All the major rugby transfers made this summer
Several rugby squads will look a sight different when the game returns.
Many playing contracts are set to expire on June 30, with a host of fresh ones commencing from July 1. Despite the Covid-19 pandemic and three-month hold up to the 2019/20 season many rugby transfers have been taking place.
June 13 sees professional rugby kick off again with New Zealand with Super Rugby Aotearoa. The Australians and South Africans are hoping to follow suit while the Jaguares (Argentina) and Sunwolves (Japan) will have to find some way of ticking over until 2021.
In Europe, the LNR called the 2019/20 Top 14 season void, with no cups handed out, no relegation and no promotion. It is hoped that the 2020/21 Top 14 season can commence in mid August. The Premiership, in England, has a provisional resumption date of August 15.
While English clubs intend to finish out their full commitment of fixtures, the Guinness PRO14 is set to wrap up their 2020/21 season by going straight to the knock-out stages. There will be a mini inter-provincial competition held at the Aviva Stadium (behind closed doors) from August 22 before the PRO14's top four sides finish out this affected season with semis and a final.
There would be Champions Cup rugby played out in October - quarters, semis and final - before an international window in November. All of these plans, it must be noted, are on the proviso that there is no second wave of Covid-19 or another unforeseen crisis.
Talks are currently ongoing between World Rugby and the unions from the northern and southern hemispheres about beginning an aligned global rugby calendar from 2021. Talks have been said to be positive with the next set planned for June 15.
However, while we have seen several football clubs extending contracts and loan deals with players to finish out the 2019/20 season, rugby has headed the other direction. A raft of transfers, academy promotions and releasing of players have already been confirmed with more set to follow before we get to July.
Connacht and Munster have brought in four fresh faces while Ulster have made three senior player additions. Leinster - unbeaten for 2019/20 when the season paused - have lost three players but are expected to extend the playing contracts of experienced duo Rob Kearney and Fergus McFadden. Kearney had been hoping to play out his career in Japan's Top League but that switch has been temporarily shelved.
Kearney is Irish rugby's most decorated player - 5 league wins, 4 European Cups, Challenge Cup, 4 Six Nations titles (including two Grand Slams), 2 Lions tours and 2012 Best Player in Europe accolade - and he would surely be keen on adding to that tally when rugby resumes.
Connacht have secured four inter-provincial imports - Oisin Dowling and Jack Augnier (Leinster), Conor Oliver and Sammy Arnold (Munster) - but have shed 12 senior players. Ulster have strengthened their hand by adding Ian Madigan, Alby Mathewson and promoting talented centre Stewart Moore from their academy. We have already looked at how Munster could line up, when rugby resumes, after they added two World Cup winners to go with Matt Gallagher and Roman Salanoa.
Here are all the major rugby transfers of the summer, starting with the Irish provinces and then looking at the other big moves around the world.
- IN: None.
- OUT: Oisín Dowling, Jack Augnier, Roman Salanoa.
- IN: Damian de Allende, RG Snyman, Matt Gallagher, Roman Saloana.
- OUT: Conor Oliver, Sammy Arnold, Arno Botha, Tyler Bleyendaal (retired), Sean O'Connor, Darren O'Shea. Five promoted from academy and three senior players released.
- IN: Conor Oliver, Sammy Arnold, Oisín Dowling, Jack Augnier
- OUT: Niyi Adeolokun, Colby Fainga'a, Robin Copeland, Tom McCartney (retired), Eoin McKeon, Kyle Godwin and six others.
- IN: Alby Mathewson (pictured below), Ian Madigan and Stewart Moore (promoted from academy on three-year deal)
- OUT: Zack McCall, Clive Ross, Angus Kernohan.
Other big business includes Cardiff Blues signing Cory Hill from Dragons, Francois Steyn and Rosko Specman joining Cheetahs, Dragons securing Jonah Holmes' services from Leicester Tigers and Richie Gray rejoining Glasgow from Toulouse. Rhys Webb is back with Ospreys, who have lost James Hook to retirement, while Scarlets have got Tyler Morgan from Dragons.
BATH - Juan Schoeman, Ben Spencer and Will Spencer are all new arrivals. Big names leaving The Rec include Rhys Webb, Freddie Burns, Francois Louw (retired) and Aled Brew (released).
BRISTOL BEARS - Kyle Sinckler and Semi Radradra are the big signings while Saracens pair Ben Earl and Max Malins are on season-long loans. Ian Madigan, Jordan Crane and Aly Muldowney all depart.
EXETER CHIEFS - Have shopped smartly by getting in Jonny Gray, Corey Baldwin and Sam Hidalgo-Clyne. Nic White and Matt Kvesic are the big names heading away.
GLOUCESTER - The big news here is the promotion of Louis Rees-Zammit from the academy and the return of Jonny May. The club has lost a head coach (Johann Ackermann) and DoR (David Humphreys) in the past month, though.
HARLEQUINS - Lost Francis Saili and Kyle Sinckler and have gone shopping in the South African market for Andre Esterhuizen, Wilco Louw and Tyrone Green.
LEICESTER - Headline news here is the arrival of Nemani Nadolo while Matt Scott is a smart signing. Jonny May is out the 'Exit' door, as is Tatafu Polota-Nau and a whopping 20 other senior pros. The decks have been cleared at Welford Road.
LONDON IRISH, NEWCASTLE FALCONS, WASPS & SALE SHARKS - Nothing seismic.
WORCESTER - Have gained Matt Kvesic but lost Joe Taufete'e to Lyon.
We start in France with BORDEAUX, who have made three notable signings - Ben Lam, Joseph Dweba and Ben Tameifuna. CASTRES have been busy, too, with their notable arrivals including Semi Kunatani, Ryno Pieterse and Tyler Ardron.
CLERMONT have strengthened by bringing in Sébastien Bézy, Peni Ravai and Japanese try-scoring star Kotaro Matsushima but will miss the retiring Nick Abendanon. Ronan O'Gara's LA ROCHELLE have done well, getting in Brice Dulin, Dillyn Leyds and Wallabies star Will Skelton.
LYON may have lost Liam Gill, Carl Fearns and Sam Hidalgo-Clyne but they look good for the rugby resumption. They have done well in snapping up Remy Grosso, Mathieu Bastareaud (if he has a Last Dance in him), Colby Fainga'a and Joe Taufete'e. Keep an eye on these lads.
Poor MONTPELLIER have lost Julian Bardy, Kahn Fotuali'i, Nemani Nadolo AND Francois Steyn but the silver lining is the arrival of Les Bleus winger Vincent Rattez.
Pau, Stade Francais, Toulouse and, surprisingly, Toulon have been quiet. At RACING 92, meanwhile, Simon Zebo and Donnacha Ryan will be joined next season by Aussies Luke Jones and Kurtley Beale.
In South Africa, THE BULLS will be coached by Jake White and have added Marcel van der Merwe, Arno Botha, Gio Alpon and Duane Vermeuelen to their roster. THE SHARKS have got in Blitzbokke star Werner Kok but that's about all the razzmatazz for now.
Izack Rodda has been released from the REDS after a pay stand-off while the BRUMBIES have brought in Nic White. Kurtley Beale heading to Racing 92 is the only other switch of note.
Down in New Zealand, former Connacht prop Conan O'Donnell played three Super Rugby games for the Highlanders but is back in training with 2018 and 2019 champions Crusaders, along with fellow Irishman Oli Jagr.
The big news of the Super Rugby was looking to be Brodie Retallick returning to CHIEFS and Sam Whitelock signing up for another season with CRUSADERS. Then the HIGHLANDERS announced Nehe Milner-Skudder was joining them.
Then AUCKLAND BLUES did this...
— The Blues (@BluesRugbyTeam) June 3, 2020
Another reason, as if you needed it, to tune in for Super Rugby Aotearoa.