Dan Carter is expected to play for Paris’s new Top 14 super-club if the planned merger of Racing 92 and Stade Francais goes ahead, according to French rugby-dedicated newspaper Midi Olympique.
The ex-All Black, who the paper also reported may have been prepared to leave at the end of what has been a difficult season for the ciel et blanc, has one more year to run of the contract that made him the game’s first €1m-plus-a-season player after the 2015 World Cup.
But while Carter’s zero-heavy contract appears merger-safe – for a given value of ‘safe’ – what about other players on the two sides’ books?
According to another sports newspaper in France, L’Equipe, 64 players are under contracts extending beyond the end of the season at the two clubs. It has also said a rumour has been doing the rounds of Racing’s club corridors that a list of players who are soon to find themselves out of contract has been sent to the 12 other Top 14 clubs.
It appears that overseas players should be the most nervous as Racing 92 president Jacky Lorenzetti is said to be keen to convince sceptical FFR president Bernard Laporte to accept the plan by making the new club ‘100% selectable’, which means ensuring that all players are French qualified, according to new standards imposed earlier this year.
The merger plans will have made for interesting reading for Johan Goosen, who – it had been reported – was ready to return to Paris to resurrect his rugby career having retired in controversial circumstances in December. He, the paper says, will not be part of the new set-up. But whether that means his release will be a short and painless affair or ends up in court, as has been threatened, remains to be seen.
Another player apparently unhappy with Parisian life, Leone Nakarawa, may also be close to the exit door at Racing. The paper also claims that Stade’s overseas stars Willem Alberts, Morne Steyn, Gerhard Mostert, Paul Williams and Will Genia will also not be part of the new Paris outfit, adding that Genia could be heading for Japan, after earlier reports had said he would return to Australia.
Midi Olympique reports that international scrum-half Maxime Machenaud’s name would not have appeared on that rumoured list that may or may not be touted around other French clubs, even though he has been in contact with Toulon about a possible move to the Mediterranean coast, as he is contracted to Racing until 2020.
But fly-half Remi Tales, who has only made 24 appearances in Racing colours in two years since following coaches Laurent Labit and Laurent Travers to Paris from Castres, is reported to have asked to be released from the final year of his deal. The newspaper says that his demand is likely to be granted, along with a similar early release request from rarely seen number 8 Thibault Dubarry.
Scrum-half Teddy Iribaren, who was due to join the club from Brive next season, is expected to be part of the new super-club set-up, according to the paper. But it said that the situation was ‘more complex’ for fellow prospective new arrivals Census Johnston and Vasil Kakovin – who may find their joint move from Toulouse scuppered, with forwards coach Labit said to favour current Stade props Paul Alo-Emile and Heinke van der Merwe.
Toulon centre Jimmy Yobo, who had signed a pre-contract to join Stade, will be released from his commitment.
Stade’s French international fly-half Jules Plisson, who had been in talks about a switch to Racing when his current deal ends and would offer youthful competition and a protege for Carter, is ‘very close’ to signing for La Rochelle, the paper reports – contradicting an earlier assertion from L’Equipe that he would remain at the new Paris club.
Flanker Antoine Burban is being courted by a number of clubs, while centre Jonathan Danty is a target for Toulon. Djibril Camara has said he does not want to be considered for the new outfit, while other players, including Sekou Macalou and Hugo Bonneval – who has already signed for Toulon – have made their feelings clear on social media.
A meeting on Friday of parties affected by the planned merger – including players, club presidents Jacky Lorenzetti and Thomas Savare, and representatives of the respective sides’ amateur divisions – at Ligue Nationale de Rugby (LNR) headquarters in Paris ended with no decisions, but with an agreement to attend another meeting at 6pm (France time) on Monday.
Meanwhile, the LNR decided that the weekend’s matches involving Stade and Racing – away at Castres Olympique at 6.30pm and Montpellier at 8.45pm on Saturday respectively – would be postponed. Dates for the rearranged fixtures would also be announced on Monday.
To add to the fallout from Monday’s shock merger announcement in Paris, Montpellier later issued a press release opposing the decision and calling on the FFR to intervene, while Castres said that they would prefer to face Stade on the pitch rather than win a game by default. ‘This is no time to add confusion to confusion,’ president Pierre-Yves Revol told local newspaper Journal d’Ici.
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