A busy day in player movement market saw Chris Ashton leave Sale Sharks with immediate effect, the Leicester Tigers add two signings and a couple of re-signings and the Exeter Chiefs wrap a few new signings.
We wrap all of the latest player movements as well as a few rumours doing the rounds across the rugby world.
Exeter snap up promising duo
Highly rated Gloucester forward Aaron Hinkley has made the switch to Exeter Chiefs with the 20-year-old forward saying he is relishing the new challenge that awaits next season after he agreed to join the Exeter Chiefs.
The Hereford-born flanker was a pupil at St Peter’s High School in Gloucester before joining the club’s Academy set-up in 2017. The following year he made his first-team debut as a replacement for Ben Morgan in an Anglo-Welsh Cup fixture against Newcastle Falcons and has featured for the England u20s.
Joining Hinkley at Exeter is promising Scarlets back, Corey Baldwin. The 21-year-old highly-rated back has come through the Academy pathway with the Welsh region, making a try-scoring debut against the Dragons in the Anglo-Welsh Cup in 2016. In the same season, Baldwin made his Welsh Under-20s debut, scoring against Scotland in the Six Nations Championship. Equally adept at centre or on the wing, Baldwin – who was born in Camberley, Surrey – is seen as one of the brightest, emerging talents featuring in the Pro14 currently.
Gloucester look set to win the race to sign Jack Singleton.
Quins lead the way in Ashton pursuit
Harlequins have been linked with a move for Chris Ashton following his sudden departure from Sale.
According to numerous reports, Ashton is set to join the Harlequins with the former England International who still has property near London after his time at Saracens.
Meanwhile World Player of the Year in 2019, Pieter-Steph du Toit has reportedly snubbed a move to the Harlequins to remain in South Africa for the 2021 Lions Tour. The report by The Rugby Paper suggests that du Toit would only consider a move after the Tour.
A busy day at Welford Road
The Leicester Tigers had a busy day today with two players joining the club while the Youngs brothers signed new deals with the club.
Georgia international hooker Shalva Mamukashvili joins the club of the 2020/21 season joining from Russian side Enisei-STM.
The news of Mamukashvili's signing was shortly followed by the confirmation of Nemani Nadolo's move to Welford Road.
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Nadolo has registered more than 1,000 points in domestic and international rugby, including more than 150 professional tries and was granted an early release from his Montpellier contract sign with the club.
Club captain Tom Youngs also agreed a new deal with Leicester Tigers. Youngs, a Tigers Academy graduate, has made 189 appearances for the club since his senior debut in 2006 as a 19-year-old.
Ben Youngs also recommitted to Leicester Tigers, with the international scrum-half agreeing a new deal to remain at the club. Youngs is England’s most-capped scrum-half, with 100 international appearances, including 98 Test matches for his country and two for the British & Irish Lions.
While the Tigers have already secured the commitment of few squad members for next season, a report has linked Lions and Springbok lock Marvin Orie with the side.
Bulls bring back Vermeulen and look to add Kriel and Coetzee
The Bulls announced late on Saturday evening, hours after the Bulls suffered a fourth straight defeat in this year's Super Rugby season, that Vermeulen would rejoin the squad after the Super Rugby season.
Reports are now linking the side with moves for Jesse Kriel and Marcell Coetzee to further bolster the squad. Bulls chief executive Alfons Meyer confirmed to Netwerk24 that they are looking to get the Springbok duo back into the country.
Kriel’s return to Pretoria will depend on the structure of the Japanese Top League season, which has been affected by the coronavirus while the Bulls will be in conversation with Coetzee’s agent to establish whether the loose forward is interested in a move to Pretoria with Ulsterman still under contract until 2022.
Burns to leave Bath
Former Gloucester fly-half Freddie Burns looks set to be heading overseas.
The Rugby Paper reports that Burns, who is out of contract at Bath at the end of the season, has lost patience with riding the bench. The publication reports there is interest from Top 14 side Lyon and there are also rumours the former England international could make a shock move to Japan or try his hand at Super Rugby with 'offers on the table'.
Saracens' Wallaby Second Rower Off To France?
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However, a report in the bi-weekly French rugby newspaper, Midi Olympique, Will Skelton has signed a deal which will see him cross the English Channel to France to join La Rochelle.
The side that is headed by Ronan O'Gara and Jono Gibbes have secured the signature of the well sought after Wallaby on a two-year deal to replace Thomas Jolmes who is set to leave the club to join Toulon.
Greig Laidlaw set to become a free agent
Clermont and former Scotland captain Greig Laidlaw's future remains uncertain after a proposed move to Perpignan fell through according to reports in France.
The 34-year-old is out of contract at Clermont Auvergne at the end of the season and said to be in advanced talks with PROD2 side Perpignan. Midi Olympique has reported that Laidlaw has decided not to proceed with the transfer to the Catlan side and it remains unclear if he has any other offers to consider.
Anyone need a class scrumhalf next season?🤔https://t.co/E1Bu5F2Ilh— Ultimate Rugby (@ultimaterugby) March 2, 2020
More Clermont Class Up For Grabs
Staying with Clermont, Isaia Toeava also rejected the advances of Perpignan and is set to depart Clermont at the end of the season along with Nick Abendanon. Toeava has reportedly also been offered deals by both Pau and Toulouse.
Reports have suggested that Nick Abendanon is considering an offer from London Irish for next season.
Gloucester look set to win the race to sign Jack Singleton
According to Gloucestershire Live Jack Singleton, who has won three caps for England, is now close to agreeing a three-year deal with the Cherry and Whites.
Leicester Tigers had been chasing the Saracens hooker but the move reportedly fell through with the Welford Road club instead signing experienced Georgia international hooker Shalva Mamukashvili, while club captain Tom Youngs also signed a new deal today.
Finn Russell agrees return to Scotland camp after Gregor Townsend talks
Finn Russell will not play for Scotland at this year's Six Nations, but could yet make return to the international stage for the tour of South Africa and New Zealand.
The Racing 92 flyhalf and coach Gregor Townsend are believe to have spoken on the phone several times last week, with conversations between the two described as "positive", but his exile from the squad is set to continue until the end of this current tournament.
SA Rugby to help Frans Steyn return home from Montpllier
World Cup winning utility back, Frans Steyn is set to return to South Africa after the current European season with Montpellier. The double World Cup winner is currently featuring for Montpellier in the Top 14 in France but is set to return to South Africa.
According to Rapport newspaper, SA Rugby will help to finance Steyn’s move to the Cheetahs. The 32-year-old, his wife Linca, and their three daughters plan to settle permanently in the Woodlands estate in Bloemfontein.
Six Nations To Go Behind Sky Paywall - report
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The Six Nations could go behind a paywall with Sky Sports set to secure a £300 million deal for the broadcasting rights for the tournament according to a report in the Rugby Paper. The Tenders for the live rights to the competition of more 100 international matches close before the completion of the tournament of 14 March, despite the postponed games.
The report goes on to suggest that BT Sports and Amazon are potential bidders for the rights of the competition with the new rights set to take effect from November 7 next year. The deal with CVC has seen all top internationals poured into one pot rather than the Unions making their own deals with broadcasters.