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May 21, 2013

Clermont rocked by double injury blow

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 05/21/2013

Clermont Auvergne have received a setback ahead of their Top 14 semi-final against Castres with the news that second-row James Cudmore will miss the match.

Cudmore, an integral part of Clermont's pack, fractured his hand in the Heineken Cup final on Saturday but luckily, he does not require an operation. And in a further blow, flanker Gerhard Vosloo is a doubt after he picked up a knee injury against Toulon.

Stade Francais snap up Taulafo from Wasps

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 05/21/2013

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

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

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

May 19, 2013

Brive return to Top 14

Posted by Graham Jenkins on 05/19/2013

Brive will return to the Top 14 next season having beaten Pau 30-10 in their ProD2 play-off clash at the Stade Chaban-Delmas de Bordeaux.

They return to French rugby's top flight after one season in the second division and will be promoted with champions Oyonnax.

May 17, 2013

Leicester bolster ranks with French prop

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 05/17/2013

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

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

May 13, 2013

Brawl mars ProD2 play-off clash

Posted by Graham Jenkins on 05/13/2013

Brive will tackle Pau at Stade Chaban Delmas in Bordeaux next Sunday in the ProD2 play-off final for a place in the Top 14.

Pau booked their place in the promotion showdown with a 30-16 victory over La Rochelle at the Stade du Hameau on Saturday. The game was marred by an all-out brawl that resulted in red cards for Pau's Marlon Solofuti and La Rochelle's Jordan Sénéca and Johan Wessels. The heated clash also saw yellow cards for Pau's Sylvain Charlet and La Rochelle's Christophe Lafoy and Franck Jacob.

Brive booked their place in the final with a 30-14 success against Aurillac at the Stade Amédée Domenech on Sunday. The winners of the play-off final will join ProD2 title winners Oyonnax in the top flight next season.

May 12, 2013

Barkley swaps Racing for Grenoble

Posted by Graham Jenkins on 05/12/2013

Former Bath and England fly-half Olly Barkley has completed a move from Racing Metro to Top 14 rivals Grenoble.

Barkley, who won the last of his 23 England caps in 2008, made the switch from the Premiership to France's top flight last September and featured in both the Top 14 and Heineken Cup this season. But following Racing's recent signing of Leinster and Ireland fly-half Jonathan Sexton, the 31-year-old has opted put pen to paper on a two-year deal with Grenoble.

Racing's title hopes were extinguished by Toulouse in the play-offs on Friday night while Grenoble finished 11th in the table in their return to the top flight having been promoted from the ProD2 last year.

April 30, 2013

Toulon wrap up Habana deal

Posted by Jeremy Inson on 04/30/2013

Heineken Cup finalists Toulon have confirmed that South Africa wing Bryan Habana will be their latest big-name signing.

"After Australian wing Drew Mitchell, South African Bryan Habana will garnish the ranks of the Red and Black for the next two seasons,” the club said on its website.

Habana wants to remain in contention to add to his 83 Springbok caps despite his deal with Toulon meaning he has been removed from their list of contracted players. In recent years Ruan Pienaar and Francois Steyn have won caps despite not playing in South Africa.

April 24, 2013

Toulon confirm Drew Mitchell signing

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 04/24/2013

Toulon have announced the signing of Australian winger Drew Mitchell on a two-year deal.

Mitchell arrives at the club from the Waratahs and will bring a wealth of experience to the Top 14 side having made 63 appearances for the Wallabies. Mitchell will vie with Springboks flyer Bryan Habana for a place in the side who will also join ahead of next season. Toulon have confirmed Mitchell will link-up with his new club after the end of the Rugby Championship.

April 23, 2013

Newly promoted Oyannax sign 11 players

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 04/23/2013

Oyannax, who will play their rugby in the Top 14 next season, have announced the signing of 11 players.

They have brought in Racing Metro’s Guillaume Bousses and Agen’s Silvere Tian while they have also recruited an entire new front-row with Erwan Iapteff and Ruaan du Preez joining from Grenoble and Neil Clark from the Exeter Chiefs.

In the second-row, Agen’s Damien Lagrange will link up with Leinster’s Damian Browne while Viliami Ma’afu will provide some grunt in the back-row. At half-back Agustin Figuerola has signed while they have also brought in centre Pierre Aguillon and winger Dug Codjo.

April 22, 2013

Vincent Clerc blow for France

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 04/22/2013

France winger Vincent Clerc looks certain to miss their summer tour to New Zealand with a knee injury.

Clerc picked up the knock at the weekend against Clermont and confirmed on his Twitter account that he is set for a lengthy spell on the sidelines. Clerc tweeted: "The news is not very good unfortunately. The injury will require several months off! Appointment early next season!"

The winger has previously ruptured cruciate ligaments in his other knee almost five years to the day, which also happened in a Top 14 defeat to Clermont. Clerc's injury means he will also miss Toulouse's last game of the regular season against Grenoble.

Bayonne sign ex-Crusader Stephen Brett

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 04/22/2013

Bayonne have announced seven new signings for next season with ex-Crusaders No.10 Stephen Brett a stand out recruit.

Brett arrives from Japanese side Verblitz and he will link up with Martin Bustos Moyano who joins from Montpellier. Bayonne have also announced the recruitment of: scrum-half Mathieu Belie from Racing Metro, JC van Rensburg from the Lions and Agen trio Gert Muller, Jean Monribot and Fijian wing Saïmoni Vaka.

They have also confirmed Benjamin Boyet, Jacques-Louis Potgieter, Cédric Heymans, Renaud Boyoud, Rob Linde, François Carrillo, Lionel Mazars and Thibault Lacroix will all be leaving.

April 21, 2013

Grenoble bring in pair of Wallabies

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 04/21/2013

Grenoble have bolstered their ranks ahead of next season with the signing of Wallabies Dan Palmer and Peter Kimlin from the Brumbies.

Prop Palmer has made just one appearance for Australia, which came in their loss to Scotland last June, while back-row Kimlin has two caps to his name and has played for Exeter Chiefs in the past.

April 20, 2013

Toulouse announce Joe Tekori signing

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 04/20/2013

Toulouse have confirmed three new signings ahead of next season with giant Samoan Joe Tekori arriving from Castres.

Alongside Tekori, they have also brought in Jean-Pascal Barraque from Biarritz and young prop Yacouba Camara from Massy - the same club they picked up Gregory Lamboley and Romain Millo-Chulski from. Toulouse also revealed they are in the market for a new scrum-half with Rory Kockett on their radar.

Perpignan confirm seven new signings

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 04/20/2013

Top 14 side Perpignan have confirmed the signings of seven new recruits ahead of next season.

Camille Lopez will bolster their fly-half options and he joins from Bordeaux-Begles while prop Paulica Ion arrives at the club after spells with Bath, London Irish and London Welsh. Dewaldt Duvenage has also signed for Perpignan and he will be joined at the club by Exeter Chiefs flyer Watisoni Votu.

Their other signings are: Giorgi Jgenti from Montpellier, versatile forward Justin Purll and flyer Wandie Mjekevu.

April 13, 2013

Biarritz hooker Benoit August to retire

Posted by Jonny McLeod on 04/13/2013

Biarritz hooker Benoit August is set to retire at the end of the season.

The 36-year-old, who made one appearance for France in 2007, has played more than 200 games in the Top 14 and won the Amlin Challenge Cup with Biarritz last year.

"I'm lucky that I'm able to choose the moment to stop. There are a minimum four matches left, hopefully five (Biarritz are in the Challenge Cup semi-finals)," he said. "I want to make the most of everything that's coming up, with the bonus of facing Leinster (in the Challenge Cup last four)."

April 9, 2013

Montpellier keen on recruiting Robert Ebersohn

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 04/09/2013

Top 14 side Montpellier have approached Cheetahs centre Robert Ebersohn over a potential switch ahead of next season.

Reports on SA Rugby Magazine's website state that Montpellier are keen for the centre to join them after his Super Rugby duties come to an end, but he is contracted with the Free State Cheetahs until after the Currie Cup. Ebersohn has confirmed that Montpellier are interested but the lure of Springbok rugby could persuade him to stay in South Africa.

"My ultimate goal is to play for the Springboks, and I have to be based in South Africa to achieve that," Ebersohn said. "Montpellier approached my agent a couple of weeks ago, and he passed on the news to me. At this stage, there is no way I can give them a final decision because we're only seven games into the Super Rugby campaign.

"I also can't join them at the end of Super Rugby, so I don't know if that changes things. If the Cheetahs do really well this season, that will encourage me to stay. Heyneke Meyer also encouraged me to keep going. It's well-known that he prefers bigger and more physical players, but he told me not to give up. He said he will consider me if I do well consistently."

April 7, 2013

Paul Sackey returning to England

Posted by Jeremy Inson on 04/07/2013

Former England wing Paul Sackey is set to return to England once his contract with Stade Francais runs out at the end of the season, with a non-London club reported to be his destination.

Sackey, who won 22 caps, has been in France since 2010, first with Toulon and then Stade. However, after he announced that he wouldn’t be signing a new contract, he has been left out of the match-day squad.

“If anything I have trained even harder since they stopped picking me. I want to be ready for what lies ahead of me,” Sackey told The Rugby Paper. “I have no regrets about joining Stade. I was so excited to be coming to such a big club known all over the world and I’ve loved living in Paris.”

March 31, 2013

Fijian Samueli Naulu killed in car crash

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 03/31/2013

Fijian winger Samueli Naulu was killed in a car crash on Saturday.

The 31-year-old, who was part of Perpignan’s 2009 French championship winning team, lost control of his car in the early hours of the morning and hit a tree some 20km south of Bergerac, according to police.

Naulu represented Fiji at uder-21 level. He moved to Perpignan in 2005 and then went on to join Limoges in 2010 and Bergerac the following season.

March 27, 2013

Pool-Jones steps aside at Stade Francais

Posted by Graham Jenkins on 03/27/2013

Top 14 side Stade Francais have announced that sporting director Richard Pool-Jones will relinquish control of the on-field affairs next season and return to his previous position of vice president.

Pool-Jones, a one-cap England international and former Stade Francais player, left the board room last year following the dismissal of Australian coach Michael Cheika but will hand over control of the squad to Christophe Laussucq and David Auradou with immediate effect.

The Paris-based club have struggled this year and currently sit 10th in the Top 14 table and 13 points adrift of the play-off places.

March 19, 2013

Michalak injury angers Boudjellal

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 03/19/2013

Toulon boss Mourad Boudjellal has hit out at the French Rugby Federation after Frederic Michalak was injured during France’s victory over Scotland on Saturday.

Michalak will be sidelined for up to eight weeks after dislocating his left shoulder at the end of the 23-16 victory over Scotland at the Stade de France. And Boudjellal is furious with the current deal with the French Rugby Federation that means Toulon will are responsible for paying his wages as a recovers from the injury.

"It is not normal that international players are not covered by insurance contracts of the French Rugby Federation," he told AFP. "This system is abhorrent because I get back an injured player and it is my responsibility to pay the difference between what social security reimburses (the limit is 4000 euros per month) and his monthly salary. I was not invited to the match. I am just invited to pay his salary."

March 10, 2013

Toulon hit Biarritz for six

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 03/10/2013

Toulon maintained their two-point lead at the summit of the Top 14 thanks to a 50-15 thrashing of Biarritz on Saturday.

With new recruits Rocky Elsom and Danie Rossouw watching on from the stands, Toulon ran in six tries against their Top 14 rivals. Aled Brew and Benoit Baby bagged tries for Biarritz but Jonny Wilkinson kept the scoreboard ticking over for the home side from the tee while Bakkies Botha, Alexis Palisson, Matt Giteau, Nick Kennedy, Rudi Wulf and Sebastien Bruno all crossed for the home side.

For a full run-down of the weekend's action - click here.

March 6, 2013

Warren Gatland coaches Stade Francais

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 03/06/2013

British & Irish Lions coach Warren Gatland reportedly took charge of Stade Francais' Tuesday morning training session.

According to reports in the French press, the session focused on the breakdown with clearing out rucks and winning ball prioritised. Stade Francais are currently coached by Richard Pool-Jones but there has been no official confirmation of why Gatland took charge of the training session.

March 4, 2013

Scotland draft in Euan Murray and Strokosch

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 03/04/2013

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

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

Scotland team:

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

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

Dimitri Szarzewski blow for France

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 03/04/2013

France will be without hooker Dimitri Szarzewski for Saturday's clash with Ireland.

He has suffered a thigh and shoulder injury and Perpignan’s Guilhem Guirado has been called up in his place. Szarzewski has started two of France's three matches so far in the Six Nations and it looks likely that Benjamin Kayser will be named at No.2 for their trip to Dublin.

"We made this change because Dimitri, because of his injuries, will not be able to train before Thursday. His participation in the game would then be 50-50," said coach Philippe Saint-Andre. "That's why we called up Guilhem so that he can train as of Monday with the group."

Morne Steyn on verge of Stade Francais switch

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 03/04/2013

Springbok fly-half Morne Steyn has reportedly put pen to paper on a three-year deal with Stade Francais.

The Bulls are expected to announce the switch later on Monday, according to reports in the South African press, in a move that will bring an end to his time in South Africa. Back in January, Steyn's agent Johan van Greune confirmed to Eyewitness Sport that the fly-half was moving to the Top 14 but remains hopeful of pulling on the famous green jersey in the future.

Van Greune said: "'Morné has spoken to Heyneke [Meyer], they have discussed this. Obviously it is difficult to make commitments from Heyneke's side. That's one of the reasons he chose to go to France. It does open the door for him to play for the Springboks in the future,"

February 28, 2013

Pascal Pape to miss rest of Six Nations

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 02/28/2013

France lock Pascal Pape has confirmed on his Twitter account that he will miss the rest of the Six Nations.

Pape picked up a back injury in France's opening match of the championship against Italy on February 3. The original prognosis was that he should be fit for round three of the tournament, but he has now admitted defeat and has set his sights on returning in time to play Toulouse on March 23 for his club side Stade Francais.

The lock was named French captain ahead of the tournament but it seems likely that Thierry Dusautoir will now skipper Les Bleus into their final two games of the championship.

February 27, 2013

Boudjellal - 'I'd give Wilkinson four more years'

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 02/27/2013

Toulon owner Mourad Boudjellal has given a clear indication of just how badly he wants to keep Jonny Wilkinson at the club buy saying he would offer the veteran fly-half a four year deal if he wanted it.

Wilkinson is set to announce whether he will retire at the end of the season in March and while reports suggest he is likely to play on for another year, Boudjellal is clearly a big fan of the ex-England No.10.

"I'd sign him for four years if he wanted to," Boudjellal said. "He knows that if I extend it, it's not for bad reasons. It's just that he's an excellent player."

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 20, 2013

Gary Gold confirms Michael Claassens exit

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 02/20/2013

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

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

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

Castres bring in Wessel Jooste

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 02/20/2013

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

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

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

February 19, 2013

Sheridan extends Toulon contract

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 02/19/2013

Former England prop Andrew Sheridan has penned a new contract that will see him stay with Toulon until at least 2015.

Sheridan joined the Top 14 side from Sale Sharks before the start of the current campaign and has shone for Toulon. Although he is out of the England mix at present, he has been linked with a place in the 2013 British & Irish Lions squad that is travelling to Australia this summer.

Lobbe a doubt for Heineken Cup quarter-finals

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 02/19/2013

Toulon are sweating on the fitness of Argentina captain Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe after he ruptured his spleen at the weekend.

He was hauled off the pitch in the 44th minute of Toulon's 51-6 victory over Montpellier and faces six weeks on the sidelines. According to reports, he will not need surgery but the tackle has left him with minor internal haemorrhaging.

The French club are hopeful that he will be back in action for their match with Clermont Auvergne in mid-April but he is likely to miss their euro clash with Leicester on April 7.

February 14, 2013

Evans agrees Castres contract extension

Posted by Jonny McLeod on 02/14/2013

Max Evans has signed a contract extension with Castres that will keep him in France until the end of the 2014-15 season.

The 29-year-old, who has won 34 caps for Scotland, joined Castres in 2011 but played just five Top 14 and two Heineken Cup games this season, coming off the bench three times.

"I'm very happy to sign," said Evans. "I believe we can do great things together. I feel very good in the squad. We train in a great atmosphere."

February 2, 2013

Castro ready for Toulon switch

Posted by Jeremy Inson on 02/02/2013

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

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

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

January 26, 2013

Dusautoir relishing chance to prove his worth

Posted by Graham Jenkins on 01/26/2013

Former France captain Thierry Dusautoir is relishing the chance to prove his worth to coach Philippe Saint-Andre and reclaim his place in the side for the forthcoming Six Nations campaign.

The Toulouse flanker missed the end of year internationals with a knee injury and saw the captaincy pass to lock Pascal Pape, who will also lead France into the Six Nations, while Fulgence Ouedraogo impressed in the No.7 shirt during Les Bleus' recent victories over Australia, Argentina and Samoa.

"It is imperative that I demonstrate all over again I deserve being in the squad, it is something I find stimulating," Dusautoir told AFP. "We are competitors after all, having doubts cast over you is part of the job. Today, I am swept up by this challenge. Just like a young rookie, I am going to work hard to get back into the France team."

January 25, 2013

Bayonne and Biarritz contemplate merging

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 01/25/2013

Bayonne supremo Alain Afflelou has revealed that he has held talks with his counterpart at Biarritz Serge Blanco about a possible merger between the two teams for European competitions.

Both teams failed to progress out of their groups this season with Biarritz finishing second in their Heineken Cup group and Bayonne out of the running in their Amlin Challenge Cup pool. With that in mind, Afflelou is keen on the idea of the two teams forming a Basque team for European matches which they hope will improve their prospects.

"There all kinds of things we could do in terms of economy of scale, " the Bayonne boss told L'Equipe. "Maybe one day, a common stadium. And why not a single team in the European Cup."

Delon Armitage hit with eight-week ban

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 01/25/2013

Toulon fullback Delon Armitage has been suspended for eight weeks for his tip tackle on Montpellier's Pierre Berard in Saturday's Heineken Cup match.

Armitage was shown a yellow card at the time for the tackle but was later cited. "The judicial officer upheld the citing complaint and found that Armitage had committed an intentional tip tackle," said the ERC. "He determined that the act was in the mid-range of the IRB's (International Rugby Board's) sanctioning regime (eight weeks) and in line with the IRB's memorandum on deterring tip tackles, and taking into account the player's previous disciplinary record, he added a further two weeks.

"Due to Armitage's remorse and his good conduct during the hearing, the judicial officer then deducted two weeks before imposing a suspension of eight weeks."

January 22, 2013

European Player of the Year longlist revealed

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 01/22/2013

European Rugby Cup (ERC) has unveiled the longlist for European Player of the Year. The panel (consisting of five individuals from the media side of rugby) has picked 15 players based on their form in the first six rounds of Amlin Challenge Cup and Heineken Cup action.

Wasps' Joe Launchbury is the only representative from the Amlin Challenge Cup with the other 14 coming from the Heineken Cup.

The Longlist: Steffon Armitage (Toulon), Rory Best (Ulster), Julien Bonnaire (Clermont Auvergne), Mike Brown (Harlequins), Dan Cole (Leicester Tigers), Owen Farrell (Saracens), Wesley Fofana (Clermont Auvergne), Mamuka Gorgodze (Montpellier), Charlie Hodgson (Saracens), James Johnston (Harlequins), Joe Launchbury (London Wasps), Morgan Parra (Clermont Auvergne), Geoff Parling (Leicester Tigers), Ruan Pienaar (Ulster), Simon Zebo (Munster)

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.

January 21, 2013

Delon Armitage back in the dock

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 01/21/2013

Former England full-back Delon Armitage has been cited for an alleged tip tackle during Toulon's Heineken Cup defeat against Montpellier on Saturday.

Armitage was yellow-carded by referee Alain Rolland following the first-half incident. European Rugby Cup announced on Monday that Armitage will face a disciplinary hearing in Dublin on Thursday.The range of punishments for tip tackles vary between four weeks at the low end to a top end punishment of 52 weeks.

ERC also announced that Rovigo forward Jean Francois Montauriol had been cited for allegedly stamping or trampling on Perpignan lock Guillaume Vilaceca in last Thursday's Amlin Challenge Cup encounter. Racing Metro flanker Antoine Battut, meanwhile, will face a disciplinary hearing on Thursday following his sending off for striking a Munster player with his knee at Thomond Park yesterday.

'Byrne can be a Lion again'

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 01/21/2013

Clermont Auvergne boss Vern Cotter believes fullback Lee Byrne can force his way into the British & Irish Lions reckoning.

Byrne is back in the Wales squad having last played for the national side in 2011 and Cotter claims the fullback, who has impressed in the Top 14 Orange this term, is playing the same sort of rugby that saw him earn a call-up to the Lions' 2009 tour to South Africa. “Lee has been great for us, very, very professional and he has had good performances to back it up," Cotter told Wales Online. “I think it is a bonus for the Welsh team and I wouldn’t take him out of Lions contention either if he gets a couple of games.

“He is very solid under the high ball, he has still got his speed, he can still break tackles, he is not shy in the contact, he has got a great boot and has got all that experience at 32. I am very pleased for him and for the Welsh team as well. I think it is a wise move.He is a Welsh player, he loves his team, loves his country and he was disappointed not to be pulled back in.

"He probably needed a change too to freshen him up and I think it has done him good coming to France and seeing things from another perspective. It has made him a better player, at least I think so, and got him out of a bit of a rut that he might have been in when he was playing in Wales for the Ospreys.

January 18, 2013

Toulon eye Tigers prop Martin Castrogiovanni

Posted by Graham Jenkins on 01/18/2013

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

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

January 17, 2013

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

Bath confirm Toulon interest in Claassens

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 01/16/2013

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

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

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

French rugby mourns Eric Bechu

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 01/16/2013

Montpellier have confirmed that coach Eric Bechu passed away on Tuesday at the age of 53 after a long battle with cancer.

Bechu, who was joint coach at the Top 14 club alongside Fabien Galthie, helped guide the club to their first French league final in the 2010-11 season but in December 2011, fell ill. "Eric Bechu has departed, battling as he always had done during his life, as he had always taught our players and the many others he had coached over the years to do," the club said in a statement. "We will keep him close to our hearts, the victories, the defeats as well, and the extraordinary adventure that we experienced alongside him in the past few years.

"We will remember him for being a man of values: those of rugby and those of life as well. Our thoughts are with his wife and two daughters at this painful moment. Farewell Eric."

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