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Premiership

London Irish sign Wallabies Duo

Great business from the Exiles

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The rumours that have been circulating in recent weeks about a possible move by Nick Phipps and Curtis Rona to Premiership club London Irish have been confirmed on Friday morning.

The Waratahs duo will make the move after both signed contracts with the Premiership club.

“It was a really tough decision to make the move away from New South Wales”, said Phipps, who has been with the Waratahs since 2013 after starting his professional playing career with the Australian Sevens team and then playing Super Rugby for the Melbourne Rebels.

“I’ve loved my time in the sky blue jersey and I’ve got so much pride for the teams I’ve been lucky enough to represent, from schoolboys to club as well as for the State and the Wallabies,” he added.

“I wouldn’t be in this position without the people that I’ve met and that have helped me along the way. All the volunteers, the coaches, the administrators, they have all supported me and I couldn’t be more thankful.

“It’s a really big year ahead with the NSW Waratahs and the Wallabies though, so I’m solely focused on throwing everything I’ve got into this Super Rugby season.

“I’ll take some amazing memories with me but I felt that the time was right for my family and I to make the move overseas to try a different playing style and immerse ourselves into a different culture.

Rona, who has been with the Waratahs for two seasons, said that he was excited about the upcoming season and wanted to further improve his game.

“My focus at the moment is to further improve my game and help our team achieve success in Super Rugby this year. I am excited about the season ahead because I know what we are capable of. I cannot wait for our first competition game and see a full house at Brookvale Oval.

“I have made many friendships through this awesome game and gained a lot of experience working with some of the best coaches and playing with the best in Australia.

“I feel I am a better player from when I first started, I have learnt a lot but I am at a stage of my career where I have been offered the opportunity to take my young family to a new environment. I would like to thank everyone in the NSW Rugby community for their support during my time here.”

Both Phipps and Rona will remain with the Waratahs until the conclusion of the team’s Super Rugby campaign.

Premiership

Harlequins Secure South African Star’s Signature

Harlequins have confirmed the signing of one of the most powerful backs in Super Rugby for next season

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(Photo by Paul Thomas/Getty Images)

Harlequins have announced the signing of South African back Andre Esterhuizen from Super Rugby outfit the Sharks.

The 25-year-old, known as ‘The Giant’ due to his size and stature, will link-up with the squad ahead of the 2020/21 season following the end of the upcoming Super Rugby campaign with the South African-based franchise. 

The eight-time capped Springbok is delighted to be joining the Premiership side and admitted the opportunity was too good to turn down.

“When the opportunity to play for Harlequins came up, I knew it was the right move for me to develop my career and get the chance to play in the Premiership, as well as experience the European competition, which have always been dreams of mine. Paul Gustard and his team are building something special there and to have the chance to work with a young and dynamic coaching group such as Nick Evans and Sean Long is really exciting. I can’t wait to run out at The Stoop and show them what I can bring to the team,” he said. 

Meanwhile, Gustard believes that Esterhuizen’s sheer power will be a massive boost to the club and is excited to have him on board. 

“Andre is an incredible signing for Harlequins. He is a current Springbok who has the ability to change any game through his raw power and strength in the contact areas. His physical abilities are impressive enough, but we were further attracted by his capacity to be a second playmaker, distributing before and through the line. He is a fantastic talent and his addition to our squad is very exciting. Besides his ability on the field, which is without debate, he is a tremendous human being. He has the character that we want and at 25 is entering his prime as a player. He will join a backline that we feel can grow together and develop into an elite unit, developing a deep understanding of each other and building strong friendships,” he said. 

Esterhuizen will be a huge addition to the Quins back-line with his ability to play centre and full-back, as well as having 72 Super Rugby appearances to his name ahead of the new season and will be hoping to hit the ground running when he heads to England.

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Premiership

Rugby Australia Confirm Skelton Stance

With the Saracens team set to be torn apart, Rugby Australia have announced their intentions regarding one of the side’s key men

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(Photo credit GLYN KIRK/AFP/Getty Images)

Rugby Australia have confirmed they will be trying to sign up Saracens star Will Skelton following the club’s salary cap scandal.

Skelton has been away from Australia since 2016 following a stint with the Waratahs, where he won the Super Rugby title in 2014. However, in the lead up to the Rugby World Cup last year approaches were made for the massive lock in a bid for him to be eligible for the tournament. 

Those moves came to no avail, but now Rugby Australia’s director of rugby Scott Johnson told The Australian that they will go all out to tempt Skelton back to his homeland. 

“I can’t see them keeping anywhere near that team together and because he [Skelton] is not ­English, he will be one of the first under the spotlight. We have spoken to his agent, and we are going to go heavy this week. We are in a realistic chance at some stage to bring him back, if he wants to come back. He’s going to make a decision on what he is doing this for. Is it money, or is it career? So he has to make that clear to us. For us, we won’t compete for the money. We’ll make a good offer. But I only want guys in the country who want to make a difference. He has apparently been saying the right things but, to be fair, he was always just trying to honour his contract,” he said. 

If he returns to Australia it is believed he could go back to the Waratahs, but there is also rumours that the Rebels or the Brumbies could try and get him onto their books. 

Meanwhile, with a big salary and being unable to play for England, it seems a logical move for Saracens to try and offload the 27-year-old. 

Already they have lost Liam Williams to the Scarlets and it is believed that George Kruis will depart for Japan come the end of the current campaign. While question marks remain over a host of star names including Owen Farrell, Billy Vunipola and Maro Itoje

However, while those players more than likely would seek a move to a club in England, Skelton will have his options and a move back to Australia would be a huge boost for the national side as they head into a new era under Dave Rennie.

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International

Borthwick Confirms New Job Already

Steve Borthwick confirmed his departure from the England set-up yesterday and less than 24 hours his new role has been announced

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(Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

Leicester Tigers have confirmed that England assistant coach Steve Borthwick will take over as head coach once his current commitments to the national side conclude.

It is a move that has been rumoured for some time and with Borthwick announcing his departure from the England set-up yesterday after over four years with them, many expected that he would be heading in the Tigers direction. 

However, the speed at which the confirmation has come about is the only surprise, but the former England international is delighted to be given the chance to manage the Tigers after learning so much from working with Eddie Jones since 2012. 

“The last four-and-a-half years working with the England team has been an incredible journey. I have worked with some brilliant players and staff. In particular, I would like to thank Eddie Jones. To have worked with one of the greatest head coaches in the world for so long has been an unbelievable experience. I’m delighted to be joining Leicester Tigers as head coach. The Tigers have such a long and successful history and are one of the greatest rugby clubs in the game. Welford Road, with the special atmosphere created by the club’s incredible supporters roaring their team forward, is a very special place to be. We must now work to build upon that great history and create our future to get this club to the top of European rugby. It is a brilliant challenge and I am excited to start working with the players and everybody associated with the team. Geordan provides a link with the club’s greatest teams and we will be working together to ensure that there are many successful days ahead for this club, and for our supporters to enjoy,” he said. 

He will be welcomed into the club with open arms after being part of the Japanese national set-up that stunned the world at the 2015 Rugby World Cup, before switching to England where he has won two Six Nations titles and reached a World Cup final. 

His arrival sees current head coach Geordan Murphy changes his role at the club, taking up the position of director of rugby and club chairman Peter Tom believes that the two former stars can build back a Tigers team that has struggled lately. 

“The appointment of Steve Borthwick as head coach and Geordan Murphy in the role of director of rugby provides an exciting combination of leadership, expertise and experience to drive the club forward in its desire to challenge for major honours again. The club has enjoyed many of its greatest successes with a blend of the Tigers DNA alongside fresh, innovative ideas from outside, both among the players and the coaching staff, and we look forward to Geordan and Steve leading that in their respective new roles,” he said. 

Both Borthwick and Murphy will be hoping to bring the Premiership side back to the top level of the game come next season, but before then they have their separate tasks, with Borthwick guiding England through the upcoming Six Nations, while Murphy attempts to take the Tigers further up the Premiership table.

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