Former France centre Mathieu Bastareaud has confirmed he will not return to Toulon for the first half of the 2019/20 season.
The centre has signed for Rugby United New York for their 2020 Major League Rugby season and had fully expected to be heading to the Rugby World Cup in Japan before being left out of Jacques Brunel’s squad.
Since then speculation has surrounded Bastareaud’s short-term future and although he won’t turn out for Toulon again this year, it is still a mystery as to what he will do.
Bastareaud was set a deadline of July 8th by Toulon to confirm his plans and the club have subsequently released a statement to inform the public of his decision.
“Mathieu Bastareaud and Rugby Club Toulonnais decided, by mutual agreement, to put an end to the contract linking them for this season 2019-2020. Mathieu Bastareaud wanted to take up a new challenge for four months before joining Major League Rugby and the New York team. In accordance with the commitments made to his former captain, the club has decided to accept his request for release from the contract,” the statement read.
The statement went on to thank the centre and leave the possibility of a return open when his time in the US is up.
“Rugby Club Toulonnais thanks Mathieu Bastareaud for his eight consecutive seasons, for his investment and his respect for the institution. President Mourad Boudjellal and all at RCT wish him a very bright future and obviously opens the doors to a return in the 2020-2021 season,” the statement added.
Bastareaud has been subject to offers from several clubs according to reports with French sides Stade Francais and Montpellier apparently seeking his services. As well as the French duo there were reports in France last week claiming Munster had made a “concrete offer” for him but where he will go next remains to be seen.
Zebo Expected to Extend French Stay
Simon Zebo appears set to continue his stay in France according to reports
The 30-year-old has been at Racing for two seasons and has a clause to extend his time there to a third season if activated.
Having impressed last season, the former Munsterman has had an injury-hit campaign this time around through concussion and breaking his foot, before the domestic and European season were suspended due to the coronavirus outbreak.
However, when he has managed to play this season he has caught the eye and it is thought that the French giants are keen for him to put pen to paper on a new deal too.
That would see the Cork native remain unable to add to his 35-caps for Ireland due to the overseas rules held by the IRFU, while it would also see him face a further challenge for minutes on the pitch with Wallaby ace Kurtley Beale appearing likely to join Racing in the summer.
While a third-year in Paris seems set to be in Zebo’s short-term future, in the long-term it is unknown where he will end up, but admitted while speaking to Off the Ball yesterday that he would only return to Ireland to play for former side Munster.
French Giants Eying Deal for Beale
Kurtley Beale could be set to leave the Waratahs for Europe this summer according to reports
The 31-year-old has been key to the Super Rugby franchise and it would be a major blow to lose a player of his quality ahead of next season.
However, despite the potential move across to Europe and Racing it would have no effect on his standing in the international set-up as he currently has 92-caps for the Wallabies to his name putting him well ahead of the 60 needed to be selected by an overseas player.
With new head coach Dave Rennie coming in during the summer to take over from Michael Cheika it is unknown whether or not Beale will remain an integral part of the team.
He was vital during Australia’s Rugby World Cup campaign last year and with his versatility he will hope that Rennie sees him as an asset to his side.
Although he is not the only Wallaby that is being reported to leave Super Rugby with Melbourne Rebels pair Matt Philip and Luke Jones also set to depart for France according to Fox Sport, with Pau their likely destination.
All of these potential moves would be problematic for the Australian-based Super Rugby sides, who are struggling as it is and without star men sticking around the future looks bleak.
Skelton Set for Summer Move from Saracens
Australian second-row ace Will Skelton looks set for a move away from Saracens this summer, but Rugby Australia won’t be happy with his choice of destination according to reports
The giant second-row has been a target for Rugby Australia since before last year’s Rugby World Cup in Japan, but he decided to remain in England with Saracens ruling him out of contention to feature for the Wallabies due to their overseas laws.
However, they took another shot at getting his signature once Saracens salary cap scandal unfolded, believing it was the perfect opportunity to bring him home.
Talks took place with the 27-year-old but reports in France are now claiming that a deal with French Top 14 side La Rochelle will be confirmed shortly.
It would be another big-money move for the lock, but once more he would be unable to represent his country as he falls well short of the 60-caps needed for an overseas player to be eligible to be called-up.
Failing to tie-down a star name like Skelton again would be a major blow for Rugby Australia and may cause them to consider altering their current rules around the Giteau Law as they are missing out on being able to select some of their best players because of it.