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Fissler Confidential: Leinster's up-hill battle for Taniela Tupou

By Neil Fissler
Taniela Tupou of the Rebels warms up during the round seven Super Rugby Pacific match between Melbourne Rebels and Fijian Drua at AAMI Park, on April 05, 2024, in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Asanka Ratnayake/Getty Images)

Antoine Frisch pledging his international allegiances to France might not be enough to secure himself a move to one of a trio of Top 14 clubs jostling for position to sign him this summer.

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An auction for the services of Munster’s French-born centre, who qualifies for Ireland through his grandmother’s between Toulon, Clermont Auvergne and La Rochelle, is underway. According to sources, the asking price is set at around €500,000.

But Fissler Confidential understands the IRFU want to keep him for the final year of his contract and may not even allow him to leave even if their price is met.

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Exeter Chiefs’ annual summer clearout will continue, with both Jack Dunne and Joe Snow leaving the club when their contracts run out at the end of the season.

London-born lock Dunne, 25, has played 31 times since he was signed from United Rugby Championship big guns Leinster ahead of Connacht last season and will depart for the Scarlets after missing a large chunk of the campaign through injury.

Meanwhile, former Coventry scrum-half Snow, who scored a try on his only appearance of the season against London Scottish in the Premiership Cup, is following Frankie Nowell, the younger brother of Jack, to Australia’s Shute Shield.

South African-born scrum-half Ryan Louwrens, who is plying his trade with the Melbourne Rebels, is looking for a move to France and the United Kingdom later this year.

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Johannesburg native Louwrens, 33, moved to Perth when he was 16 and has played club rugby in Australia, Japan and the United States, as well as the Western Force since turning professional.

He is in his second spell with the Rebels and has been attracting interest from Perpignan, who have missed out on signing Harlequins veteran and former England star Danny Care and Pro D2 pace setters Provence are also keen.

Michael Cheika, who has left gigs with the NEC Green Rockets and Argentina in the last year, is among the names being touted for a return to the NSW Waratahs when Darren Coleman stands down at the end of the season.

Cheika, 57, was in charge when the Waratahs won their only Super Rugby title a decade ago and missed out on the chance of a second spell in charge of the Wallabies following Eddie Jones’ acrimonious departures at the end of last year.

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But it would appear that his main competition will come from Nathan Grey, 49, who played for the Waratahs before moving into coaching and is currently in charge of the Australia under-20s side and the National Academy in Sydney.

Montpellier and Leinster could miss out on signing Melbourne Rebels and Australia tighthead Taniela Tupou, who is under contract until 2025 if a takeover of the stricken Super Rugby franchise goes ahead.

It has emerged that former Qantas chairman Leigh Clifford is willing to invest $30m in the Rebels and relocate them to Western Melbourne, which could throw the recruitment plans of Montpellier and Leinster into disarray.

The Irish giants wanted Tupou, 27, to replace his countryman Michael Ala’alatoa, who has already announced that he will leave the Irish capital to move to Clermont Auvergne at the end of the season.

The Dragons are still waiting to hear if their bid to keep Wales back-rower Taine Basham out of the clutches of Premiership champions Saracens have been successful or not.

The Dragons are keen to keep one of their crown jewels on the Welsh side of the Severn Bridge and have tabled an improved contract offer in an effort to keep out of the clutches of Saracens and other interested Premiership sides.

Basham, 24, would fall short of the required 25 caps to remain eligible for Warren Gatland’s squad and has also been linked with a switch to The Scarlets, which would extend his international career.

Northampton Saints appear to have won their battle with England to keep scrum-half Alex Mitchell off the operating table, which would have ended his season with the Premiership and Champions Cup hopefuls.

Mitchell, who has been named on the bench by Saints boss Phil Dowson for Munster’s visit to Franklins Gardens, picked up a wrist injury on Six Nations duty, and England wanted him to have an operation.

It would have meant that his season with Saints would have ended but seen him fit for the summer tour to Japan and New Zealand, but the club’s surgeon didn’t think that an operation was necessary.

The Scarlets have been offered the chance to sign three props from United Championship rivals, the Lions, as they step up their recruitment for next season.

Fissler Confidential understands that brothers Ruan and JP Smith, along with Ruan Dreyer, have been marketed to the Scarlets for moves to South Wales when their contracts in Johannesburg run out this summer.

The Lions, along with other South African sides, are cutting the numbers in their playing squads now that the United Rugby Championship and Currie Cup competitions will no longer clash, and they now need fewer players.

Ulster are expected to start their search for someone to replace back-to-back World Cup-winning loosehead Steven Kitshoff, who is returning to the Stormers despite having another two years left on his contract.

Ulster have allowed Kitshoff to leave the club after less than a year in Belfast as they look to slash costs amid poor financial results. Kitshoff will join fly-half Billy Burns, who is joining Munster in a raft of departures.

But the clock is ticking on them finding a suitable replacement, with most top-quality players having already sorted themselves employment for next season.

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Jon 1 days ago
Why Sam Cane's path to retirement is perfect for him and the All Blacks

> It would be best described as an elegant solution to what was potentially going to be a significant problem for new All Blacks coach Scott Robertson. It is a problem the mad population of New Zealand will have to cope with more and more as All Blacks are able to continue their careers in NZ post RWCs. It will not be a problem for coaches, who are always going to start a campaign with the captain for the next WC in mind. > Cane, despite his warrior spirit, his undoubted commitment to every team he played for and unforgettable heroics against Ireland in last year’s World Cup quarter-final, was never unanimously admired or respected within New Zealand while he was in the role. Neither was McCaw, he was considered far too passive a captain and then out of form until his last world cup where everyone opinions changed, just like they would have if Cane had won the WC. > It was never easy to see where Cane, or even if, he would fit into Robertson’s squad given the new coach will want to be building a new-look team with 2027 in mind. > Cane will win his selections on merit and come the end of the year, he’ll sign off, he hopes, with 100 caps and maybe even, at last, universal public appreciation for what was a special career. No, he won’t. Those returning from Japan have already earned the right to retain their jersey, it’s in their contract. Cane would have been playing against England if he was ready, and found it very hard to keep his place. Perform, and they keep it however. Very easy to see where Cane could have fit, very hard to see how he could have accomplished it choosing this year as his sabbatical instead of 2025, and that’s how it played out (though I assume we now know what when NZR said they were allowing him to move his sabbatical forward and return to NZ next year, they had actually agreed to simply select him for the All Blacks from overseas, without any chance he was going to play in NZ again). With a mammoth season of 15 All Black games they might as well get some value out of his years contract, though even with him being of equal character to Richie, I don’t think they should guarantee him his 100 caps. That’s not what the All Blacks should be about. He absolutely has to play winning football.

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