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Fissler Confidential: Bath hunt All Black as Sarries lose another 10

By Neil Fissler
Montpellier winger George Bridge carries versus Perpignan (Photo by Raymond Roig/AFP via Getty Images)

Bath are in the hunt to sign Montpellier’s former All Blacks winger George Bridge, who is also attracting interest from Gallagher Premiership champions Saracens.

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The 28-year-old from Gisborne, who scored 12 tries in 19 appearances for New Zealand, has had a meeting with Bath officials and knows Elliott Stooke well from his time in Montpellier.

Bridge can also play full-back and scored 37 tries in 82 Super Rugby games for the Crusaders before moving to France in 2022. He is one of several players Montpellier are willing to let leave in a clear-out.

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Jaque Fourie and Marius Louw preview the Lions’ URC face-off with the Sharks

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Jaque Fourie and Marius Louw preview the Lions’ URC face-off with the Sharks

Part of the All Blacks’ 2019 Rugby World Cup semi-final defeat to England, Bridge has made 11 appearances this season and touched down twice against the Ospreys in the Challenge Cup in December.

Saracens are sniffing around the highly rated Newcastle Falcons fly-half Louie Johnson, with Manu Vunipola set to follow Owen Farrell out of the North London club this summer.

The Carlisle-born 20-year-old, who was educated at Sedbergh and has played for England U20s, can also play full-back and inside centre. He has made 12 appearances for the Falcons this season and scored one try.

The Newcastle senior academy graduate, who made his debut in the Premiership Cup defeat to Northampton in March 2022, extended his contract for a season last April.

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He is now on Saracens’ radar and a departure would be another blow for the Premiership’s basement club, who are already losing Guy Pepper to rivals Bath this summer.

Ulster are set to sign Olympic sevens bronze medalist Werner Kok when his £160,000-a-year contract with United Rugby Championship rivals the Sharks runs out at the end of the season.

The 31-year-old made over 280 sevens appearances for South Africa and won bronze at the Rio Olympics in 2016, two years after winning gold at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.

The winger and outside centre, who has played 15s since 2020, has scored five tries in 12 appearances for the Durban-based Sharks this season. He has played for Western Province and Toulouse.

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England and Lions hooker Luke Cowan-Dickie has agreed to a one-year deal to remain with Premiership title hopefuls Sale Sharks next season.

Alex Sanderson wants him to be the heartbeat of the Sharks front row in 2024/25 after he had two French clubs, Montpellier and Lyon, pull the plug on moves in under a year.

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The Truro-born 30-year-old missed the World Cup earlier in the season with a shoulder injury and was injured against La Rochelle in the Champions Cup, causing Lyon to opt out of a move.

Cowan-Dickie has made nine appearances and scored two tries for the Sharks after arriving on a one-year deal last July after playing 154 games for Exeter Chiefs, where he won Premiership and European Cup titles.

Ulster and Ireland inside centre Stuart McCloskey is still thinking about a potential switch from Ravenhill to Bayonne next season after having talks with the Top 14 outfit.

The Bangor-born 31-year-old is due to be under contract to Ulster next season, but bosses desperately need to slash the wage bill at the club to cover losses from last season.

Sources have claimed it would be a massive wrench for Ulster’s player of the year in 2016, who has twice been named in the URC dream team, to leave Ireland and move to France.

Jonny May will have to accept a significant pay cut if he wants to extend his Gloucester career beyond his contract running out at the end of the season.

RugbyPass reported this week that the Cherry and Whites are already weighing up a move for former England international Christian Wade to replace Louis Rees-Zammit, who left the club for the NFL.

May, who turns 34 on April 1, is the sixth-highest try scorer in Premiership history. He started his career with Gloucester in 2009 before spending three years with Leicester Tigers. He returned to Kingsholm in 2020.

The winger, whose 36 international tries put him second on England’s all-time list, announced his Test-level retirement last October and is known to have met with Saracens, who are looking to sign a winger.

Magnus Bradbury is closing in on a return to his former club Edinburgh when his contract with Bristol Bears runs out at the end of the season.

The 28-year-old Glasgow-born back row moved to Ashton Gate in 2002 after making 117 appearances and scoring 15 tries for Edinburgh, but he is unhappy with the deal that they have offered him to stay.

Fissler Confidential understands that talks between the Scotland international, who has played 16 games and scored six tries at No8 for the Bears this season, and Edinburgh have gone well and a deal is close.

Saracens have beaten both Sale and Leicester in the race to land highly-rated former Wasps centre Sam Spink from Super Rugby outfit Western Force.

Spink, who moved to Perth when the former Premiership giants went out of business in October 2022, has started both of the Western Force’s Super Rugby Pacific defeats this season to the Hurricanes and the Rebels.

The 24-year-old, who made 28 appearances for Wasps, could be the answer to England’s problems at outside centre. He would be available for the summer tour of New Zealand after putting pen to paper at Saracens.

Wellington College-educated Spink has become a key player for the Western Force and was a leading target for both the Sharks and Tigers before opting for North London.

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