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June 4, 2013

Danny Barnes becomes Newcastle's seventh signing

Posted by Martin Williamson on 06/04/2013

Newly promoted Newcastle have signed 23-year-old Munster centre Danny Barnes on a two-year contract.

"I am really excited at the prospect of joining Newcastle Falcons, a club that has serious ambitions of going all the way to the top," Barnes said.

He is Newcastle's seventh new signing after Mike Blair, Rory Clegg, Phil Godman, Scott Lawson, Fraser McKenzie and Andy Saull.

May 31, 2013

Mulipola the latest to re-sign with Tigers

Posted by Graham Jenkins on 05/31/2013

Samoa international Logovi'i Mulipola has become the latest player to re-sign with Premiership champions Leicester.

The 26-year-old prop joined the Tigers after the 2011 World Cup, and has helped the club reach two Aviva Premiership finals, including last Saturday's victory over Northampton.

Director of rugby Richard Cockerill said: "Logovi'i made a big impact when he first came here and he has continued to work on his game and improve in a very strong group of props. Having the likes of Marcos Ayerza, Dan Cole, Martin Castrogiovanni and Boris Stankovich around him has helped him enormously and now he is firmly established in our senior squad. With Jerome Schuster coming into the group for the new season too, there is a good pool of players working together and getting better."

London Welsh ease fears over future

Posted by Graham Jenkins on 05/31/2013

London Welsh chairman Bleddyn Phillips has reassured fans that will have the financial resources to compete in next season's Championship, and revealed the Exiles could continue playing home games in the Oxford area.

Welsh have lost the support of majority shareholder Kelvin Byron, as well as the services of several first-team players, including captain Jonathan Mills, following their relegation from Premiership but Phillips remains upbeat about the future.

In a statement Phillips said: "I am pleased to say that we have in place the financial resources to ensure we can indeed compete effectively among the top Championship clubs next season...There are several people who have already committed substantial funds for next season and we are confident that several more will likewise lend their support in the weeks ahead."

Phillips also revealed the club would prefer to continue to play in Oxford, having played at the Kassam Stadium last season, as opposed to their traditional Old Deer Park ground, but they are under no obligation to remain at their current home.

May 30, 2013

Hogg confirmed as Warriors coach

Posted by Graham Jenkins on 05/30/2013

Worcester Warriors have announced the appointment of Gloucester forwards coach Carl Hogg as their new head coach.

The 43-year-old former Melrose, Edinburgh and Scotland back-row is the latest addition to a new-look coaching team at Warriors following the appointment Dean Ryan as the club's new director of rugby and the addition of former New Zealand and Wales international Shane Howarth as backs coach.

Hogg began his coaching career with Stuart Lancaster at Leeds before moving to London Welsh and then Edinburgh. Hogg joined Gloucester in 2006 initially as Academy Manager before taking responsibility for forwards coaching.

"We spent several seasons working closely together at Kingsholm and Carl has played an important and influential role in all that Gloucester Rugby has achieved in recent years," said Ryan. "He brings a level of expertise and detail which will enhance Worcester Warriors and all that we do going forward.

"The combination of Shane Howarth and Carl Hogg is an exciting one and they will complement each other extremely well. I know Carl is excited by this opportunity in his career and we are looking forward to the 2013/14 season and the challenges ahead."

May 29, 2013

Leicester Tigers confirm another five summer signings

Posted by Martin Williamson on 05/29/2013

Leicester have confirmed five new additions to the first-team squad for next season with the signings of Neil Briggs, Gonzalo Comacho, Jamie Gibson, Ryan Lamb and Owen Williams.

"It’s important that we have good strength and depth in our squad to keep us competitive through a long season and we feel the new signings can all make a big contribution here,” said the Tigers director of rugby Richard Cockerill. "Four of those players have extensive Premiership experience, which is important, while Williams is a young man with a lot of ability and potential which we believe can be developed within the Tigers squad."

Leicester have already confirmed the arrival of prop Jerome Schuster and scrum-half David Melé from Perpignan.

May 27, 2013

Tigers confirm Murphy coaching role

Posted by Graham Jenkins on 05/27/2013

Leicester Tigers have confirmed that Geordan Murphy will remain at Aviva Premiership champions next season as part of the coaching team.

Murphy, who retired after a 16-year career at Welford Road at the end of this season, will assist Paul Burke, who will take over as backs coach following Matt O'Connor's move to become head coach at Leinster.

Leicester director of rugby Richard Cockerill said: "By bringing Paul and Geordan together in the coaching team we have a degree of continuity which I feel is very important in our environment and we look forward to seeing their continued development in their new roles."

May 24, 2013

Aviva extends sponsorship of Premiership

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 05/24/2013

Aviva has penned a new three-year deal to continue its sponsorship of England's Premiership.

The deal starts from the outset of the 2014-15 season and will continue until the end of the 2016-17 campaign. Premiership Rugby CEO Mark McCafferty said: "Aviva has been a hugely supportive partner since joining the Premiership Rugby family for the start of the 2010-11 season. It's crucial for any professional sport to forge a strong bond with their title sponsor, and we have certainly done this with Aviva.

"The announcement comes in the week of the Aviva Premiership Final between Leicester Tigers and Northampton Saints in front of 82,000 fans at Twickenham Stadium and at the end of another hugely competitive and exciting season."

May 23, 2013

Bristol sign Wasps' Jack Wallace

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 05/23/2013

Bristol Rugby have announced their tenth new recruit ahead of next season, Wasps back Jack Wallace.

With Errie Claassens out until 2014, Wallace will cover both the wing and fullback and director of rugby Andy Robinson is delighted with his new signing. “The fact that he’s played so many times at the highest level at such a young age is a testament to his ability and attitude," Robinson said. “He’ll continue to blossom as a player at Bristol and I’m confident he will add a different dimension to our backline.”

Wallace added: “ I'm pleased to be joining Bristol Rugby at such an exciting time for the Club. It was an easy decision to make – Andy [Robinson] is building a culture that has all the ingredients to be successful. I've still got a lot to prove and plenty that I want to accomplish in my career. I'm hugely ambitious and I believe the coaching staff here match that ambition."

Worcester Warriors bolster hooker ranks

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 05/23/2013

Worcester Warriors have announced the capture of hooker Chris Brooker from Harlequins.

Brooker suffered a serious leg injury back in March 2012 and has not played since, but the Warriors have moved quickly to snap up their man on a two-year deal. Worcester boss Dean Ryan admitted he was delighted to sign the talented front row forward and thanked Harlequins and his counterpart Conor O'Shea for allowing Brooker to make the switch.

"He will add greatly to the squad we are assembling ahead of the new Aviva Premiership campaign," Ryan said. "Chris comes to Warriors eager to re-launch his career, now he is fully recovered after being sidelined with a knee injury, and his appetite and desire will be evident to all. He is determined to be a success at Sixways and wants to perform not only for Worcester but also return to the form that brought him to the attention of England and push his internationals aspirations."

Brooker added: "I'm excited about becoming a Warrior. It's a new coach, new start and a new club for me. I want to come back and really impress, get back to where I was before I got injured and I truly feel this is the club to do that under the guidance of Dean Ryan."

Newcastle wary of Bedford challenge

Posted by Graham Jenkins on 05/23/2013

Newcastle Falcons boss Dean Richards is taking nothing for granted ahead of his side’s Championship final first leg clash with Bedford Blues on Thursday night.

The Falcons are favourites to earn promotion back to the Premiership having beaten the Blues three times this season already but Richards is wary of their rivals. "They are a very good side. They have quality throughout and they like to play with a lot of width, so it will be a good test for the boys," he said.

"The beauty about the game being over two legs is that whatever happens down there, the second leg is as equally important. We will play as well as we can and hopefully come away with the points and carry it on up here (at Newcastle), but if not then we have the chance to turn it around up here."

Bedford forwards coach Martin Hynes commented: "We have already had three extremely close encounters, and I don't think that there will be much in it again over these two legs. Newcastle have been on top of the league for the majority of the season, and they are the benchmark that every other team has been striving to replicate. A few teams, including us, have come close, and a couple have succeeded, but these two games will be very different because of what is on offer."

May 22, 2013

Bath's Dan Hipkiss forced to retire

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 05/22/2013

Former England centre Dan Hipkiss has retired from the sport with immediate effect after failing to recover from a shoulder injury.

Bath centre Hipkiss, who won 13 caps for England, injured his shoulder in January and despite making strides in his recovery, he has been left with no option but to retire. At his previous club Leicester, Hipkiss was an integral part of their dominance during the noughties and he will leave the the game with plenty of memories.

"This is obviously a really sad time for me, but the decision has really been taken out of my hands which has made it a little bit easier," Hipkiss said. "It's not the way anyone wants to leave the game, but when the doctor tells you it's time you have to listen to them.

"Looking back, I've had a great career, and would like to thank Sam Vesty and Lewis Moody, who I've played with for pretty much the whole time I've been in rugby. I'd also like to thank Paddy Howard and Darryl Gibson, who have given me a huge amount of support."

May 21, 2013

Stade Francais snap up Taulafo from Wasps

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 05/21/2013

Stade Francais have announced the capture of London Wasps prop Zac Taulafo ahead of next season.

Taulafo has signed a three-year deal with the Parisians bringing an end to his time with Wasps. The Samoan international joined the Aviva Premiership club in 2009 and turned out in the 2011 World Cup.

But he has opted for a switch to the Top 14 and in his absence, Wasps have drafted in Ricky Reeves from Bedford and England’s Matt Mullan.

May 20, 2013

Aviva Premiership final sold out

Posted by Graham Jenkins on 05/20/2013

This Saturday's Aviva Premiership title-decider between Leicester Tigers and Northampton has sold out faster than any previous final.

"The appeal of Aviva Premiership Rugby is at an all-time high and selling out the final so quickly this year is great news for professional club rugby in England," said Premiership Rugby's commercial director Dominic Hayes following confirmation that all 82,000 tickets had been sold.

This is the sixth consecutive year that the Premiership final has sold out with the game set to be broadcast exclusively live on ESPN.

Wasps sign Bedford scrum-half Reeves

Posted by Graham Jenkins on 05/20/2013

London Wasps have announced the signing of Bedford Blues scrum-half Ricky Reeves who will join the Premiership side next season.

The experienced prop will make the switch on the back of an impressive season in the Championship during which he has helped the Blues reach the final of the second-tier competition where they will face Newcastle Falcons.

Lance Corporal Ricky Reeves, who is part of the 33 Engineer Regiment bomb disposal unit and has served with the British Army in Afghanistan, will be given a sabbatical period by the Army having previously played for Cambridge and the Army. He also played for Saracens in this season's LV= Anglo-Welsh Cup.

London Wasps director of rugby Dai Young said: "Ricky is an experienced player who has been a key part of Bedford’s excellent season this year and is very keen to be given a chance in the Premiership. He will be a very useful addition to our squad and we are looking forward to seeing what he can do at the top level."

May 17, 2013

Barnes handed whistle for Aviva Premiership final

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 05/17/2013

Wayne Barnes will take charge of the Aviva Premiership final between Leicester and Northampton at Twickenham on May 25.

It will be Barnes' fifth Premiership final appointment in six seasons, and he also officiated when Leicester beat Northampton 36-8 at Franklin's Gardens during the regular league season seven weeks ago. Premiership Rugby announced that Barnes' assistants will be his fellow Rugby Football Union officials Greg Garner and JP Doyle.

Leicester bolster ranks with French prop

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 05/17/2013

Leicester have added to their front-row resources with the signing of Perpignan prop Jerome Schuster, according to the Leicester Mercury.

Schuster can play on either sides of the front-row and will cover the departure of Martin Castrogiovanni who is Toulon-bound. With two caps for France to his name, Schuster will bring a wealth of experience to Leicester's prop resources.

May 16, 2013

Rokoduguni signs new Bath deal

Posted by Graham Jenkins on 05/16/2013

Bath have announced that Fijian Semesa Rokoduguni has signed a new contract with the Premiership club.

The wing/centre, a tank soldier of the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards in the British Army, arrived at The Rec part-way through this season and made an immediate impact with six tries in 13 appearances

Bath head coach, Gary Gold, said: "Roko is an incredible raw talent, and we’ve really seen how dangerous he can be in the recent months. He’s developed a lot in his time here so far, has been a potent threat for us in attack and ruthless in defence. He has a lot more still to come, and we’re very much looking forward to working with him to bring that out."

Rokoduguni’s Commanding Officer, Lieutenant Colonel ‘Barty’ Bartholomew, added: “As Roko’s Commanding Officer, I am extremely proud of his achievements both on and off the rugby field over this last season at Bath Rugby. He remains a Lance Corporal in The Royal Scots Dragoon Guards and has been an excellent ambassador for the Regiment and Army. We all look forward to watching him score many more tries at the Rec, as well as top scoring against the Navy next year!"

Knoyle completes Gloucester switch

Posted by Graham Jenkins on 05/16/2013

Gloucester have confirmed the signing of Welsh international scrum-half Tavis Knoyle from the Scarlets on a two-year contract.

The 22-year-old, who has been capped nine times and also featured for Wales during this year's HSBC Sevens World Series, will link up once again with former Scarlets boss Nigel Davies at Kingsholm.

"I obviously worked with Tavis from his arrival with the Scarlets. He’s a very talented scrum half, and a real competitor," said Davies. "He’ll add something else to our squad. We’ve already got two fine scrum halves in Jimmy Cowan and Dan Robson, and Tavis will complement them nicely. At 22, he’s also still a very young player, despite his considerable experience. His best years lie in front of him and, hopefully, they’ll be with Gloucester."

May 15, 2013

Aaron Mauger rules out Leicester return

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 05/15/2013

Former All Blacks and Leicester centre Aaron Mauger has distanced himself from reports linking him with the soon-to-be vacant head coach role at the Leicester Tigers.

Current coach Matt O'Connor will leave the club at the end of the season to take up a role with Leinster and Mauger, who played for the Tigers between 2007 and 2010, was linked with the post. But Mauger is adamant he wants to stay with the Crusaders, where he is attack and defence coach, for the time being.

"I had some informal chats with Richard Cockerill but there are a number of reasons that meant I couldn't pursue it any further," Mauger told the Leicester Mercury. "I have a great role with the Crusaders. However, I would definitely consider the opportunity, if it were to come up again in the future. I am still a passionate supporter of Tigers and follow their progress week to week on the website."

May 13, 2013

Championship final details confirmed

Posted by Graham Jenkins on 05/13/2013

The dates and kick off times for the two-legged RFU Championship final have been confirmed.

Bedford Blues v Newcastle Falcons, Thursday, May 23, KO 7.45pm

Newcastle Falcons v Bedford Blues, Wednesday, May 29, KO 7.45pm

Bedford booked their place in the final with a 49-38 aggregate win over Nottingham while Newcaste progressed to the title decider by edging out Leeds 34-30. As the club with the best playing record in the regular season, Newcastle were able to decide which final leg they would play at home.

The Blues recently failed to meet the 'minimum standards criteria' for the Premiership and as a result Newcastle will be the only side playing for promotion to the top flight. If Bedford were to win the title, then London Welsh would not be relegated from the Premiership.

Gold gives birds both barrells

Posted by Graham Jenkins on 05/13/2013

Bath have had to resort to the drastic measure of using a recording of head coach Gary Gold’s voice to scare away birds that have taken residence at The Rec.

The Premiership club's efforts to relay their pitch ahead of next season have been troubled by what has been described as a "pesky flock" that have feasted on the grass seed with traditional scarecrows failing to deter them.

Fearing that the pitch would not be ready for his team, Gold then agreed to record a message of warning to be blasted over the PA system. "Worked a treat," said head groundsman Darren Ball, "so we’ll keep on using it as long as the birds stay hungry."

Sale Sharks sign Joe Ford

Posted by Graham Jenkins on 05/13/2013

Sale Sharks have completed the signing of Leeds Carnegie playmaker Joe Ford.

Oldham-born Ford is the son of former rugby league star and England coach Mike and the elder brother of George who will line up for Premiership rivals Bath next season. The 22-year-old spent part of this season on loan at Northampton and was an important figure in Leeds' march to the Championship play-offs this season with Newcastle ending their promotion hopes on Sunday.

"It's a great signing for us as Joe is a very exciting player," said Sale co-owner Ian Blackhurst. "He has been in outstanding form for Leeds this season and played very well in their Championship play-off game against Newcastle last weekend. At just 22 years of age it's obvious that Joe's best years are ahead of him and he will be another important addition to our playing squad."

May 12, 2013

Newcastle edge out Leeds for final spot

Posted by Graham Jenkins on 05/12/2013

Newcastle Falcons booked a Championship final showdown against Bedford Blues with a 15-6 victory over Leeds Carnegie in their semi-final second leg clash at Kingston Park on Sunday.

Leeds claimed a shock 24-19 victory over the Falcons in their first leg clash but could not hold onto their advantage with their rivals progressing 34-30 on aggregate.

Bedford recently failed to meet the 'minimum standards criteria' for the Premiership and as a result Newcastle will be the only side playing for promotion to the top flight when the two sides meet in the two-legged final that will be staged on May 23 and May 29. If Bedford were to win the Championship title, then London Welsh would not be relegated from the Premiership.

May 10, 2013

Bedford book Championship final place

Posted by Graham Jenkins on 05/10/2013

Bedford Blues' Mark Atkinson takes the attack to Nottingham © Getty Images

Bedford Blues booked a place in this season's Championship final with a 23-21 victory over Nottingham at Meadow Lane on Friday night.

The Blues' win gave them a 49-38 aggregate victory and set up a title showdown with either Newcastle Falcons or Leeds Carnegie who meet in the second leg of their semi-final on Sunday. Leeds claimed a 24-19 victory over Newcastle in their first leg clash last weekend.

Bedford recently failed to meet the 'minimum standards criteria' for the Premiership and as a result, if they were to claim the Championship title then London Welsh would avoid relegation from the top flight.

Tries from James Short and Luke Baldwin and 10 points from Myles Dorrian put Bedford in control of the contest and propelled them to a 29-point lead on aggregate. But Nottingham replied with three tries of their own in the second half courtesy of Alex Lewington, Dan Montagu and Rhys Crane to fuel hope of an unlikely comeback. But Dorrian's boot settled the Blues' nerves and the visitors held on for a famous win.


Saints train on artificial surface ahead of semi

Posted by Graham Jenkins on 05/10/2013

Northampton Saints have trained on an artificial pitch this week ahead of their Aviva Premiership semi-final showdown against Saracens at Allianz Park.

Sarries are the only Premiership side to have an artificial pitch and are yet to be beaten on the hi-tech playing surface having won all six games staged there since they moved in back in February. In a bid to ready themselves for the challenge, Saints have utilised the 3G pitch at Tresham College near Kettering.

"The lads enjoy playing on it. It makes for a fast surface," Saints boss Jim Mallinder told BBC Radio Northampton. "This is slightly narrower than the Saracens pitch, but in terms of the shock absorbency and the surface it's very similar."

"A couple of them have complained about their knees being a bit sore, probably because they're not used to it," he said. "It's fast. I guess there will be tries involved in the game. You can understand why breakdowns seem quick. The lads seem to be running quick and they've got that sense of it being a fast track. But the pitch is not something we're going to get too worried about."

Wasps bolster back-row with Jersey star

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 05/10/2013

London Wasps have added to their back-row resources with the signing of Jersey's Guy Thompson.

The back-rower was nominated for the RFU Championship Player of the Year award and arrived at Jersey from Gloucester's academy. “Guy has made a lot of people sit up and take notice with his performances in the Championship this season," Wasps' Dai Young said. "He is an explosive runner who will scare defences with his pace and power. His ability to play across the back row will be very valuable and we are all looking forward to seeing what he can do at this level.”

Thompson said of the move: "I am really excited about Wasps and working with some fantastic players and coaches. It’s a squad with some incredibly talented young players and it’s great to see that the coaches are not afraid to give guys without huge experience a chance to show what they can do. I can’t wait to get started.”

May 9, 2013

Ashley Johnson re-signs with Wasps

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 05/09/2013

Springbok No.8 Ashley Johnson has extended his contract with Wasps after an impressive debut season.

Johnson has excelled for Dai Young's team this term making 25 appearances and he is delighted to have re-signed with Wasps. He said: “My first season has been hugely enjoyable and I have learned so much over the past year from the players and coaches at Wasps. When Dai talked to me about signing an extension I didn’t need to think twice. I am part of a squad that is really building for the future and I am really happy to be part of what we are doing here.”

Young added: “Ashley has been one of the standout players in the side this year and we are delighted to have extended his contract with the Club. He has taken our style of rugby in his stride and has become a real leader in the squad. With a number of young guys around him Ashley has been a hugely positive influence, leading by example on and off the pitch and we are all looking forward to seeing what he can do over the next few seasons.”

Sale Sharks bring in a new defence coach

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 05/09/2013

Sale Sharks have drafted in Mike Forshaw from Connacht as their new defence coach.

Forshaw has been working with Connacht and Ireland for the last three years and will bring a wealth of rugby league experience to Sale having played 157 matches for the Bradford Bulls, along with spells at Wigan, Leeds Rhinos and Wakefield Trinity.

Sale’s Director of rugby Steve Diamond said, "We are delighted that Mike has agreed to join us and he will be working with Bryan Redpath, Peter Anglesea and myself. Mike has plenty of experience both as a player and as a coach. He is a winner and will help improve our defence which has been one of our main problems for the past six years."

Tindall signs new deal with Gloucester

Posted by Graham Jenkins on 05/09/2013

Gloucester player-coach Mike Tindall has signed a new contract with the Premiership club.

The 34-year-old World Cup winner has been at Kingsholm for the past eight seasons and has agreed a new deal having been impressed by the impact director of rugby Nigel Davies has made since arriving at the club last summer.

"Nigel has come in and created a positive atmosphere around the club," Tindall told BBC Points West. "He came in and gave the players more freedom to go out and express themselves. I think everyone has thrived on the back of that."

Vainikolo joins the Chiefs

Posted by Graham Jenkins on 05/09/2013

Exeter Chiefs have announced the signing of Tongan international Fetu'u Vainikolo on a two-year deal.

The 28-year-old winger makes the switch from RaboDirect PRO12 side Connacht having previously played for the Highlanders in Super Rugby structure and Kiwi provincial sides Northland and Otago.

“He’s a guy who’s scoring tries and having game-breaking moments without always seeing that much of the ball," said head coach Rob Baxter. "For us it’s about how much more we can potentially get him in the game, if he’s more involved in the game how many more of those moments will he have?"

He added: “He’s going to go back now and play for Tonga in the Pacific Nations Cup so he’ll join up with us a little bit later than the other guys and he’s going to have a good old fight on his hands to get into a team that’s currently playing very well and has some quality on-form players.”

May 8, 2013

Mills cleans up at London Welsh awards

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 05/08/2013

London Welsh skipper Jonathan Mills picked up three club awards at the side’s end-of-season awards.

Mills was voted Player of the Year (chosen by the coaching staff), Players’ Player of the Year and Supporters Club Player of the Year. “It’s brilliant but I couldn’t have done it with everyone else around me,” said Mills. “It’s all well me picking up these awards but I know how hard the boys have worked all season - I’m really proud to have been their captain.

“Ultimately we didn’t achieve the goal we wanted, to stay up, but we weren’t that far away considering everything that went against us. I’m sure we’ll come back stronger next year. These boys have worked so hard and I’m sure they’ll continue to do so for as long as they’re at this club. It’s been a pleasure to play with them.”

May 4, 2013

Exeter Chiefs legend to hang up boots

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 05/04/2013

Exeter Chiefs front-row Chris Budgen will call time on his professional rugby career at the end of the season.

One of the Aviva Premiership's favourite sons, Budgen has made over 100 appearances for the Chiefs and has also bagged in excess of 20 tries. But Budgen, who is in the British Army, will now focus on his family and his other day job.

"It was a tough decision, but I've kind of been thinking about since Christmas," said Budgen. "I said to my family that as soon as I started thinking like that, then it would be the right time to go. I could have gone to another club or played in the Championship, but I just want to be home and push on with my Army career which, as you can imagine, has taken a bit of a bashing over the years.

"Because of my age I should have a higher rank that I do, but rugby has given me so much, so now it's time to give more back to the Army and especially my family."

May 3, 2013

Saracens winger Joe Maddock announces retirement

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 05/03/2013

Former Bath and Crusaders winger Joe Maddock has announced he will retire at the end of the season.

The 34-year-old is currently running out for Saracens but he has decided to call time on his career and he will return to New Zealand at the end of the season. Maddock said: "I’ve been fortunate to play with some great players and more importantly some great people.

“I loved my time over here in England. The premiership has been a massive part of my career; I’ve spent eight seasons of my professional career here, so it’s played a huge role in my development and my improvement as a rugby player. I’ve loved it.”

Wasps quartet in line for young player award

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 05/03/2013

London Wasps have four players in the mix for the Rugby Players' Association Young Player of the Year award.

Back Elliot Daly, second-row Joe Launchbury, No.8 Billy Vunipola and winger Christian Wade are all in the mix while Exeter's Jack Nowell and Saracens' Mako Vunipola have also got the nod. The winner will be announced on May 22.

Wasps confirm end-of-season transfers

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 05/03/2013

London Wasps have announced which players are departing the club at the end of the season and those who are coming in.

Those leaving are: Tinus Du Plessis, Stephen Jones (retiring), Chris Mayor, T Rhys Thomas, Jonathan Poff, Nick Robinson, Zak Taulafo, Lewis Thiede, Alex Rae, Lorenzo Romano, Billy Vunipola, Stuart Commins.

And those arriving are: Matt Mullen (Worcester), Andy Goode (Worcester), Joe Carlisle (Worcester), Jake Cooper-Woolley (Cardiff), Nathan Hughes (Auckland), Rory Pitman (Rotherham), Josh Bassett (Bedford), Neil Cochrane (Bedford), Kearnan Myall (Sale Sharks), Jack Moates (London Irish), Ed Jackson (London Welsh).

Wasps coach Dai Young said: "I’d like to thank all of those players who are moving on the very best for the future and thank them for their contribution to London Wasps. It’s always tough to say goodbye to players who have put in hard work for the club over the years."

May 2, 2013

Saracens prop Carlos Nieto to retire

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 05/02/2013

Saracens prop Carlos Nieto has announced he will retire at the end of the season bringing to an end a career that saw him win 34 caps for Italy.

The 37-year-old has earned a reputation as one of the Aviva Premiership's most efficient and ruthless tight-heads but he has opted to hang up his boots after Saracens' final match of the campaign.

"I’m really excited for the rest of the season, and to be honest I don’t feel like I’m retiring yet, it hasn’t crossed my mind," Nieto said. "I’m only thinking about preparing for the next few games which will hopefully bring the club more success. I’m still getting nervous every week, and I’m still looking to achieve and improve on the training pitch and in the gym.

"I still look forward to every game as if I was when I began my professional career when I was 22 years old. It’s close to the end of my career and I’ve been extremely lucky that at the end of my time here in English rugby, that I have been able to play for the best team in England. I have been fortunate to win the Premiership in my time here, and we are in the great position at the moment to finish my career winning another title."

Sale Sharks quartet sign on for more

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 05/02/2013

Sale Sharks have received a boost ahead of next season with the news four of their players have penned new deals.

Wing Tom Brady, front-row forward Aston Croall, lock Tom Holmes and number eight Mark Easter have all agreed fresh terms with the Aviva Premiership club.

"All four are really good lads who have a great work ethic and they are people who care about the club," Sale rugby director Steve Diamond said. "We are really pleased that they have all re-committed to Sale, and they will be very important to us going forward into next season."

Exeter stalwart Richie Baxter to retire

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 05/02/2013

Exeter stalwart Richie Baxter has confirmed he will retire at the end of the season.

Baxter has played for the Chiefs since 1997 and Saturday’s game against Gloucester will be his 431st appearance for Exeter. But he has decided to call time on his career and will bring to an end his 16-year association with the club.

Baxter said: "It has been an incredible journey. When I first started playing I never thought I would stay with the club for this long, so for to me finish with Exeter being a Premiership club - and having been on that journey with them is just fantastic.

"However, it just feels the right time for me to move on to other things. Not many sportsmen get the chance for it to be their decision, either through loss of form, injuries or a club not wanting you, so it's just feels the right time."

May 1, 2013

Sale Sharks bring in three more players

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 05/01/2013

Sale Sharks have announced the capture of three more signings ahead of next season.

London Welsh wing Phil Mackenzie, Leicester centre Andy Forsyth and Rotherham hooker Dan Baines will move to the Aviva Premiership club this summer. They will follow fellow new arrivals Michael Paterson, Kirill Kulemin and Charlie Walker-Blair to Salford City Stadium.

"Andy is a very talented young player," Sale rugby director Steve Diamond said. "He has played for Leicester numerous times and is very highly rated, but hasn't had as many opportunities in the first team at Leicester as he would like and he wants to impress.

"As regards Phil, he has played really well for London Welsh all season long. He's a real hard working lad, and I think he will fit in really well here next season. In terms of Dan, I believe he has been the best hooker playing in the Championship this season. He has got big passion, is very ambitious and wants to play in the Premiership."

April 30, 2013

Slater named Player of the Month

Posted by Jeremy Inson on 04/30/2013

Leicester Tigers’ Ed Slater has been named the Aviva Premiership player of the month for March.

The second-row put in a number of impressive performances at the line-out and in the loose as Leicester pushed hard for a home semi-final draw.

“The team has been playing well as a group, which is massive for everyone,” Slater said. “Having a run of games in the side was massive for me. My confidence was good and the team has been playing well.”

Ford completes Bath switch

Posted by Jeremy Inson on 04/30/2013

Bath have boosted their half-back options by bringing in fly-half George Ford and scrum-halves Micky Young and Martin Roberts for next season.

Ford's arrival ends months of speculation that he was moving to The Recreation Ground.

Young has played for England at Saxons and sevens level, while Roberts has won three caps for Wales. The pair will help make up for the loss of Michael Claassens who is leaving Bath at the end of the season.

Bath head coach Gary Gold said, “Micky and Martin are both very strong, capable players with good core skills and the ability to do things the opposition don't expect. They are still young, and we are looking forward to having them join the squad here and seeing them develop further."

Saracens sign Richard Barrington

Posted by Jeremy Inson on 04/30/2013

Jersey prop Richard Barrington has agreed to join Saracens for the start of next season.

Earlier in the season the 23-year-old trained with the north London side ahead of their LV=Cup match against Worcester Warriors and he is the second prop to join Saracens for next season after Harlequins’ James Johnston agreed a deal earlier in the year.

Barrington said, “Saracens have a fantastic set-up and one thing that I took away after training with the club was the complete focus on people and how well the players and coaches go about their business. I’m very excited at the chance to develop as a player as part of a fantastic squad.”

April 29, 2013

Championship trio meet 'minimum standards'

Posted by Graham Jenkins on 04/29/2013

The Rugby Football Union has announced that Championship clubs Leeds Carnegie, Newcastle Falcons and Nottingham have all met the 'minimum standards criteria' (MSC) for promotion to the Premiership.

However, Bedford Blues, who complete the line-up for this season's Championship semi-finals, failed to meet the MSC and therefore will not be promoted should they win the title although they do have two weeks to appeal the decision.

Bedford Blues tackle Nottingham in the first leg of their semi-final on Saturday with Leeds set to take on Newcastle next Monday. The return fixtures will take place on Friday, May 10 and Sunday, May 12 respectively with the aggregate winners proceeding to the two-legged final that will be played May 23/29.

Mercer signs new Bath deal

Posted by Graham Jenkins on 04/29/2013

Bath flanker Guy Mercer has extended his contract with the Premiership club.

The 23-year-old flanker said: "The environment here is fantastic and is certainly one in which a player will develop. I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else."

Head coach Gary Gold added: "Guy is a very impressive young man. He is Bath born and bred, and he plays and trains as if this Club means everything to him. We believe he has what it takes to be a major part of this Club’s future and we are delighted to have extended his contract."

Woodman to leave London Wasps

Posted by Graham Jenkins on 04/29/2013

London Wasps have announced that forwards coach Trevor Woodman will leave the Premiership club at the end of the current season.

Woodman, who joined the club in 2009 having begun his coaching career in Australia following his retirement from playing, said: "I’ve had four really enjoyable years here and it’s now time for me to seek a new challenge elsewhere. Working with lots of talented young players and helping them come through and emerge as key Premiership names has been something I have been very proud of.

"I have also learned a lot from Dai Young this season from his experience as a Director of Rugby. When Dai joined two years ago we mutually agreed I would stay on for two more years, while he assisted all coaching areas, and then he would take full control of the forwards, so it’s now time for me to move on. I want to say thanks to all of the players, staff and supporters who I have worked with at Wasps over the years. I think the Club is in a great place after its previous struggles and is in good hands for the future."

Worcester confirm new chief executive

Posted by Graham Jenkins on 04/29/2013

Worcester Warriors have confirmed that former healthcare boss Charles Cameron has been appointed as the Premiership side's new chief executive.

Previously group finance and business development chief at Oasis Healthcare, Cameron will take over at Sixways at the end of the season. "We have a fantastic and loyal fan base and great facilities and I look forward to working tirelessly with everyone to realise the club's full potential," he said in a statement.

Cameron's appointment follows the departure of former CEO Charles Little last week while the club's coaching staff is also being overhauled following the arrival of new director of rugby Dean Ryan who is set to replace Richard Hill at the end of the current campaign.

April 27, 2013

Trio in running for Worcester backs role

Posted by Graham Jenkins on 04/27/2013

Worcester Warriors have reportedly shortlisted three high-profile candidates for the role of backs coach in director of rugby Dean Ryan's new management team.

The Worcester News reports that former England fly-half and Northampton Saints coach Paul Grayson, Queensland Reds attack coach Jim McKay and England Under-18s head coach John Fletcher are all in the running for the role at Sixways.


April 26, 2013

Henson 'has five more years' in top flight

Posted by Graham Jenkins on 04/26/2013

London Welsh boss Lyn Jones believes Bath-bound playmaker Gavin Henson has the capacity to play at the top level for another five years.

The 31-year-old is reportedly poised to complete a move to The Rec ahead of next season with the Exiles set to be relegated after finishing bottom of the Premiership table. And Jones is confident they will get a player with plenty to offer. "Gavin's got another five years of real good rugby ahead of him and it's nice to see him doing well," Jones told BBC Sport.

He added: "He's relaxed, he's enjoyed himself and he's made an impression. He's been out of the spotlight and been getting on with his rugby as best he can. And he's been a real good player for us and he's certainly made an impression when he's been on the field. And he's obviously turned heads and especially at Bath. And it's a really good club, Bath, and I'm sure he'll fit in well there."


April 25, 2013

Bath sign England Under-20s duo

Posted by Graham Jenkins on 04/25/2013

Bath have confirmed the signing of England Under-20s duo Anthony Watson and David Sisi.

Back-rower Sisi, 20, and fullback Watson, 19, both played in the dramatic victory over Wales U20 last month that saw the English side successfully defend their Six Nations crown and make the switch from London Irish.

Speaking of the signings, head coach Gary Gold said: “Anthony and David are outstanding players with real potential for the long-term. We feel that by bringing them into this environment we will really see them develop and bring out the best in them. Young, English talent is a big part of our thinking, and we see these young men as investments for the future. We are delighted to have secured them both.”

April 24, 2013

Edinburgh announce Aleki Lutui capture

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 04/24/2013

Edinburgh have confirmed the capture of Worcester Warriors hooker Aleki Lutui on a two-year deal.

Lutui has 40 caps for Tonga and has also spent time with the Chiefs in New Zealand. And interim Edinburgh coach Stevie Scott is delighted with the capture. “Aleki is a great signing for Edinburgh Rugby and I’m sure he’ll prove to be as popular with our fans as he’s been with clubs throughout his career," Scott said. “He’s a top international player with a wealth of experience, and has been one the top performers in the Premiership."

While Edinburgh have bolstered their ranks, they have also confirmed four of their players will leave at the end of the season - centre James King, hooker Andy Titterrell, and wingers Sep Visser and Mike Penn.

April 23, 2013

Bath youngsters pen new contracts

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 04/23/2013

Ollie Devoto and Tom Dunn have both signed new academy deals with Bath Rugby.

Devoto has started Bath's last three matches at fullback while hooker Dunn has also run out for the first team this season. Danny Grewcock, academy director, said of the signings: "It's great news that both Ollie and Tom have agreed new deals. They are both working very hard to become first team regulars for Bath, and their respective attitudes are exceptional. They aspire to be regular members of the senior squad here, and they both have the potential to achieve that."

Bath Rugby CEO Nick Blofeld added: "We are investing in the future and we do want young, local players to be a core part of that. As and when we need to fill any gaps in the squad we will, but to have such talent as Ollie and Tom coming through our Academy is great for the Club.

April 22, 2013

Wasps hooker T Rhys Thomas to join Dragons

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 04/22/2013

London Wasps have announced hooker T Rhys Thomas is leaving the club at the end of the season due to family reasons - he will join RaboDirect PRO12 side the Dragons.

Thomas joined Wasps at the end of last season but has struggled living away from his family in Cardiff - with that in mind, Wasps have agreed to release him prior to the end of his contract. Thomas said: "Travelling back and forth has been really tough and I am incredibly grateful to Dai and Wasps for understanding the situation I'm in. I want to say thanks to everyone who has helped and supported me this season. I am leaving a club that I think is well on the way to becoming a massive force again in English rugby and I am just sorry I can’t be part of it."

Wasps boss Dai Young added: "It’s a difficult situation and one we would rather not find ourselves in given the timing, but we do understand that family comes first. TR has had a very good season with us and I’d like to thank him for his contribution over the past year."

Newcastle bring in three more signings

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 04/22/2013

Newcastle Falcons have continued to build for next season with the signings of Scott Lawson, Fraser McKenzie and Phil Godman.

The Falcons are hot favourites to bounce back to the Aviva Premiership from the RFU Championship after they were relegated last season and they have stepped up their recruitment drive with the signings of hooker Lawson from London Irish, fly-half Godman from London Scottish and second-row McKenzie from the Sale Sharks.

Falcons boss Dean Richards said: “We have recruited three top quality players as we continue to build a strong squad for next season. Scott [Lawson] and Phil [Godman] will bring considerable experience to the club to complement our current crop of youngsters, and Fraser [McKenzie] is a fantastic signing, who will add firepower to the pack.”

April 21, 2013

Championship confident over new deal

Posted by Jeremy Inson on 04/21/2013

The Championship clubs are confident that they will be able to agree a new deal with the Premiership over payments to promoted teams when the RFU-Premier Rugby agreement is renegotiated in 2015.

Currently clubs that go up receive 40 per cent of the amount that goes to established Premiership sides, but they claim it limits the improvements they can make and in effect punishes them before the season starts.

“The RFU want to change it, PRL know they have to change and the momentum will grow as we move towards this new agreement,” Bedford Blues and Championship chairman Geoff Irvine told The Rugby Paper.

April 19, 2013

Bath announce further departures

Posted by Graham Jenkins on 04/19/2013

Bath have confirmed the identities of seven players who will leave the Aviva Premiership club at the end of this season.

It was already known that fly-half Stephen Donald and scrum-half Michael Claassens would be leaving The Rec and joining them will be Scotland international forward Simon Taylor and his back-row colleague Ben Skirving, plus backs Sam Vesty, Jack Cuthbert and Mark McMillan.

"We would like to thank all these players for their commitment and hard work in their time at Bath Rugby, and wish them all the very best in the next stages of their careers," Bath head coach Gary Gold said.

Jamie Gibson to leave London Irish

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 04/19/2013

England Saxons flanker Jamie Gibson will leave London Irish at the end of the season.

Gibson, who has made 69 appearances for the Exiles, is expected to join Leicester Tigers at the end of the season. He said of the decision: "I have really enjoyed my time at London Irish. I have played with some really great players and I will leave with some fantastic memories.

"The supporters have always been great to play in front of and I would like to thank them for all their support during my time with the club. I am moving on to a new challenge and I am looking forward to the next chapter in my rugby career."

Northampton Saints bring in Otago duo

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 04/19/2013

Northampton have bolstered their resources ahead of next season with the signing of Glenn Dickson and Rob Verbakel from Otago.

Dickson is a versatile goal-kicking back who can play at both fly-half and in the centres while Verbakel, who had previously turned ouf for Glasgow, is a second-row. Saints boss Jim Mallinder commented on the signings saying: "We are always looking to improve and add more depth to our squad, and we believe that Glenn and Rob can excel in our Aviva Premiership, European and Anglo-Welsh campaigns.

"Both players have experience playing in a successful team in a tough competition and we have been impressed by what we have seen. They will be able to add an extra dimension to how we play. We're very happy that they have chosen to come to the Saints and are looking forward to them joining us in the summer."

Centre hit with six-month ban for drugs

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 04/19/2013

Henley centre James Comben has been suspended for six months after testing positive for a prohibited substance.

Comben failed a drugs test after playing in London Wasps’ A-League match against the Exeter Braves on November 26, 2012. The centre, who tested positive for Methylhexanamine (MHA), a prohibited stimulant, will be free to play again on June 21 due to his ban having started on December 21, 2012.

Judge Jeff Blackett, who was part of the RFU disciplinary tribunal, said: "There has been an enormous amount of publicity about doping in recent years and a player who plays in the RFU National Leagues or in the A team of a professional Premiership side must know that he is responsible for all substances ingested."

London Irish sign Leicester Tigers trio

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 04/19/2013

London Irish have bolstered their resources ahead of next season with the signing of three players from Leicester Tigers.

Hooker Jimmy Stevens, prop Jonny Harris and winger Alex Lewington have all been dual registered with RFU Championship side Nottingham this term and will link up with the Exiles at the end of the campaign.

London Irish director of rugby Brian Smith said: "Glenn Delaney has worked closely with all three of these players and I've been impressed with what they've already achieved at Leicester and Nottingham. I'm sure we can develop them further and expect all three will be pushing for a place in our matchday squad. If they put their heads down, I have no doubt they can go on to higher honours."

Sireli Naqelevuki re-signs with Exeter

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 04/19/2013

Fiji international Sireli Naqelevuki has put pen to paper on a new two-year deal with the Exeter Chiefs.

Centre Naqelevuki, 32, joined Exeter from South African Super Rugby side the Stormers in 2010 and has made nearly 50 first-team appearances. "He has been an exceptional player for us during our time in the Premiership, creating some fantastic moments and scoring tries that a majority of our supporters will never forget," Exeter head coach Rob Baxter said. "Seeing the big guy running in with a big grin on his face and dotting down tries is great, but aside from that he has also been a great member of the squad.

"He's had a few little niggles with his knees this year - and we've kind of kept him ticking along - but now the time has come for him to go in for a bit of a refurb this summer and we are hoping to see him absolutely flying at the start of next season."

April 18, 2013

Saracens snap up Streather

Posted by Graham Jenkins on 04/18/2013

Saracens have announced the capture of centre Tim Streather from Championship side Nottingham.

Sarries director of rugby Mark McCall said: "We have been watching Tim for some time and he has proved himself one of the most impressive centres in the Championship. We're delighted he's chosen to advance his career at Saracens."

Streather, 24, added: "Saracens are a fantastic club who consistently challenge for top honours and I am extremely excited about adding something to a group of players who are of the highest calibre."

Max Lahiff completes Rebels switch

Posted by Graham Jenkins on 04/18/2013

London Irish have confirmed that Max Lahiff will leave the Premiership side at the end of the season to join the Super Rugby side the Melbourne Rebels on a two-year deal.

"I have thoroughly enjoyed playing for London Irish. The club signed me from school and have played an imperative part in my development as a player," said 23-year-old prop, who qualifies to play for Australia through his father. "Moving to the Rebels is an exciting opportunity for me and I am looking forward to playing in the Super Rugby competition."

London Irish director of rugby Brian Smith said: "Max is a terrific player and a young man with great values, he'll do well at the Rebels and may go on to play for the Wallabies. He's played hard for us all season and he'll always be welcome back at the club as a player.”

In related news, Irish have signed front five forwards Matt Parr and Nic Rouse on two-year deals from Championship club Nottingham.

Sharks insist Cipriani is staying put

Posted by Graham Jenkins on 04/18/2013

Sale Sharks boss Steve Diamond has quashed speculation that fly-half Danny Cipriani will leave the club at the end of the season.

Nick McLeod has usurped Cipriani in the Sharks' pecking order and been a key figure in their successful battle to avoid relegation from the Aviva Premiership but Diamond insists the former England international is going nowhere. "Danny is contracted for next season," the Sharks' director of rugby told the Daily Mail. "There’s no release option, for either party, the option was after six months. We’re always working with him, trying to get the best out of him and he will start the game at Northampton this weekend."


Falcons swoop for Saull

Posted by Graham Jenkins on 04/18/2013

Promotion-chasing Championship side Newcastle have announced the signing of Saracens flanker Andy Saull.

Saull, 24, an England Saxons international, joins former team-mates Adam Powell and Noah Cato on Tyneside and is the Falcons’ third acquisition for the 2013-14 season after experienced international scrum-half Mike Blair and Harlequins fly-half Rory Clegg signed on the dotted line.

"I am really looking forward to the challenge of playing for Newcastle Falcons, and I have heard nothing but good things about the place from Adam [Powell] and Noah [Cato],” said Saull. "They told me how professional the set-up is up there under Dean Richards, and there are certainly big plans in place at the club to go all the way to the top."

Newcastle director of rugby Dean Richards said: “Andy is a fantastic signing, who has the potential to achieve big things in the game. He has benefited from an excellent rugby education with Saracens, coming through their academy and going on to play alongside a string of world-class players. I am thrilled that we have secured Andy’s services."

April 17, 2013

Vunipola named Discovery of the Month

Posted by Graham Jenkins on 04/17/2013

Saracens prop Mako Vunipola has been named the Land Rover Discovery of the Month for March as the best Under-23 player in the Aviva Premiership.

The 22-year-old loose-head was a key figure as Saracens moved to the top of the Premiership with victories over title rivals Harlequins and London Wasps and follows in the footsteps of previous winners - Wasps' Christian Wade and Quins' Luke Wallace.

Saracens director of rugby Mark McCall said: "I thought he was outstanding against Harlequins. His first-half performance was right up there with anything I've seen from a loose-head. The way he carried the ball, the breaks that he made, but equally he did very well in the tight. He was up against a very good scrummager in James Johnson and acquitted himself well against him."

Matavesi handed four-week ban

Posted by Graham Jenkins on 04/17/2013

Worcester centre Josh Matavesi has been suspended for four weeks for a dangerous tackle on Saracens' Neil de Kock during their Aviva Premiership clash last weekend.

Matavesi, who escaped punishment during the game itself, pleaded guilty to what Saracens director of rugby Mark McCall called "a horrendous challenge" and will now miss the Warriors' final two games of the Premiership season and also Fiji’s matches against Japan and Canada in the Pacific Nations Cup.

Tagicakibau to rejoin Saracens

Posted by Graham Jenkins on 04/17/2013

Saracens have announced that Michael Tagicakibau will rejoin the club next season.

The Fijian international wing made 43 appearances during his first spell with the north London club before joining Championship side Bristol last year. He said: "I’ve really enjoyed the year in Bristol, but I am excited to be returning to Saracens. The squad is going well and Allianz Park looks a special place to play rugby. I’m looking forward to helping the club move forward."

Director of rugby Mark McCall said: "We know Michael very well, and Michael knows us very well, and we’re all convinced he has a great deal to offer."

Clegg to return to Newcastle

Posted by Graham Jenkins on 04/17/2013

Newcastle Falcons have announced the capture of Harlequins fly-half Rory Clegg on a two-year deal.

The 23-year-old England Saxons international, a Newcastle academy product, returns to the north east having made the switch to Quins where he has since made more than 50 appearances including last month's LV= Anglo-Welsh Cup triumph over Sale last month.

"The Falcons are a massively different prospect from when I was last there, with top-class coaches and a new hierarchy at the top now in place," said German-born Clegg, who was dual-registered with Leeds Carnegie this season. "Dean Richards has shown a lot of belief in me and I am grateful for that."

Newcastle director of rugby Dean Richards, who signed Clegg when in charge of Quins, said: "Rory is a talented No.10 who will no doubt bring a lot of quality to our backline. As a local lad he understands the passion for rugby throughout the region, and it is important that we have our home-grown players pulling on the Falcons jersey."

April 16, 2013

Lewis-Roberts 'not guilty' of drug taking

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 04/16/2013

Sale Sharks prop Eifion Lewis-Roberts has been cleared of taking a prohibited substance.

Reports in January claimed the prop, who was turning out for Toulon, had tested positive for morphine and pseudoephedrine following last season's Top 14 final against Toulouse. Had Lewis-Roberts been found guilty then he could have faced a ban of up to two years.

But Sale have confirmed on Tuesday that the prop had been found “not guilty”. The Rugby Players’ Association rugby director David Barnes commented: "This was the correct decision and we are relieved that an innocent player has not had his reputation unnecessarily damaged. For Eifion to have had this hanging over him since the test took place in June 2012 is unacceptable in professional sport.

"In this case, as the panel have agreed, there was no intention on the player's part to enhance his sporting performance and he has fully co-operated with the investigation to prove his innocence."

Matavesi cited for De Kock challenge

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 04/16/2013

Worcester centre Josh Matavesi will appear at a disciplinary hearing on Wednesday after being cited following a challenge on Neil de Kock during Sunday's defeat at Saracens in the Aviva Premiership.

Matavesi has been charged with an alleged dangerous tackle which so incensed Saracens director of rugby Mark McCall he remonstrated with Worcester counterpart Richard Hill. The challenge, described my McCall as "horrendous", left De Kock prostrate on the floor in the first half of Saracens' 47-17 victory at Allianz Park.

April 15, 2013

London Irish complete Myles Dorrian signing

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 04/15/2013

London Irish have announced the signing of Exeter Chiefs' Myles Dorrian on a two-year deal.

The utility back can cover fly-half, centre or fullback and is currently on loan at the Bedford Blues. Exiles coach Brian Smith is currently rebuilding his side ahead of next season and he is delighted with his capture. He said: "I’ve followed Myles’ career since he was at the Brumbies with Pat Phibbs. He’s a seasoned professional with a great attitude and work ethic. Myles understands the game and has the ability to make things happen and he’ll provide even more experience as a play caller."

Dorrian added: "I’m looking forward to linking up with London Irish next season. I have enjoyed playing at Exeter and coming back to Bedford towards the back end of this season; but it is time for a new test and London Irish is a great place to take on this new challenge."

April 14, 2013

2011 World Cup hit Premiership finances

Posted by Jonny McLeod on 04/14/2013

The impact of the 2011 Rugby World Cup was a major factor in the 12 Premiership clubs suffering a combined operating loss of £17.7m last season.

Exeter, Gloucester and Northampton were the only clubs to post profits and over the past five seasons the Premiership clubs have now lost £82.4m. But Premeir Rugby chief executive Mark McCafferty expects an upturn in coming seasons.

“There’s no doubt the World Cup had a significant impact on our business; and the other thing was the lack of a fourth international, which brings in about £3m clear profit that drops all the way to the bottom line. We’re expecting the pre-tax losses in 2012/13 to drop by £5m-£6m,” he told the Rugby Paper.

April 12, 2013

Exeter criticised for Thatcher one-minute silence

Posted by Martin Williamson on 04/12/2013

Exeter Chiefs' decision to hold a one-minute silence in memory of Baroness Thatcher has been criticised by Ben Bradshaw, the city's Labour MP. The club will hold the silence before the Aviva Premiership game against London Irish on Saturday.

Bradshaw said Lady Thatcher had been a "highly divisive figure" and it was the "wrong decision" but the club's chairman Tony Rowe responded: "This is not about politics. It's about respect."

April 11, 2013

Sale close in on new recruits

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 04/11/2013

Sale Sharks supremo Steve Diamond has revealed that the club are close to announcing more signings ahead of next year.

The Sharks have only confirmed the capture of Tom Arscott while the likes of Richie Vernon and Andy Powell are leaving the club. But Diamond hopes to finalise more signings in the coming days as he looks to build for next season's Aviva Premiership.

"We've got three or four imminent signings and we're in the marketplace for two or three internationals who are close to coming to us," Diamond told the BBC. "That's not dependent on whether we stay up or not and never has been. They see Sale as a big club."

Mike Mayhew signs for London Irish

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 04/11/2013

London Irish have announced that hooker Mike Mayhew has signed for the club on a three-year deal.

The hooker joined the Exiles earlier this season as injury cover from the Newcastle Falcons and has made four appearances for the Aviva Premiership side. The New Zealand-born front-row has had spells with North Harbour and Irish coach Brian Smith is looking forward to working with Mayhew over the coming seasons.

Smith said: “Mike made a big impression when he played for us earlier in the season so I’m delighted he’s bought into our vision for the future at our club. He’s a big fella and dynamic ball carrier so he’ll fit into our game very well. Mike is also English qualified and I believe he has the potential to kick on and play Test rugby.”

Qera denies rumours of Gloucester exit

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 04/11/2013

Gloucester flanker Akapusi Qera has rubbished suggestions that he is set to leave the Aviva Premiership club at the end of the season.

Qera has been one of Gloucester's key players this term and was rumoured to be considering a switch to France at the end of the campaign despite having a year left on his current contract. But Qera has denied these suggestions and is adamant that he wants to stay at the Cherry and Whites for a while longer.

"I'm really surprised about that, because I don't know anything about that at all," Qera told the Citizen. "I'm sticking with my word from the start, that I will stay with Gloucester, and then see how it goes. I'm settled and enjoying myself, and I just need to be focusing on my rugby rather than focusing on rumours flying around. Right now I'm putting my foot down on Gloucester and that's it, I've got nothing else apart from that."

Simon Alcott forced to retire

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 04/11/2013

Exeter Chiefs hooker Simon Alcott has confirmed his immediate retirement from the game due to a neck injury.

Alcott has played 71 times for the Chiefs after joining them from Worthing in 2008. He concedes that the whole process has been “tough” but admits it was the only option. "Obviously I'm very disappointed to have been forced to retire, but rugby now is so physical and you can't really risk an injury like this," Alcott said. "I've spoken to specialists and surgeons up and down the country and the advice is I have to retire immediately.

"Right now I feel a little frustrated because I would have liked to have played a bit more rugby than I have done. Had it not been for this injury, I felt I had a few more years still left in me, but talking to the medical people this is not something I can take a risk with. Being a front-row forward any kind of injury to the neck is not something you can choose to ignore."

April 10, 2013

Premiership sides to observe minute's silence

Posted by Graham Jenkins on 04/10/2013

Premiership leaders Saracens have announced that they will honour the recent death of former British Prime Minister Baroness Thatcher with a minute’s silence before their game against Worcester Warriors at Allianz Park on Sunday.

Exeter Chiefs have also since confirmed they will also observe a minute's silence ahead of their clash with London Irish on the same day.

Irish raid Rotherham for duo

Posted by Graham Jenkins on 04/10/2013

London Irish have announced the signing of centre Eamonn Sheridan and versatile back Fergus Mulchrone from RFU Championship side Rotherham Titans on two year deals.

Sheridan is a former Ireland U18 and U20 International who was previously part of the Leinster squad and can play at both inside and outside centre. Mulchrone can play at outside centre, wing and fullback and has previously played for Sale Sharks.

London Irish director of rugby, Brian Smith said: "Eamonn and Fergus are both big talented outside backs and with their Irish heritage they’re a great fit for our club. Eamonn has made a name for himself in the Leinster Academy and Fergus did the same at Sale. Both players have great attitudes and I expect them to put pressure on the matchday squad."

Stringer rewarded with new Bath deal

Posted by Graham Jenkins on 04/10/2013

Bath have announced that scrum-half Peter Stringer has signed a contract extension that will see him remain at the Premiership club next season.

The former Ireland international was originally brought in as injury cover earlier this season for first-choice scrum-half Michael Claassens, but has since gone on to make the No.9 shirt his own. Stringer, 35, said: "I still feel like I have a lot to give on the rugby field, and really wanted to keep on playing, so was happy to agree a new contract here. I’ve really enjoyed my time with Bath so far, and am looking forward to next season already."

Bath head coach Gary Gold, added: "Strings has been fantastic for us in the short time he has been here so far, so we’re really pleased he’s agreed to stay here for next season rather than going back to Ireland. He is the consummate professional in everything he does, both on and off the field, and that sets a great example for the entire squad."

April 9, 2013

Harlequins line up new centre of rugby

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 04/09/2013

Harlequins have unveiled plans for a new centre of rugby at the Surrey Sports Park.

The new centre will be adjacent to the pitches Quins have used since 2010 and will include changing rooms, medical suites, video and statistical analysis suites, meeting rooms and a lecture theatre. Reigning Aviva Premiership champions Quins say work on transforming an existing building will start immediately, with players, coaches and support staff moving into the centre next September.

Quins chief executive David Ellis said: "Our players and coaches deserve the best training facilities that the club can afford, and now they will have them. This development represents a major investment by the club, and we are grateful to our owners and to the University of Surrey, in particular to the management of Surrey Sports Park, for making it possible.

"As part of our commitment to the park, we will identify future opportunities to share our knowledge and experience of the sport with members of the University community, and support any related academic programmes, research or teaching in an active and positive way."

Bath post record loss for past year

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 04/09/2013

Bath Rugby have posted a record loss of £2.8m for the past financial year.

Bath last recorded a profit in 2005-06, but according to figures quoted on thisisbath.co.uk, the club’s losses have increased year-on-year since then. The website also adds that owner Bruce Craig has lent the club £7.1m, which is in addition to the original loan of £4.765m the previous year.

But the club are confident that the broadcasting deal in place with BT Vision will cause an upturn in the club’s financial prospects and they are adamant that the heavy loss is in line with their projections.

April 8, 2013

Wasps flanker Sam Jones pens new contract

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 04/08/2013

London Wasps' flanker Sam Jones has opted to extend his current deal with the Aviva Premiership club.

Jones follows in the footsteps of Christian Wade, Elliot Daly and Joe Launchbury in signing a new contract and coach Dai Young is tipping him for big things. Young said: "I am a big fan of Sam’s and his work rate and professionalism is excellent on and off the field. I am convinced he will be a long term regular first team player for this club with huge potential to develop further at international level if he continues to progress as well as he has."

Jones added: "I have been involved as a player with Wasps for around ten years now and I feel a real loyalty to the club. I am excited about what the future holds for this squad and with lots of young talent staying here, we are heading in a very positive direction."

April 7, 2013

Chris Ashton feeling renewed

Posted by Jeremy Inson on 04/07/2013

Saracens wing Chris Ashton has said he feels he has answered his critics after he came in for criticism for his performances in the Six Nations.

The 26-year-old was criticised for poor defence that allowed France, Italy and Wales to run in tries, but since he returned to club colours he has found his stride again and scored tries in successive matches against London Wasps and Ulster.

“I wanted to come straight back in and I wanted to play and prove a point to myself more than anything,” Ashton said. “The past few weeks have gone well. People in the team are providing space and backing me, and that's all you need sometimes. It gives you confidence.

“Sometimes you have got to realise that opportunities in games are few and far between, but I got a try last week and one this week, so I hope it can carry on.”

April 4, 2013

Elliot Daly extends Wasps contract

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 04/04/2013

London Wasps' versatile back Elliot Daly has penned a new 'long-term contract'.

Daly has excelled for the Aviva Premiership team this term scoring an array of impressive tries and also proving to be deadly with the boot. And Wasps boss Dai Young was delighted with the 20-year-old's decision. "Elliot has been excellent since I joined the Club and he has the quality to play in a number of positions," Young said. "He is one of the extremely talented young English players that I want to build the future of this club around."

Daly added: "This was an easy decision for me. I love playing for Wasps and this is where I want to play my rugby. It’s been a brilliant environment for me to develop in since I left school and the style of rugby we are cultivating is really enjoyable to be involved in. We’re heading in a really positive direction and I hope to play a big part in that."

April 3, 2013

Wasps draft in Josh Bassett from Bedford

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 04/03/2013

London Wasps have bolstered their options on the wing with the signing of Bedford Blues flyer Josh Bassett ahead of next season.

Bassett was the RFU Championship's top try-scorer last season with 14 and he will look to vie with Christian Wade and Tom Varndell for a spot on the flanks. “Josh fits the bill perfectly for what we are trying to achieve here," Dai Young said. "He’s young, he’s very ambitious and he’s English and he’ll be an excellent addition to our set up.

"We have some very talented wingers in our squad but he’s got a big future and having impressed hugely at Championship level we’re looking forward to seeing what he can do with us.”

Bath confirm Matt Garvey capture

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 04/03/2013

Bath have announced the signing of London Irish's Matt Garvey.

The versatile forward is Bath's second capture from London Irish ahead of next season and he follows in the footsteps of Jonathan Joseph in agreeing to a switch to the Rec. Bath coach Gary Gold said: "Matt is an excellent player and one we are extremely happy to have secured. He is a big unit and can do the rough stuff, but he can also offer a real threat in attack. We look forward to welcoming him to Bath."

Garvey added: "Bath is a great club and an incredible set up. I know that the environment there is a tough one, but I am sure it is also one that will make all of us better players. I look forward to joining the squad, and to testing myself amongst the players there and fighting for a place in the team."

March 31, 2013

Saracens hope Allianz Park will transform finances

Posted by Jonny McLeod on 03/31/2013

Saracens chairman Nigel Wray is confident the club’s move to Allianz Park will turn around the disappointing financial results after making losses of nearly £6million for the 2011-12 season.

Sarries recorded an operating loss of £5.83million for the year ending June 30, 2013, with their overall operating losses hitting £26.8million for the last six seasons.

“It was another tough year,” he told the Rugby Paper. “Naturally we have looked at our costs, especially in terms of player support. But we continue to believe that you simply cannot try to be the best and have anything but the best as your support services. Wembley, too, has contributed to that loss, but we believe it builds our brand enormously.

“The transformation of Copthall Stadium into Allianz Park is something special. Rugby-watching facilities are second to none and that in turn will make it one of the premier attractions for conferences, weddings and bar mitzvahs in London.”

March 29, 2013

Wallace named Discovery of the Month

Posted by Graham Jenkins on 03/29/2013

Harlequins flanker Luke Wallace has won the Land Rover Discovery of the Month award for February following a series of impressive performances.

The title is given to the best Under-23 player in Aviva Premiership and in winning the award Wallace beat an impressive field of young stars with Bath Rugby’s Tom Heathcote, London Irish’s Guy Armitage and Worcester Warriors flanker Matt Kvesic joining him on the shortlist.

“We believe the back row resources at this club are as good as anywhere in Europe and it is hard for young players to secure a regular place in the first team," said Quins boss Conor O'Shea. "Luke has made that breakthrough and is really pushing hard to start week in, week out. He is driven to achieve that for both Harlequins and at national level and I am sure he will record the latter in years to come."

March 28, 2013

Tuitupou agrees new Sale deal

Posted by Jeremy Inson on 03/28/2013

Sale Sharks have given their hopes of avoiding relegation a boost after they agreed a new contract with 31-year-old centre Sam Tuitupou.

Tuitupou joined Sale in 2011 from Munster and captained the side last season. Before moving to the northern hemisphere he won nine caps for New Zealand.

Sale currently sit in 11th place in the Aviva Premiership, five points above bottom-placed side London Welsh.

"Now all we've got to work on getting right now is the balance of the rugby and I'm sure that things will go right next season,” Tuitupou said. “It has been a pretty rough time for the club but since I've made the decision to stay earlier this year things seem to be going right.”

March 27, 2013

Gilbert and Hipkiss re-sign with Bath

Posted by Graham Jenkins on 03/27/2013

Bath have announced that flanker Mat Gilbert and centre Dan Hipkiss have signed new deals with the Premiership club.

Gilbert, Britain’s only deaf professional rugby player, arrived at The Rec from PRO12 side Scarlets earlier this season on a six-month deal and has now extended his contract until next season. He said: "Coming to Bath has been a revelation for me. I wanted to test myself in the best environment and I feel that is here. I feel proud to have played for Bath and very excited that I will continue to do so."

Hipkiss, who has not played since January because of injury, will also remain at the club for at least another year. He said: "I am over the moon to have re-signed here at Bath. I love the Club and the environment, and I could now not see myself being anywhere else. I still feel I have a point to prove, and that this is the place to prove it."

Head coach Gary Gold said: "Mat is a special individual. He is unbelievably committed both to the team and to self-improvement. I feel proud to have him at Bath. And Danny is exactly the sort of professional we want around here. His work ethic is relentless and he takes no prisoners in training."

Nikki Walker wings in for Edinburgh

Posted by Graham Jenkins on 03/27/2013

RaboDirect PRO12 side Edinburgh have signed Scotland international winger Nikki Walker from Premiership rivals Worcester Warriors.

Walker joined the Warriors from PRO12 side Ospreys at the start of the current season and has made 13 appearances and scored four tries during his time at Sixways. However, the 31-year-old, who won the last of his 24 Test caps in 2011, will now be released early from his contract to make the move north of the border.

Nikki Walker said: "I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my time playing outside of Scotland but I’ve always had a burning desire to return north, so when the opportunity came to sign for Edinburgh Rugby I grabbed it with both hands."

Edinburgh Rugby managing director Craig Docherty, said: "Nikki [Walker] has an established try-scoring pedigree and brings a wealth of experience, having consistently delivered top class performances throughout his club and international career. It was fantastic to see him back in action for Scotland A recently and I believe that we’ll see the best of him at Murrayfield next season."

Warriors head coach Richard Hill said: "Nikki retains strong international aspirations and has been a part of the Scotland set-up during the current Six Nations campaign. His move to Edinburgh should help his ambitions to play for his country once again and he will leave us at the end of the season with our best wishes."

March 26, 2013

Hagan to join London Irish from Leinster

Posted by Jonny McLeod on 03/26/2013

London Irish have announced the signing of tighthead prop Jamie Hagan from Leinster.

The 25-year-old, who returned to Leinster in 2011 following a two-year stint with Connacht, has signed a three-year deal with the Aviva Premiership team. London Irish director of rugby Brian Smith said: "Jamie Hagan is a future Irish Test player, he's cut his teeth in the Rabo Direct Pro 12 and is more than ready to launch his Aviva Premiership career.

"He's a tough, uncompromising prop coming into his prime and he'll add more steel to our tight five. Jamie's rugby talent and Irish heritage make him a perfect fit for the club. I'm genuinely delighted that he's committed to London Irish for the next three seasons."

March 22, 2013

Skivington signs new London Irish deal

Posted by Jonny McLeod on 03/22/2013

Former England Saxons captain George Skivington has extended his contract with Aviva Premiership club London Irish.

The 30-year-old lock, who joined Irish from Leicester last summer, will now remain with the Exiles until 2016.

"George has been enormous for us this season," Irish rugby director Brian Smith said. "He's had a huge impact in many of our big wins, leading from the front and setting a great example for the rest of the pack. His commitment to the club for the next three seasons gives us another key player to build our new team around."

March 21, 2013

Sharks snap up Arscott

Posted by Graham Jenkins on 03/21/2013

Sale Sharks have announced the signing of fullback Tom Arscott from Premiership rivals London Welsh.

Arscott, who has also enjoyed spells at Worcester, Bristol and Plymouth Albion and has also represented England at U19 and Saxons level, will join the Sharks ahead of next season.

Director of Rugby Steve Diamond said, "Tom is an exciting player who can play both fullback and wing. He has been a regular for London Welsh this season having played 23 times and scored 4 tries. He played in both the games against us this season and I was very impressed with him and am sure he will be a great asset to us."

Jones agrees new deal with Sale Sharks

Posted by Graham Jenkins on 03/21/2013

Sale Sharks have announced that hooker Marc Jones has signed a new deal with the Premiership club.

The 25-year-old, who missed the first four months of the season with a foot injury and was then forced to withdraw from the team beaten by Harlequins in the LV= Anglo-Welsh Cup final last Sunday, is confident Sale have a bright future.

"Obviously it hasn't been the best season for me so far as it has been plagued by injury and we've been fighting a relegation battle so it's not been the easiest of times," he said. "But going forward I do see Sale bouncing back from where we are at the moment. I'm pleased with the players that we have in the squad and I trust everyone around me so I was more than happy to commit to the club."

Director of Rugby Steve Diamond said, "Marc's everything that we're about. He's combative, abrasive and he would run through a brick wall for the club. Though Marc's been at the club for a few years now he's still only 25 and his best years are still ahead of him."

Fainga'anuku set to make Warriors switch

Posted by Graham Jenkins on 03/21/2013

Premiership side Worcester Warriors have announced the signing of prop Ofa Fainga’anuku from RaboDirect PRO12 outfit Glasgow Warriors.

The 30-year-old Tonga international will make the switch at the end of the season and his signing follows the recent recruitment of Cornish Pirates prop Paul Andrew and hooker Ollie Hayes' decision to pen a new deal.

"We looked at a number of props and there were several looseheads in the market and available," revealed Warriors boss Richard Hill. "However, when all the coaches sat down and looked at video, it was very clear that Ofa was the one who made us all stand up. We quickly realised there was something special about him. He has that X-Factor."

"He is a big man but moves very quickly, a dynamic ball carrier and very good in defence which comes from his rugby league background. Ofa has grown up playing rugby league so has soft hands and likes to pass out of the tackle, but he also has a huge work-rate and the ability to tackle and get back in the line quickly."

Hill set to quit Saracens

Posted by Graham Jenkins on 03/21/2013

Former England international Richard Hill is poised to end his 20-year association with Saracens by stepping down from his current academy role at the end of the season.

The 39-year-old, who earned 71 Test caps and was part of the squad that lifted the 2003 Rugby World Cup, retired from playing in 2008 and has since worked behind-the-scenes at the Premiership club.

"After 20 years at Saracens I will be departing. It's been a great period of my life," Hill wrote on Twitter.

Chairman Nigel Wray said: "Over many years as a player, and latterly as a coach, Richard has become synonymous with the club. His formal association may be drawing to a close as he embarks on the next challenge, but he will always remain a Saracens, hugely respected and admired by everybody associated with the club."

March 20, 2013

Wasps sign prop Jake Cooper-Woolley

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 03/20/2013

Wasps have announced the signing of prop Jake Cooper-Woolley.

The 23-year-old, who was involved with Harlequins at youth level before heading to University in Wales, will join the London club for next season from Cardiff.

Wasps director of rugby Dai Young said: “We’ve got some very talented young props here with the likes of Phil Swainston and Will Taylor stepping up and doing a fine job this season. I saw Jake playing at Cardiff University and was very impressed and he’s a young English boy who wants to improve. He’s got a strong physical presence and has played at both loose and tight head.”

Craig Gillies signs new Worcester deal

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 03/20/2013

Worcester second row Craig Gillies will spend a 12th season with the Warriors after agreeing a contract extension until 2014.

Gillies, 36, is the club's record appearance maker in the modern era having played in 287 games since his arrival at Sixways in 2002.

"Craig is the consummate professional and extremely dedicated to training. He truly belies his age with the way he keeps himself so fit and athletic," head coach Richard Hill said.

March 19, 2013

Bath extend Peter Stringer's loan

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 03/19/2013

Peter Stringer will remain with Bath until the end of the season after his loan was extended.

The scrum-half, who has been capped 98 times for Ireland, has impressed for Bath since joining from Munster on short-term injury cover for Michael Claassens.

"Strings has been superb since he arrived, both on the field and off it," said Bath director of rugby Gary Gold. "He prepares himself exceptionally well, and knows the game as well as anybody. We are delighted to have retained a man of his experience; his influence will not only help the first team, but the aspiring professionals too."

Dawidiuk appeal against ban dismissed

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 03/19/2013

Gloucester forward Darren Dawidiuk has had his appeal against a six-week suspension dismissed following .

The 25-year-old was banned for his tip tackle on Bath second-row Dave Attwood during their west country derby on March 1.

Gloucester challenged the ban but a panel of Gareth Rees QC (chairman), John Loughton and Roger Goodier dismissed the appeal at a hearing in London on Monday night

Attwood and Wilson sign new Bath deals

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 03/19/2013

Bath forwards Dave Attwood and David Wilson have signed new contract extensions with the club.

Tight-head prop Wilson, who has 26 international caps to his name, has been in terrific form this season, which has resulted in him being involved in every England matchday squad for the Six Nations. While Attwood, twice capped by England, has become a mainstay in the Bath pack since joining from Gloucester in 2011.

"These boys are the players around whom you can build a squad," said Bath director of rugby Gary Gold. "They are young, English, talented and extremely tough. That they were both so keen to be involved in what we are working towards here at Bath is a real endorsement of the culture we are looking to create. We are very pleased to have retained their services."

Newcaslte lock James Hudson to join Gloucester

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 03/19/2013

Newcastle Falcons second-row James Hudson will join Gloucester this summer.

The 31-year-old, who joined Newcastle from London Irish in 2009, will continue to play a leading role in the Falcons’ bid to win promotion back to the Aviva Premiership before joining Nigel Davies’ Gloucester.

"I'm delighted that James has agreed to join Gloucester. He's a proven Premiership performer and a very shrewd line-out operator,” said Davies. “He's also very mobile for a big man, which will suit the way we try and play the game. He will also bring experience and leadership qualities to the squad, which will be valuable assets. I'm very much looking forward to him arriving for pre-season."

Hudson added: "I've enjoyed my time hugely with the Falcons. They've been a massive part of my career, and I'm fully committed to playing my part in helping them regain their Premiership status before I leave. Talking to Nigel Davies, I was excited about his plans for the future for Gloucester and my potential role within that."

March 18, 2013

Draw for Premiership Rugbys 7s announced

Posted by Graham Jenkins on 03/18/2013

Premiership Rugby has confirmed the draw for this year's J.P. Morgan Premiership Rugby 7s Series.

Gloucester, Bath, Exeter and Worcester will contest Pool A at Kingsholm on August 1 with Northampton, Leicester, London Welsh and Sale Sharks set to go head-to-head in Pool B at Franklin’s Gardens just 24 hours later.

Pool C will see Saracens, Harlequins, holders London Irish and London Wasps do battle at Allianz Park the following day with Bath's Recreation Ground home set to play host to the series finale on August 9.

Worcester bolster front row options

Posted by Graham Jenkins on 03/18/2013

Worcester have announced the signing of prop Paul Andrew from Championship club Cornish Pirates for next season.

And the Warriors have also confirmed a new contract for hooker Ollie Hayes, who joined them in 2011. “Paul Andrew is a player we’ve been aware of for some time," said head coach Richard Hill. "We keep a track on the best players in each position and have seen Paul’s progress in the RFU Championship.

Hill added: "In the front row you have got to do your apprenticeship and next year is undoubtedly a big season for Ollie. We feel he can make the step up to play first team rugby in the Aviva Premiership and that’s why we’ve re-signed him."

March 15, 2013

Dowson signs contract extension with Saints

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 03/15/2013

Phil Dowson has signed a contract extension with Northampton Saints.

The 31-year-old former England flanker has committed his future to the club. Dowson has played 116 times for the Saints and scored 21 tries since joining the club from Newcastle Falcons in 2009.

Director of rugby Jim Mallinder said: "Phil is very much one of our senior players, on and off the field. Regardless of whether he is named captain or not he always leads by example and puts in one top quality performance after another.

"His levels of consistency and durability, not to mention his experience at all levels of the game, mean that he will be an important player for us as we continue to build a squad we believe can compete at the top end of every competition we play in next season."

Wasps sign two No.8s for next season

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 03/15/2013

Wasps have signed Auckland's Nathan Hughes and Rotherham Titans' Rory Pitman for next season.

The pair are both No.8s although Hughes, a 21-year-old Fijian, can also operate at flanker and lock. He has featured 19 times for his New Zealand club since his debut in 2011.Pitman, 23, also has experience of playing in New Zealand with Taranaki and has represented Wales at under-16, under-18 and under-20 level.

"Nathan is a very exciting young prospect with a real appetite to better himself," Wasps director of rugby Dai Young said. "He offers us huge versatility, being able to play three positions, and he's a very strong ball carrier. I've known about Rory's ability for some time and I think he has a lot of potential. He's a very good player and if he knuckles down here and takes his opportunity he has a big future."

Scarlets' Fenby to join London Irish

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 03/15/2013

Scarlets winger Andy Fenby will join London Irish on a three-year contract at the end of the season.

The 27-year-old has made 75 appearances for the Welsh region since joining from Newcastle Falcons in 2009, scoring 27 tries.

London Irish Director of Rugby, Brian Smith said: "Andrew is a player I have been very impressed with over the last few years. He is a physical and abrasive presence who rarely fails to get over the advantage line. He's the second highest try scorer in the RaboDirect, so he knows his way to the try line. He will add a further option to our back three for the coming seasons."

Fenby added: "I am looking forward to moving to London Irish and testing myself in the Aviva Premiership. It is a great opportunity for me and I look forward to arriving at the club in the summer."

March 14, 2013

London Irish sign Blair Cowan

Posted by Graham Jenkins on 03/14/2013

London Irish have bolstered their back-row options for next season with the signing of Blair Cowan from Worcester Warriors on a three-year deal.

Director of rugby Brian Smith, said: "Blair Cowan is in great form at present and he's a player we've been tracking for some time. Blair is a great fit for us, he can play all three back row positions and he's a try scorer. There are a lot of tough players in this league but not a lot tougher than this guy.”

Cowan said: "I’m looking forward to moving down South and joining London Irish. There are a lot of great players at the club and a lot of potential to match. I would like to thank Worcester Warriors and wish them all the best for the future."

Exeter boss defends season ticket increases

Posted by Martin Williamson on 03/14/2013

Exeter chairman Tony Rowe has defended increases in season ticket prices, arguing that they are a result of the team’s on-field success. The overall cost of season tickets will increase by just under 10% in 2013-14.

"Inevitably, our costs on things such as utilities and players will increase year-on-year so we have had to put up the costs in certain other areas," Rowe said. "You can't sit down with a player who has come to the end of his two-year contract and say 'you can have exactly the same amount of money that you have had for the last two years'.

"We have been very, very mindful of the fact that we live in a collective market place and we've actually frozen tickets in a number of areas. Certain areas in the ground have seen a price freeze as well, meaning they have not increased in two seasons now."

March 13, 2013

London Irish suffer Sataimata Sa blow

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 03/13/2013

London Irish centre Setaimata Sa is set to miss the rest of the season, according to reports.

Sa, according to getbracknell.co.uk, aggravated a knee injury in his debut against Northampton Saints on March 2, 2013. Former rugby league star Sa was due to join London Irish in October but due to visa issues, the Exiles had to wait for him to arrive. And Sa confirmed on Twitter that he will now turn his focus to the 2013-14 pre-season.

Sa Tweeted: "minor surgery needed so im gud to go for pre season and be hundred percent for next season.Cud of carried on but medics choice."

Darren Dawidiuk hit with six-week ban

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 03/13/2013

Gloucester's Darren Dawidiuk has been hit with a six-week suspension for his tip tackle on Bath second-row Dave Attwood during their west country derby on March 1.

Dawidiuk will be banned until April 21 but an identical charge against his team-mate Tukulua Lokotui was dismissed. The case was heard by a panel of His Honour Judge Jeff Blackett (chairman), Jeremy Summers and Elizabeth Riley at the Royal Courts of Justice on Monday.

Judge Blackett said: "The tackle was deemed to warrant a mid-range sanction entry point of eight weeks which was then increased to reflect the recent IRB memorandum dealing with such cases and subsequently reduced by three weeks to take account of mitigating factors. Unless we continue to apply these sanctions to this type of tackle we will not change the behaviour of players and reduce the potential risk of catastrophic injury."

March 12, 2013

Bristol sign Bath's Ben Skirving

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 03/12/2013

Bristol Rugby have pulled off a significant coup with the signing of No.8 Ben Skirving from Bath.

The back-rower has been a key part of Bath's team this season and Bristol coach Liam Middleton was delighted with his capture. "Ben is a very impressive individual with a wealth of experience," Middleton said. "He’s a widely respected professional who can become an integral member of our squad. Ben is a powerful ball carrier, a hard worker and gives us plenty of options in the lineout. We’re trying to build a squad with the right balance of youth and experience – Ben fits the bill of a player in the prime of his career."

Skirving added: "Bristol Rugby is a fantastic club and one that are making positive strides on and off the field. Liam [Middleton’s] project to drive Bristol forward is one that I'm excited about and looking forward to contributing to. To be part of a club that matches my own ambitions as a player is something I feel very positive about."

Andy Powell keen to remain a Shark

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 03/12/2013

Wales and Sale No.8 Andy Powell is hopeful of winning a new contract at the Sharks with his current deal finishing at the end of this season.

Powell shone for the Sharks in their Anglo-Welsh Cup semi-final win over Saracens on Sunday and he is hopeful that if his performances continue in the same manner, then he will be handed a new deal by Sale boss Steve Diamond. "I’m out of contract at the end of this year and I’ve had no offers anywhere yet so I had to play well on Sunday," Powell told the Manchester Evening News.

"In terms of the future, I would love to stay here at Sale as I’m happy here, but it’s been a tough season so Sunday was a big opportunity to hopefully show what I’m about. It’s been stop-start for me this season. I’ve had a few little niggles along the way and, in fairness to Richie Vernon, he’s played really well and kept me out of the side and I take my hat off to him as he’s a good player."

March 11, 2013

Bristol bolster resources with Charlie Amesbury

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 03/11/2013

Bristol Rugby have signed Sale Sharks winger Charlie Amesbury ahead of next season.

Amesbury has turned out for the England Sevens team and head coach Liam Middelton is delighted with his new signing. "Charlie has impressed me in the Aviva Premiership this season, I'm very pleased to be able to bring him to Bristol Rugby," Middleton said. "He is a real attacking threat with the ball in hand, has good acceleration and an impressive ability to bust tackles and beat defenders. Charlie is hungry for success and is a great character who will fit well into the club environment. He will provide genuine quality to the crop of exciting backs that we are developing within the club."

Amesbury added: "I’m excited about joining Bristol –a club that is clearly building for the future. Liam [Middleton] impressed me with the style of rugby and type of culture that he is building there. There is lots that I want to achieve in my career and I'm confident I'm coming to a place where I can develop my game and help Bristol achieve Aviva Premiership status."

March 10, 2013

Saracens' Adam Powell joins Newcastle Falcons

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 03/10/2013

Saracens have released Adam Powell with the centre taking up a contract with Newcastle Falcons.

Powell has made 135 appearances for Saracens but he has decided to take up a new challenge with the Falcons who are chasing promotion back to the top flight. Nigel Wray, Sarcens chairman, said: "We have watched Adam develop over the years, and he has proved an outstanding, courageous and loyal young man. We are very sorry to see him leave and he will always be welcome and respected at our club, but we wish him the best of luck in the future, and there is no doubt he will prove a great asset for the Falcons."

Powell added: “I’ve had a great time at Saracens and will always wish the club well, but I’m really excited by what is happening at Newcastle under Dean Richards and I can’t wait to get started.”

London Welsh's Phillips hits out at 'harsh' sanction

Posted by Jonny McLeod on 03/10/2013

London Welsh have confirmed they will appeal their points deduction for fielding an ineligible player – and hit back at remarks in the RFU panel’s judgement.

Welsh were deducted five points and fined £15,000 for playing ineligible scrum-half Tyson Keats, while their former team manager was banned from rugby for life at a separate hearing for fraud concerning Keats’ documentation.

London Welsh chairman Bleddyn Phillips reacted to the judgement with dismay, saying London Welsh were “unwitting victims of the fraudulent act” as well as confirming they would appeal the decision.

In a statement Phillips said: “The club considers it an unnecessarily harsh and disproportionate sanction. The club, and indeed the RFU, was the unwitting victim of a fraudulent act which the club sought to address in the appropriate manner as soon as it became aware of it."

Exeter Chiefs swoop for Blues' Sweeney

Posted by Jonny McLeod on 03/10/2013

Former Wales fly-half Ceri Sweeney will join Exeter at the end of the season, his current club Cardiff Blues have announced.

The 33-year-old has made more than 100 appearances since joining the Blues from Newport Gwent Dragons in the summer of 2008, guiding them to the Anglo-Welsh Cup in 2009 and the Amlin Challenge Cup the following year.

"I've really enjoyed my time with the Blues, they are a fantastic club and the supporters have been outstanding," he said. "For me, it's my home region and with the young players they have coming through the ranks, the future of the club certainly looks very bright."

March 5, 2013

Kieran Brookes swaps Tigers for Falcons

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 03/05/2013

Newcastle Falcons have bolstered their front-row resources with the loan signing of Leicester Tigers prop Kieran Brookes.

Brookes moved to Leicester ahead of the 2011-12 season from the Falcons but has found his first-team opportunities at Kingston Park. "I am really pleased to be back in Newcastle and I am looking forward to playing regular first team rugby again,” Brookes said. "From first impressions I can see that there has been a lot of positive change taking place at the club since I was last here. There is a new coaching set-up, new medical suite and new personnel at the top which really bodes well for the future of the club."

Falcons director of rugby Dean Richards added: "Kieran is a good acquisition for the club, and he brings strong go-forward to the pack as we prepare for the end of season play-offs."

Gavin Henson suffers new low

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 03/05/2013

Fresh from London Welsh’s heavy loss to Saracens, Gavin Henson was spotted outside well-known London nightspot Whisky Mist.

Unfortunately for Henson, he failed to gain entry to Girls Aloud’s after show party and was reportedly ushered away by bounces with the ex-Wales star apparently worse for wear. He was forced to cut his losses and jump into a taxi. Keep an eye out for the 'fan' he was snapped with further down the Daily Mail article - looks a fair bit like a London Welsh back-rower.

For more – click here

March 4, 2013

Dawidiuk and Lokotui cited

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 03/04/2013

Gloucester duo Tukulua Lokotui and Darren Dawidiuk have been cited for an alleged tip tackle on Bath's David Attwood in Friday night's Aviva Premiership clash at the Recreation Ground.

Dawidiuk was shown a red card for the offence at the time while Lokotui avoided any disciplinary action. Both hearings will occur on Monday March 11.

Scotland draft in Euan Murray and Strokosch

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 03/04/2013

Scotland have added Euan Murray and Alasdair Strokosch to their squad ahead of the weekend's match with Wales.

Strokosch has been out of action since round one due to injury while Murray missed their win over Ireland due to his Christian faith. David Denton misses out for Scotland due to a knee injury while Ryan Wilson is called up.

Scotland team:

Forwards: John Barclay (Glasgow Warriors), Johnnie Beattie (Montpellier), Kelly Brown (Saracens), Geoff Cross (Edinburgh Rugby), Alasdair Dickinson (Sale Sharks), Ross Ford (Edinburgh Rugby), Richie Gray (Sale Sharks), Ryan Grant, Dougie Hall (both Glasgow Warriors), Jim Hamilton (Gloucester), Rob Harley, Alastair Kellock, Moray Low, Pat MacArthur (all Glasgow Warriors), Euan Murray (Worcester Warriors), Tom Ryder (Glasgow Warriors), Alasdair Strokosch (Perpignan), Jon Welsh and Ryan Wilson (both Glasgow Warriors)

Backs: Alex Dunbar (Glasgow Warriors), Max Evans (Castres), Tom Heathcote (Bath Rugby), Stuart Hogg, Peter Horne, Ruaridh Jackson, Sean Kennedy (all Glasgow Warriors), Greig Laidlaw (Edinburgh Rugby), Sean Lamont, Sean Maitland, Peter Murchie, Henry Pyrgos (all Glasgow Warriors), Matt Scott, Tim Visser (both Edinburgh Rugby), Nikki Walker (Worcester Warriors) and Duncan Weir (Glasgow Warriors)

March 3, 2013

Leicester hooker George Chuter hopes to play on

Posted by Jonny McLeod on 03/03/2013

Leicester Tigers hooker George Chuter admits his future is “up in the air” after holding talks with Sale Sharks.

The former England international, who has played almost 300 matches for the Tigers, has yet to be offered a new contract with Leicester with fellow hookers Tom Youngs and Rob Hawkins set to be joined by London Welsh’s Neil Briggs next season.

Chuter told the Rugby Paper: “It is up in the air from both sides. I’ve spoken to Sale and I’ll be speaking to other clubs. Physically I feel good and I certainly want to carry on playing for another season. I’ve still got the hunger for it.”

Mallinder backs Lawes and Hartley for England

Posted by Jonny McLeod on 03/03/2013

Northampton director of rugby Jim Mallinder believes Courtney Lawes and Dylan Hartley deserve to start for England against Italy on Saturday.

The Northampton pair played well for the Saints in their victory over London Irish on Saturday, a week after both players struggled to put forward a convincing claim for a regular starting spot for England with indifferent displays against France.

"Courtney has come back with a real determined attitude. He was frustrated from his performance for England against France, he is an honest guy, he doesn't hide away. But his work rate and physicality was immense today,” Mallinder said.

"I hope Stuart watches the game because then it will give him a few more selection headaches. I am only guessing, but probably in the back of his mind those two would be on the bench for the Italy game. But with their performance today the pair of them really put their hands up for selection."

March 2, 2013

Leicester season ticket sales hit 10,000 mark

Posted by Jeremy Inson on 03/02/2013

Leicester Tigers have announced that they have already sold 10,000 season tickets for next season.

The Tigers sold 14,000 for this season and their success in the Heineken Cup, where they are through to the quarter-finals and the Aviva Premiership, where they currently sit third, has ensured that fans are confident of further success at Welford Road.

“The season ticket figures show the amazing levels of commitment and loyalty this club enjoys from its supporters,” Tigers chief executive Simon Cohen said. “To have 10,000 supporters already committed to next season at this stage says a huge amount for their dedication and to the quality of the club and the team.”

March 1, 2013

Cornish Pirates bring in Bath duo

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 03/01/2013

RFU Championship side the Cornish Pirates have signed scrum-half Chris Cook and utility back Ollie Devoto from Bath on dual-registration deals.

“These are two great additions to the squad," said Cornish Pirates head coach Ian Davies “Our relationship with Bath Rugby has grown stronger as the season as gone on and long may it continue.”

Cornish Pirates backs coach Harvey Biljon added: “Both Chris and Ollie have 1st XV experience at Bath so will obviously add to the competition for starting places leading into the business end of the season.”

Injured Will Cliff pens new Sharks deal

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 03/01/2013

Sale Sharks No.9 Will Cliff has signed a new contract with the club but looks set to miss the rest of the season.

He has damaged the medial ligaments in his knee and Sale are fearful that he could be forced to sit out the rest of the campaign. But while his season may have to come to an end, he is looking forward to continuing his development at the club over the coming years.

"There has been a bit of uncertainty as everyone knows where the club are right now but I wouldn't have signed so quickly if I didn't think we could stay up," said Cliff to the Manchester Evening News. "There are a lot of local lads who have come through together and the good thing is that they have already proved they are good enough to play in the Premiership.

"Obviously, keeping that group of lads together is a big boost and hopefully we'll progress together and get further opportunities in the future. It helps that we're all good friends as well. We're mostly all northern lads and everyone wants to play for this club and hopefully everything will get sorted, we'll all stay here and develop as we move along."

Tom Smallbone re-signs with London Irish

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 03/01/2013

Young prop Tom Smallbone has penned a new three-year deal with London Irish.

He has missed all of the current campaign due to a shoulder injury but coach Brian Smith is expecting big things from the 19-year-old. "Tom Smallbone is a terrific young prospect and we’re expecting him to develop into an Aviva Premiership player over the next few seasons," Smith said. "Tom’s story is a fantastic one; he joined London Irish as a junior and may well play his entire professional career at the same club. It is a great example to all young players in our region."

Leicester close in on Briggs and Gibson

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 03/01/2013

Leicester Tigers have signed London Welsh hooker Neil Briggs and London Irish flanker Jamie Gibson ahead of next season, according to the Leicester Mercury.

It looks likely that Briggs will replace club stalwart George Chuter while Gibson will offer another option in their back-row. Briggs has shone for London Welsh this season and has played most of his rugby at Sale while Gibson is currently in the England Saxons mix. They will link up with fellow new recruits Ryan Lamb, David Mele and Sebastien de Chaves.

February 27, 2013

Jersey sign Chiefs' Mark Foster on loan

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 02/27/2013

Exeter Chiefs have allowed winger Mark Foster to join Championship side Jersey on loan until the end of the current campaign.

Jersey have also drafted in Mark McCrea from Connacht and Chiefs coach Rob Baxter is pleased to have had the opportunity to allow Foster to get some more game time under his belt. Baxter said: “Jersey got in touch with us saying they were keen to get some players in; Fozzie said he was keen to play some rugby too, so in a lot of ways it was a good move for all concerned.

“I am a big believer that rugby players want to play rugby as much as they can, so Fozzie’s gone with our blessing until the end of the season, but should we need him we will be able to get him back and hopefully with some good game minutes under his belt.”

Chris Hala'Ufia hit with two week suspension

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 02/27/2013


© Getty Images

London Irish back-row forward Chris Hala'Ufia has been banned for two weeks after being found guilty of striking Wasps hooker Rhys Thomas during their Aviva Premiership clash on Sunday.

His suspension means he cannot play again until March 12, ruling him out of Irish's Premiership appointment with Northampton on Saturday. The RFU also confirmed a one-week suspension for Worcester full-back Errie Claassens.

Claassens was sent off for tripping Gloucester's Jonny May in a league match at Kingsholm last Friday. His suspension expires on March 2, meaning he will miss Worcester's home match against Wasps on Friday night.

February 26, 2013

Wasps capture London Irish's Jack Moates

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 02/26/2013

London Wasps have signed promising scrum-half Jack Moates from London Irish ahead of next season.

Aged just 20, Moates has made 17 appearances for the Exiles and he is delighted to be joining Wasps. "It’s a really exciting time to be joining London Wasps as they are flying high in the league and pushing for Heineken Cup qualification," Moates said. "There are already some high quality scrum-halves at Wasps but I am looking forward to developing further under the likes of Dai Young and Shane Howarth so that I can challenge for a place in the first team.”

Wasps director of rugby Dai Young added: "I have been impressed with Jack as a young scrum half both for the London Irish A side and their senior side over the past year or so and I know he is a very ambitious player. I believe a squad needs a strong mix of scrum halves over the course of the season and he will add to the mix alongside the likes of Joe Simpson and Charlie Davies."

Richie Vernon returns to Glasgow Warriors

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 02/26/2013

The Glasgow Warriors have announced that Sale Sharks flanker Richie Vernon will return to the club at the end of the season after signing a contract until 2016.

He has played at Sale for the past two seasons and Warriors boss Gregor Townsend is delighted with the capture of the 20-cap Scottish international. Townsend said: “Richie is a great signing for the club and has a game that will fit very well with the style of rugby we’re developing here at the Warriors. He has the ability to play in all three back-row positions and is highly motivated to become a better player.

“He will provide another option amongst some very talented back-row players, each of whom know they have to keep working hard to earn their place in the side. He has a lot of international experience and has played at a high standard over the last couple of years in the Premiership, so we’re very pleased he will be joining up with us in the summer.”

Falcons recruit Noah Cato

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 02/26/2013

Newcastle Falcons have completed the signing of Northampton Saints winger Noah Cato until the end of the season.

Cato has found his first-team opportunities limited at Franklin's Gardens and he is relishing the chance to run out for the Falcons. “To be a part of a club with the ambition of returning back to the Premiership presents an exciting time ahead for me," Cato said. “To assist in realising that goal will be a fulfilling experience."

Falcons director of rugby Dean Richards added: “Noah is a great addition to the squad, and I am delighted to welcome him to Kingston Park.He brings with him both club and international experience which is just what we require going into the play-offs."

February 25, 2013

Exiles complete Pat Phibbs signing

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 02/25/2013

London Irish have signed Australian scrum-half Patrick Phibbs in a two-year deal.

Phibbs joined the Exiles from Leicester Tigers as cover for the injured Tomas O'Leary in December and the Aviva Premiership club have decided to extend his stay at the Madejski Stadium.

London Irish boss Brian Smith said of the scrum-half: “Patrick Phibbs is a class act, his vast experience in Super Rugby and the Aviva Premiership make him a great fit for our club. Since Pat joined us at Christmas we’ve won six from eight games and he’s been a major factor in our improved form in 2013.”

London Irish's Chris Hala'Ufia cited

Posted by Graham Jenkins on 02/25/2013

London Irish No.8 Chris Hala'Ufia has been cited for his challenge on Wasps' T Rhys Thomas during their Aviva Premiership clash at the Madejski Stadium on Sunday.

Hala'Ufia was sin-binned in the second half of his side's vital 30-19 victory for felling Rhys Thomas with a forearm but must face the judiciary following a report from the citing officer Mike Rafter.

The Tonga international's hearing will take place on Tuesday night along with that of Worcester fullback Errie Claassens who must answer a charge of tripping an opponent having been sent off for a challenge on Gloucester's Jonny May during the Cherry and White's 29-23 victory at Kingsholm on Friday night.

London Welsh bring in Seb Stegmann

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 02/25/2013

London Welsh have announced the capture of Harlequins winger Seb Stegmann on a two-year deal.

Stegmann was due to join London Welsh next season but following a request from his new side, Harlequins have allowed him to link up with the Exiles immediately. London Welsh head coach Lyn Jones said of the capture: "Seb is a good recruit for us; he’ll add a lot of strength to our squad. I'm really looking forward to working with him.

"He is another successful product of the Harlequins academy. He’s had a very promising career up till now and will benefit from playing more games."

February 24, 2013

David Seymour re-signs with Sale Sharks

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 02/24/2013

Sale Sharks skipper David Seymour has penned a new contract to extend his stay at the Aviva Premiership club.

"I have enjoyed my time at the club and whilst we are currently at the foot of the Premiership, there is a good strong team spirit and we feel we can rescue our season and reward our loyal fans," Seymour said. "I look forward to spending my future years at the club."

Director of rugby Steve Diamond added: " I have had the pleasure of coaching David at both Saracens and Sale Sharks. He is a great player and a natural leader. We are delighted he has agreed a new deal."

Lee Dickson relishing Kahn Fotuali'i challenge

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 02/24/2013

Northampton Saints scrum-half Lee Dickson is adamant that he can fend off the challenge of
Kahn Fotuali'i
who is joining the side at the end of the season.

Fotuali'i is widely regarded to be one of the world's premier scrum-halves and despite the threat to his spot in the side, first-choice No.9 Dickson is looking forward to welcoming the Samoan to Franklin's Gardens. "You play rugby because you want to be challenged," Dickson told the Rugby Paper. "I am a very competitive person and him coming is going to really drive me on as a player.

"It will spur me on to play better and make sure I am on my top game the whole time I go out there. All I've got to do is play well and keep my shirt for the Saints. We are two different types of scrum-half who play different styles. Each game we go into the Saints will be able to choose from two scrum-halves."

Premiership referees to clamp down on back chat

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 02/24/2013

Referees in the Aviva Premiership have been told to adopt a 'zero-tolerance' approach to any back chat from players.

Italy skipper Sergio Parisse is currently serving a 30-day ban for talking back to a referee in a Top 14 match and Premiership Rugby's rugby director Phil Winstanley wants an end to back chatting in England's top flight. "It is not what we want in the sport; there is no place for it in rugby," Winstanley told the Rugby Paper.

"If a player back chats there is a series of events that the referee can go to from a quiet chat to a penalty to a yellow card, and we've got no problem in supporting them over that."

February 22, 2013

Wasps bring in Joe Carlisle to replace Robinson

Posted by Jeremy Inson on 02/22/2013

London Wasps have announced that Joe Carlisle will join the club at the end of the season from Worcester Warriors to replace Nick Robinson who is leaving for Bristol.

The 25-year-old Carlisle has scored 477 points in 90 appearances for the Warriors after coming through their academy. Earlier in the season he set a new club record of points scored in a European match, with 30 against Rovigo in the European Cup.

Braid and Miller extend deals with Sale

Posted by Jeremy Inson on 02/22/2013

Flanker Dan Braid and fullback Rob Miller have both signed new deals with Sale Sharks.

Former All Black Braid has extended the one-year contract he signed at the start of the year after a number of impressive performances, while Miller, who was last season's leading points scorer in the league is rewarded for making himself a fixture in the first team since joining the club in 2010.

"Rob and Dan signing new deals is our statement of intent here at Sale Sharks," Director of Rugby Steve Diamond said.

February 21, 2013

Nicky Robinson swaps Wasps for Bristol

Posted by Graham Jenkins on 02/21/2013

Championship side Bristol have announced the signing of Wales international fly-half Nicky Robinson on a three-year deal from Premiership club London Wasps.

Robinson, who won the last of his 13 Test caps in 2009, joined Wasps from their Premiership rivals Gloucester in 2011 having previously played for for Cardiff Blues. "Bristol has a famous history and the rugby club is a huge part of the city. I will be proud to represent them and contribute to the team and the goals they have set," he told bristolrugby.co.uk

"I am under no illusions about the scale of the task ahead. It doesn't matter if Bristol are in the Championship or Premiership next season, there will be some tough challenges to come. I am looking forward to testing myself, developing my game and helping the club push on to the next level."

James Wilson signs new Saints deal

Posted by Graham Jenkins on 02/21/2013

Winger James Wilson has signed a new contract with Aviva Premiership side Northampton.

The New Zealander, 29, joined the club last summer from French club Bourgoin and Saints boss Jim Mallinder was delighted to secure his services on a new deal. "We have been impressed by James in his short time at the club," he said. "He has played well in a number of positions and gives us plenty of flexibility within the squad. He has a strong skill set and understands the game well."


Bath promise 'world-class' arena

Posted by Graham Jenkins on 02/21/2013

Bath owner Bruce Craig is confident that the Premiership club's Recreation Ground home will be transformed into a 'world-class' arena by 2015.

Craig and the club must still overcome several legal hurdles before work can start on a new home with a maximum capacity of around 18,000 but he is adamant the wait will be worth it. "We want to provide a world-class facility and buildings that the city and club can be proud of, are appropriate and add to the beauty and splendour of Bath. It is a tough challenge but it is critical that we get it right," Craig told the Bath Chronicle.

“What we do needs to complement this unique and historic setting, and is for everyone in Bath, both now and for future generations. It is not only for players and supporters as it needs to work for the whole community and our own Bath Rugby Foundation. This is a project close to my heart and one I personally want to see come to fruition for the benefit of all.

Chief executive Nick Blofeld added: "There is a strategy and a process in place and we are making good progress against that, but we have to do things in a sequential way, we have to tick the boxes as we go along to make sure everything is watertight. We don’t want to take anything for granted. We are very grateful to everyone for their continuing support and patience."

Mike Tindall set for new Gloucester deal

Posted by Graham Jenkins on 02/21/2013

Gloucester are reportedly set to reward veteran centre Mike Tindall with a new contract.

The Citizen reports that the 34-year-old player-backs coach, who will make his 150th appearance for the Cherry and Whites this weekend, is poised to put pen to paper on a new one-year deal at Kingsholm. "He was fantastic, again, at Wasps at the weekend, backing up a big performance against Northampton," Gloucester coach Nigel Davies told the newspaper. "What you don't always see as well is the influence that he has on the team. His presence, his knowledge and how the group look up to him.

"So he's been fabulous as far as I'm concerned, a real bonus, and he's developing into an excellent coach as well. You can't fault him really, his form is excellent, and he's as fit as anybody in the squad. And age is not really relevant when you are that fit. And more importantly, he's hungry, and when players are hungry, they perform. He wants to keep playing, he's enjoying his rugby, he's enjoying his role within the group, and he's one of our top performers at the moment."


February 20, 2013

Cockerill confirms interest in Ryan Lamb

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 02/20/2013

Leicester Tigers boss Richard Cockerill has confirmed that Northampton Saints fly-half Ryan Lamb is on the club's radar ahead of next season.

"With George Ford leaving we need cover at 10. We need more goalkickers within the squad. [Lamb] is one of the guys that is available, along with several others. There is a little bit of a merry-go-round on the fly-half front across the Premiership," Cockerill told BBC Sport. "When we are ready to sign people we will make that announcement, but at this point there is nothing to tell. In the current market place you have to look at everybody. We are looking at guys to play as back-up to Toby Flood and if they are better they will play.

"Ryan is one of those, but there are lot so guys. There are plenty of others and there are a few other options outside the Premiership as well."

Stephen Myler extends Northampton stay

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 02/20/2013

Northampton Saints fly-half Stephen Myler has penned a new contract that will keep him at the club for the "foreseeable future".

Myler has been at the Saints since 2006 and has scored 1,427 points for the side. And despite reported interest from Leicester, Myler has opted to extend his stay with the Aviva Premiership team. "I've obviously been here for a while," Myler said. "I love the club, love the supporters and it's a great group of lads. We've achieved a lot together already and I'm genuinely excited about where the team is going. We've shown a lot of ambition with the calibre of players that will be joining the club next season and Alex King is someone I've also heard only good things about."

Saints boss Jim Mallinder added: "Time and again Stephen has shown that he is a very good player and someone who we can build the team around. He has an intelligent approach to the game, and a superb work ethic on and off the field. We're very happy that he has signed a new contract with the Saints."

Steve Diamond to stay as Sale's director of rugby

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 02/20/2013

Sale supremo Steve Diamond has declared that he will stay as the club's director of rugby for the next couple of seasons.

Diamond previously held the CEO role at the club but he has now passed that role on to co-owner Ian Blackhurst. The former Russia coach took on the director of rugby role earlier this season on what was meant to be on a short-term basis, but following John Mitchell's decision to return to South Africa, Diamond continued in the post. And according to reports in the Manchester Evening News, Diamond claims that he will continue as director of rugby "for the foreseeable future".

Gary Gold confirms Michael Claassens exit

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 02/20/2013

Bath boss Gary Gold has confirmed that scrum-half Michael Claassens will leave the club at the end of the season.

Claassens has been at the west country club since 2007 and has been strongly linked with a move to Toulon. "Michael won’t be at the club next year," Gold told the Wiltshire Times. "He’s been outstanding. Mike’s been seven years here and I still think he’s playing good enough rugby to take on a new challenge, whatever that challenge is.

"It’s no other reason than a lifestyle change. It’s probably his last professional job before he returns home and he was quite keen to get a taste of another culture. He goes with our blessings and our massive appreciation for what he’s done for the club. We’re sad to see him go, but he goes with our blessings."

Castres bring in Wessel Jooste

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 02/20/2013

Castres have signed Leicester Tigers back-rower Wessel Jooste until the end of the season.

Jooste failed to make an Aviva Premiership appearance for the Tigers and with Castres' back-row resources depleted due to Pedrie Wannenburg and Yannick Caballero's injuries - along with Antonie Claassen's Test call-up - they have moved to sign the former Bourgoin forward.

Jooste said of the move: "I was in contact with Castres on Saturday and I had no hesitation in coming back to France, a country I like a lot."

February 19, 2013

Bath add Orlandi and Houston

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 02/19/2013

Bath have bolstered their pack with the signings of Argentina prop Juan Pablo Orlandi and No.8 Leroy Houston.

Orlandi, who has 10 caps for the Pumas, arrives from Racing Metro, while Houston, who played a key role in the Reds' 2011 Super Rugby triumph, signs after a spell with Colomiers in France. "These are two very significant signings for Bath in that they say a lot about our ambition," Bath boss Gary Gold said. "Leroy is a guy I have admired for a long time, and we are delighted to have secured him. He's very dangerous with ball in hand, and loves to hit hard in defence.

"Juan Pablo is also a very powerful man. I spoke personally to the Pumas coach, Santiago Phelan, and he backed up our opinions, telling me that this guy is the real deal. To have depth in such key positions as tighthead prop is vital, and to add a world class player to our squad is very pleasing. We can't wait to get these guys training with us and to see them develop into Bath players."

Double lock boost for Wasps

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 02/19/2013

Wasps have announced that influential lock Marco Wentzel has re-signed with the club while they have also recruited Kearnan Myall from Sale Sharks ahead of next season.

“Marco has been a huge performer for us over the past two seasons and continues to be a real leader for us at the lineout and it’s great to have him on board next season again," Wasps boss Dai Young said. "Kearnan is someone who has been an ever-present for Sale and someone who has really impressed us. I believe he is a player who has the potential to go further in his career and earn greater international recognition.

"Second row is a real physical position and there’s a long season there, so making sure we had a very strong mix in this area was important to us and we’ve got that now.”

Jacques Burger prolongs Saracens stay

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 02/19/2013

Saracens flanker Jacques Burger has put pen to paper on a new contract.

Burger has been not played for Saracens in the Aviva Premiership since 2011 but he is now on the verge of making his comeback from injury. Mark McCall, director of rugby, said: "Jacques personifies the spirit and physicality of our pack, and we can’t wait to see him back in action, doing what he does best."

Burger later Tweeted: "Very happy to have signed a 2 year extension on my @Saracens contract..They've been amazing during my injury and got so much support from the club and the supporters...#wolfpack #greatclub"

February 18, 2013

Wade scoops Discovery of the Month award

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 02/18/2013

London Wasps flyer Christian Wade has been awarded the Land Rover Discovery of the Month gong for his performances in January.

The winger beat Bath's Tom Heathcote and London Irish's Marland Yarde to the inaugural monthly award and was picked by a panel including former England international Josh Lewsey.

"Christian has been consistently one of the most entertaining and innovative players in Aviva Premiership rugby over the last couple of seasons and specifically in January this year," Lewsey said. "To that end, as part of his on-going development I'm delighted to see that he is getting the recognition such dedication and ability deserves.”

February 17, 2013

Premiership clubs linked with Super Rugby talks

Posted by Jonny McLeod on 02/17/2013

Premiership Rugby is considering approaching Super Rugby clubs over creating a new competition to replace the Heineken Cup, according to the Sunday Telegraph.

The English clubs, along with their French counterparts, are reluctant to extend the Heineken Cup in its present form beyond current agreement, which expires at the end of next season. They are currently in a deadlock with European Rugby Cup but set for further discussions with this May.

Premiership Rugby remain hopeful of agreeing a new deal with the ERC but the Telegraph reports they have begun talking to Super Rugby clubs about the possibility of setting up a new competition, which would of course raise huge logistical questions.

Another option would be for the Premiership and Top 14 clubs to pursue an Anglo-French competition.

RFU to reward clubs for English players

Posted by Jonny McLeod on 02/17/2013

The Rugby Football Union will reward Premiership clubs with an extra £1million next season for investing in ‘home-grown’ players.

Funding from the RFU to the clubs for playing English qualified players is set to increase from £2million to £3million from next season until at least 2015-16.

RFU chief executive Ian Richie has been struck by the impact the increase in the percentage of Premiership players who are eligible for England is having on the fortunes of the national team under Stuart Lancaster.

“The clubs know they will get financially recompensed, rightly so, for playing English qualified players above foreign players,” Richie told the Rugby Paper. “We want to see foreign players in the Premiership but you need to find the right balance.”

February 15, 2013

Tom Johnson agrees new deal with Exeter Chiefs

Posted by Jonny McLeod on 02/15/2013

England flanker Tom Johnson has signed a new one-year contract with Exeter Chiefs.

The 30-year-old, who has scored 30 tries in 153 appearances for the club, is currently recovering from a knee injury, which has ruled him out of England’s Six Nations campaign. Johnson joined Exeter from Coventry and has now committed himself to a sixth year with the Chiefs.

Johnson said: "I'm really happy down here. A lot of it is to do with the area, which I'm very fond of, and the boys here at the club. Both those things were important to me as was staying within the current England set-up.

"Exeter has helped to get me to that position, so I didn't really want to go to another club and almost start from fresh again. I know what goes on here at the Chiefs, the routines and everything, and that seems to suit me."

February 14, 2013

Northampton's Sorenson to join Bristol

Posted by Jonny McLeod on 02/14/2013

Northampton lock Mark Sorenson has agreed to join Championship side Bristol for the 2013-14 season.

The 33-year-old has made 23 appearances for Northampton this season but has opted to move to Bristol, who are sixth in the championship table, for next season.

Sorensen told Bristol’s website: "I can see what Bristol are trying to do - their vision is clear - that's to be an established Premiership side. The challenge on the field is to maintain the standards that are already set and try and lift them next season.”

Exeter sign Lewis from Gloucester

Posted by Jonny McLeod on 02/14/2013

Exeter have signed scrum-half Dave Lewis on a two-year contract from Gloucester.

The 23-year-old, a former England under-20 international, joined Gloucester in 2007 and has made 88 appearances for the Cherry and Whites. And he has now agreed to join Exeter despite Gloucester’s first-choice scrum-half Jimmy Cowan being ruled out for six months with a knee ligament injury.

“It’s never easy to say goodbye at any time, but I do feel the time is right for me to try a new challenge and going to the Chiefs will hopefully bring the best out of me,” said Lewis. “The Chiefs are a side that I’ve kept an eye on for some time, especially since they got into the Premiership, and they are a team who play with a lot of attacking intent, pace and they play a good brand of rugby.”

February 13, 2013

Exeter loan Dorrian to Bedford

Posted by Jonny McLeod on 02/13/2013

Exeter Chiefs fly-half Myles Dorrian has joined former club Bedford Blues on loan for the rest of the season.

The 30-year-old joined Exeter at the start of last season but has made just nine appearances, scoring 20 points for the Chiefs.

Exeter head coach Rob Baxter said: "Obviously we have several players here that just want to be playing rugby and now that we've concluded our A League and our LV= Cup programmes, some of these guys have asked if there is an opportunity to play rugby somewhere, they would like to play.

"Myles is one of those guys and there was an opportunity up at Bedford, a club he knows very well, so it's good for him to go and play. We will obviously get the opportunity to see him play and we'll keep close tabs on him whilst he is up there."

Gloucester lose injured Cowan for rest of season

Posted by Jonny McLeod on 02/13/2013

Gloucester scrum-half Jimmy Cowan will miss the rest of the season with a knee ligament injury.

The former All Black suffered the injury during Gloucester’s 27-11 victory over Northampton at Franklin’s Gardens on Saturday. The 30-year-old, who only joined Gloucester from the Hurricanes in the summer, is set to be out for at least six months.

After confirming that Cowan would be out for a significant period, Gloucester director of rugby Nigel Davies told the BBC: "He's very positive and just wants to play. He'll do whatever he can to get back sooner than that.”

Tom Croft to miss Leicester's clash with Harlequins

Posted by Jonny McLeod on 02/13/2013

Leicester Tigers will continue to manage Tom Croft’s comeback from a serious neck injury by leaving him out of their important Aviva Premiership clash with champions Harlequins this weekend.

The England flanker played 74 minutes against London Welsh at the weekend in only his second match coming back from a neck injury he suffered against Quins in April. Leicester are determined to protect him from further injury but he is set to feature against Saracens the following week.

"Tom won't play this weekend," Cockerill told the Leicester Mercury. "That is the right thing to do. I would love Tom to play against Quins but he is not there medically at the moment. He will play against Saracens the following week, though, and we will see where he is at that point.”

February 12, 2013

Exeter re-sign Scaysbrook and Yeandle

Posted by Jonny McLeod on 02/12/2013

Flanker James Scaysbrook and hooker Jack Yeandle have signed new contract extensions with Exeter Chiefs.

Scaysbrook, who joined the Chiefs in 2009 from Bath, has agreed a new two-year deal while Yeandle has signed a new one-year contract after impressing following his switch last summer from Doncaster Knights.

On the new deal for Scaysbrook, Baxter said: “He’s shown over the last couple of seasons he’s one of the top performing sevens in the Premiership. His stats show that, particularly in the tackle and clear-out areas. “He’s a good communicator and a good link player. In a team that wants to play a fair bit of rugby, I think he makes more passes than any other seven in the Premiership and he’s shown to be a good character.

“It’s good continuity for ourselves and with him being signed alongside Ben White we’ve got some really good competition. With Joel Conlon starting to come through we’ve got some nice players in that position.”

Buxton to leave Gloucester for Bristol

Posted by Jonny McLeod on 02/12/2013

Gloucester back-rower Peter Buxton will join Bristol at the end of the season after 11 years at Kingsholm.

The 34-year-old, who has played nine games for the club this season, joined Gloucester from Newport in 2002 and has made 270 appearances for the Cherry and Whites. Buxton told the club's website: "It hasn't quite sunk in just yet, but it will feel odd when I drive out of the car park for the last time. Gloucester Rugby has been a huge part of my life. My time at Gloucester has been fantastic, I've so much to be grateful for from my time at Kingsholm. There are so many memories and I've made so many good friends.

"However, I still feel I have a lot of rugby in me and the opportunity at Bristol is an exciting one. For the time being though, I'm going to make the most of every moment of my time remaining at Gloucester, and hope that we achieve as much as possible this season."

Director of rugby Nigel Davies added: "I've only known Bucko for a relatively short period of time, but I've been hugely impressed with his professionalism during my time at the club. He's held in high esteem by everyone at Gloucester Rugby, a true professional in every sense of the word. He's a fantastic example to the younger players at the club. It's been a pleasure to work with him. I know that he'll give nothing less than 100% for us for the rest of the season, and will wish him all the best for the future when the time comes."

February 11, 2013

Hunter joins Exeter Chiefs' coaching staff

Posted by Jonny McLeod on 02/11/2013

Exeter Chiefs have added England under-20 head coach Rob Hunter to their coaching staff.

Hunter, who enjoyed three successful years with the England under-20s, will join the Chiefs as assistant forwards coach from the start of April. The former London Scottish and Northampton Saints player has played a key role in developing talents such as Joe Marler, Joe Launchbury, Owen Farrell, Dylan Hartley and Courtney Lawes.

"It's a massive honour for me to get this opportunity, especially at a club like Exeter" said Hunter. “They have had a great surge into the Premiership and established themselves amongst the best teams in the country. They have a great group of lads, several of whom I know well from working within the England Under-20s set-up.

"Not only do they have a great culture within, but the ambition of the club is huge. The club is looking to develop their ground and move forward on that front, but equally the coaches and players are hugely ambitious and they have assembled a quality squad.”

London Welsh sign Argentina lock Cabello

Posted by Jonny McLeod on 02/11/2013

London Welsh have signed Argentina forward Julio Farias Cabello from Tucaman.

The 34-year-old has won 19 caps for Argentina and was an ever present in their inaugural Rugby Championship campaign last year. He was also part of the Pumas side that beat Wales at teh Millennium Stadium in November.

Cabello can play at lock or in the back-row and London Welsh head coach Lyn Jones is confident he will add plenty of experience and quality as they look to secure their Aviva Premiership status.

Jones said: “Julio is a quality player with a high work-rate and will add a great deal of ability to our squad for the final push in the Aviva Premiership. We’ve got eight games to go and we need as much depth to our squad as possible to be as competitive as we can in mid-February as we need to be in May.”

Mallinder dismisses Foden fitness fears

Posted by Jonny McLeod on 02/11/2013

Northampton director of rugby Jim Mallinder has played down fears over Ben Foden’s fitness and any suggestions of a rift with England.

The fullback was rested from Northampton’s 27-11 defeat to Gloucester at the weekend at the request of the England management, having been released from Stuart Lancaster’s squad to face Ireland in Dublin. Foden had played in Saints' previous ten games since recovering from an ankle injury he picked up in September.

"I don't think it's going to be major. England just requested he needs more time," Mallinder told BBC Northampton. “Ben will be the first to admit he has not been 100% since he came back. We've given him extra rest and rehab this week and I'm hopeful he will be playing for us next week.

"He's one of our best players. Of course I'd have liked him to play. But I understand where England are coming from and it's in the EPS (England Elite Playing Squad) period and therefore they have that shout."

February 10, 2013

Gold tips Kyle Eastmond for Lions call-up

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 02/10/2013

Bath boss Gary Gold insists that Kyle Eastmond is very much in the British & Irish Lions frame after starring in their victory over Worcester on Saturday.

The versatile Eastmond has played in the centres, on the wing and at fly-half for Bath this term and Gold believes the rugby league convert has a lot to offer the Lions. "Kyle will create havoc if he is taken out to Australia, but I'm not sure the Lions coaches are bold enough to want to go with someone like that," Gold told the Rugby Paper. "In 2009, I coached against the Lions and they brought Keith Earls as a wildcard.

"With Kyle's league background, his passing skills, his pace and the hard fields of Australia, it would be a great call. We're playing around with a couple of ideas and letting Kyle attack from 12. He's a prodigious talent, outstanding. We need the ball in his hands."

February 8, 2013

Brad Davis to leave Bath

Posted by Jeremy Inson on 02/08/2013

Bath have announced that first team coach Brad Davis is to leave the club after nearly seven years at the Recreation Ground.

The Australian moved to the west country outfit in 2006 from rugby league side Castleford Tigers to oversee Bath’s defence and he was part of the coaching team that led the side to success in the 2008 European Challenge Cup.

“This has been a very tough decision, but one I feel is right for both myself and the club,” Davis said. “I’ve learnt a lot in my time here, and I’d like to thank all the players, coaching and backroom staff. The time is right for me to move on and explore new opportunities."

Premiership stars inducted into Hall of Fame

Posted by Graham Jenkins on 02/08/2013

Some of the biggest names in English club rugby were honoured when Premiership Rugby launched its Hall of Fame at the Hurlingham Club in London on Thursday night.

Thirty-one players and coaches, representing three distinct eras, were inducted with many of them present to help celebrate the best of the last 15 years of Premiership Rugby.

The 1997-2003 era: Andy Robinson (1999-2000), Dean Richards (2000-01), Conor O'Shea/Brendan Venter (2001-02), Warren Gatland (2002-03), Pat Lam (97-98), Martin Johnson (98-99), Austin Healey (1999-2000), Iain Balshaw (2000-01), Jason Robinson (2001-02), Jake Boer (2002-03)

The 2003-2007 era: Simon Shaw (2003-04), Martin Corry (2004-05), Mike Catt (2005-06), Martin Castrogiovanni (2006-07), ,John Connolly (2003-04), John Wells (2004-05), Philippe Saint-Andre (2005-06), Pat Howard (2006-07)

The 2007-2012 era: James Simpson-Daniel (2007-08), Chris Robshaw (2008-09 and 2011-12), Chris Ashton (2009-10), Tom Wood (2010-11), Dean Ryan (2007-08), Richard Cockerill (2008-09), Andy Key (2009-10), Jim Mallinder (2010-11) and Rob Baxter (2011-12)

The 2013 Inductees: Geordan Murphy (Leicester Tigers), George Chuter (Saracens and Leicester Tigers), Charlie Hodgson (Sale Sharks and Saracens)

Christian Day handed three-week ban

Posted by Graham Jenkins on 02/08/2013

Northampton lock Christian Day has been suspended for three weeks by an RFU disciplinary panel for stamping on an opponent during last Saturday's Anglo-Welsh Cup match at Exeter.

The player had been charged with the offence contrary to law 10.4 (b) following a report by the citing officer Matt Bayliss. Day, who pleaded guilty at last night's hearing, is suspended from February 7 until February 27 and is free to play again the following day.

February 7, 2013

Jebb Sinclair pens new London Irish deal

Posted by Graham Jenkins on 02/07/2013

Canadian international Jebb Sinclair has signed a three-year contract extension with Aviva Premiership side London Irish.

Sinclair, who initially joined the Exiles in 2011, has been in impressive form since his return to the club following a loan period in South Africa with the Stormers and Western Province where he was an integral part of the 2012 Currie Cup winning side.

London Irish director of rugby, Brian Smith said: "Jebb Sinclair is a rugby coach’s dream. He is committed, physical on the pitch and a very positive influence in the changing room. He has been getting through a mountain of work in recent matches and has provided some real dog in the pack. I’m delighted he has decided to be part of the club’s future."

Sinclair said: "London Irish was the first professional side I signed for so I am very happy to be devoting the next three years of my rugby career to the Club. It has been a tough season so far, but I believe that with the players we have in the squad, it will not be long before we turn this around and start competing at the top end of the table."

February 6, 2013

Worcester sign Exeter's Ignacio Mieres

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 02/06/2013

Worcester have confirmed that they have secured the signing of Argentinian fly-half Ignacio Mieres ahead of next season.

The announcement is expected to signal the end of Andy Goode's time at Worcester and coach Richard Hill is looking forward to working with the six-cap Pumas fly-half. "Ignacio is a superb goal kicker with a very high percentage of success who is very ambitious and keen to join us," said Hill. "Last season he started the vast majority of games for Exeter as they were very successful and secured a top six finish and with it Heineken Cup rugby.

"He is a tall and athletic outside half who attacks the line with real pace and strength. He will kick goals from everywhere and is a very good all-round player. Ignacio is fluent in English, which is vital for the position he plays, and to get a player of his age and undoubted quality is a very exciting prospect for us."

London Irish re-sign Armitage

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 02/06/2013

London Irish have bolstered their squad ahead of next season with the recruitment of Guy Armitage from Toulon.

Brother of Steffon and Delon, Guy signed for Toulon at the end of the 2011-12 season but found his game time limited. He re-joined London Irish earlier this term on loan and has now penned a two-year deal.

"Guy Armitage is fast becoming one of the most dynamic power centres in the country," Exiles boss Brian Smith said. "He’s a genuine Premiership player with the ability to go on and play for England like his two older brothers. Guy has forced his way into the starting team this season and if he keeps performing may well be considered for England’s summer tour of Argentina."

Dan Braid keen to extend northern hemisphere stay

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 02/06/2013

Sale Sharks' flanker Dan Braid is keen on prolonging his stay in the northern hemisphere having joined the Aviva Premiership club from the Blues back in January.

"I've been here for a month and myself and the family have settled in nicely," Braid told the BBC. "I'm signed until the end of May but I want to stay and play rugby in the northern hemisphere. What happens will happen over the next couple of months. I'm enjoying my rugby here at Sale and if things turn out that way, it would be nice. But it's still early days. I'm still trying to get in here, impress and improve myself."

Gloucester announce Matt Kvesic capture

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 02/06/2013

Gloucester Rugby have confirmed the signing of Worcester Warriors' promising back-rower Matt Kvesic.

Kvesic has been training with England during the Six Nations but is not in the matchday squad for Sunday's Test against Ireland. But Gloucester boss Nigel Davies is expecting big things from the 20-year-old.

"Matt's a quality player, one we've admired for some time, and we're delighted that he's decided to commit to Gloucester Rugby," Davies said. "He's not yet 21, but already has considerable experience at Premiership level. The fact that England have called him up to train with them shows how much they think of him. He's a true openside, who does the fetching and gathering and acts as a link between backs and forwards. We're looking forward to him arriving in the summer."

Worcester complete Agustin Creevy signing

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 02/06/2013

Worcester Warriors have brought in experienced Argentinian hooker Agustin Creevy ahead of next season.

Creevy follows in the footsteps of fellow Pumas international Leonardo Senatore, who will also link up with the side next season, and coach Richard Hill is looking forward to utilising the 27-year-old's experience. "Agustin is a quality international player who will add real strength in depth and power to the pack of forwards we are building here at Warriors," said Hill. "I really like the way he plays the game and the clear ball carrying ability he possesses.

"He will help us continue to develop our attacking game and has played some lovely stuff at Montpellier this season. Agustin is clearly very comfortable with the ball in hand and has very strong offloading skills. His ability in contact is excellent. He speaks very good English, which is important, and is an experienced international player who will know Leonardo (Senatore) so I am sure they play well together."

Worcester on verge of Ignacio Mieres swoop

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 02/06/2013

The Worcester Warriors are reportedly close to bringing in Exeter Chiefs fly-half Ignacio Mieres ahead of next season.

Mieres is halfway through his two-year deal with the Chiefs, but due to his limited game time at Sandy Park this term, the Chiefs have allowed him to leave the club with Worcester his expected destination."He wants to play a bit more rugby than he's playing this year," Exeter assistant coach Ali Hepher told the BBC. "He's an ambitious guy and wants to play for Argentina, and realises that with the lack of game time he's going to struggle to push on into that international team."

February 4, 2013

Saints bring in Australia's Salesi Ma'afu

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 02/04/2013

Northampton Saints have announced the signing of Australian Test prop Salesi Ma'afu ahead of next season.

With Soane Tonga'uiha, Brian Mujati and Paul Doran-Jones all leaving the club at the end of the current campaign, they have opted to bolster their front-row with the 13-cap Wallaby. "We have been impressed by what we have seen from Salesi," Saints boss Jim Mallinder said. "He has built up a good reputation as one of the top props in Australia and has been a big part of the Wallabies' recent improvements in the set piece.

"Salesi will add a great deal to our group of props and the squad in general going into next season, and we're looking forward to welcoming him to Franklin's Gardens later in the year."

February 2, 2013

Castro ready for Toulon switch

Posted by Jeremy Inson on 02/02/2013

Italy’s Martin Castrogiovanni has confirmed that he is close to becoming the latest player to join Toulon, but must wait for his club Leicester Tigers to reach an agreement with the French side.

The 91-time capped prop has a year remaining on his contract at Welford Road, but remains hopeful the two clubs can negotiate a deal.

"I have reached an agreement with Toulon but I still have a year on my contract at Leicester," the 31-year-old told ESPN Radio. "The two clubs are in the process of reaching a deal. In theory, all is sorted out. I should sign next week but I cannot say I am a Toulon player nor that I have left Leicester."

January 31, 2013

Bath quash speculation over Francois Louw

Posted by James Bass on 01/31/2013

Bath coach Mike Ford has dismissed rumours that Francois Louw will be heading to Toulon at the end of the season.

Recent reports suggested that the South African flanker was being scouted by the French club but Ford insists that Louw will see out the three-year contract he signed in 2011. “There’s no truth in that speculation,” Ford told the Western Daily Press. "Francois is with us and is signed for next year."

Fellow countryman Michael Claassens has also been linked with a move away from the Premiership side but Smith said there had been no progress made on that front.

January 30, 2013

George Ford targets regular first-team rugby

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 01/30/2013

George Ford is hopeful that his decision to leave Leicester Tigers will lead to more regular rugby next season.

Ford is reportedly on the verge of joining Bath Rugby ahead of next season and he is hopeful that the move away from the Tigers, where he frequently found himself on the bench with Toby Flood starting, will pay dividends. "It is difficult when you are on the bench and you are coming on for 10 or 20 minutes each game. Playing a full 80 minutes is what I need to be doing really," Ford told Press Association Sport. "Like any young player, you need to be playing and the more you play the better you get.

"For any young player who is willing to learn and progress in their career they need to be playing as much as they can. It was one of the toughest decisions I have had to make and I didn't take it lightly. Young players need to be playing to learn and develop. It (my situation) is no different to any young player."

Scotland's Euan Murray re-signs with Worcester

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 01/30/2013

Worcester Warriors' prop Euan Murray, who arrived at the club in October, has put pen to paper on a new long-term deal with the Aviva Premiership side.

"Euan has made a very good impression in the short space of time he has had here," Warriors coach Richard Hill said. "It is not easy for someone coming in mid-season, but he has settled in remarkably well and is working well with the other front row forwards. He gives us that strength in depth in the front row which is something that clubs like Northampton and Leicester have always had. You have got to have a very powerful scrum to be successful in this league; you can't get away from that.

"Euan is good in very defence and carries strongly in the loose; he is a genuine all-round player. We are very pleased he has committed to the club because he is of true international class and up there with the very best of them in his position."

Tigers chairman predicts salary cap increase

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 01/30/2013

Leicester Tigers chairman Peter Tom claims that in the wake of the lucrative BT broadcast deal which comes into play next season, which includes rights to the Aviva Premiership and English club's European games from 2014, he expects the salary cap to be increased.

"I have never been in favour of the salary cap and I am still not," Tom told the Leicester Mercury. "I understand why it is there. Lots of people say it provides a service but it's up to the (Premier Rugby) board to decide what is carried.

"We are entering into a period where a new deal has just been done with the English players and BT have signed a good deal with English clubs, so I would be very surprised if we don't see the salary cap move up. And I would be surprised if it didn't happen next year."

January 29, 2013

Saxons add Phil Swainston to the mix

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 01/29/2013

The England Saxons have called up London Wasps prop Phil Swainston to the squad ahead of Friday's match with Scotland A.

Swainston replaces Gloucester's Shaun Knight who has returned to his club to have treatment on a sore left knee.

Four re-sign with Worcester Warriors

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 01/29/2013

Worcester Warriors have announced that four of their players have re-signed with the club.

Hooker Ed Shervington, prop George Porter and back row duo Sam Betty and Richard de Carpentier have all put pen to paper on new contracts. The four forwards join Jonny Arr, Chris Pennell and Josh Drauniniu who have also recently pledged their playing futures to Worcester.

Harlequins confirm Paul Doran-Jones capture

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 01/29/2013

Aviva Premiership champions Harlequins have announced the signing of Northampton and England prop Paul Doran-Jones on a two-year contract.

He will step into the shoes left by James Johnston who will join Saracens at the end of the season. “While we were disappointed to lose James Johnston we recognise the need to have an experienced player to come in to supplement the existing tight head talent we have at the club in Will Collier and Kyle Sinckler," Conor O'Shea said. "With that in mind we are very fortunate to be able to bring in a player of Paul's ability.

“Not only is Paul talented, at his age he will only get better. He comes from a fabulous club and has been coached by one of the best forwards coaches in the country so I have no doubt he will add greatly to what we have at Harlequins."

London Welsh duo pen new contracts

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 01/29/2013

London Welsh have received a mid-season boost with the news that skipper Jonathan Mills and prop Arthur Joly have both signed new two-year-deals.

“Jonathan has stepped up to Premiership level and has performed to a consistent standard," London Welsh coach Lyn Jones said. "He has led by example as captain and has shown that when he’s on the field he’s a true Premiership player.

“Arthur has proved himself to be a very popular member of the squad, impressing all when he’s played. He’s still a young French prop who has a huge amount to learn about the game, but he’s got the basics in place and he’s going to prove a very good signing for London Welsh.”

January 28, 2013

Wasps bring in Matt Mullan

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 01/28/2013

Wasps have announced the signing of Worcester's loose-head prop Matt Mullan ahead of next season.

The 25-year-old is currently part of the England Saxons squad and he is relishing the chance to play in a new environment. “I have had a great eight years at Worcester and leaving your home town club is always hard," Mullan said. "However I felt the time was right for a new challenge and I am looking forward to joining up with London Wasps next season. As a club with lots of other aspiring young English players, I hope to be part of a successful side there in the coming years.”

London Welsh sign Gonzalo Tiesi

Posted by Graham Jenkins on 01/28/2013

London Welsh have strengthened their options at centre with the signing Argentina’s Gonzalo Tiesi.

Tiesi, 27, has previously enjoyed spells in the Aviva Premiership with London Irish and Harlequins and joins London Welsh from Buenos Aires side San Isidro Club. Capped 32 times by Argentina, Tiesi made his international debut in 2004 against South Africa and featured at the 2007 and 2011 World Cups.

London Welsh head coach Lyn Jones said: "The signing of Gonzalo Tiesi is a very significant one by the club. He’s a proven and very experienced Premiership player who has had positive spells at London Irish and Harlequins in the past. He’s also a player of true international quality and he proved himself again over the autumn period with Argentina. We look forward to Gonzalo adding a great deal to the playing and training environment at London Welsh."

January 27, 2013

Moody: Kvesic must leave Worcester

Posted by Jonny McLeod on 01/27/2013

Former England captain Lewis Moody believes Matt Kvesic needs to leave Worcester to enhance his international chances.

Kvesic, who was called up to England’s Six Nations squad as injury cover, is set to make an announcement over his future in the next fortnight with his Worcester deal due to expire in the summer.

The 20-year-old is rumoured to be on the brink of signing for Gloucester and Moody, the former England and Leicester and Bath flanker, believes a move to a team competing at the top of the Aviva Premiership and in the Heineken Cup is essential for the young flanker.

“I know how hard Worcester are working to improve but if Matt wants to make that next step then he needs to be playing consistently on the biggest stage,” Moody told the Rugby Paper. “To impress the coaches they want to see how you can cope in the pressurised environments, the big Heineken Cup games that really test you as a player at all times.”

Toby Booth promises more 'attractive' Bath

Posted by Jonny McLeod on 01/27/2013

Coach Toby Booth insists Bath will develop a more “attractive” style to entertain spectators at the Rec.

Bath lie eighth in the Aviva Premiership table and some fans have voiced their frustration at the attritional style of play employed by director of rugby Gary Gold and his coaches since they took over in the summer.

But Booth told the Rugby Paper: “We set out standards higher but we’re still in the fight and are trying to establish a Bath style. We’re a little disappointed, of course, but the challenge is to turn narrow losses into wins and beyond. We’re trying to establish a way of playing that means we can adapt to any situation.

“We’ll cut out cloth accordingly, but we want to bring back a style attractive to spectators.”

January 26, 2013

Tom Croft given all-clear following injury scare

Posted by Graham Jenkins on 01/26/2013

England flanker Tom Croft has been cleared of serious injury after lasting just 11 minutes of Leicester's 34-8 Anglo-Welsh Cup victory over Wasps at Welford Road on Saturday.

The 27-year-old suffered a back injury on only his second start since returning from eight months on the sidelines after a shoulder operation but Tigers director of rugby Richard Cockerill said it was not serious. "Crofty just got a knee in his back and it was a bit bruised and a bit tight in the soft bit between his hip and spine," Cockerill said. "It was just bad luck, one of those things. He needed to play but that's life. It's nothing serious, just a bang."

There was not such positive news for his team-mate Tom Price who was taken to hospital after being knocked unconscious on his debut. "He is at the hospital. He is not very good," said Cockerill. "It was his neck. He was unconscious and struggling. He has got movement in his hands and feet and, hopefully, he will be okay."

John Smit rubbishes Sarries exit rumours

Posted by Jonny McLeod on 01/26/2013

John Smit has rubbished reports suggesting he is about to leave Saracens.

The former South Africa captain, who retired from international rugby after the World Cup in 2011, has been linked with a short-term move to the Stormers, who are struggling with a long injury-list ahead of the new Super Rugby season, as well as a move to French Top 14 side Toulon.

But Smit has written on his Twitter page: “To all the questions out there, I'm not going to Stormers and never was, just an inexperienced journo talking nonsense. I'm contracted to @Saracens and loving it here. Good luck to all our teams in the Super 15."

January 25, 2013

Olly Kohn handed surprise Wales call-up

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 01/25/2013

The Welsh Rugby Union has handed Harlequins' lock Olly Kohn a surprise call up to the Wales squad ahead of the Six Nations.

With second rows Alun-Wyn Jones (shoulder), Luke Charteris (knee) and Bradley Davies (ankle) all currently unavailable and Ian Evans battling to overcome a knee injury, Kohn, who qualifies through his late grandfather, could be drafted straight into action against Ireland on February 2.

Receiving the call-up was surreal, and I can't wait to join up with the squad this weekend," Kohn said. "It is a really proud moment for me and a great opportunity to show what I can do."

Wales caretaker coach Rob Howley said: "We looked at Olly when we initially selected the Six Nations squad, and we have brought him in now as we believe he will be an experienced addition. He is a strong ball-carrier and dominant at the set-piece, and it will be good to see him in the international environment."

Andy Hazell returns to Gloucester XV

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 01/25/2013

Veteran flanker Andy Hazell is back in the Gloucester team after he served his 14-week suspension.

Hazell was suspended following the red card he collected in Gloucester's ill-tempered Amlin Challenge Cup clash with Mont-de-Marsan in October. But with his ban up, he returns to the side ahead of their match with Northampton on Saturday. Tonga's Lua Lokotui will also make his debut for the side.

Worcester announce Paul Warwick capture

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 01/25/2013

Worcester Warriors have announced the signing of Australian fly-half Paul Warwick from Stade Francais.

Warwick, who has also turned out for Munster, will link up with the Warriors at the end of the season and is equally adept at fullback but it looks like coach Richard Hill will want him to play at No.10. "I want Paul to play outside half because he will bring other people into the game. Players will improve around him," Hill said.

"He can put people through holes, can beat defences and offload in the tackle. Everybody will be able to play off him and he is an unselfish player who will bring the best out of the Warriors. Paul is a versatile player and attack minded, he is someone who will look to really fire our back line."

Rob Webber to make Bath debut

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 01/25/2013

Bath have handed a debut to hooker Rob Webber ahead of their Anglo-Welsh Cup clash with Exeter on Saturday.

Webber signed for Bath in the summer but suffered a shoulder injury. He has since lost his place in England's elite player squad but he is relishing the chance to get back out onto the field. "I'm chuffed to bits to be getting my first start," Webber said. "Bit nervous after such a long time out, but I just need to get amongst it, do the basics well and build game by game to get back to the standards I expect of myself."

London Irish bring in duo on short-term deals

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 01/25/2013

London Irish have bolstered their ranks with the signing of two hookers on short-term contracts - Mike Mayhew arrives from Newcastle while Davey McGregor joins from Coventry.

The pair have been fast-tracked into the London Irish side with Mayhew starting for the Exiles against Worcester on Sunday and McGregor looking to get some game time from the bench.

Matt Kvesic linked with Gloucester move

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 01/25/2013

Worcester Warriors back-row Matt Kvesic is reportedly on the verge of agreeing to a move to their Aviva Premiership rivals Gloucester.

Reports in the Worcester News claim that Kvesic, whose contract is up at the end of the season, is set to join the likes of Miles Benjamin and Tom Wood in deciding his future lies away from Sixways. The openside, who is currently training with England, is also understood to be wanted by Bath but Gloucester seems to be his favoured destination.

The same newspaper also claims that prop Matt Mullan will leave Worcester at the end of the campaign with Wasps the favourites to land his signature.

Claassens opts for Bristol move

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 01/25/2013

Worcester Warriors back Errie Claassens will join RFU Championship side Bristol at the end of the current campaign.

Claassens has made 26 appearances for the Warriors but with his current contract coming to an end in June, he has opted to move down a division to Bristol. "I was shown around the club and I had a good feeling about their ambition. Everything felt right," Claassens told the BBC. "You hear what people say about Bristol and it's all good stuff. When you see the ambitions they have for the club, you want to be a part of that.

"It's a wonderful opportunity and something to look forward to."

January 24, 2013

Mullan set for Warriors exit

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 01/24/2013

Worcester Warriors boss Richard Hill has confirmed that Matt Mullan is set to leave the club at the end of the season.

Mullan, who is on the bench for the Saxons for their match with the Irish Wolfhounds on Friday, made his Aviva Premiership debut for the Warriors back in 2007, but this season looks set to be his last at Sixways.

“I think it is looking very unlikely Matt will be with us, to be perfectly honest," Hill told the Worcester News. "You can’t say anything until it is done and we’re told one way or the other, but I’m not holding out too much hope at this moment in time, which is a shame, but you never know. If there is a lot of speculation about a player, that is when I start to worry because there is no smoke without fire.”

Exeter Chiefs sign Welsh winger Tom James

Posted by Graham Jenkins on 01/24/2013

Exeter Chiefs have signed Cardiff Blues winger Tom James on a two-year deal.

"Signing for Exeter Chiefs is a great move for me," said James, 25, who has 10 Wales caps. "They are a team that I've watched come up to the Premiership over the last few years and do really well."

"Exeter are clearly an ambitious club and having talked to the coaches about where they want to go and also the plans for the stadium, I felt I wanted to be a part of it all and experience something different."

January 23, 2013

Cockerill confirms Ford move to Bath

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 01/23/2013

Leicester Tigers boss Richard Cockerill has revealed that fly-half George Ford will leave the Aviva Premiership club at the end of the season.

Ford's contract is up at the end of the season and he is currently second-choice No.10 at the club behind Toby Flood. Cockerill claims that Ford will join Bath, where his father Mike works, despite coach Gary Gold denying that a deal has been done.

"I have been told by him and his advisors that he is going to go and sign for Bath," Cockerill told the Leicester Mercury. "From a Leicester end, it's disappointing because you want your best young players to stay.

"If players choose to move on because they don't want to stay and fight for their spot, that's cool. But George has had plenty of game time and Toby Flood is a very good player. We pick on merit at Leicester."

Worcester bring in Pumas' Leonardo Senatore

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 01/23/2013

Worcester have completed the signing of Argentinian back-rower Leonardo Senatore on a two-year deal.

The Warriors have also announced that fullback Chris Pennell has penned a new contract. Senatore has 17 caps for the Pumas and turned out for them during the Rugby Championship on five occasions. Senatore also has Top 14 experience having played for Toulon last season.

Gold denies Bath deal for Ford

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 01/23/2013

Bath Rugby boss Gary Gold has denied that a deal has been done to bring Leicester Tigers fly-half George Ford to the club.

Reports on Tuesday suggested that Ford has informed the Tigers that he does not want to re-sign with the club with his contract up at the end of the season. And the Leicester Mercury claimed that Ford has decided that his future lies at Bath, but their boss Gold has denied that a deal is in place.

"Obviously George is a good player and I'm not going to bury my head in the sand and say that he isn't, but there's no deal in place," Gold told the Bath Chronicle. "The simple situation is that we are not allowed to be speaking to players like George because he is covered by a movement management protocol. He hasn't signed with the club and at this stage we are not allowed to have a conversation with him. We are an easy club to label him to but we've got Tom Heathcote and Stephen Donald under contract here."

January 22, 2013

London Irish welcome Setaimata Sa

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 01/22/2013

London Irish will welcome rugby league convert Setaimata Sa into the squad this week.

The transfer of Sa to the Exiles was announced in the summer but Visa issues have held up his move from the Catalan Dragons to the Aviva Premiership. He previously played union in New Zealand but switched to league in 2006 where he turned out for the Sydney Roosters.

“It has been a long process but we a delighted that Sa can now join up with the squad," London Irish's director of rugby Brian Smith said. "He is itching to be involved and the squad is looking forward to having him on board. Once he gets the hang of playing rugby union again there will be no better all round midfielder in the country.”

Five of Harlequins' hotshots re-sign

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 01/22/2013

Harlequins have announced that five of their promising young players have re-signed with the Aviva Premiership club.

Fullback Ollie Lindsay-Hague, prop Darryl Marfo, back-row Joe Trayfoot, centre Charlie Walker and No.8 Jack Clifford have all penned new deals, much to the delight of academy manager Tony Diprose. He said: “They are critical to the continued success of the club, demonstrate the wealth of talent coming through and I have no doubt that they will all play a major role in working to keep Harlequins at the top of the game in England and Europe.”

Worcester to test the water with GoalScan

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 01/22/2013

The Worcester Warriors have confirmed that they will test new technology that will determine whether a ball goes through the posts or not.

Named GoalScan, the technology, created by IA Technology Ltd, generates an electronic curtain which, when intruded by a rugby ball, transmits a signal to the ref. It will also, if required, activate flashing lights within the bar, LCD units and television monitors. Warriors chairman Cecil Duckworth has thrown his weight behind the proposals saying: “Hopefully it will be accepted by the IRB and I give the project my wholehearted support.”

Tigers standing firm on Martin Castrogiovanni

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 01/22/2013

The Leicester Tigers are adamant that Martin Castrogiovanni’s proposed switch to Toulon is far from done.

Castrogiovanni still has a year left on his contract but the Top 14 big-spenders have reportedly lined him up to bolster their front-row options. But Tigers CEO Simon Cohen is standing firm.
"We have always said that there needs to be two elements in place for any transfer to go ahead," Cohen told the Leicester Mercury. "Firstly, we need a satisfactory transfer fee and, secondly, Martin Castrogiovanni needs to come to us and say that he wants to leave.

"We have had an initial and preliminary discussion with Toulon about a transfer fee and there is no agreement in place at this moment. We won't have a discussion with Martin Castrogiovanni about what he wants to do until an agreement is in place."

George Ford set to leave Tigers

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 01/22/2013

Leicester Tigers fly-half George Ford has informed his bosses that he will leave the Aviva Premiership side at the end of the season, according to reports in the Leicester Mercury.

Ford has long been linked with a switch to Bath, where his father and former England coach Mike Ford works, and he has now reportedly confirmed that he will not re-sign with the Tigers. The newspaper claims that the Leicester hierarchy offered him a lucrative two-year contract but with Toby Flood still regularly in possession of the No.10 jersey, Ford has decided to look elsewhere.

If Ford does journey to Bath then he will have to compete with young Scotland half-back Tom Heathcote for the fly-half shirt while ex-All Black Stephen Donald is also on their books.

Wasps add fresh faces to squad

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 01/22/2013

London Wasps have added a scrum-half and a centre to their resources for the rest of the season.

Former Northampton scrum-half Stuart Commins is drafted in while Moseley's centre Charlie Hayter is also added. Wasps boss Dai Young explained the additions saying: “These are two positions in which we needed to add depth. We’re losing two centres – Andrea Masi and Elliot Daly – to international duty in the coming weeks and with a long-term injury to Lee Thomas, adding another centre to the squad was important. Charlie has been very good at Championship level so we’re looking forward to seeing what he can do.

"With Joe Simpson with the England Saxons for a few weeks combined with the fact that we haven’t replaced Nic Berry, who retired earlier in the season, we also needed another scrum-half and Stuart has good experience and has fitted in well so far.”

January 21, 2013

Shingler brothers reunited at Scarlets

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 01/21/2013

The Scarlets have been served a double boost with the news that Wales international Aaron Shingler has signed a new deal while brother Steven has re-joined from London Irish.

Steven has penned three-year deal and is hopeful that his time at London Irish, who he joined from the Scarlets in 2011, will put him in good stead for the Welsh region. "I've had some great experience from my time at London Irish and it's been good for me to play in the intensity and physicality of the Premiership," Steven Shingler said. "During my time at London Irish, I've been lucky to work with and learn from some great people like Mike Catt who have pushed me forward and improved my game. My aim before leaving Llanelli was to get experience and plenty of rugby and I hope to achieve 50 appearances for London Irish and that can only be great experience for me going forward."

Aaron, who was heavily linked with a switch to the Blues, has four Wales caps to his name and his coach Simon Easterby was delighted with the news. "Aaron is a committed professional, his career is on the rise and it's been good to see his quick progress at international level as well as with us at Parc Y Scarlets," Easterby said. "He's a strong, athletic and intelligent player and will be an important to us as a senior figure in our pack as he gains more experience at the top level of the game.

January 18, 2013

Toulon eye Tigers prop Martin Castrogiovanni

Posted by Graham Jenkins on 01/18/2013

Leicester Tigers have reportedly opened talks with French side Toulon about the possible transfer of prop Martin Castrogiovanni.

The Italian international is contracted at Welford Road for at least another season but L'Equipe is reporting that officials from the Premiership club met with Toulon owner Mourad Boudjellal this week to discuss a deal. The French giants already have a wealth of front row talent on their books in the form of props Carl Hayman, Andrew Sheridan and Gethin Jenkins.

Alex Corbisiero plays down concerns over injury

Posted by Graham Jenkins on 01/18/2013

England prop Alex Corbisiero has rubbished the suggestion that he is suffering from a "degenerative" knee injury.

Corbisiero's troublesome injury was recently described that way by London Irish director of rugby Brian Smith but the player himself insists that comment was misleading. "Degenerative is definitely incorrect and it was maybe the wrong phrase to use," Corbisiero told PA Sport. "It is not really any effect on my career or anything like that. It just needs time to get 100%."

The 24-year-old will miss the start of England's Six Nations campaign but is hoping to play some part in the championship. "My knee will get better, it will settle down. I have been reassured by everyone," he said. "It has been a frustrating injury for me, to come back from my surgery and have it flare up again. I am letting it settle down to get 100% healthy so I can push on again. I can't rush it. I am hoping to be back playing in the next couple of weeks."

January 17, 2013

Michael Claassens blow for Bath

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 01/17/2013

Bath scrum-half Michael Claassens is set for three to four weeks on the sidelines, which will prompt their boss Gary Gold into looking for short-term half-back cover.

Claassens has damaged his thumb but Gold is hopeful that he will return in time for their Round 13 clash against Worcester on February 9. His setback leaves Bath with just two No.9s - Mark McMillan and Chris Cook - at their disposal so Gold will look for an injury joker.

“It is quite a concern," Gold told the Bath Chronicle. "We’ve got Macca and Cooky but we are thin now, really thin. We will probably have to look at bringing in a replacement.”

Tom Varndell pens new Wasps deal

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 01/17/2013

Wasps flyer Tom Varndell has signed a new contract that will keep him at the club for the "next few seasons".

Varndell has been in electric form for the Aviva Premiership side so far this term and has scored 13 tries in 16 games. Varndell's re-signing comes hot on the heels of Chris Bell's decision to stay with the team and will give Wasps fans some cheer after Billy Vunipola announced earlier this week that he will join Saracens at the end of the campaign.

January 16, 2013

Bath confirm Toulon interest in Claassens

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 01/16/2013

Bath Rugby boss Gary Gold has revealed that scrum-half Michael Claassens is in discussions with Toulon about a move at the end of the season.

Claassens' contract is up at the end of the current campaign and Top 14 big-spenders Toulon have been linked with a move for the half-back. They are preparing for life without Jonny Wilkinson, who looks set to retire in the summer, and could sign Claassens to step in at No.9 which would free up Frederic Michalak to shift to fly-half.

"He's been open and honest with us and he is in talks," boss Gold told the BBC about Claassens. "I'm sure Michael will tell us as soon as anything can be confirmed."

Doran-Jones set to join Harlequins

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 01/16/2013

On the day Northampton confirmed the signing of Alex Corbisiero ahead of next season, their coach Dorian West has revealed that they are likely to lose England prop Paul Doran-Jones to Harlequins.

The Saints announced Alex Waller and Tom Mercey’s decisions to re-sign with the club earlier on Wednesday and also announced the recruitment of Corbisiero. But West believes that Doran-Jones will depart the club to fill the gap left by James Johnston at Harlequins.

“It’s pretty common knowledge that we’re losing Soane [Tonga'uiha] and Brian [Mujati] to Racing and I think we’re losing Doran-Jones to Harlequins as well,” West told the Northamptonshire Telegraph. “But we’ve got three good, young props we’ve signed there and we’re looking to add to those.”

Chris Bell extends with Wasps

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 01/16/2013

Wasps have secured centre Chris Bell on a new contract. The Aviva Premiership side had to cope with Saracens' capture of their star No.8 Billy Vunipola earlier this week but they will be pleased with Bell's decision to re-sign.

Dai Young, Wasps' director of rugby, said: “Chris has been excellent since he came here and worked very hard to get back from a tough injury. That work is being rewarded now and he’s put in some fine performances this season. We are delighted he’s committed his future here.”

Bell added: "I love playing for Wasps and the decision to extend my contract was an easy one to make. I believe under Dai Young we will continue to improve and I am very excited about the future of the club and hope to be a big part of it.”

Williams pens new Harlequins deal

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 01/16/2013

Harlequins winger Tom Williams has signed a new deal that will see him stay with the Aviva Premiership champions until the end of the 2014-15 season.

Williams has scored 52 tries for Quins and has also turned out for the England Sevens side. Quins boss Conor O'Shea was delighted with Williams' decision to stay at the club. "Tom's form over the last 12 months has been outstanding and we are all really looking forward to him continuing that over the coming years," O'Shea said. "Tom has already played 185 times for the club and at 29 has some great years of rugby ahead of him. He is one of the club's original academy graduates and his willingness to work with our younger players has had a big impact on their development."

Williams added: "I am delighted to be staying at Harlequins for a further two years. The opportunity to contribute to a club playing such an exciting brand of rugby with a group of ambitious and talented players made the decision to stay an easy one."

Warriors flyer Josh Drauniniu re-signs

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 01/16/2013

Worcester Warriors have received a boost ahead of their match with Bizkaia Gernika following the news that Josh Drauniniu has penned a new long-term contract.

Drauniniu has scored 12 tries in 18 games for the Warriors and coach Richard Hill believes he is one of the best three wingers in the country. "Josh came to Warriors as a very raw player with a huge amount of ability and natural talent, particularly in attack," Hill said. “His game needed refining to become a top Aviva Premiership player and credit to him he has worked exceptionally hard during his time here, especially with Phil Larder on his defence.

“Josh has become a very good defender and has filled some big boots since the departure of Miles Benjamin and Marcel Garvey last year. In attack he is now even ore hungry for the ball and is a real predator. I think he has finally realised just how good a player he can be and I rate him as one of the best attacking wingers and in the top three in the country."

January 15, 2013

Wasps coach annoyed by Vunipola departure

Posted by Jeremy Inson on 01/15/2013

London Wasps coach Dai Young has revealed that his club had little idea that Billy Vunipola was in talks with Premiership rivals Saracens.

“We are clearly hugely disappointed," Young said. "Billy is a player that the club identified some time ago as one with huge potential and he’s been developed by London Wasps, despite a period when he struggled with illness and injury, into one of the brightest young talents in English rugby.

“During our contract talks, the player had been adamant that he did not want to leave the club but we know he was under pressure for family reasons to go and join his brother at Saracens. We did everything in our power to keep Billy. Although we had heard the whispers about him going to Saracens, we were only officially informed yesterday afternoon that Billy was leaving and he had previously signed for them."

Harlequins shrug-off Johnston exit

Posted by Jeremy Inson on 01/15/2013

Premiership champions Harlequins have confirmed that prop James Johnston will be leaving the club at the end of the season, but feel they have enough depth to cope with his departure.

Johnston will sign for fellow-London side Saracens at the end of the season. The 26-year-old moved to the south-west London side in 2009 from Richmond and so far has made 88 appearances, including the victorious 2012 Premiership final. However, Quins director of rugby Conor O'Shea admitted that his side could not match his demands, but welcomed the chance to bring through another academy graduate.

“We are very disappointed to lose a player of James’ ability,” O’Shea said. “He has developed greatly since he joined us four years ago and I’m sure he is destined for great things in the game. Unfortunately, given the constraints of the salary cap, we were unable to meet his financial expectations so he has decided to move on at the end of the current season.

"We’re in the fortunate position of having two of the most exciting, young tight heads props in the country coming through our system in Will Collier and Kyle Sinckler and we are confident that we will be able to recruit another experienced front row forward to complement them shortly.”

January 14, 2013

Vunipola and Johnston agree Saracens switch

Posted by Graham Jenkins on 01/14/2013

Saracens have announced the signing of Quins tight-head prop James Johnston and Wasps No.8 Billy Vunipola.

The highly-rated duo will make the switch ahead of next season on "long term contracts" in a major coup for Premiership side who have also announced that a host of players have also re-signed for the club including the England duo of prop Mako Vunipola, Billy's brother, and winger David Strettle. In addition, Richard Wigglesworth, Eoin Sherriff, Will Fraser, Ben Spencer, Nils Mordt, Duncan Taylor, Ben Ransom and James Short have also put pen to paper on new deals.

January 13, 2013

Exiles give Smith vote of confidence

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 01/13/2013

London Irish chief executive Andy Martin is adamant that coaching duo Brian Smith and Glenn Delaney’s jobs are safe even if the side get relegated from the Aviva Premiership.

The Exiles are currently eleventh in the table and five points clear of Sale Sharks who lie at the foot. It has been a dismal campaign for Smith’s men and they face the prospect of losing many of their star names in the summer with Jonathan Joseph strongly linked with Bath and Alex Corbisiero with Northampton. But Martin will keep the faith with Smith and Delaney even if they are playing in the Championship next term.

“We’ve got total faith in Brian and Glenn,” Martin told the Rugby Paper. “They’ve signed up for a three-year project and they’re doing exactly what we asked them to do. We’re building the business, we’ve changed the academy and they’re doing a good job. We’ve got very clear objectives to be a sustainable and be a competitive Heineken Cup team, and nothing has changed.

“It hasn’t gone as well as we’d hoped this season, but we’ve only had four or five months of the new guys together. Everyone’s pretty calm and Brian’s doing a great job. There are signs that when we click, we are going to be very good.”

January 11, 2013

Warriors hopeful star duo will stay

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 01/11/2013

Worcester Warriors managing director Charlie Little is optimistic that England Saxons Matt Kvesic and Matt Mullan will re-commit their futures to the Aviva Premiership side.

Both forward's contracts are up at the end of the season and they are likely to be on the radar of other Premiership clubs. But Little is adamant that the Warriors have the right set-up in place to secure their best talent.

“I sincerely hope both of them will still be here next season," Little told Worcester News. “They wouldn't just go to any club, they would only leave here for a handful of clubs and they know that we clearly want them here and it is in both parties’ interests to know the outcome as soon as possible.

“It would be wrong of us just to assume they will sign — we’re into silly season now and the players and their agents have got to do what they have to do. When they look round and see what’s on offer at other clubs, it won’t be money, facilities or structure that will take a player away from Worcester, which is encouraging.”

January 10, 2013

Votu in line to make Chiefs bow

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 01/10/2013

The Exeter Chiefs are ready to unleash Fijian flyer Watisoni Votu in the Anglo-Welsh Cup with the 27-year-old's visa issues seemingly sorted. Votu has been linked with the Chiefs since the summer but Rob Baxter has had to wait to finally get his man. But it seems that Votu is now ready to pull on the Chiefs jersey.

"It seems everything is finally good to go," Baxter said. "It has taken a while to get everything sorted, but now we're looking to getting him up and running probably in the upcoming Anglo-Welsh Cup games and see where he goes from there."

January 9, 2013

Powell faces month out after breaking hand

Posted by James Bass on 01/09/2013

Sale boss Steve Diamond has confirmed to the Manchester Evening News that Andy Powell will be out for at least a month after breaking his hand in training.

The Sale back-row is expected to miss both Heineken Cup matches against Montpellier and Cardiff, as well as the Aviva Premiership clash with Harlequins at the end of the month.

Tigers move for South African lock

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 01/09/2013

Leicester Tigers have agreed a deal to sign South African-born lock Sebastian De Chaves, according to reports in the Leicester Mercury. The lock is in line to replace fellow South African Rob Andrew rather than England second-row Geoff Parling who is rumoured to be on Gloucester's radar.

De Chaves is currently on Mont-de-Marsan's books in the Top 14 but he revealed on Twitter that he had penned a deal to join the Tigers.

January 8, 2013

Players rally around Fourie

Posted by Graham Jenkins on 01/08/2013

England internationals past and present have voiced their support for Hendre Fourie after the former flanker revealed he is facing deportation to South Africa.

The 33-year-old, whose 18-month-old son Hendro was born in England, has been in the country for eight years, playing for Rotherham, Leeds and Sale and winning eight Test caps. However, he was forced to retire last week because of a shoulder injury and consequently had his contract cancelled by the Sharks, meaning his visa is no longer valid. Upon hearing of Fourie's plight, many of his peers took to Twitter and started a campaign to support him using the hashtags #FourieToStay or #SaveShrek.

Harlequins and England fullback Mike Brown, scrum-half Danny Care, wing Ugo Monye, Gloucester No.8 Ben Morgan, Saracens fly-half Charlie Hodgson, Biarritz wing Iain Balshaw and London Irish's Shane Geraghty were among those to post the messages on their Twitter accounts.

January 7, 2013

Kieran Low extends contract with Irish

Posted by Graham Jenkins on 01/07/2013

London Irish lock forward Kieran Low has extended his contract with the Premiership club for a further two years.

The 21-year-old, who has made 12 appearances for the Exiles this season, has been labelled as "one of the most naturally gifted players" that director of rugby Brian Smith has worked with. "He’s a big fella with excellent skills and plenty of desire," said Smith. "If he keeps his feet on the ground and continues to work hard, I have no doubt that he’ll play for England. He’s a terrific player and more importantly a passionate London Irishman. I’m delighted he’s extended his contract with us."

Bath dismiss Ford speculation

Posted by Graham Jenkins on 01/07/2013

Bath coach Toby Booth has rubbished speculation linking the Premiership club with a move for Leicester fly-half George Ford.

Reports suggested that the 19-year-old Ford, currently the second choice playmaker at the Tigers behind Toby Flood, would make a high-profile switch at the end of the season but Booth has insists they are unfounded."His father, Mike [Bath’s defensive head coach], should know and he hasn’t signed with us, he wants to stay at Leicester. And George is categoric about that. And that is direct from Mike," Booth told the Daily Telegraph.

"George wants to fight it out with Toby Flood because this was a very important period for him in December and January, because he wanted to go head to head with Flood and try to prove himself at Leicester. That’s as far as we know, and I think it is well-documented that there are talks with him to try and renew his contract and as far as we know, he’ll be a Leicester player. What he does and the decisions around that are purely based on what he does in January-February when Flood is available.”

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