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Premiership

Northampton Saints sign All Black Centurion.

Has chosen Saints over Toulon.

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Photo By Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile via Getty Image

Northampton Saints have confirmed that they have signed All Blacks Prop Owen Franks. Franks apparently has turned his back on advances from Toulon and will join the Saints after the World Cup.

Franks has ran out for the All Blacks in 105 tests since making his debut in 2009, it is believed he has agreed a two-year deal to play for the English Premiership club, with there being an option for a third year.

Midi Olympique had reported that the 31-year-old, Franks weighed up whether to join Toulon or Northampton and chose the latter. He becomes part of a growing trend of All Blacks opting not to go to France, with Ardie Savea, Kieran Read, Ryan Crotty and Beauden Barrett all rejecting French advances.

Nehe Milner-Skudder and Ben Smith have both bucked the trend and have signed with Toulon and Pau respectively.

Franks will link up again with his brother Ben who is currently with Northampton and also with former Hurricanes coach Chris Boyd.

Speaking on his move, Franks said;

I’d like to thank Chris Boyd and Northampton Saints for showing faith in me and giving me this opportunity to come and play in the Gallagher Premiership,”

“I’ve always taken a keen interest in northern hemisphere rugby so I’m looking forward to coming to the UK and proving myself, while the prospect of playing at Franklin’s Gardens in front of Northampton’s passionate supporters is hugely exciting for me and my family.”

And, after already securing the signing of All Black centre Matt Proctor from the Hurricanes, Northampton director of rugby Chris Boyd is thrilled to welcome another player of Franks’ pedigree next season.

He said:

“Owen is a world-class operator whose record speaks for itself. He not only will improve the quality within our playing squad, but – like his brother – his attitude will set the standard for the entire group.

“His level of professionalism can serve as a fine example for other members of the squad, and he’s a very intelligent footballer – I know several of our young props are already looking forward to picking his brain.”

“The fact that he has played with distinction at the highest level of the game for so long speaks volumes about his ability, so I’m absolutely delighted to welcome Owen here to Northampton next season.”

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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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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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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Premiership

Bath Set to Land Fijian Star

Bath look set to make a mid-season swoop for a Fijian international to help bolster their team

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(Photo by Chris Lishman/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Bath are reportedly set to sign Fijian back Josh Matavesi from Newcastle Falcons to help cover their growing concerns in the centre.

The 29-year-old has been with the Falcons since 2017 following a move from the Ospreys, but while the club look set for an immediate return to the Premiership after their relegation, Bath appear ready to give him a fast-track back to the top. 

It is believed that Bath are searching for cover for Jonathan Joseph, who is currently sidelined through injury, however, he is expected to be called up to Eddie Jones’ England squad upon his return. 

While fellow centre Jamie Roberts is reportedly on the verge of sealing a move to Super Rugby outfit the Stormers

They do have centre Jackson Willison back from injury, but they feel like Matavesi will bring quality and experience to the midfield. 

Matavesi has 24-caps to his name for Fiji, but called time on his test career following their poor showing at the Rugby World Cup last year, where they failed to progress from the pool stages. 

It would be a big boost for Bath if they can seal the deal as he can also cover the fly-half position. What remains to be seen is if the deal goes through whether or not it will be a deal until the end of the season or beyond, with the Fijian thought to be looking for a move to Super Rugby in the future.

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