Seven rugby rumours and transfers: Agustin Pichot, Jimmy Gopperth, John Dobson and more

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Planet Rugby recaps seven rugby rumours and transfers ahead of the weekend, including Agustin Pichot, Jimmy Gopperth, John Dobson and much more. nicky smith Credit: Alamy
Planet Rugby recaps seven rugby rumours and transfers ahead of the weekend, including Agustin Pichot, Jimmy Gopperth, John Dobson and much more. nicky smith Credit: Alamy

It’s been another busy week with rugby rumours and transfers, and Planet Rugby brings you seven top stories ahead of the weekend. 

Southern Hemisphere bigwigs vie for World Rugby role

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World Rugby are in the process of finding a permanent replacement for former vice chairman Bernard Laporte.

Former Scottish Rugby chairman John Jeffrey will fill the role vacated by the disgraced Laporte, who was convicted of corruption in France.

The Sydney Morning Herald reports that once Jeffrey’s current term ends in November next year that he will run for the top job when current chairman Bill Beaumont steps down at the same time.

Rugby Australia chairman Hamish McLennan confirmed to SMH that he has thrown his name into the hat as the Southern Hemisphere looks to have direct representation at the top.

South African Rugby president Mark Alexander is rumoured to be interested in the role and could be the frontrunner after South Africa backed Scotland’s nomination of Jeffrey for vice chairman.

Former Argentina international Agustin Pichot has also emerged as a potential contender after stepping down from the role to rival Beaumont for the top job.

John Mitchell and John Plumtree

Two former All Blacks’ coaches landed new roles this week.

England confirmed that John Mitchell will become the Red Roses’ head coach following the 2023 Rugby World Cup. He replaces the hugely successful Simon Middleton after his eight-year stint as the side’s boss.

Meanwhile, the Sharks have announced that John Plumtree will be the URC outfit’s new head coach next season. Plumtree returns to the team he represented between 1988 and 1997. He later went on to coach the side, leading them to their first Currie Cup success since 1996, lifting the title in 2008. 

He will take over from director of rugby Neil Powell, who has filled the role on an interim basis following Sean Everitt’s departure.

John Dobson to stay with Stormers

Stormers head coach John Dobson has unfinished business in Cape Town and won’t be in the running for the Springboks job next year.

Dobson led the Stormers to the URC title last season and has regularly been mentioned as one of the frontrunners to replace Jacques Nienaber. 

However, he spoke to Cape Town radio station, SmileFM, to rule out a move for the role. 

“We have sold this vision, and we have only just started. I have said to the players that we are going to build a dynasty here and make Cape Town smile. I can’t just say to the chaps, ‘Sorry I have a better job’. It would just undo it,” Dobson explained before adding that he would be interested in the job further down the line.

“Once this project is much more advanced and complete and this team is really fizzing in Cape Town, only then, if I was lucky enough. But no, I want to stay here and finish what we started.”

Nicky Smith ends speculation

After months of speculation that he would sign with a Premiership club, Ospreys have confirmed that Nicky Smith has re-signed with the Welsh side.

The loosehead prop has been in stellar form this season, earning a recall to Wales Test set up for the Rugby World Cup training squad.

Smith joined the Ospreys as a teenager and has racked up 174 appearances for the side and represented Wales on 42 occasions.

“He has been one of our key leaders this season and is a crucial component of our pack. Whether it’s in the set-piece or open-play, he’s a difference maker,” head coach Toby Booth said.

“He’s an incredibly dedicated and hardworking player who always puts the team’s goals first. He’s the epitome of professionalism.”

Hurricanes rising star re-signs

Highly rated Hurricanes youngster Ruben Love has signed a contract extension with the Super Rugby side until 2025, the club has confirmed.

Son of former Māori All Black, Matene Love, Ruben showed early promise and sporting excellence playing New Zealand Under-18 Māori rugby and cricket sides in 2018. He also represented the Under-19 New Zealand cricket team and the New Zealand Schools’ Rugby team in 2019. 

He favoured a career in rugby despite offers to go professional in cricket and, after a standout NPC season in 2020, he made his Super Rugby debut in 2021.

In 2022, he earned a spot in the Māori All Blacks and the All Blacks XVs. Injuries have curtailed his 2023 season but he will return for the Canes for two more seasons. 

Leicester Tigers leavers

Leicester Tigers announced that seven senior players and three academy players would be departing the club at the end of the season.

Included on the list is soon-to-be 40-year-old playmaker Jimmy Gopperth. The Premiership veteran has not announced his retirement and will need to find a new side to continue his playing career.

Chris Ashton has announced his retirement, while the club confirmed that Calum Green, Sean Jansen (Connacht), Kini Murimurivalu, Hosea Saumaki and Eli Snyman (Benetton) will also leave Welford Road. 

Mid-season arrivals Tom West and Sam Wolstenholme are off to Saracens and Bristol, respectively, while Freddie Burns, Bryce Hegarty, Nephi Leatigaga, Nemani Nadolo and Lachlan Shelley all left during the current season. Richard Wigglesworth retired to become Interim head coach, with Tom Cowan-Dickie, Tom Horton, Gabriel Oghre and Joe Taufete’e departing during the current campaign.

Dan McKellar will take over as head coach next season, with the club already confirming five new additions to the senior squad in Josh Bassett, Ollie Hassell-Collins, Kyle Hatherell, Jamie Shillcock and Finn Theobald-Thomas, as well as 23 contracts renewals.

12 players to leave Sale Sharks

Sale Sharks have also announced their departing players at the end of the season.

Former captain Jono Ross will hang up his boots, as will Will Cliff and Byron McGuigan, while Ewan Ashman departs for Edinburgh.

Academy graduates Ben Carlile, Elliot Gourlay, Kieran Wilkinson and Matt Postlethwaite will all leave the club. Meanwhile, centre Sam Hill departs after two seasons at the side after joining from Exeter Chiefs.

Jason Woodward, Ryan Mills and Dom Barrow all signed short-term contracts at Sale but will now depart.

READ MORE: Rugby rumours and transfers: Willie le Roux, Sam Whitelock, John Mitchell and much more

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