"The whole point of rugby is that it is, first and foremost, a state of mind, a spirit" ? Jean-Pierre Rives

Home | About Us | Contact Details | Sitemap  | Links 
French Rugby Club
Latest News
Editor's Choice
Top 14
Ollie Phillips - new
Joe El-Abd
Paul Dearlove
Steve Thompson
Pro D2
Results & Fixtures
Federale 1
Heineken Cup
Results & Tables
European Challenge Cup
Results & Tables
International News
Club Guide





Top 14: French clubs target England captain Borthwick, plus Kay, Sackey and Cipriani

02 February 2010

Basque glory? England captain
Steve Borthwick in action
Photo: Michael Paler

National captain Steve Borthwick is among several high profile England players being courted by wealthy French clubs lining up another cross-Channel raiding party.

The French transfer window officially opened on Monday with players allowed to sign pre-contract agreements with prospective new clubs, and there was no shortage of rumours floating around in the rugby press as agents, clubs and players prepare for a busy few months.

Top 14 Table  / Top 14 try-scorers / Top 14 Results / Top 14 Fixtures

Borthwick is reportedly on the radar of Basque club Bayonne, who are currently battling relegation in 13th place. Millionaire board member Alain Afflelou is preparing to splash the cash in the summer should the team stay up, and their prospects are improving after the three-match winning run has boosted both their confidence and their survival chances.

The club has a crucial home game against defending champions Perpignan on Friday - postponed from November 28th - and victory in that match could help advance discussions with several transfer targets, including Borthwick and Bourgoin's international fly-half Benjamin Boyet.

Their arrivals would help offset the expected departure of young French winger Benjamin Fall to Racing-Métro 92, and the potential signings could also find themselves working alongside Bayonne's fourth head coach in a year if either Fabien Galthié or Albi's Eric Béchu can be convinced to come. Club president Francis Salagoity is known to favour Galthié, but the former Stade Francais coach will not commit himself until Top 14 survival has been guaranteed.

That is likely to be the case with Borthwick too, although ProD2 leaders SU Agen are also though to be keen on signing the England captain should they secure the only automatic promotion berth.

Ben Kay - Borthwick's second row international colleague - is also being lined up for a summer switch, with the veteran Leicester lock attracting the interest of big-spending Toulon. Philippe Saint-André has already confirmed that Sale Sharks captain (and England international) Dean Schofield will be joining them next season, and president Mourad Boudjellal is again making cash available for further signings.

Jonny Wilkinson has already signed a new deal - with England clauses written into it - and now Boudjellal is understood to be keen on bringing in a big-name winger, with Paul Sackey, Shane Williams and Lote Tuqiri all reportedly in the frame.

Another England international currently attracting admirers is Sackey's Wasps' colleague Danny Cipriani. He may profess to be happy at Wasps but the big money on offer across the Channel, and the success there of former team-mates Tom Palmer and James Haskell is bound to be a persuasive factor.

Midi Olympique reports that Biarritz - already home to Ayoola Erinle, Iain Balshaw and Magnus Lund - are keen to add Cipriani, while Haskell's Stade Francais and current French champions Perpignan are also in the market for the highly-rated (in France anyway) fly-half.

Stade Francais, bankrolled by Max Guazzini, are also keen on Scottish brothers Max and Thom Evans - a rumour given added credence by the fact both featured prominently in this year's 'Dieux de Stade' calendar. The Paris giants look set to lose former rugby league star Mark Gasnier back to Australia - as he bids to break into the Wallabies' World Cup squad - but Leicester's Aaron Mauger is being lined up as a possible replacement.

Another English-based player set to move to France is Erik Lund, the Leeds captain, who's arrival at Biarritz should ensure that brother (and England international) Magnus stays at the Basque club.


Magnus Lund is currently being courted by new Super 15 franchise Melbourne Rebels, but the prospect of playing alongside his brother - who has been capped by Norway - is thought to be enough to keep the flanker at Biarritz. Certainly the local media believe so, with the arrival of Erik 'The Viking' already being trumpeted.

Big-spending Racing-Métro are also set to dig deep into the pockets of owner Jacky Lorenzetti as Pierre Berbizier seeks to further strengthen his squad after an impressive maiden season in Top 14.

Last year it was the arrivals of Sébastien Chabal, Lionel Nallet and Francois Steyn that set the tone for their summer spending, and this year looks no different. They may have been rebuffed in their efforts to sign Imanol Harinordoquy and Julien Bonnaire (from Biarritz and Clermont respectively) but they appear to be faring better with their pursuit of Montpellier captain and French international Fulgence Ouedraogo. Bayonne's Fall is also expected to sign, along with former Stade Francais favourite Juan Martin Hernandez.

Australian scrum-half Nic Berry is expected to leave, with Northampton Saints his rumoured destination, while veteran fly-half Andrew Mehrtens is unlikely to have his contract renewed.

Seventeen-time champions Stade Toulousain are said to be content with their current squad, with the arrival of Bourgoin's Sylvain Nicholas (see below) likely to be their lone signing. Their energies - and financial resources - are being focused instead on renewing contracts with several of their star players, with the likes of Maxime Médard, Vincent Clerc and Romain Millo-Chluski all coming to the end of their current deals.

Holding out: Stade Toulousain's
talented back Maxime Médard
Photo: Michael Paler

Médard reportedly turned down the club's initial offer last week, but is expected to sign a new two-year deal in the coming weeks, while progress is also being made in terms of securing Clerc and Millo-Chluski. Another reason for keeping their powder dry, is that Stade have a mass of players up for renewal at the end of next season, with all the financial implications that holds as they strive to retain the services of stars such as Frédéric Michalak, Byron Kelleher, Thierry Dusautoir, Patricio Albacete, Yannick Jauzion, Louis Picamoles and Yves Nyanga.

Brive have been one of the busiest French clubs in the transfer market over recent seasons - especially in terms of signing British players - but a 20% budget reduction and a renewed focus on signing French players will limit their impact this season.

The Limousin club is eyeing the possibility of signing Albi scrum-half Kevin Boulogne, as well as Stade Toulousain youngster Mathieu Belie, while former England international Andy Goode is currently in contract negotiations to extend his two-year stay, despite losing his starting place to Fabrice Estebanez. Goode should get a chance to showcase his talents over the coming weeks after Estebanez was called up to the French squad, while teammate Steve Thompson has already put pen to paper on a new deal taking him through to the end of next season. Jamie Noon is also looking to extend his stay, and the club are keen to make that a reality, along with a new deal for Fijian winger Vili Waqaseduadua (who is currently in negotiations).

Bourgoin, meanwhile, look set to pay for their ongoing financial worries with seven players set to depart in the summer, together with coaching duo Eric Catinot and Xavier Pemeja. The main problem for Bourgoin - apart from possible relegation and a lack of finances - is that their squad accepted a 17% pay cut earlier in the season to stave off possible bankruptcy, thus triggering release clauses in all but seven of their playing squad.

Recalled France fly-half Boyet is on the wish-list of both Perpignan and Bayonne, while rumours persist that Catinot and Pemeja - who have worked wonders under the most trying of circumstances - are set to take their skills to Montpellier.

Kiwi prop Karena Wihongi is reportedly set to leave for Toulon, while Cameroon international Arnauld Tchougong is long-known to be part of Perpignan's summer recruitment plans. Twenty-two-year-old flanker Nicholas - currently having an outstanding season - is also set to leave, with Stade Toulousain ready to pouch another of France's best young talents.


Home | About Us | Privacy Policy | Contact Details | Sitemap  | Links 

© Copyright FrenchRugbyClub.com. All rights reserved.