Premiership Rugby

Weekly Rugby Union Round Up: Veterans Recalled, Seismic Transfers

Weekly Rugby Union Round Up: Veterans Recalled, Seismic Transfers

Weekly Rugby Union Round Up, as international veterans recalled, seismic transfers and a major change atop of a Pacific Island powerhouse.

Jan 6, 2023 by Philip Bendon
Weekly Rugby Union Round Up: Veterans Recalled, Seismic Transfers

A week can be a long time in the ever-evolving world of professional rugby.

This is never more relevant than in a World Cup year as the winds of change blow with established international stars looking further afield for a new experience and the financial rewards that often accompany the switch. 

Before any transfers take place there is the small matter of the first international squads of the new year being announced in the first sneak peek as to which stars may be on show in the upcoming season. 

So here are your top news stories of this week in Rugby Union. 

World Rugby’s Most Influential Captain On The Move 

South Africa’s World Cup winning captain Siya Kolisi is set to depart South African shores at the end of the current season. 

Since making his professional bow in 2009, the 31-year-old Kolisi has played all of his professional rugby in the republic but now departs for the Paris-based Top14 powerhouse Racing92. 

Kolisi’s current team the Cell C Sharks granted their captain an early release from his contract in order to fulfill his career ambitions abroad. 

"I want to give massive thanks to the Sharks for welcoming me with open arms in 2021 and for making me feel so at home in Durban," Kolisi said in a statement on social media. 

"Their support over the last couple of years has been hugely influential during a key period in my career." 

As the current Springbok captain with 75 Test Caps to his name, Kolisi will remain available for international selection. 

Releasing a statement of their own, Racing92 said that Kolisi’s signature while significant, is just the beginning of a new relationship with the Cell C Sharks.  

“Racing 92 are very pleased to announce the signing of Siya Kolisi. He is committed until 2026 and will join Ciel et Blanc at the end of the 2023 Rugby World Cup. This signing is part of a broader long-term collaboration agreement between the Racing 92 and Cell C Sharks clubs.

Scotland Cash In On Talented Irish Underage Star 

Edinburgh Rugby announced on Wednesday their signing of Munster and Irish U20 flyhalf Ben Healy who will join the club at the end of the season. 

Healy who qualifies immediately for Scotland through his mother will compete with current Scottish international Blair Kinghorn for the Edinburgh number shirt. 

Speaking on his move, Healy told the Edinburgh Rugby website, "It's clear how much they want to play. I'm looking forward to putting myself into a new environment and seeing how I go,"  

"I'd like to thank everyone at Munster for their support over the last few seasons. I've loved every minute of my time playing with the club, but I felt now was the right time to take on a new and exciting challenge in Edinburgh."

“Making the decision to leave my home club has not been easy and I am hugely grateful for the opportunity to represent my province.” 

“I have career objectives I wish to target, and I believe a move to a club such as Edinburgh Rugby gives me the best opportunity to fulfil my professional goals.” 

For Edinburgh head coach Mike Blair, the opportunity to sign the exciting 23-year-old was a major coup. 

"He's kicking at goal at over 90% accuracy so far this season while his performances - from both the bench and in starts for Munster - have been hugely impressive.”

"He's got great calmness around the way he dictates play and influences matches."  

In direct contrast to Blair’s excitement, Munster boss Graham Rowntree was bitterly disappointed to lose out on the talented playmakers signature. 

“We are hugely disappointed to see Ben depart at the end of the season.” 

“As a young player Ben is striving to achieve his career goals, and we fully understand his professional aspirations and the journey he is on.”

“For the most part we are successful in retaining our best talent within our system. However, this is unfortunately out of our hands on this occasion.” 

Irish Flyhalf Woes A Blessing In Disguise? 

Now, just under a month away from the kick-off of the 2023 RBS Six Nations, World number one Ireland enter the tournament under a cloud of uncertainty. 

Facing the prospect of starting the championship without the talismanic figure of captain Jonathan Sexton, the debate around who will start in the number ten shirt has been rife. 

Sexton who picked up a nasty looking jaw injury in Leinster’s recent victory over Connacht in the United Rugby Championship underwent a procedure on Tuesday. 

Should the 37-year-old not be fit for Ireland’s opening round clash away in Cardiff in what will be Warren Gatland’s first game back in charge, the options available to head coach Andy Farrell will make for an interesting selection conundrum 

Based on previous selections it would appear that Joey Carbery will enter the competition as the first choice with his Munster teammate Jack Crowley as his main competitor. 

While losing a world-class talent like Sexton would hurt any side it may well prove to be a case of short-term pain for long term gain. 

Given Ireland’s brutally tough Rugby World Cup draw the prospect of Sexton playing five big international fixtures on the bounce if Ireland are to win the tournament seems untenable at this point. 

Carbery who has long been tipped as the long-term successor to Sexton’s crown, but a string of long-term injuries has stunted the 27-year-old’s progress. 

Now in a rich vein of form following a run of games for Munster, a clear run as the first choice could prove to be a revelation for Carbery. 

Behind the Munster duo in the pecking order is Leinster’s Ross Byrne who did his selection chances a world of good as he slotted the winning kick in Ireland’s Autumn Nations Series victory over Australia. 

Upheaval In The South Pacific  

Pacific Island powerhouse Fiji have just announced a major change at the top of their organizational structure. 

Long-time CEO John O’Connor has stood down with immediate effect citing personal reasons following six years in charge of the union. 

In his place comes Former Suva Rugby Union secretary Tevita Tuiloa as acting CEO. 

In a newly released statement, the FRU commended O’Connor for his contributions to the union.

“The Board commends Mr O’Connor for his tenure and leadership at FRU. The FRU Board and FRU staff, and Fiji rugby community thank Mr O’Connor for his dedication and sacrifice in leading the nation’s national sport, rugby, we wish John well in his future endeavours, vinaka vakalevu John.”

Recall For International Veterans

Wallabies head coach Dave Rennie has recalled the experienced trio of Quade Cooper, Samu Kerevi and Kurtley Beale. 

The trio join a young Wallabies squad who showed significant signs of improvement last season. 

In total there are 16 players with 10 or less test caps to their name in the 44-player squad. 

Noticeable absentees from the squad include Bernard Foley, James O’Connor and Will Skelton who all featured in the gold jersey in 2022. 

Elsewhere experienced Leicester Tiger’s prop Dan Cole has been recalled to the England training squad under new head coach Steve Borthwick. 

Confirming Cole’s departure from Tiger’s training, new head coach Richard Wigglesworth told the media. 

“He did (go to England camp). He went on Monday to the testing they did, which I am sure he thoroughly enjoyed,”  

“He is great for us, a Leicester Tigers legend, just played his 300th game for us. You’d have to ask Dan what it means (to get back involved with England). Someone who has played that many Tests for England knows exactly what it means to play for England far better than I could.”

Unsavory Scenes Condemned  

In a rather fiery Welsh derby clash in round 11 of the URC between the Scarlets and Dragons, tempers flared both on and off the pitch. 

Front and centre to the on-field battle was Welsh number Ross Moriarty who’s clash with opposite number Sione Kalamafoni. 

Following a number of incidents throughout the fixture, Moriarty was shown a yellow card while Kalamafoni was handed a red card and with it a possible suspension. 

Moriarty would later reveal that his 13-year-old cousin would be on the receiving end of some unsavory abuse from Scarlet fans. 

Writing on his Instagram account, Moriarty condemned the actions, "I do not mind the abuse I receive online or on a rugby pitch from fans there will always be two sides. 

"But to learn that on the weekend my little cousin, who is 13, had grown men screaming in her face for asking them to stop abusing me verbally that does not sit right with me or should not sit right at any sports ground.”

"That is a line I really hope people should not think is right to cross." 

Following Moriarty’s statement, the Scarlets condemned the actions and promised to launch an investigation of their own.

“We are extremely disappointed to read of the incident involving Ross Moriarty’s cousin at the New Year’s Day match against the Dragons. We work extremely hard with our supporters’ organisations Crys16 and Scarlets Officials Supporters Group to create a family-friendly environment for home and away fans at Parc y Scarlets and to hear of a young girl receiving verbal abuse from a fan is wholly unacceptable.”

"We have a zero-tolerance policy to abuse of any nature at our stadium and encourage fans to report such incidents to the club. If the family would like to get in touch with us we will investigate this further.”

 Written by Philip Bendon