Racing 92 star Simon Zebo looks set to extend his stay in the French capital for another season according to Irish news outlet Independent.ie.
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.
Dan Leavy to retire
It has been announced that Leinster Rugby back row Dan Leavy is to retire from the game with immediate effect.
The 27-year-old has played 79 times for Leinster Rugby since his debut against Edinburgh Rugby in October 2014 and has also won 11 Ireland caps.
Unfortunately, Leavy suffered a significant knee injury against Ulster Rugby in March 2019, and following expert medical opinion, and despite his best efforts, he has been advised to retire.
Speaking to leinsterrugby.ie, Leavy said, “I have done everything I can to come back from the knee injury I suffered in 2019 but unfortunately I can’t do any more or ask any more of my body.
“I’d like to thank Andy Williams, my surgeon, and Karl Denvir, my physio in Leinster, for all that they have done for me in the years since then. I can take solace from the fact that I tried everything over the last three years.
“From the early days in Old Belvedere to my time in St Michael’s College, all I wanted was to pull on a Leinster Rugby jersey. And then when you achieve that, it’s an Ireland jersey.
“I am very proud of all that I achieved in my short time as a professional.
“Some amazing highs with my brothers in blue and in green and I am beyond grateful for those days and those moments especially the highs of 2018 in Bilbao, the Aviva Stadium and Twickenham.
“More than that I am proud of how I carried myself, in particular over the last few years, and I hope I represented my club, my country, my family and friends to the best of my abilities in those years. I am beyond grateful to them all for their support and in particular to my mum and dad, Eilish and Donal, my sister, Rachel, and my brother, Adam.
“I am also very grateful to Leo Cullen. Leo has been an unbelievable support to me over the last few years. On the field, and off, and I cannot thank him enough.
“Not many people get to enjoy and experience what I have over the last 10 years representing my school, my club and my country.
“This is not the end I had hoped for, but as I look back, at the highs and the lows, they have all been shared with the best teammates, family and friends around me, and what more could I ask for?”
Leinster Rugby head coach Leo Cullen said, “Dan was a player earmarked from an early age as a special talent and I think everyone could see that, particularly in those few years in and around 2017, ’18 and ’19, just how dynamic and destructive a player he could be with Leinster and with Ireland where he went on to achieve unprecedented success at that time.
“While the public have seen very little of Dan since his injury, we have seen plenty of him in here and we have seen the same determination, character and drive that marked him out on the pitch as one of the best.
“Dan has also received incredible support from his family and all the medical staff here along the difficult path of trying to return to playing.
“Speaking on behalf of the support staff here at Leinster Rugby it has been a pleasure and privilege to have worked with Dan. He always brought such a positive energy to the group and we will all miss him dearly but would like to acknowledge the significant contribution he has made to the team during his time here.
“Talking to him, Dan is very appreciative of the times he has enjoyed in here with Leinster but now, it’s about us all supporting him as best we can as he starts that next stage in his life.
“I have no doubt that he will apply himself with the same determination that we have seen since he first pulled on a Leinster jersey in 2014 and that he will make a success of himself away from the rugby fields. We wish him well and I hope he knows that there will always be a warm welcome for him here in UCD or down the road at the RDS.”
Leavy, who played seven times for Leinster this season and last appeared against Ulster Rugby last month, made his debut in 2014 and has played 79 times in total for Leinster Rugby scoring 17 tries.
He was an ever-present member of the double-winning Leinster Rugby squad of 2017/18 and he brought that club form to the international stage when making his Irish debut in November 2016 against Canada at Aviva Stadium.
He made his Six Nations debut later that season coming off the bench against England at Aviva Stadium in March 2017.
During his Ireland career, he never lost a game in his 11 caps and was a key member of the Grand Slam-winning side of 2018.
Everyone in Leinster Rugby sends Dan our very best wishes for the future, and thank him most sincerely, for brilliant days in blue.
Dan Leavy Biog:
DOB: 23 May 1994
Height: 6′ 3″
Weight: 16st 7lbs
Leinster Caps / Tries: 79 / 17
Ireland Caps / Tries: 11 / 3
Beale return to Australia confirmed
Rugby Australia and the NSW Waratahs are delighted to announce Kurtley Beale will return to home soil after committing to Australian Rugby until the end of 2023.
Currently plying his trade in France’s Top 14, Beale has featured in 95 Tests for the Wallabies and was most recently called into the national set up by Dave Rennie for the side’s Spring Tour in the United Kingdom.
The versatile Beale can cover a range of positions across the backline but has been predominantly seen at fullback during his last two seasons playing for his French club, Racing 92.
A member of the past three Wallabies’ Rugby World Cup squads, Beale’s return puts him squarely in the frame to become just the third Australian to feature at four World Cup tournaments.
The 33-year-old is currently the second most capped NSW Waratah with 148 Super Rugby games across 11 seasons for the club.
Beale will return to the Wallabies and Australian Rugby following the conclusion of the 2021 French Top 14 season and will be available for the 2022 Wallabies’ International season and the Waratahs’ 2023 Super Rugby Pacific competition.
Returning Wallabies and NSW Waratahs back, Kurtley Beale said: “I’m really happy to be returning to Australia and would like to thank RA and the Waratahs for allowing me that opportunity.”
“There’s nothing better than representing my state and my country and I’ll be working hard to earn the right to do both when I return to Australia.
“From what I can see the Waratahs and the Wallabies are building really strong cultures and environments and I’ll be looking to contribute as much as I can to ensure that continues.”
Rugby Australia CEO, Andy Marinos said: “We’re really pleased that Kurtley is returning home and committed to Australian Rugby to the end of the 2023 season. “
“His decision is especially significant given the current Rugby player market and speaks to his desire to represent both the Waratahs and the Wallabies again. We remain determined to be successful and play a brand of rugby that delivers results and engages fans. Kurtley has shown this in his career to date and we are excited to see the continued impact he can have as we build towards the 2023 Rugby World Cup.
“Kurtley’s return certainly adds depth and experience to Australian Rugby, in positions that provide an opportunity to showcase his skill and diversity. With a new Super Rugby competition and a packed home Test season against Tier 1 nations, there is a lot to look forward to in the weeks and months ahead from both Kurtley and the teams he plays in.”
NSW Waratahs Head Coach, Darren Coleman said: “It’s going to be great having Kurtley back not only for the team but for the NSW Rugby public.
“He’s an excitement machine and his ability to play multiple positions is a real asset for us.”
“I’ve had a long association with Kurtley dating back to 2006 and he’s a really positive guy to have around.
“I feel he will be a great mentor for some of our young backs as they progress through their professional career.”
Born: 6 January 1989
Place of birth: Blacktown, New South Wales
Super Rugby debut: 2007 v Brumbies, Canberra (NSW Waratahs)
Super Rugby caps: 148 (NSW Waratahs); 14 (Melbourne Rebels)
Test debut: 2009 v Wales, Cardiff
Test caps: 95
Leicester confirm signing of Springbok
Leicester Tigers will welcome World Cup-winning fly-half Handré Pollard to the club ahead of the 2022/23 season.
The South Africa international will make the move to Leicester from French club Montpellier.
The 27-year-old has been capped on 60 occasions by the Springboks since making his Test debut against Scotland in 2014 while still a member of the South Africa Under-20s squad.
Pollard played youth rugby for Western Province, in Cape Town, while attending Paarl Gimnasium School and was selected for South Africa Schoolboys in 2012.
That same year, Pollard was selected for the Junior Springboks as an 18-year-old and remained in the squad for three successive seasons, captaining the age-grade national side in his final year.
In 2013, Pollard moved to the University of Pretoria and represented UP Tuks while also making his provincial debut for the Blue Bulls in South Africa’s Currie Cup competition.
His Super Rugby debut followed in 2014 for the Bulls, who he would represent for the next five seasons, as well as a lone campaign for Japanese club NTT DoCoMo Red Hurricanes in 2015/16.
After playing in South Africa’s 2019 Rugby World Cup win, Pollard joined current club Montpellier.
An accomplished goal-kicker, he has registered more than 600 points for the Springboks at an average of more than 10 points per Test.
He represented the Barbarians in 2018 and recently shared in South Africa’s series win over the British & Irish Lions.
Speaking about the addition of Pollard to the Leicester Tigers squad for next season, Head Coach Steve Borthwick said: “Handré is a world-class fly-half who brings with him a wealth of experience from Super Rugby, Top14 and international rugby.
“He is a World Cup winner who has been highly sought-after from clubs all over the globe. But, most pleasingly, he sees Leicester Tigers as the club for him.
“What has impressed me most in our dealings with him has been his desire to be a part of what we are building at this club but also his desire to develop, learn and grow as a player and person.
“This is a very exciting signing for the club and one I hope Leicester Tigers fans are excited about.”
Discussing his decision to join Leicester Tigers, Pollard said: “I am excited to join Leicester Tigers, to be a part of this great group of players at a special club and challenge myself, test my limits and be the very best I can be for the team.
“The club is going brilliantly at the moment and I know there is an expectation to continue that, to keep getting better because getting to the top is hard but staying there is even harder.
“There are bigger deals on the table, but I’ve made this decision to work with Steve [Borthwick] and to be a part of an unreal, great club at Leicester Tigers which has such a great history,” he added.
The Springboks fly-half also spoke of his excitement ahead of playing at Mattioli Woods Welford Road.
“I don’t know the whole history of Leicester Tigers, but this is a club that is so well renowned worldwide,” he said.
“Everybody I have spoken to about playing there, for Tigers or an away team, say it’s the one stadium that is on another level.”
Pollard will link up with his new Leicester Tigers team-mates at the conclusion of international commitments ahead of the 2022/23 season.