think about” moving to rugby union ahead of the 2027 World Cup. The NSW regular grew up playing union and was recently namedropped by Wallabies coach Eddie Jones who told SEN that he would be be a “fantastic 12”.
Samu signs in France: Midi Olympique report that Bordeaux has signed Wallabies loose forward Pete Samu on a two-year deal. The 31-year-old enjoyed a stellar 2023 season in the Gold and Green of the Wallabies and is set to join the Top 14 side after the Rugby World Cup.
Len Ikitau, Tom Wright, Jed Holloway and Rob Leota
Brumbies duo re-sign: Wallabies and Brumbies pair Len Ikitau and Tom Wright will re-commit through to 2025, as per a report by The Roar. Ikitau is understood to have signed until 2025, keeping his options open for 2026 despite Rugby Australia wanting to sign him on a longer deal. The report adds that the Brumbies are keen for James Slipper and Nic White to be offered new deals through RA too.
Holloway turns down overseas offers: Wallabies forward Jed Holloway has turned down offers from abroad to sign on with Rugby Australia and the Waratahs until at least the end of the 2025 season. He made his Test debut for Australia in their victory over Argentina in their Rugby Championship opener in Mendoza last year, and he went on to make 10 appearances for the Wallabies, starting in each of those Tests.
Leota stays at Rebels: Club captain Rob Leota has re-committed to the Melbourne Rebels re-signing until the end of 2025. The 26-year-old is the latest Wallaby to sign with the side, joining fellow Wallabies’ props Matt Gibbon and Taniela Tupou. Leota has played 13 times for the Wallabies, making 45 appearances for the Rebels.
Fijian Drua re-signings, Chris Farrell and Tomas Lavanini
Drua confirm more re-signings: Flying Fijians scrum-halves Peni Matawalu and Simione Kuruvoli, Tokyo Olympics gold medal-winning centre Iosefo Masi, utility Tuidraki Samusamuvodre and fly-half Caleb Muntz have all penned new deals with Fijian Drua. 28 players have re-committed to the Drua beyond this current season.
Farrell signs for Pro D2 club: Former Munster centre Chris Farrell has signed a deal to join French Pro D2 side Oyonnax. Farrell was released from his contract at Munster after a six-month standdown period. He made 71 Munster appearances. The 29-year-old also has represented Ireland on 15 occasions. Munster had released Farrell after he is alleged non-prevention of crime in the Grenoble rugby club rape case.
Lavanini to leave Clermont: According to Midi Olympique, Tomas Lavanini could leave the Top 14 side at the end of the season with his CV doing the rounds in France. The second-rower has yet to be offered a contract extension at Clermont.
Dakuwaqa re-signs with Stade Francais: Fiji star Peniasi Dakuwaqa has signed a three-year extension with Stade Francais. The Fijian is still in his first season with the side but has impressed enough to earn a long-term extension.
Fraser Balmain and Corbin Thunder
Balmain remains at Gloucester: Tighthead prop Fraser Balmain has extended his stay with the Cherry and Whites ahead of next season. Balmain joined the side ahead of the 2017/18 season from Leicester Tigers and has gone on to make over 100 appearances for the club.
Falcons sign hooker Thunder: The Newcastle Falcons have signed hooker Corbin Thunder with immediate effect. The former Wasps player, 19, joins until the end of next season. Born and raised in South Africa, Thunder is English-qualified through both grandparents on his father’s side, who were born in the UK.
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