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Toulon complete hat-trick of Southern Hempshere singings

French giants have now signed a Kiwi, Saffer and an Aussie in less than a week.

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Queensland Red’s young playmaker Duncan Paia’aua is the latest Southern Hemisphere name to confirm they will be leaving for European shores come the conclusion of the 2019 season according to reports from rugbycomau

Paia’aua who is only 23 was on Wallabies coach Michael Chieka’s radar having featured in the Australia v Barbarians fixture last year where he managed to get across the try line (video below) Disappointing he hasn’t featured in squads since with Foley, Toomua, Beale & Hodge have all pulled on the 10 jersey since.

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Australia rugby will be sad to lose such an exciting prospect at such a young age. New Zealand born Duncan represented Australian u20 at the IRB Championships but then had a brief spell in Rugby League with the Brisbane Broncos before making a return to Union in 2014 where he lined up with the Queensland Red’s where he has been playing his rugby since.

Toulon owner Mourad Boudjellal described Paia’aua as having a “Matt Giteau” profile about him. The Top 14 outfit has struggled to find a playmaking 12 since Giteau’s departure and while the comparisons might seem a little far fetched it’s a shrewd bit of business from Toulon who have nabbed a skilled playmaking 10 or 12 at a very young age.

Toulon are having a tough season following the loss of a lot of big names over the last couple of seasons have recruited well ahead of the 2019 season with Eben Eztebeth and Nehe Milner-Skudder set to arrive post RWC2019.

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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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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Super Rugby

Hooper Makes Surprise Waratah’s Decision

Wallabies star Michael Hooper has made a big call ahead of the start of the new Super Rugby season with the Waratahs

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Waratahs and Wallabies ace Michael Hooper has confirmed that he has stepped down as captain of the Super Rugby franchise ahead of the new season.

Hooper has been the main man of the side for the past four seasons, but has chosen to step aside in what is a surprise to many in the rugby community admitting that he has been thinking about the situation for a long as the role was taking its toll on him. 

“Doing both roles (captaining the Waratahs and the Wallabies) for some time it would be remiss of me to say it doesn’t have a taxing effect. There’s much more than just running out on the park, leading the team out on the weekend. There’s performances of teams that weigh into it, there’s the media, all my friends. Having to speak every week is tough and trying to get the message right and represent the team as best as possible. A big part of it is I’ve got another four years here and I want to make that four years really special and take my personal game and leadership to another level,” he said. 

With Hooper stepping down it has been announced that fellow Wallaby Rob Simmons will take up the role for the upcoming season with Kurtley Beale taking the position of vice-captain. 

However, despite stepping away from the Waratah’s captaincy the back-rower has not shut down the possibility of staying on as Wallabies captain having held the role since 2017. 

“That’s a fair way away, but my thoughts around that have not changed. I still think I’ve got a lot of growing in myself, my gameplay and my captaincy. Those are conversations that (new Wallabies coach Dave Rennie) and myself will be having I’m sure in the future,” he added. 

It is a surprise, but if leaving the role does ease the pressure on him fans will only wonder what it would be like for him to get even better. 

However, Simmons first outing as new captain is by no means easy as the brings his Tahs side to the reigning three-time champions the Crusaders for their opening game of the new campaign next weekend.

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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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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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