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May 30, 2013

Former All Black Leonard set for Zebre switch

Posted by Graham Jenkins on 05/30/2013

Former New Zealand scrum-half Brendon Leonard is reportedly set to complete a move to RaboDirect PRO12 side Zebre.

The 28-year-old, who won the last of his 13 Test caps in 2009, is poised to make the switch from the Chiefs at the end of the current Super Rugby season with reporting he will fill the void left by Italian international Tito Tebaldi who recently agreed a two-year deal with PRO12 side the Ospreys.

May 23, 2013

Ex-Zebre coach handed hefty ban

Posted by Graham Jenkins on 05/23/2013

Former Zebre head coach Christian Gajan has been handed a six-month ban from all rugby, suspended for two years, by an independent RaboDirect Pro12 disciplinary committee.

Gajan appeared before the committee in Dublin on a misconduct charge relating to his behaviour towards the match officials during and after Zebre's defeat to Munster in their final game of the season on May 3. Gajan was found guilty of verbally abusing the match officials following the game and, after taking into account previous incidents the ex-Bayonne boss had been involved in, the committee handed him a suspended ban.

May 20, 2013

So'oialo bolsters Connacht squad

Posted by Graham Jenkins on 05/20/2013

Samoan international James So'oialo has signed for RaboDirect PRO12 side Connacht from Wellington Norths on a two-year deal.

The 24-year-old, who played in the 2011 Rugby World Cup, was recently named in the Samoan squad for their upcoming tour to South Africa and is the younger brother of former All Blacks No.8 Rodney So'oialo and former Harlequins scrum-half Stephen So'oialo.

Incoming head coach Pat Lam, who has worked with So'oialo in Samoa, said: "James is a superb utility back who can play all positions but half back. He can kick goals from up to 60 metres out and I'm sure with the Galway wind, we will see him kick from even further out.

"To have someone in our squad with so much versatility and who can kick goals from that distance is a real weapon in our armoury. James will join us for the pre-season straight from his summer duties with Samoa and I'm looking forward to catching up with him then."

Graeme Morrison forced to retire

Posted by Graham Jenkins on 05/20/2013

Glasgow Warriors centre Graeme Morrison has announced his immediate retirement due to a knee injury.

The 30-year-old former Scotland international, who won the last of his 35 Test caps in last year's Six Nations, said: "I’m sad to be leaving the Warriors but I’ve made the decision after receiving medical advice. My knee has been causing me problems for some time now and after serious consideration following the play-off (defeat to Leinster), I’ve decided it’s the right time for me to stop playing professional rugby as I am not able to continue playing at that level."

"I'm very proud and privileged to have represented my country. Ever since I can remember I always dreamed of playing for Scotland. There have been many amazing experiences over the years and some great memories that will stay with me for the rest of my life, such as gaining my first cap and also the series win over in Argentina. Whilst I am sad to have stopped playing, I am very fortunate to have had these experiences."

Glasgow Warriors head coach, Gregor Townsend said: “Graeme has been a fantastic servant for the club and has been extremely loyal by staying here for his whole professional career. He is a true professional and will be missed by everyone at the club. We wish him all the best with whatever career path he chooses and he will always be welcome at Scotstoun.”

May 17, 2013

Rhys Priestland ruled out for eight weeks

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 05/17/2013

The Scarlets have confirmed Rhys Priestland will spend eight weeks on the sidelines as he seeks to heal an Achilles injury.

Priestland was set to tour with Wales to Japan but he was forced to withdraw from the squad after his Achilles tendon flared up. In related news, Scarlets centre Scott Williams is expected to be out for 12 weeks after he underwent surgery on Friday on a shoulder injury. Back-rower Josh Turnbull is also set for a lengthy spell on the sidelines as he too has had surgery on his shoulder.

“The important focus is to ensure that now we have a break from playing that we get on top of these injuries and treatment as early as possible,” Scarlets head of medical Andy Walker said. “We want to give them as much time as possible in recovery during the off-season and in many cases some well-earned rest and the chance to get some full recovery and rehabilitation.”

May 15, 2013

Connacht bring in New Zealand U20's skipper

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 05/15/2013

Connacht have pulled off a transfer coup with the recruitment of Jake Heenan - the man who skippered the U20 Kiwi side to second place in last year's Junior World Championships.

Heenan has signed for the province on a three-year deal and incoming head coach Pat Lam is delighted with the capture. He said: "I came across Jake when he was 17 years old. He played for the Blues Under-18 team when they won the National competition and, even then, I could see what a natural leader and genuine team player he was.

"He brought those leadership skills, as well as his physicality, to the U20 World Championship last summer with the Baby Blacks. Jake is highly regarded back in New Zealand and it is a real coup for Connacht to catch him. I’m very much looking forward to working with him when he arrives here in early July."

May 14, 2013

Connacht trio pen new deals

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 05/14/2013

Connacht have received a boost with the news three of their players have put pen to paper on new contracts with the province.

Scrum half Frank Murphy, who has missed much of the season due to injury, has signed a new one-year deal while back-row forward Mata Fifita has also signed on for one more season. And completing the trio is centre Brian Murphy who has opted to extend his stay with Connacht.

Commenting on the recent re-signings, CEO Tom Sears said: “We are very pleased that Frank, Mata and Brian will be with us next season and all have a significant role to play. Frank has endured a tough year with injury but will be desperate to make up for lost time. Mata and Brian enjoyed a good start to their careers with Connacht and have shown they have what it takes to make a real contribution to the squad and they will no doubt build on successful first seasons.”

May 12, 2013

Blues hope to have artificial pitch next season

Posted by Graham Jenkins on 05/12/2013

Cardiff Blues have confirmed that they hope to have an artificial pitch in place at their Arms Park home in time for next season.

Chief executive Richard Holland has revealed that the PRO12 region are seeking permission from the Welsh Rugby Union to replace the troublesome Arms Park turf with a hi-tech pitch that will cost them a reported £400,000. "There are t's to cross and i's to dot, but hopefully we'll be good to go for next season," Holland told the BBC.

He added: "We have Lions backs and world-class youngsters, but they can't run in mud. We are part of the entertainment industry and we can't expect fans to pay £15 or £20 or buy a season ticket.

"There are also financial issues to be finalised. There are still a couple of hurdles to overcome and we have a board meeting on May 22 and by then hopefully we'll be good to go."

May 10, 2013

Ospreys suffer Rhys Webb blow

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 05/10/2013

The Ospreys have been rocked by the news scrum-half Rhys Webb is set for a lengthy spell on the sidelines.

Webb has picked up an anterior cruciate ligament injury while playing for the Ospreys against Leinster last Friday and following an MRI scan earlier this week, Webb will be forced to undergo the surgeon's knife.

Ospreys head physiotherapist Chris Towers said: "He will undergo reconstructive surgery at a date to be confirmed over the next few weeks, and is looking at a lengthy period of rehab after that."

May 9, 2013

Nick Williams scoops another award

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 05/09/2013

Ulster's Nick Williams followed up his RaboDirect PRO12 Player of the Year with the Irish Rugby Union Players' Association award.

Williams took the Player of the Year award, which was voted for by his peers, and became just the second overseas player to collect the honour in 11 years. Elsewhere, Connacht's Robbie Henshaw won the Young Player of the Year award, which was named after the late Nevin Spence, while Craig Gilroy scooped Try of the Year for his effort against Argentina in November.

May 7, 2013

Jared Payne signs new three-year Ulster deal

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 05/07/2013

Ulster fullback Jared Payne has signed a new three-year deal with the province.

Payne, who was called up to the Barbarians squad for their summer tour on Tuesday, has enjoyed an impressive season for the province and he was delighted to have extended his stay at Ravenhill. "I am really enjoying my rugby here at Ulster so I am pleased to be staying for another three years," Payne said. "We have a fantastic squad of players and we play a great brand of rugby. It has been a successful season so far and hopefully we can finish the campaign off with some silverware."

Ulster's director of rugby David Humphreys added: "Jared is an exceptional player who is as dynamic with ball-in-hand as he is rock solid in defence. He is a hugely important member of our squad and I am delighted that he has committed to Ulster for a further three years."

Kris Burton calls time on Italy career

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 05/07/2013

Italy fly-half Kris Burton has retired from international duty to focus on playing for his new side the Dragons.

Burton has won 21 caps for the Azzurri and played a key role in their 2013 Six Nations campaign. But following the announcement of his switch to the Dragons ahead of next season, Burton has revealed that he feels the time is right to call time on his Test career.

"I want to focus more on playing rugby and being with the family," Burton told the BBC. ""It's a good time for Italy to start blooding some young 10's.

May 3, 2013

Alasdair Dickinson re-joins Edinburgh

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 05/03/2013

Scotland international Alasdair Dickinson has opted to leave Sale Sharks and has signed a one-year deal with Edinburgh.

Dickinson, who has 24 caps for Scotland, has previously ran out for the RaboDirect PRO12 side and has also had a spell with Gloucester. I've learned a huge amount from my time in the English Premiership and believe I'm coming back to the club a completely different and much improved player," Dickinson said. "I'm looking forward to putting that into practice for the club who gave me my first chance in professional rugby, alongside some quality players in the front-row."

"Alasdair is a quality, international rugby player in a key position," said interim Edinburgh Rugby head coach, Stevie Scott. "He's someone I've worked with for a long time, bringing him from Gloucester to Sale for two years, and am now looking forward to working with him again. He does everything by the book to get the best out of himself and what he can contribute to the team so, from that point of view, he will be a great addition to Edinburgh Rugby next season."

April 30, 2013

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."

April 29, 2013

Tandy pens new Ospreys deal

Posted by Graham Jenkins on 04/29/2013

Ospreys head coach Steve Tandy has signed a new four-year contract with the Welsh region.

Tandy was appointed 15 months ago and led the Ospreys to last season's RaboDirect PRO12 title. The PRO12 side has also announced a fresh two-year deal for their backs coach Gruff Rees.

"Steve and Gruff are two of the brightest, most exciting young coaches around," Ospreys chief operations officer Andrew Hore said. "They have already developed excellent reputations as innovative, forward thinkers and have both worked extremely hard to help put foundations in place over the last 15 months to help ensure a sustainable, long-term future for the region."

Tandy added: "We've got a great base to work from, with an experienced core of real quality international players and British Lions, and some outstanding young talent that has come to the fore over the course of this season. With another year of experience under their belts, the potential of this group for next season and beyond is exciting."

April 28, 2013

Leinster set sights on O'Connor

Posted by Graham Jenkins on 04/28/2013

Leinster are reportedly set to appoint Leicester's Matt O'Connor as their new head coach this week.

Current boss Joe Schmidt is widely expected to be confirmed as the new Ireland boss this week with Leinster keen to fill the void before the end of the season. The Irish Times reports that O'Connor was in Dublin during the week and held talks with the IRFU and Leinster’s senior players.

O’Connor, capped once by the Wallabies against Ireland in 1994, made his name as backs coach with the Brumbies and took over the head coaching role at the Tigers from Heyneke Meyer in June 2010 and has since worked under director of rugby Richard Cockerill.

April 26, 2013

Connacht snatch draw with Treviso

Posted by Graham Jenkins on 04/26/2013

Paul O'Donohoe's last-gasp try salvaged a 23-23 draw for Connacht in their RaboDirect Pro12 encounter at Treviso on Friday night.

The Italian side appeared set to take all the points from a closely-contested encounter but O'Donohoe crossed after the hooter to pull the score back to 23-21, and Dan Parks duly added the extras from the conversion to ensure the draw.

Fetu'u Vainikolo had earlier crossed for the opening try of the contest, but Edoardo Gori's effort and a late penalty try appeared to be enough for the Italians until O'Donohoe's dramatic intervention.

Edinburgh create award in honour of Jacobsen

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 04/26/2013

Edinburgh have announced they have created a unique award in honour of Allan 'Chunk' Jacobsen who will retire at the end of the season.

The trophy will be moulded in the shape of Jacobsen's ear and will recognise the player who has been voted the 'most dedicated' over a campaign. The veteran prop will receive the inaugural trophy at the end of the season and he was honoured by the new piece of silverware.

Jacobsen told the BBC: "It's nice to think that the players down the line that have shown the most commitment to the jersey will get recognition from the fans - even if it is a mould of my ear!"

Scotland's Rory Lamont forced to retire

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 04/26/2013

Glasgow Warriors have confirmed Rory Lamont has retired from the game with immediate effect due to a leg injury.

Lamont broke his leg against France in 2012 and has not managed to regain full fitness. The news sees Lamont bring down the curtain on a career that saw him win 29 caps for Scotland and also play for Toulon and Sale. Lamont said: “I’m sad to be retiring from professional rugby but I’ve been struggling with injury for some time now and it’s clear I won’t be able to get back to the level I was playing at before. Despite a tough time personally it’s been a privilege to see the boys do so well and make such good progress this season.

Warriors boss Gregor Townsend added: “Rory has had a frustrating time with injury and everyone at the club feels for him not being able to get back to fitness. We were all hoping he'd make a full recovery and show what he could do in a Warriors jersey. I’d like to thank him for his contribution to the club over his two spells here and he goes with our very best wishes for the future.”

Paddy Wallace re-signs with Ulster

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 04/26/2013

Ulster's Paddy Wallace has penned a new one-year deal with the province while Mike McComish has signed on for two more years.

Wallace has 30 caps for Ireland and is delighted to have re-signed. "This Ulster squad is the strongest that I have been involved in and I have no doubt that we will be competing for silverware next year," Wallace said. "I want to be a part of that and to hopefully to become the first player to make 200 appearances for the province."

Ulster's director of rugby, David Humphreys, said: "Paddy Wallace has unrivalled experience and knowledge of the game. It was important for us to keep him, not just for his playing ability, but also for the significant role that he fulfils in mentoring the young players that we have coming through."

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.

Stade Francais sign Van der Merwe

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 04/24/2013

Leinster prop Heinke van der Merwe will leave the province at the end of the season after signing for Stade Francais.

The four-cap South African prop has been rotating with Cian Healy in the province's front-row but this season will be his last in Dublin having signed a two-year deal with the Parisians.

April 23, 2013

Allan 'Chunk' Jacobsen announces retirement

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 04/23/2013

Edinburgh's record appearance holder Allan Jacobsen has announced he will retire at the end of the season.

Jacobsen has won 65 caps for Scotland and will hang up his boots at the end of the season bringing an end to his Edinburgh career which has seen him make 285 club appearances to date. The prop said: "It’s sad when you think about it, but I've got so many great memories from playing for Edinburgh and Scotland. I've done most of the things I wanted to do on the rugby field and I feel very lucky."

Interim Edinburgh coach Stevie Scott paid tribute to Jacobsen saying: “To stay at the top of the game for sixteen years is an incredible achievement. He’s had a remarkable career; taking over from someone like Tom Smith as the most capped Scotland prop, and signing off as by far and away the longest-serving Edinburgh Rugby player – a record I think he’ll hold on to for quite some time. He’s been a tremendous servant to the club, to Scotland, and to Scottish Rugby as whole, and on behalf of Edinburgh Rugby I’d like to wish him every success in the future.”

April 22, 2013

Scarlets announce John Barclay signing

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 04/22/2013

The Scarlets have confirmed the signing of Glasgow Warriors back-rower John Barclay on a three-year deal.

Barclay has won 41 caps for Scotland and he will link up with his new club at the end of the season. Barclay, who joined the Warriors when he was 17, said: "It's going to be an exciting opportunity for me to experience a new environment in West Wales in the first move of my club career. They have an impressive and ambitious coaching group and it will be good to be part of a team that has so much talent, potential and energy with a mix of key world-class players along with world class playing and training facilities."

Scarlets boss Simon Easterby added: "John is a dynamic player who will offer another added dimension to the existing talent we have in our back row. He has shown that he is really at the top of his game since coming back from injury. At just 26, he brings world-class experience yet still has his best rugby years ahead of him."

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."

April 21, 2013

Duncan Weir suffers serious injury

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 04/21/2013

Glasgow Warriors and Scotland have received a blow with the news fly-half Duncan Weir is out for the rest of the season.

Weir sustained a serious leg injury during Glasgow's 35-17 win over the Ospreys and he will definitely miss Scotland's trip to South Africa this summer. Warriors coach Gregor Townsend told the BBC: "We don't know the full extent. He'll miss the rest of the season and probably be out for the start of next season. It's a real shame for him.

"To miss out on the last couple of games will be disappointing but there will be other players there to take their opportunity and play for Duncan."

April 20, 2013

Blues battling to keep hold of Michael Paterson

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 04/20/2013

The Cardiff Blues are hopeful of retaining versatile forward Michael Paterson amid interest from Aviva Premiership side Sale Sharks.

Paterson's contract is up at the end of the season and the Blues have tabled a three-year deal to keep the Kiwi in Wales with him qualifying for residency over the summer. Sale are keen to recruit the Blues' reigning Player of the Year but Blues CEO Richard Holland is optimistic he will decide to stay in Cardiff.

"We are negotiating with Michael and have put an offer on the table which we feel is competitive," Holland told Wales Online. "But we know there are other interested parties.We are now waiting for his decision. He’s an important part of our team and we want to keep him.

"He qualifies for Wales this summer and if he stays there’s every chances he can fill a position there. If he leaves for England he can probably kick that into touch. He’s definitely good enough to play for Wales in my view."

April 19, 2013

Jonathan Sexton returns for Leinster

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 04/19/2013

Ireland No.10 Jonathan Sexton has been handed the fly-half berth for Leinster's RaboDirect PRO12 match against Zebre on Sunday.

Sexton has been sidelined since Ireland's Six Nations match against England in which he picked up a hamstring injury. As he neared his return, he then sustained a torn tendon in his foot but with Warren Gatland set to unveil his British & Irish Lions squad in 11 days, Sexton will hope to prove to the Lions' backroom staff his he is worthy of a place in the touring party.

In other team news, Brian O'Driscoll skippers the side while Cathal Marsh could make his debut for Leinster if he gets his chance from the bench.

April 17, 2013

Ulster eye PRO12 finale at RDS

Posted by Graham Jenkins on 04/17/2013

Ulster have nominated the RDS in Dublin as its 'home' venue should they qualify for the RaboDirect PRO12 Final on Saturday, May 25.

As one of the five teams still in contention for a play-off place, Ulster had to nominate a venue to host the final should their regular season seeding earn them that right. The rules stipulate that a final venue must have a capacity in excess of 18,000 and with the two-year redevelopment of Ravenhill still ongoing, it would not have been possible to host the game at their usual home.

When the work is complete next summer, the capacity at Ravenhill will be 18,200 and the ground will be capable of hosting a PRO12 final or Heineken Cup quarter-final.

April 16, 2013

Jarvis pens new three-year deal with Ospreys

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 04/16/2013

The Ospreys have announced that tight-head Aaron Jarvis has signed a new three-year deal with the region.

Jarvis made his debut for Wales in the November internationals and has three caps to his name. He is currently sidelined with a long-term injury but he is looking forward to next season. He said: "This is what I really wanted. I'm happy living in the area, the family have settled down here, and I've really developed as a player over the last two seasons since coming here. I'm really, really happy to have signed for another three years."

Andy Lloyd, Ospreys rugby operation manager, added: "We pride ourselves as a place that develops front five forwards and Aaron is another example of this in practice, making huge strides since first signing two years ago. He's shown in his time here that he is a quality player of international standard and is a huge asset to us. He's really developing well and offers a huge amount to the group, on and off the field."

April 14, 2013

Scarlets re-sign Williams, Maule and Warren

Posted by Jonny McLeod on 04/14/2013

The Scarlets have re-signed Scott Williams, Gareth Maule and Adam Warren on new contracts.

The trio join the likes of Aaron Shingler and Ken Owens in committing their futures to the Welsh Region. Williams has won 20 caps for Wales in the centres while Maule and Warren are both promising midfield players.

Scarlets head coach Simon Easterby said: "These are important signings for us and if you add these players to the core of international and regional talent we have already in contract with us, there is a very strong foundation being retained here at the Scarlets in terms of experience, quality and flair which is key to our ambition.”

April 12, 2013

O'Driscoll returns for Leinster

Posted by Jeremy Inson on 04/12/2013

Brian O'Driscoll returns to the starting line-up for Leinster’s clash with Munster at Thormond Park on Saturday.

It is the first time that the former Ireland centre has featured in the European champions’ line-up since their 29-20 win away to Exeter Chiefs in the Heineken Cup in January.

Jonny Sexton is still out, so Ian Madigan continues at fly-half, a week after he passed the 300 point total for the Dublin side.

Paul O'Connell captains Munster and is reunited at second row with Donncha O'Callaghan, who is one of four changes to the team that beat Harlequins in the Heineken Cup quarter-finals a week ago.

Irish young player award named after Spence

Posted by Jeremy Inson on 04/12/2013

The Irish Rugby Union Players Association have renamed their Young Player of the Year award after Nevin Spence.

Ulster centre Spence won the award in 2011, but died a year later following an accident on his parent’s farm in which his father and brother also lost their lives.

His Ulster team-mate Rory Best said, "In his short career, Nevin had a very positive influence on Ulster Rugby, Ireland, his team, friends and family, his memory lives on with us every day and through this Award we know his influence will continue."

The Nevin Spence Young Player of the Year Award will be presented for the first time at the Hibernia College IRUPA Awards which take place on Wednesday, May 8 at Dublin's Burlington Hotel.

April 10, 2013

Glasgow raise capacity for Ospreys clash

Posted by Graham Jenkins on 04/10/2013

Glasgow have announced that they will increase the capacity of Scotstoun Stadium to just over 9,000 for their PRO12 clash against title rivals Ospreys on Friday, April 19.

A new temporary west stand, which will provide around 4,200 seats is currently being constructed and will stay in place for the Glasgow 7s, which is being held at the stadium May 4/5. More than 4,000 tickets have already been sold for this game, which is the Warriors final scheduled home fixture of the season.

Glasgow are currently top of the PRO12 table and like 4th-placed Ospreys are hoping to cement their place in the play-offs with just three games remaining.

April 9, 2013

Dragons sign Italy's Kris Burton

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 04/09/2013

The Dragons have bolstered their squad with four new players ahead of next season with the most notable recruit Italy fly-half Kris Burton.

Burton, who has 21 caps for the Azzurri, will be joined at Rodney Parade next term by Cheetahs second-row Martin Muller, No.8 Netani Talei and Argentinian prop Francisco Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro.

Dragons director of rugby Robert Beale was delighted with his new recruits saying: "With the business now on a sound footing and an agreed strategy in place, the arrival of these players plus the recent acquisition of Ritchie Rees from Edinburgh will add considerable strength to our playing squad for next season. We are still very active in the recruitment market as we look to meet the requirements of our agreed recruitment strategy for season 2013/14 and beyond."

April 7, 2013

Johann Muller out for season

Posted by Jeremy Inson on 04/07/2013

Ulster captain Johann Muller is out for the rest of the season after injuring a bicep in his side’s Heineken Cup quarter-final loss to Saracens.

Prop John Afoa meanwhile will miss their match against Newport-Gwent Dragons after he had to return to New Zealand. He had only returned from New Zealand three days before the match with Saracens after attending the birth of his daughter.

Ulster are currently second in the RaboDirect PRO12, a point behind leaders Glasgow Warriors with three matches remaining.

April 4, 2013

Andrew Bishop signs on for more with Ospreys

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 04/04/2013

Wales and Ospreys centre Andrew Bishop has signed a new three-year deal with the region.

The centre holds the record for the most appearances at the Ospreys and has also won 16 caps for Wales. "I'm really happy about this," Bishop said. "It's great news, I want to stay with the Ospreys which is a great place to be and is where I've played all my senior rugby.

"There's a very good squad here with competition for places right through it. There are a huge amount of youngsters in the squad, so I'm in a strange position where at 27 I'm one of the oldest backs here. When you look at the players who've come through over the last couple of years and the boys coming through now I'm really excited about the future of the Ospreys and I'm delighted that I'm going to be a part of it."

April 3, 2013

Cardiff Blues hit by Lloyd Williams setback

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 04/03/2013

The Cardiff Blues will be without Welsh scrum-half Lloyd Williams for four weeks after he suffered a knee injury playing against the Ospreys at the weekend.

He sustained "grade two medial ligament damage", according to the Blues, and has been pencilled in to return in time to face Ulster on May 3. He therefore looks set to miss their games against Zebre and the Scarlets.

April 2, 2013

Leinster admit interest in Drew Mitchell

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 04/02/2013

Leinster boss Joe Schmidt has revealed that the province have contacted the Waratahs about the services of their winger Drew Mitchell.

Mitchell's, who has 63 caps for the Wallabies, current contract is up at the end of the season and with Leinster losing star winger Isa Nacewa ahead of next season, the back-to-back Heineken Cup champions are on the search for a new winger. Reports in the Australian press a month ago claimed that Mitchell was on Leinster's radar and Schmidt has confirmed that they have made contact with the Waratahs.

"We were just trying to find out if he was available, that’s all," Schmidt told "You try to get a bit of a feel of players, who you think might fit the bill. He's a left winger and a class player."

March 30, 2013

O'Driscoll omission sparks speculation

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 03/30/2013

Brian O’Driscoll’s omission from a list of Leinster’s player contracts for next season has increased speculation the Ireland international will retire at the end of the season.

O’Driscoll, who is currently banned for a stamp during Ireland’s final Six Nations clash, has yet to confirm his future plans and maintains he will make a decision at the end of the season.

But he was not on a list of 23 new contracts announced by the Province, intensifying speculation that he will retire from the game after the British & Irish Lions tour to Australia this summer.

March 28, 2013

Ferris weighing up Japan move

Posted by Jeremy Inson on 03/28/2013

Ireland flanker Stephen Ferris is reportedly contemplating a move to the Japanese Top League after he turned down a pay as you play contract with the Irish Rugby Football Union.

The 2009 Lion has been afflicted by knee and ankle injuries over the last 12 months and the 27-year-old has only played four times for Ulster this season.

He hasn’t featured for Ireland since their 30-9 loss to England in the final round of matches in the 2012 Six Nations and The Irish Independent reports that it is this run of injuries that prompted the IRFU to make an offer that was linked to his ability to feature in matches.

If he does move to Japan he will follow the likes of James Haskell, Sonny Bill Williams and Brad Thorne who have made big money moves there in recent years.

March 27, 2013

Eli Walker sidelined after back surgery

Posted by Graham Jenkins on 03/27/2013

Ospreys winger Eli Walker has been ruled out for the rest of the season after undergoing back surgery that is also likely to end any hope of him earning selection for Wales summer tour to Japan.

The 20-year-old is one of the hottest prospects in the RaboDirect PRO12 and was part of Wales' Six Nations training squad but he has been forced to go under the knife having failed to respond to other treatment.

"Eli hasn't shown any improvement following conservative treatment of his back issue, so having taking expert advice he underwent an operation to correct the problem on Tuesday," Ospreys head physiotherapist Chris Towers said. "Experience of dealing with similar issues suggests that he will be out of action for around 10 to 12 weeks."

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."

Johnny O'Connor announces retirement

Posted by Graham Jenkins on 03/27/2013

Connacht forward Johnny O'Connor has announced his retirement.

The 33-year-old former Ireland international flanker, who also tasted Heineken Cup and Premiership glory during a four-year stint with London Wasps, has decided to call time on his injury-plagued career at the end of the season. "I'm happy with this decision I've come to following 14 years playing professional rugby and my body is telling me that it's 'my time' now," he said.

Commenting about his former team-mate, Connacht head coach Eric Elwood said: "He played the game hard and his willingness to push his body to the limits for his team mates and province will be my stand out memory of Johnny and that is why he is held in such high regard by all his team mates and our supporters."

March 26, 2013

John Welsh signs new deal with Glasgow

Posted by Jonny McLeod on 03/26/2013

Glasgow Warriors have agreed a new deal with Jon Welsh.

The tighthead prop, who made his debut for Scotland in last year’s Six Nations, has signed a two-year extension that will take him through to May 2015. The 26-year-old was part of Scotland’s squad for this year's Six Nations.

"I am very happy to have committed my future to the Warriors and I am looking forward to playing my part in bringing success to this club," said Welsh.

March 25, 2013

Fussell commits to Ospreys

Posted by Graham Jenkins on 03/25/2013

The Ospreys have revealed that fullback Richard Fussell has put pen to paper on a new deal that will keep him at the Liberty Stadium until the end of the 2015-16 season.

“This season in particular he’s been sensational the way he’s coped with being the old head and the only constant in an ever changing, regularly patched up back three," said Andy Lloyd, the Ospreys' rugby operations manager. "He’s dealt magnificently with having to work with so many different combinations and his attitude in helping through so many youngsters has been admirable. It’s summed up perfectly what he brings to this squad."

Fussell, who signed for the Ospreys in the summer of 2010, said: "It’s huge for me, knowing that the Ospreys want to keep me here for the long term. It’s great to know that management see me as part of the future of the region."

March 22, 2013

Scarlets hint at Priestland return

Posted by Graham Jenkins on 03/22/2013

Scarlets coach Simon Easterby has suggested that Wales fly-half Rhys Priestland may make a surprise return to action this season but will not be rushed back if he is not ready.

Priestland suffered an Achilles injury in a Heineken Cup match against Exeter in December and was initially ruled out for the rest of the campaign but the 26-year-old has made good progress in his rehabilitation and could yet return to bolster the Scarlets' PRO12 push and his own hopes of selection for the British & Irish Lions.

"I'm not going to put any pressure on him," said Easterby told the South Wales Evening Post. "I think he feels refreshed after having a break from competitive rugby. He's feeling really good about himself and he's feeling really good about his Achilles but that will be totally down to him whether he plays this season or not.

"If he's right, he'll come into contention. 'If he's not right, we wouldn't expect to push him and cause a setback. He's had a really good block of a couple of months of training.''

March 21, 2013

Rennie to return from injury

Posted by Graham Jenkins on 03/21/2013

Scotland and Edinburgh flanker Ross Rennie will return to RaboDirect PRO12 action against Ulster at Murrayfield on Friday night.

Ross has been sidelined since sustaining a shoulder injury during Scotland's defeat against New Zealand in November and has not played for Edinburgh since the October clash at home to Scarlets.

Lydiate to make Dragons comeback

Posted by Graham Jenkins on 03/21/2013

Wales and Dragons flanker Dan Lydiate will make his eagerly-awaited return from injury on Friday night.

Lydiate, last season's Six Nations Player of the Championship, has been sidelined since October due to a serious ankle injury and missed Wales' successful defence of the title but he will pack down in Dragons' back-row for their RaboDirect PRO12 clash against the Ospreys in Swansea.

Grabham pens new Ospreys deal

Posted by Graham Jenkins on 03/21/2013

The Ospreys have announced a new two-year deal with rising star Tom Grabham. The 21-year-old winger, who previously played for Tondu and Bridgend, has agreed terms to remain with the Ospreys until at least 2015.

Grabham made his senior regional debut last season in the LV= Anglo-Welsh Cup game away to Exeter Chiefs, finishing the campaign with three substitute appearances to his credit.

This season has seen him feature regularly for the Ospreys, with 10 more appearances to his credit, his first start coming against Glasgow in the PRO12 in September and his Heineken Cup debut away to Treviso two months ago. He has also gained international experience with Wales, captaining his country on the IRB Sevens World Series.

March 20, 2013

Leinster's Isa Nacewa to retire at end of season

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 03/20/2013

Leinster have confirmed that Isa Nacewa will retire at the end of the season.

The 30-year-old, who has helped Leinster to three Hieneken Cup titles in his five years with the province, is hanging up his boots for family reasons. The New Zealander has played 116 times for Leinster, scoring 375 points in all competitions, after joining Leinster from Auckland Blues in 2008.

Leinster coach Joe Schmidt said: "I've known Isa for a number of years. He's universally respected due to the quality of his character, his athleticism, skill and commitment. He has been great value for us, not just on the field where he has provided a string of highlights but off the field also, where he has contributed enormously to the development of the players around him.

"He's hugely popular amongst supporters and hopefully they will enjoy a few more outstanding performances from Isa in the coming weeks."

Tom Isaacs signs new deal with Ospreys

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 03/20/2013

Utility back Tom Isaacs has signed a new deal with the Ospreys.

The 26-year-old, who joined the Ospreys in 2009, has agreed a new two-year contract, which will keep him at the Liberty Stadium until the summer of 2015.

Isaacs said: "I had a difficult first year due to injuries but I had great support and I was able to put that behind me. Over the last three seasons, and the last 24 months in particular, I've been able to play a part in what the team is doing and it keeps getting better for me.

"I've had a good run this season, and that's something I've really enjoyed. Like I said, I'm still learning a hell of a lot, from the coaches and my team-mates, but if I keep working hard I can hopefully cement my place in the team over the next two years."

March 19, 2013

Duncan Jones signs new Ospreys deal

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 03/19/2013

Former Wales prop Duncan Jones has signed a two-year contract extension with the Ospreys.

The 34-year-old, who won the last of his 57 international caps in 2009, has been a central figure for the Ospreys for the past decade and is third on their all-time appearances list.

"I'm delighted to have sorted out the next couple of years, "Jones told the Ospreys website. “I think we are at the start of another new challenge here, right now. A lot of the faces have changed and I think it is an exciting time.”

March 11, 2013

Ken Owens re-signs with Scarlets

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 03/11/2013

Wales hooker Ken Owens has opted to sign a new contract with the Scarlets.

Owens has 14 caps for the national side and has been at the region since 2004. "It was important to have secured Ken for the future as a key player to build our squad around," head coach Simon Easterby said. "We are delighted that someone of his ability, experience and with genuine passion for our region has committed to remain with us in the seasons to come."

"There is plenty to look forward to and I am pleased to be committed to Scarlets rugby now as competition and some depth in key positions builds in our squad," Owens said. "The boys have done well in recent weeks to keep us in the top four of the RaboDirect PRO12 and thanks to their hard work we have an exciting finish to the league season when we return to Parc y Scarlets."

March 9, 2013

Leicester lure Williams from Scarlets

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 03/09/2013

Scarlets fly-half Owen Williams will join Leicester Tigers at the end of the season, the Welsh Region have confirmed.

The 21-year-old, who has represented Wales at Under-20 level, has played just seven competitive matches this season but has rose to prominence in recent months. Head coach Simon Easterby insisted the Scarlets had offered him a new contract and they were disappointed he had opted to leave at the end of his development contract.

Easterby said: "We have handed him some excellent opportunities recently this season which he has taken very well and which we believed showed our intent to develop him further as a Scarlets player. However, sometimes performances on the bigger stages bring with it additional attention from outside our group and he along with his agent have made his decision to move to England at this time at the end of his development contract with us."

He added: "Unfortunately, this sudden move came to us with no warning or discussion and is a surprise to us in the context of what we would consider to be in the best interests for Owen going forward."

March 8, 2013

Paul O'Connell set for playing return

Posted by Graham Jenkins on 03/08/2013

Ireland and Munster lock Paul O'Connell is set to make his long-awaiting comeback from a back injury next week.

O'Connell, who has made just two appearances for his province this season, had surgery to rectify a bulging disc in his back on New Year’s Eve and was expected to be sidelined for 3-4 months - but he has recently returned to training with Young Munster and is expected to play some part in Munster A's interprovincial clash against Leinster on Tuesday.

His sooner-than-expected return raises hopes he may by fit for Munster's Heineken Cup quarter-final clash with Harlequins on April 7 and gives him a chance to prove his form and fitness ahead of the announcement of the British & Irish Lions squad that is expected on April 30.

March 7, 2013

Glasgow confirm John Barclay exit

Posted by Graham Jenkins on 03/07/2013

Glasgow Warriors have announced that Scotland back-row John Barclay will leave the club at the end of the season.

The 26-year-old, who has made 146 appearances for the Warriors and has amassed 41 caps for Scotland to date, has been linked with a move to English Premiership side Leicester Tigers.

Warriors head coach, Gregor Townsend said: "He will be with us until the end of the season and is now back to full match fitness following his recent hamstring injury. It is great to be able to call on a player of his ability and experience for what could be some of the most important games in the club’s history."

March 6, 2013

Andrew Browne signs new Connacht contract

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 03/06/2013

Connacht have received a boost with the news that utility forward Andrew Browne has signed a new two-year deal.

He has made 87 appearances for the province and after missing much of last season due to injury, he has re-taken his place in the pack for this term. "Andrew has been top quality this season after coming back from serious injury," Connacht's chief executive Tom Sears said. "His ability to cover a number of positions is a real asset and he has put in consistently high performances this year in whichever role he has been asked to fill.

"The coaching staff are delighted with his form this season and believe there is more to come from him in the future as his game continues to develop. As a local born player he has a real affinity to Connacht Rugby and we see the qualities in him to become a vital member of the squad for years to come."

March 5, 2013

Ulster scrum-half Michael Heaney re-signs

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 03/05/2013

Ulster scrum-half Michael Heaney has been rewarded with a new two-year deal.

He has turned out eight times for the province this season after spending six months last term with RFU Championship side Doncaster. Heaney said: “I was delighted to have been given the opportunity to come back to Ulster last summer and I am glad that I have done enough this season to have been granted a new contract.

“Ulster has always been home and I am looking forward to representing the province over the next two years.”

Rhys Webb signs on for three more years

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 03/05/2013

Ospreys scrum-half Rhys Webb has re-signed with the region for a further three years.

"I'm absolutely thrilled,” Webb said. “To be able to commit to another three years with my home region is fantastic. It's a brilliant environment here, the only place I want to play rugby. Having done so well last season I've obviously been disappointed to not get so much game time this year, but I've had to knuckle down and work hard. Kahn [Fotuali’i] has been a great help for me in terms of development and I believe that if I keep on working hard I can become a much better player over the three years of my new contract.”

Andy Lloyd, rugby operations manager at the Ospreys, added: "It's great news for Rhys and for the region. It's important that we keep hold of young, talented home grown players who have already shown that they can compete at the top level and he certainly fits that description. With the addition of Tito Tebaldi confirmed for next season, someone of Rhys' proven ability signing a new contract, and then with the potential of Tom Habberfield, it bodes well for the Ospreys."

March 4, 2013

Connacht announce Millard departure

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 03/04/2013

Connacht have confirmed that backs coach Billy Millard will leave the province at the end of the season to take up a position in the United States.

Millard has been at Connacht since 2011 and Eric Elwood has praised the ex-Melbourne Rebels head coach’s impact. "Billy has been outstanding in his role as Backs / Attack Coach since his arrival to Connacht Rugby in 2011," Elwood said. "His work ethic, knowledge, attention to detail and delivery has been top class in all areas.

"Billy is a popular member of our group and will be missed. I personally want to thank him for his friendship and the work that he has done at Connacht Rugby and on behalf of everyone, I want to wish him every success in his future role in New York."

Joe Bearman re-signs with Ospreys

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 03/04/2013

The Ospreys have received a boost with the news that Joe Bearman has signed a new two-year deal with the region.

"I've really enjoyed my time here so I'm really happy to be able to sign a new contract," said Bearman. "It's a pleasure to come to work every day, to play for the Ospreys. We've got a great bunch of boys in the squad and quality coaching staff, there's a great atmosphere around the place and I'm really enjoying myself here. It was a straightforward, easy decision to commit myself to the Ospreys for another two years."

Rugby operations manager Andy Lloyd added: "Joe is a fantastic member of the squad and with his contract expiring at the end of this season it was important that he signed a new deal for next season and beyond. He just keeps getting better and better as a player and even though he is a little bit older than most his conditioning is excellent."

Cardiff Blues sign Filo Paulo

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 03/04/2013

The Cardiff Blues have recruited Blues lock Filo Paulo ahead of next season.

The Samoan, who had a short stint at Ulster early on in his career, said: "I am very excited to be joining Cardiff Blues. I know a lot of great players have worn the team's colours so I am extremely grateful to be offered this opportunity and I will be giving my all in order to meet the high standards set by my team-mates, the coaching staff and the supporters."

Director of rugby Phil Davies added: "He will definitely add value to the current crop of back five players for us. He will be with us all the time, week in week out, and we have four other second rows who are all Welsh-qualified. His arrival will add strength and depth to the team."

March 2, 2013

Ospreys sign Tito Tebaldi

Posted by Graham Jenkins on 03/02/2013

The Ospreys have announced the signing of Italy international scrum-half Tito Tebaldi from RaboDirect PRO12 rivals Zebre on a two-year deal

The 25-year-old Tebaldi, who won the last of his 16 Test caps against the USA last year, is set to fill the void left by Northampton-bound Samoa No.9 Kahn Fotuali'l. "I am excited about this fantastic opportunity with the Ospreys," he said. "Their record in the PRO12 speaks for itself, and the chance to be a part of such a successful club is something I couldn't turn down."

March 1, 2013

Rhys Patchell pens new Blues deal

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 03/01/2013

The Cardiff Blues have confirmed that five of their players have re-signed with the region.

Rhys Patchell, Sam Hobbs, Rhys Williams, Tom Davies and Richard Smith have all penned new contracts with Patchell signing on for three more years. "Rhys is the future of the Blues, players like him, Sam Hobbs, Tom Davies and Tom Williams are the type we want to be building the team around," Blues coach Phil Davies said.

"That is why it was so important to get him to stay and to have him around for the next three years is fantastic. I think we have given him the opportunity and he has taken it."

February 28, 2013

Stephen Ferris goes under the knife

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 02/28/2013

Ulster and Ireland flanker Stephen Ferris has undergone an operation to clear up his ankle joint.

Ferris is not expected to play any competitive rugby again this season and is a massive doubt for June's British & Irish Lions tour to Australia. He suffered an ankle injury against Edinburgh back in February and following his initial operation, the medical staff were hopeful that he would be fit in time for the Six Nations. But after further investigation, the injury was deemed to need a second operation.

His prolonged spell on the sidelines means that the negotiations over his new contract, with his current deal coming to an end in the summer, with the Ireland Rugby Football Union have been delayed, according to reports in the Irish Times. To obtain a central contract the player must be a frequent starter for Ireland which could count against Ferris due to his recent injury record.

Tomas Vallejos released by Scarlets

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 02/28/2013

The Scarlets have granted Argentina international Tomas Vallejos an early release from his contract to allow the second-row to link up with an Argentinian development side Pampas XV who will play in the Vodacom Cup.

Vallejos joined the Scarlets from Harlequins before the start of the season but he has made just eight appearances for the region this term. Scarlets boss Simon Easterby explained the decision saying: "Building up depth and creating strong competition for places is healthy for our region, however it has meant that Tomás has not had a great deal of game time with us.

"We appreciate this wish and respect his decision to move back with an Argentinean side and thank him for the spirit and enthusiasm he has shown for Scarlets rugby during his time with us. We wish him all the best in the Vodacom Cup and his future aspirations in rugby."

February 27, 2013

Wales release Alun-Wyn Jones for Ospreys duty

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 02/27/2013

The Ospreys will have both Alun-Wyn Jones and James King available for their showdown with Munster on Saturday.

The pair have been released by Wales and Jones will hope to prove to the management that he is fit and firing after spending a spell on the sidelines. Wales have also opted to release Aaron Shingler, Matthew Rees and Liam Williams to the Scarlets. The Blues also have Lou Reed and Lloyd Williams at their disposal.

Blues receive Bradley Davies boost

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 02/27/2013

The Cardiff Blues are hopeful that Wales lock Bradley Davies could play again before the end of the season.

Davies sustained an ankle ligament injury in January and was expected to miss the entire campaign. But Blues coach Phil Davies says that the lock is progressing quicker than previously expected.

"He has come out of his boot, but it's a couple of months' time that we are expecting him to potentially be back,” Davies said. “It may be the last couple of the games of the season, if that. He is progressing well and he is doing his rehab very diligently."

Ospreys - 'There is no money for signings'

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 02/27/2013

Ospreys coach Jonathan Humphreys has ruled out the possibility of the region adding more players in the summer as “there is no money”.

The Welsh region will lose Kahn Fotauli’i to the Northampton Saints at the end of the season but it looks unlikely that they will draft in a high profile replacement. "We would love to spend in the summer but there is no money," Humphreys told the BBC. "There is no money at all for us and that comes from factors like having the least funding of anybody. Therefore, there is no money left to go and strengthen."

While Glasgow bolstered their squad with the signing of Richie Vernon on Tuesday, Humphreys admits it is frustrating to see other teams being able to recruit. "Look at Glasgow, they have gone on a helluva run purely on the strength of their squad," Humphreys added. "It is huge. Leinster will be the same. Munster next year will have the ability to go and get more players. Everybody is going to get stronger."

February 26, 2013

Edinburgh stalwart Roddy Grant re-signs

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 02/26/2013

Edinburgh back-row Roddy Grant has signed a new two-year deal with the RaboDirect PRO12 club.

"Edinburgh is my club and I do everything I can, on and off the pitch, to help drive things on, and am excited about what we can achieve in the next two seasons," Grant said. "There are some great young players coming through the ranks and bursting on to the international scene. There’s huge potential.

"I’m still looking to improve my own game and feel that Edinburgh is a great place to do that alongside some great players in a good environment, and in the shop window for Scotland selection, which is obviously a huge goal of mine. But first, as a team and a club, we need to rectify an unacceptable season. It’s a real challenge and great source of motivation, it’s something I care a lot about and am delighted to be part of it for another two years."

Andries Pretorius sidelined for four months

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 02/26/2013

Cardiff Blues have confirmed that their skipper Andries Pretorius faces four months out of action due to shoulder surgery.

Pretorious has carried the injury since December but he aggravated it against Edinburgh on February 15. He now faces a lengthy spell on the sidelines but the region are optimistic that he should be fit to return in time for May.

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.”

Ulster rocked by Paddy Wallace blow

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 02/26/2013

Ulster will be without centre Paddy Wallace for the rest of the season after it was confirmed that he has ruptured his anterior cruciate ligament.

Wallace suffered the injury to his left knee during their match against Glasgow on Friday and Ulster have said that his "injury will require surgery and a significant period of rehabilitation". The news will come as a huge blow to the province as they are still very much in the mix for RaboDirect PRO12 and Heineken Cup glory.

Connacht front-row duo pen new deals

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 02/26/2013

Connacht have received a boost with the news that props Rodney Ah You and JP Cooney have signed new deals.

Ah You has put pen to paper on a new one-year deal while Cooney has signed on for two more years. "Rodney is a young prop with a lot of potential, who can play on both sides of the scrum," Connacht's assistant coach Dan McFarland said. "He offers size and power, which can be very effective at scrum time and provides big impacts around the park. He has shown good progress in his time in Ireland and we are hopeful that he will push on again in the coming year.

"JP can also play on either side of the scrum and he has demonstrated to us in a short period of time that he has the potential, desire and an ability to learn. I am very much looking forward to working with him over the next two years."

February 24, 2013

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."

February 22, 2013

Gethin Jenkins to quit Toulon for Blues

Posted by Jeremy Inson on 02/22/2013

Wales prop Gethin Jenkins will return to the Cardiff Blues for the start of next season after negotiating an early release from his contract with French league leaders Toulon.

Jenkins signed a two-year deal with the Top 14 side at the start of the season but has been seen limited game time with former England international Andrew Sheridan their preferred option at loose-head. Wales head coach Warren Gatland has also raised concerns over his lack of fitness since crossing the English Channel.

"Gethin's experience will add to the team, he is very vocal on the pitch and I am sure that a lot of the youngsters will also be very vocal with him as well next year,” Cardiff Blues director of rugby Phil Davies said.

February 21, 2013

Ferris suffers fresh injury blow

Posted by Graham Jenkins on 02/21/2013

Ireland and Ulster flanker Stephen Ferris has suffered a major setback in his battle back from an ankle injury with reports suggesting he is set to be ruled out of action for the rest of the season.

The 27-year-old underwent surgery on the injury in December and earlier this month said he was hoping to be fully fit by March. But a review of the injury has revealed that some "minor issues" remain with BBC Sport reporting he requires further surgery that would all but end his hopes of playing again this season and being selected for the British & Irish Lions' tour to Australia.

Ulster have released a statement saying that medical staff are "considering several options to ensure that he makes a full and complete return to play" with a decision on a course of action to be "made in the coming weeks".

February 20, 2013

Wales release nine ahead of Italy Test

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 02/20/2013

Wales have opted to release nine players back to their regional teams as they prepare for Saturday's Six Nations clash with Italy in Rome.

The list includes Scarlets flanker Aaron Shingler, who was on bench duty when Wales beat France in Paris on February 9. Shingler is joined by his Scarlets team-mates Matthew Rees, Josh Turnbull and Tavis Knoyle, while Scott Andrews, Josh Navidi and Andries Pretorius return to the Cardiff Blues. Ryan Bevington and James King also head back to the Ospreys.

Wales named their team for the Test on Tuesday.

February 19, 2013

Ospreys hit with Ben John setback

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 02/19/2013

The Ospreys have confirmed that centre Ben John will miss their matches against Edinburgh and Munster after damaging his rib cartilage during their loss to Connacht.

The centre was forced off just 10 minutes into the game at the Sportsground last Friday evening and head physio Chris Towers claims he will be fit to return in "around four weeks".

Dragons ponder coaching change

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 02/19/2013

Dragons CEO Martyn Hazell has admitted that the region are considering changing their coaching set-up at the end of the season.

The Dragons crashed to a 60-3 home defeat at the hands of Glasgow Warriors on Friday evening and sit in eleventh place in the RaboDirect PRO12. And while Hazell is unwilling to chop and change the backroom staff midway through the campaign, he is considering drafting in fresh faces.

"We have to go through it with the coaches and see what they think is the problem, or they may be the problem anyhow. There is no point in changing at this point in the season," Hazell told the BBC. "It's not a small problem... it needs a really good look at. We have to discuss it as a board to see where we are. I think something will have to be done somewhere along the line."

February 18, 2013

Connacht capture Chiefs' Craig Clarke

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 02/18/2013

Connacht have pulled off an impressive coup with the signing of Chiefs' second-row Craig Clarke on a three-year deal.

Clarke, 29, led the Chiefs to their maiden Super Rugby title in 2012 and he will bring a wealth of experience to Pat Lam's side. “We are absolutely delighted with this key signing - it is a major coup for Connacht," Connacht CEO Tom Sears said. "This is something we have been working towards for some time now and the fact a player of Craig’s calibre has chosen to commit to Connacht is a clear sign of the progress we have made and our intent going forward.

“Our coaching staff is delighted to have Craig on board, he has all of the qualities we are looking for on and off the field and we have no doubt that he will be a major influence for Connacht in the seasons to come. With a three year deal Craig has shown he really believes in what we are doing and the potential we have."

February 17, 2013

Van der Merwe signs new Glasgow deal

Posted by Jonny McLeod on 02/17/2013

DTH van der Merwe has signed a new two-year contract with Glasgow Warriors.

The 26-year-old, who joined the club in 2009, has committed himself to the club until at least May 2015. The winger has scored eight tries in nine appearances this season.

"This was a pretty easy decision for me and I'm very happy to have signed the deal," said van der Merwe. "The direction the squad is heading played a big factor in my decision to stay in Glasgow, not just the guys who are playing here already but the guys who want to come and play their rugby here too. It's pretty exciting.”

February 16, 2013

Edwards "embarrassed" at defeat to Glasgow

Posted by James Bass on 02/16/2013

Dragons coach Darren Edwards has called on his players to bounce back after suffering an “embarrassing” defeat to Glasgow Warriors in the RaboDirect PRO12.

The Welsh side were put to the sword 60-3 by Glasgow, who go into the record books for the biggest away win in the tournament’s history, leaving Dragons second from bottom in the league.

"We're embarrassed, you can't hide away from the facts of that... I'm embarrassed because that was my team out there," Edwards told the BBC after the match. "There's got to be a response from what happened here tonight [Friday] and I'll be expecting that next week."

The Dragons will play bottom side Zebre on February 24.

February 15, 2013

Jones and Varley re-sign with Munster

Posted by Jonny McLeod on 02/15/2013

Felix Jones and Damien Varley have signed contract extensions with Munster.

Both players have agreed two-year extensions that will see them remain at Thomond Park until at least the end of the 2014/15 season.

Fullback Jones, 25, is currently recovering from knee surgery while hooker Varley, 29, is set to make his 90th appearance for Munster in their RaboDirect Pro12 clash with the Scarlets on Saturday.

February 12, 2013

Ulster trio sign contract extensions

Posted by Jonny McLeod on 02/12/2013

Ulster trio Lewis Stevenson, Neil McComb and Sean Doyle have signed contract extensions with the Irish province.

Stevenson, 28, has committed himself to Ulster until at least the summer of 2016 while fellow second-row Neil McComb, 29, will remain with the team until June 2015. Back-rower Sean Doyle has signed on until the end of the 2013/2014 season.

"I am delighted that these three players have committed to Ulster in the long-term," said Ulster director of rugby David Humphreys. "Lewis and Neil have been important to us all season, while Sean showed in his first few games what an exciting prospect he is. I have no doubt that they will only get better as players and that is good for Ulster."

February 8, 2013

Former All Black MacDonald forced to retire

Posted by Jeremy Inson on 02/08/2013

Glasgow Warriors and former All Blacks flanker Angus MacDonald has been forced to retire due to a neck injury and will now return to New Zealand.

The 32-year-old only joined the Warriors ahead of the current season and he played four matches in total for the Scottish side. He previously won two All Blacks’ caps in 2005, against Scotland and Wales.

“It would have been nice to have played for a few more years but it’s come to the point where the injury is affecting me day to day with my mobility and everyday life so I’ve taken the decision that will give me the best chance of a full recovery,” Macdonald said.

“I’m gutted that I’ve not been able to pull on the jersey more often for the Warriors but I’d like to thank for the club and Scottish Rugby for the opportunity to play here.”

February 5, 2013

Kearney signs new deal with IRFU

Posted by Graham Jenkins on 02/05/2013

Ireland and Leinster fullback Rob Kearney has agreed terms to a new two-year contract with the Irish Rugby Football Union.

Reports had suggested that the 26-year-old may follow in the footsteps of his his provincial and international team-mate Jonathan Sexton and opt to move overseas at the end of the current campaign but he is set to put pen to paper on a deal that will keep him in Ireland until the end of the 2014-15 season.

Kearney said:"I’m delighted to be continuing my rugby career in Ireland. Leinster Rugby has always been my home and I am very excited to be remaining here to play with a great bunch of players and coaching staff. I have been very lucky to have experienced success with that same group over the last number of years and with the great support we have, it made it a very easy decision for me."

IRFU chief executive Philip Browne said: "We are delighted that a player of Rob’s calibre will be remaining within the structures of Irish Rugby and it is an indication of the efforts that we are making to keep as many of our players at home for the benefit of the provinces and Irish Rugby as a whole.”

February 4, 2013

Johann Muller extends Ulster stay

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 02/04/2013

Ulster have been given a huge boost with the news that their skipper Johann Muller has penned a new deal that will keep him at the province until 2014.

"The contract extension has been in the pipeline for a while now and I’m delighted to get it signed," Muller said. "I’ve had a great time at Ulster so far, three years have flown by and I’m really looking forward to a fourth year. Ulster Rugby has gone through some wonderful times over the past couple of years and it’s brilliant to be part of that. The players and back room staff have done an amazing job over the past three years and it’s an exciting place to be.

"Everybody is really happy being part of this squad and this environment and I’m no different. We’re on the right track and hopefully we can keep on going and win some silverware."

January 31, 2013

Cian Healy and Mike Ross sign new deals

Posted by Graham Jenkins on 01/31/2013

Ireland props Cian Healy and Mike Ross have signed new contracts with the Irish Rugby Football Union.

Healy, 25, has penned a three-year deal lasting until 2016 while Ross, 33, has agreed fresh terms that expire in 2015. "It's a very strong sign for Irish rugby to have such important players to both the Leinster and Ireland teams committing their futures to remain playing here," IRFU chief executive Philip Browne said.

"The market place for players continues to be a competitive one, but the IRFU and the provinces will continue to work to retain the best players in Ireland."

January 30, 2013

Cardiff Blues bring in Liam Davies

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 01/30/2013

The Cardiff Blues have completed the signing of scrum-half Liam Davies on a short-term deal.

Davies has spent time at Brive, Scarlets, Ospreys, London Welsh and the Dragons and will play for the Blues until the end of the season. "Liam is a player that I am familiar with having coached him as a 19 year old in the Scarlets," Blues coach Phil Davies said. "He is a very talented scrum half who has a great pass, a good kick and does the basics well.

"He played alongside Andy Goode in Brive and has come home looking for an opportunity to play. He will give us extra cover at scrum half for the rest of the season with Rob Lewis having returned to London Welsh on a loan spell."

Munster duo out until March

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 01/30/2013

Munster's Doug Howlett and Felix Jones have both undergone minor knee operations and will be back fit in March.

Stephen Archer, who limped out of the game against Cardiff with a dead leg, is expected back in training next week but is a doubt for the match with Edinburgh on February 9 while James Downey, who is struggling with a rib injury, is also likely to miss the RaboDirect PRO12 clash at Musgrave Park.

January 29, 2013

Peter O'Mahony pens new Munster contract

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 01/29/2013

A matter of days after Leinster's Jonathan Sexton announced he would be leaving Ireland, his international team-mate Peter O'Mahony has opted to pen a new two-year contract with the Irish Rugby Football Union.

O'Mahony will stay at Munster until the end of the 2014-15 season and he will look to add to his 43 appearances for the province and eight caps for Ireland. "I am delighted to have my future sorted and to commit to Munster," O'Mahony said. "It has been a really enjoyable journey so far for me in my career and the last two seasons in particular have been exciting, from breaking into the Munster team and captaining the side and then earning my first cap for Ireland.

"I'm thoroughly enjoying my rugby at the moment and feel there is much more that we can achieve with Munster and Ireland over the next couple of years and I wanted very much to be a part of that."

January 26, 2013

Scarlets duo sign new deals

Posted by Jonny McLeod on 01/26/2013

Props Phil John and Emyr Phillips have signed new deals with the Scarlets.

John, 31, has agreed a new two-year deal while Phillips, 25, has committed his future to the Scarlets for a further three years. However Wales Sevens international Rhodri Gomer Davies, who has also played for Northampton and the Dragons, has been forced to retire through injury.

Scarlets head coach Simon Easterby said: "Emyr is a key part of our future and has proved himself to be an excellent professional when handed opportunities in recent years. He is progressing quickly and will flourish given the competition that still exists in our squad at hooker.

He added: "Phil has been outstanding for us this season and working with Danny (Wilson) has brought a real focus to his work in the scrum. He was celebrated for reaching 250 appearances against Clermont last weekend and with more than 13 years service for Llanelli and the Scarlets, is an example of the loyalty this club engenders in its players."

January 25, 2013

Scarlets duo pen new contracts

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 01/25/2013

The Scarlets have re-signed two of their front-rowers on to new deals. Hooker Emyr Phillips has signed a new three-year deal while prop Phil John has also extended his stay with the Welsh region.

"Emyr is a key part of our future and has proved himself to be an excellent professional when handed opportunities in recent years," Scarlets boss Simon Easterby said. "He is progressing quickly and will flourish given the competition that still exists in our squad at hooker.

"Phil has been outstanding for us this season and working with Danny [Wilson] has brought a real focus to his work in the scrum. He was celebrated for reaching 250 appearances against Clermont last weekend and with more than 13 years service for Llanelli and the Scarlets, is an example of the loyalty this club engenders in its players. As a region we are grateful for all he has committed during this time and for the level of performance he has brought to the Scarlets jersey this season in particular."

In related news, Scarlets centre Rhodri Gomer-Davies has been forced to retire after failing to recover from a knee injury.

January 24, 2013

Connacht secure Exeter's Aly Muldowney

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 01/24/2013

Connacht have announced the signing of Exeter Chiefs second-row Aly Muldowney on a three-year contract.

"Aly is a player we have looked at for some time; our coaching staff have watched him a lot and identified him as one of our key recruitment targets," Connacht CEO Tom Sears said. "He is a very physical, ball carrying Irish qualified lock who gets through an enormous amount of work and we have managed to get him to Connacht ahead of stiff competition from several sides in the Aviva Premiership and elsewhere.

“We are putting a great deal of work into a recruitment for next year and finding a leading Irish qualified player to bolster our options in the second row was one of the priorities. We are looking to recruit further at lock and other positions and are looking at a number of potential signings before next season."

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 22, 2013

Scotland monitor Beattie and Denton's fitness

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 01/22/2013

The Scotland medical staff are keeping a close eye on back-row duo David Denton and Johnnie Beattie's fitness after the pair reported for international duty injured.

Denton hurt his knee playing for Edinburgh at the weekend while Beattie has a wrist injury. Their team doctor James Robson is confident both will be in the frame for selection ahead of their match with England on February 2.

A number of other Scotland players were also carrying knocks, although Grant Gilchrist (ankle sprain), Tim Visser (foot), Ruaridh Jackson (rib), Sean Lamont (rib), Pat MacArthur (ankle sprain) and Chris Fusaro (groin) were all expected to play some part in training at Scotstoun Stadium on Tuesday.

Connacht draft in Munster hooker

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 01/22/2013

Connacht have bolstered their hooker resources with the signing of Sean Henry from Munster.

He has penned a two-year contract and prior to his three-year stint at Munster, he turned out for Connacht at youth and U20 level. And after just six appearances for Munster, he will journey back to Connacht at the end of the season.

Connacht CEO Tom Sears said: “We are delighted to have been able to bring Sean back to his home province and have no doubt he will bring real quality to our squad and increase the competition for a place at hooker. He was very highly regarded at Munster and it is great news that he sees his future with Connacht.”

January 21, 2013

Fionn Carr returns to Connacht

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 01/21/2013

Leinster winger Fionn Carr has opted to return to Connacht and will link up with the province ahead of the 2013-14 season.

Carr joined Leinster in 2011 but after two seasons with the province, he has decided to re-sign for Connacht, the team who he scored 34 tries for and in the process, cemented himself as their all-time leading try-scorer. And their CEO Tom Sears is relishing the chance to see the winger-come-fullback back in the green of Connacht.

“Everyone at Connacht is delighted to be welcoming Fionn back to the Sportsground," Sears said. "He enjoyed huge success here in his first spell and we are confident he will hit those heights again and make a big impact next season. He is a proven try scorer with the ability to do something special and he will add more quality to the hugely talented back line we have. Fionn’s recruitment is one of several key signings we anticipate making in the coming weeks and months.”

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.

Ireland add seven to training squad

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 01/21/2013

Fresh off the back of a busy weekend of Heineken Cup rugby, Ireland boss Declan Kidney has added seven players to the squad ahead of the Wolfhounds' game with the England Saxons on Friday evening.

Five of Munster's contingent have got the nod with James Coughlan, Damien Varley, Mike Sherry, Tommy O'Donnell and Ian Keatley all getting the call up. Two of Leinster's squad have also been added - Rhys Ruddock and Kevin McLaughlin. Ireland also considered Ulster's Roger Wilson and Leinster's Richardt Strauss but the pair are injured.

The Wolfhounds play on Friday while Ireland's first match of the 2013 Six Nations is on February 2 against Wales.

January 20, 2013

Shane Williams backs Eli Walker to shine

Posted by Graham Jenkins on 01/20/2013

Wales legend Shane Williams has backed rising star Eli Walker to make an impact in this year's Six Nations.

Williams, Wales' all-time leading try-scorer, sent his fellow wing a congratulatory message on Twitter following the in-form 20-year-old's international call-up that read: "Congrats on selection pal. When you put that red shirt on make sure you play with same confidence and you’ll tear it up!"

Walker is grateful for the support of his former regional team-mate. He told the Western Mail: "He’s an outstanding player and a great friend as well,” he said. “He’s definitely someone to look up to. I’d like to think I have learned a thing or two as he is any winger’s hero in Wales and in world rugby. I was fortunate to have a few years training with him coming through the academy and then stepping up to the senior squad."

January 19, 2013

Connacht boosted by early arrival of Pat Lam

Posted by James Bass on 01/19/2013

Incoming head coach Pat Lam will bolster Connacht's coaching staff earlier than expected after it was announced he would join the Irish province before the end of the season.

The 44-year-old was originally set to join Connacht's setup at the beginning of June, but will now work alongside current head coach Eric Elwood for the final three matches of the side's RaboDirect PRO12 campaign.

Lam said: "I'm delighted to be able to get to Connacht early, spend some time with Eric, the coaching staff and the players before the season finishes and start looking ahead to next season."

Connacht wrapped up their Heineken Cup campaign with a 25-20 win over Zebre to finish third overall in Pool 3 and are currently 10th in the RaboDirect PRO12.

January 18, 2013

Sean Holley to join Scarlets coaching team

Posted by Graham Jenkins on 01/18/2013

Former Ospreys head coach Sean Holley will join the Scarlets coaching staff during this year's Six Nations.

Holley has been drafted in by Scarlets boss Simon Easterby who will be without backs coach Mark Jones for the next couple of months after he was asked to join the Wales set-up for the course of the forthcoming championship.

Easterby said: "To have a coach of Sean's experience, expertise and technical ability at a key time for us is vital as Mark goes away on Wales duty. Mark has contributed a great deal to our rugby environment and team this season and deserves his opportunity with Wales, and we are pleased to support the national set-up and his coaching development."

January 17, 2013

O'Gara hit with one-week suspension

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 01/17/2013

Ireland and Munster fly-half Ronan O'Gara has been hit with a one-week suspension.

The ban means he will miss Munster's key Heineken Cup clash with Racing Metro on Sunday but he will be free for Six Nations duty. He was cited for allegedly kicking Edinburgh's Sean Cox during their Heineken Cup match at the weekend but Judge Jeff Blackett, who was presiding over the case, found O'Gara guilty of tripping rather than kicking Cox.

Racing Metro fail in Sexton and Carter bids

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 01/17/2013

Racing Metro owner Jacky Lorenzetti has described chances of his team signing Jonathan Sexton as "tiny" and also admitted that his side have lost out in their bid to recruit Dan Carter.

Lorenzetti's big-spending Racing Metro have already secured Soane Tonga'uiha, Juandre Kruger and Brian Mujati ahead of next season but they have missed out on Carter and Sexton. Talking to Sport 365 about Carter, Lorenzetti said the fly-half "will perhaps do a short stint in Japan" and that "he won't come to Europe".

Racing have also been linked with Sexton, but that move does not appear to be on the cards. "The Irish are the Irish. They're very attached to their homeland," Lorenzetti said. "They often have a strategy of blowing their own trumpet and using other clubs, notably the French, who are renowned for paying well, to raise the stakes, up the bidding and better negotiate their contracts in Ireland. If I have helped Sexton to better negotiate his contract, then why not? The chances of Sexton coming to France are tiny and to Racing ever more so."

January 16, 2013

Glasgow and Troy Nathan part ways

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 01/16/2013

Glasgow Warriors centre Troy Nathan will leave the club after their Heineken Cup clash with Northampton Saints.

Nathan has found his first-team opportunities limited this season and both he and coach Gregor Townsend have decided that it is in the centre's best interests if he seeks another club. Nathan joined the Warriors in 2011 and has made 17 RaboDirect PRO12 appearances for the Scottish club.

"I'm sorry to be leaving before the end of the season," Nathan said. "I've enjoyed my time in Glasgow and I wish the Warriors squad all the best with the current campaign and beyond. I haven't found another club yet, but I've never been fitter and I'm optimistic about the future."

January 15, 2013

Fotuali'i hopes to agree Ospreys deal

Posted by Jeremy Inson on 01/15/2013

Ospreys scrum-half Kahn Fotuali'i, who is out of contract at the end of the season, has given the club reason to believe that he will remain with them.

"I'd be very pleased to stay," Fotuali'i said. "We have a great bunch of boys here and the future excites me a lot. My focus in on helping out on and off the field. We're out of Europe but there are positives to come out of the campaign. Everyone is buying into what the coaches are doing. Everyone is getting on board."

"Without any shadow of doubt we need the likes of Kahn and Biggs [Dan Biggar] to help build the group we have," head coach Tandy said. "We're hopeful of keeping both of them. Kahn's world class and great to have around on the training field because his influence rubs off on the younger players. Not only is he a great ball player, he also understands what we want from a game, runs it well and is huge defensively."

January 14, 2013

Ulster suffer Williams injury blow

Posted by Graham Jenkins on 01/14/2013

Ulster No.8 Nick Williams has been ruled out for eight weeks with a knee ligament injury suffered during their Heineken Cup victory over Glasgow at Ravenhill on Friday night that ensured their place in the quarter-finals of the competition.

There was better news for centre Paddy Jackson (ankle) who is responding well to treatment while winger Craig Gilroy (head) is following the necessary return-to-play protocol. It is hoped that both players will be available for selection for this weekend’s final pool game against Castres Olympique.

January 13, 2013

Biggar to re-sign with Ospreys

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 01/13/2013

Wales’ Dan Biggar has revealed that he is on the brink of penning a new three-year deal with the Ospreys.

Biggar has been linked with a cross-Channel move and in the process, following in the footsteps of Jamie Roberts and Gethin Jenkins in opting for a move to France. But Biggar, who is the favourite to take the No.10 shirt for Wales during the forthcoming Six Nations, wants to stay at the Ospreys.

"We are in advanced talks and I am hoping to get something sorted over the next couple of weeks," Biggar told BBC Wales. "I am very happy here. The three things I am asking myself are: Am I happy, am I going financially looked after and are we a competitive side? All three of those things have matched, so as long as we can get something signed in the next few weeks, I will be very happy."

January 9, 2013

Blues handed Andrews boost

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 01/09/2013

Wales prop Scott Andrews has signed a two-year contract extension with Cardiff Blues. And the Blues also announced today a new deal for back-row forward Josh Navidi.

Andrews, who made his international debut against the Barbarians in 2011, featured for Wales during the recent autumn Tests and is expected to be named in the squad for this season's Six Nations Championship.

"I have been here since I was 16, and I didn't want to look elsewhere as I am happy at the Blues," Andrews said. "We have a lot of young boys mixed with some top internationals who are contracted for the next few years, so slowly we are producing a good core. It will be exciting to see it progress over the next few years."

Navidi has pledged his future to the Blues until 2016.

January 3, 2013

Lions trio return for Leinster

Posted by Martin Williamson on 01/03/2013

Leinster have included Ireland stars Brian O'Driscoll, Luke Fitzgerald and Rob Kearney in the XV for their match with Edinburgh at Murrayfield on Friday evening.

The trio, who were all capped by the British & Irish Lions on their tour of South Africa in 2009, have all been sidelined recently but Joe Schmidt has included all three Ireland internationals in his line-up

Zebo pens new Munster deal

Posted by Graham Jenkins on 01/03/2013

Ireland international winger Simon Zebo is one of nine players to have agreed new terms with Munster that will keep him at Thomond Park until the end of the 2015-16 campaign.

The 22-year-old, who made his Test debut against New Zealand last summer, is joined by No.8 James Coughlan, hooker Mike Sherry, lock Dave Foley, back-row Paddy Butler and flanker Sean Dougall in penning a new contract. The group also includes three players who were on development deals - JJ Hanrahan, Dave O'Callaghan and Luke O'Dea.

Munster boss Rob Penney was delighted with the news and said: "I think it gives the organisation real security going forward having that number re-committing to the group. Its a real positive sign that the lads believe in what's happening here and can see a future here for themselves."