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Fissler Confidential: Tuilagi due in Bayonne, Leicester's new centre

By Neil Fissler
Sale's Manu Tuilagi chats with Saracens' Owen Farrell last May at Twickenham (Photo by Jan Kruger/Getty Images for Sale Sharks)

England centre Manu Tuilagi is due in Bayonne on Monday for talks that could finally settle his future despite a double-late bid for his services from two leading Japanese outfits.

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The British and Irish Lions centre, who was recalled by England boss Steve Borthwick for a Guinness Six Nations swansong against France in Lyon on Saturday night, is out of contract with Sale Sharks at the end of this season and has been linked with a series of Top 14 sides.

The Japanese are keen to throw a spanner in the works by giving the 32-year-old Tuilagi, who spent 11 years with Leicester Tigers before joining the Sharks in July 2020, plenty of food for thought before he heads to south-west France for talks and a guided tour.

Video Spacer

Richard Cockerill on Georgia’s dangerous finishers

The Georgian head coach discusses the quality attacking threats his side have in both the backs and the back row.

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Richard Cockerill on Georgia’s dangerous finishers

The Georgian head coach discusses the quality attacking threats his side have in both the backs and the back row.

The Basque outfit will, however, be confident that they have done enough to secure Tuilagi’s signature despite the muddying of the waters from the Japanese sides.

Leicester boss Dan McKellar has moved to strengthen his squad for next season with the double signing of NSW Waratahs outside centre Izaia Perese and Wales loosehead Nicky Smith.

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Perese, 26, was a member of Eddie Jones’ Wallabies World Cup squad. He has now signed for the Tigers and will be joining when his contract with Rugby Australia runs out later this year.

Smith, the 29-year-old who has played over 180 games since joining the Ospreys in 2012, has exercised an exit clause in his contract that he signed to stay with his hometown region last May.

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A member of Warren Gatland’s World Cup squad in France, he has won 47 Test caps. He becomes the second Wales prop after Rhys Carre to leave regional rugby next season after the Cardiff ace re-joined Saracens.

McKellar hasn’t finished his spending yet as it’s understood that he has got a No8 in his sights with the salary cap in the Gallagher Premiership increasing to £6.4million next season.

Gloucester have stolen a march on their arch-West Country rivals, Bath, in the race to land former Super League star Regan Grace for next season after an eye-catching friendly performance.

Grace, who has a contract with Bath until the end of this season, is the subject of an offer from the Cherry and Whites after Gloucester coaches spoke to him following the 59-19 defeat at The Rec last Saturday.

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The former St Helens superstar, who started Bath’s win over Leinster on Friday night, also impressed Johann van Graan, who said: “Regan Grace showed that he has something special inside him.”

Top 14 strugglers Montpellier have emerged as the favourites to buy Ireland inside centre Stuart McCloskey out of the final year of his contract with cash-strapped Ulster.

The 31-year-old was last month linked with Bayonne and is understood to have a €50,000 buy-out clause in his contract. Montpellier, who are rebuilding their squad, could consider activating it.

Ulster posted losses of £900,000 last season and are expected to be in the red again this year. This means they have to consider cashing in on assets like Bangor-born McCloskey, who joined them over a decade ago.

Toyota Verblitz are poised to complete a cross-code move for the NRL superstar Joey Manu when his contract with the Sydney Roosters runs out later this year.

Verblitz boss Steve Hansen has beaten off competition from several other Japanese League One sides to sign his fellow Kiwi Manu, a 27-year-old who is of Maori and Cook Island descent.

Manu has spent eight years with the Roosters, helping them win back-to-back Premierships in 2018 and 2019. He was also touted for a move to France but was convinced by Hansen to join him in Aichi Prefecture.

Premiership strugglers Gloucester are unlikely to make a signing to replace former England centre Mark Atkinson, who announced his retirement earlier this week at the age of 34.

Atkinson, who won one England cap against Tonga in 2021, has been forced to hang up his boots because of a long-term knee injury, but they have no plans to bring anyone else in.

Instead, Fissler Confidential understands that they will stick with Scottish international Chris Harris, Max Llewelyn, Seb Atkinson, and the highly-rated Louis Hillman-Cooper.

Stormers back row Hacjivah Dayimani is poised to move to Japan next season after being left out of a recent Springboks alignment camp in Cape Town.

The 26-year-old moved to the Stormers from the Lions three years ago. He plays No8 or flanker and is due to be under contract until the end of next season.

He has been linked with clubs in France and Japan, but we understand that as soon as he obtains an early release from his contract, he will be heading to Japan but there is substantial interest from a couple of top-flight French sides.

Rob Baxter believes that his team will be galvanised for the Premiership run-in after announcing that a host of players will stay with the Exeter Chiefs beyond the end of the season.

The Chiefs are likely to announce England ace Henry Slade is putting pen to paper on a new deal shortly and Baxter believes it will bring the best of his his side.

“Historically, stability is a big part of what we try to have in place and is where we are heading. It tends to bring the best out of us,” he told the Chiefs YouTube channel.

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