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Confirmed. Ben Smith is off to France.

Ben Smith signs short term contract with French side …

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It was confirmed today that Ben Smith will leave New Zealand after the Rugby World Cup in Japan 2019.  

Smith has had an extremely successful international career,  capped on 76 occasions, scoring 33 tries in the process and he was part of the World Cup Winning side in 2015.

Many French teams had been touting the slippery All Blacks signature and it was almost common knowledge that the World Cup would be Smith’s international swan song but his exact location was unknown.

Today, Pau president Bernard Pontneau announced that Ben Smith would be joining the Top 14 side after the RWC. It is unknown how long Smith will spend in France although reports suggest that he could be on the move in 2020 to the Japanese Top League.

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“We would have liked to have had this sorted earlier than this. He is is a great player, who will bring a lot to the team. He will have a big impact with the group and our young players will be able to learn from a player of his magnitude. He’ll make them move faster.”

Pau president Bernard Pontneau

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Koroibete Praises Cheika After Award Win

Wallabies winger Marika Koroibete claimed the top prize at Australian Rugby’s yearly awards, but caused a little stir after praising former head coach Michael Cheika

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Australian winger Marika Koroibete was awarded the John Eales medallist at the Australian Rugby awards last night and thanked former head coach Michael Cheika for helping him achieve the feat.

The award, which is handed to the country’s player of the year, was given to the electric winger last night after he saw of the likes of Samu Kerevi to be presented with the highest honour in the land. 

However, the former Rugby League star, who switched codes after Cheika suggested the move, paid a heartfelt tribute to the coach. 

“It’s such an honour to be named with all the great players who’ve won this medal before. I still can’t believe it. I wasn’t expecting this. Michael Cheika was the one who spoke to me. He’s the one who moulded me to be here wearing this medal. He didn’t force me to play early. He took his time and encouraged me, gave me things six months by six months, and this year I’ve been working very hard with the (Melbourne) Rebels coaching staff, they’ve supported me as well,” he said. 

Cheika brought the 27-year-old into the Wallabies camp in 2016, but waited almost a year to hand him his debut as he tried to blood him into his new surroundings. 

However, during his tenure as manager and since his departure there have been a number of players who have criticised the coach, although Koroibete continued to heap praise on his former manager as he showed his gratitude. 

 “(Cheika) is such a great man, he mingled well with the boys. I like him as a coach. He’s honest with you. If there’s something you need to work on, he tells you straight. He doesn’t beat around the bush. Unfortunately, he’s not here anymore,” he added. 

It is a big vote of confidence for Cheika, who is currently being linked with a position at French Top 14 giants Montpellier as he looks to get back into the game. 

Elsewhere on the night, Kerevi wasn’t to be denied an award as he won Super Rugby Player of the Year, while youngster Jordan Petaia, who only made his debut for the Wallabies during the Rugby World Cup in Japan received the accolade for Rookie of the Year.

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Gatland Suspected Wales Player of Doping

Warren Gatland has been full of chat after leaving his post as Wales manager, but has made his most interesting statement yet since his departure

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Former Wales head coach Warren Gatland has admitted that he had suspicions that a player he used to coach while he was in charge of the national side was doping.

Speaking to Off the Ball, Gatland, who also discussed his comments regarding England in the lead up to the World Cup final, has claimed he had a notion that one of his former players was using performance enhancing drugs.

“You know I haven’t come across personally any players that I’ve coached from a Wales perspective that I would – well sorry, maybe one. Maybe one, now that I think about it,” he said. 

When asked about where he had coached this player, he didn’t give a definite answer but made it pretty clear that it was a Welsh international, but he made it clear that he had no proof of the claim so he couldn’t be certain about it. 

“He may have done, yeah. It’s probably a little bit unfair of me to say I had suspicions about one of them because I’ve got no evidence or anything like that. Because it’s kind of like just saying, ‘Is there a possibility?’… It was more like a couple of people making jokes sort of thing. And you go, ‘Oh is that…,” he added. 

It was a pretty big statement from the new Chiefs coach, with former Ireland international Neil Francis writing last week that maybe people should put an asterisk beside South Africa’s World Cup win due to there being a strong possibility that players were doping in his opinion.   

His claim was linked to the fact that Springbok winger Aphiwe Dyantyi had been found to be using performance enhancing drugs earlier this year, after breaking onto the scene recently as well as studies done in the country. 

However, Gatland’s suspicion will raise questions as to whether he was right and was this player an integral part of his time in charge, but for now we will just have to wonder who he is talking about.

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Steyn’s Rugby Career Could be Over

Double World Cup winner Frans Steyn could be set to call time on his career early following his latest triumph

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(Photo by PASCAL GUYOT/AFP/Getty Images)

Springboks great Frans Steyn looks likely to at least pull the curtain down on his European career in order to return to his homeland.

The two-time Rugby World Cup winner, who managed to pick up medals from the 2007 edition of the tournament and this year’s one, beating England in both finals, is currently contracted to French Top 14 giants Montpellier. 

However, it is believed that he has held discussions with the club about ending his contract come the end of January instead of when it is supposed to expire in July and speaking to South African news-outlet Volksblad, he seems keen on settling down in his homeland. 

“Rugby has always been an inspiration for the Afrikaners, especially for farmers. If we had a bad week, if we watch good rugby on Saturday, then everything is better again. Only good rain, a good rugby weekend gives us the power to face Mondays again. It is a privilege that many farmers do not have. We know what to do in the future and what we need to have in place. We want to raise our children here and are attached to the rural feel that Bloemfontein offers. We want our children to have a good experience here as my wife and I had when one grew up here,” he said. 

The 32-year-old has a family farm in Bloemfontein and it is understood this is not the first time he has made the suggestion to return to the area, but it now looks more likely than ever that he will get what he likes. 

Steyn is expected to return to the French club next week, where he would play until January before his possible move back to South Africa. 

At this time it is unknown whether the back would continue his rugby career with local professional side the Cheetahs, who play in the PRO14, or whether he will end his career early, having played at the top level for such a long time already.

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