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Fissler Confidential: Wallaby's early exit? England star sighted in Toulon

By Neil Fissler
Jordan Petaia, Mark Nawaqanitawase and Andrew Kellaway of Australia looks dejected as the players of Australia form a huddle at full-time following the Rugby World Cup France 2023 match between Wales and Australia at Parc Olympique on September 24, 2023 in Lyon, France. (Photo by Chris Hyde/Getty Images)

Former England back row Zach Mercer was in Toulon this week for a guided tour, with a possible 2025 move to the Cote D’Azur on the cards, according to The Daily Mail.


It is stated that Leeds-born Mercer, 28, who has been subbed by Steve Borthwick, will spend next season at Kingsholm before Toulon buy out the rest of his contract.

RugbyPass reported in February that a hefty fee had been placed on Mercer’s head when Racing 92, former club Montpellier and Toulon were all linked with a move, while his wife has also visited the latter separately.

Sydney Roosters are racing against the clock to recruit Mark Nawaqanitawase five months before his scheduled move to the NRL on a two-year deal following his Wallabies snub.

Wallaby winger Nawaqanitawase, 23, was left out of Joe Schmidt’s training squad for the two tests against Wales next month and the clash with Georgia, leading the Roosters to see if an early arrival was possible.

He is due to cross codes when his Rugby Australia contract runs out later this year, but a possible call-up for Australia’s Olympic sevens side could scupper a deal NRL’s June 30 transfer deadline.

Former Leinster academy product Karl Martin is one of a host of players that Montpellier have announced they are sending on loan to Aurillac next season.


The 22-year-old inside centre has only made three senior appearances in his two seasons with Montpellier but will hope to play more for Aurillac during his one-year loan spell.

Prop Valentin Welsch, lock Mael Perrin, and back row Mathéo Lhuillier are all spending next season with Aurillac, who finished ninth in the Pro D2 table last season.

Doncaster Knights have served further notice of their intentions for next season after adding Fijian under-20 lock Taniela Ramasobana to Joe Ford’s squad ahead of a bid for the Championship title next season.

Ramasobana, 23, is largely unknown but can also operate as a blindside flanker. He has scored two tries in eight appearances for Top 14 outfit Perpignan, where he is out of contract this summer.


Ford has been busy in the last few weeks assembling a squad to pile pressure on Ealing Trailfinders. The veteran former England winger Semesa Rokoduguni is also tipped to arrive at Castle Park this summer.

Agen winger Jefferson-Lee Joseph could be heading into the Top 14 next season after it emerged he is a target for Perpignan, who are looking to bolster their firepower out wide.

France sevens international Joseph, a former under-20’s international, scored one try in nine appearances for Agen this season and has been in talks with Perpignan to agree on a contract for next season.

Perpignan opened talks with Joseph after losing Eddie Sarailau to Oyonnax next season, while veteran former French Barbarian Mathieu Acebes has been released with his contract ending.

Bernard Laporte, the boss of relegation-threatened Montpellier, is still keen on signing Bordeaux’s Democratic Republic of the Congo-born winger Madosh Tambwe.

The 27-year-old, who played for the Bulls, Sharks and Lions in South Africa, has spent the last two seasons in France playing for Bordeaux where he has enjoyed a decent campaign with nine tries in 15 games.

Tambwe scored against his former club, the Bulls, in the Champions Cup. He followed it up with a brace against Harlequins in the quarter-finals, scoring nine in 17 appearances in his first season.

Former England winger Jonathan Joseph could be the next big name out of the exit door at Pro D2 outfit Biarritz after the Basque outfit decided to stop paying image rights fees next season.

Outside centre, Joseph, 33, scored once in 13 games for Biarritz this season, and sources in Basque Country have indicated that, after the change of policy, Joseph could be open to leaving the club this summer.

Biarritz have already let fly-half Billy Searle, who was due to be under contract next season, leave for Agen, while former Exeter Chiefs and Northampton Saints tight-head Alfie Petch has been released.

Scotland loosehead Oli Kebble is in talks with Oyonnax, who are building a squad to launch a bid for promotion back to the Top 14 at the first attempt after being relegated from the French top flight.

Durban-born Junior World Cup winner Kebble, 31, who has won 12 Scotland caps, has been released by Glasgow Warriors after making just over 100 appearances since moving to Scotstoun.

Kebble has been attracting interest from both tiers in France and is expected to complete the move to Oyonnax once the Warriors’ bid for United Rugby Championship glory is done and dusted.

Former Wallaby and Western Force fly-half Zach Holmes is on his way out of Bordeaux after it was announced his contract won’t be renewed when it runs out this summer.

Perth-born Holmes, 34, has scored 110 points in 38 games since his move to Bordeaux two years ago and has racked up nearly 1,000 points in French rugby after spells with La Rochelle and Toulouse.

Holmes, who also plays inside centre, outside centre and full-back, has struggled to force his way into the Bordeaux side this season, starting only four times in his 12 appearances.

The Sharks have spoken with veteran Benetton and former South Africa A scrum-half Dewaldt Duvenage about moving to Durban next season.

Duvenage, who celebrated his 36th birthday last month, joined Benetton six years ago and has made six appearances all off the bench in the United Rugby Championship this season.

He was appointed an assistant player-coach by Benetton and still has another year left to run on his contract with the Italians but is thought to be interested in returning back to South Africa.



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Mzilikazi 19 minutes ago
Is Ireland versus South Africa a battle for the title of ‘world champions’?

Very good article, Nic, and I find agreement with what you write virtually 100%. I think this two mach series has increasingly become one which will be very difficult for Ireland to win. After the first game of the last 6N, I would have been very full of confidence taking on the Boks in SA. France beaten by a big margin in France, it looked as if Ireland had emerged in fine form from the World Cup, despite the very narrow loss to the AB’s. But after that game, a slide began, ending with the defeat to England. Ireland were very fortunate to win this years 6N ! And as you so fully expose, this has not been a good season for Leinster, or indeed, in my view, for any Irish province. The Leinster loos to the Bulls, and then Munster letting a glorious chance slip to the Glasgow Warriors down at Thomond. Man, that one will really hurt. And both Connacht and Ulster have at times looked very poor this seaso, bith heavily beaten on occassion. The loss of both Gibson Park and Keenan are huge blows, especially Gibson Park. And there is really only one clear class 10 in the touring party, Jack Crowley, and he is still a very young player learning his trade. If he goes down, heaven help Ireland. And in my view, Ireland do not have a good scrummaging front row, SA do, and in great depth too. But despite all this doom and gloom, I always believe my team can win. Not that they will win, just can ! Ireland will still field what is the best and most talented team overall that I have seen in my lifetime. But the coaching group will really have to step up, no awful decisions like the one made against the AB’s in the QF….keeping the totally spent and poorly performing(on the day) Sexton on for the full 80mins, leaving Crowley on the sidelines. Ireland should never have lost that game !

48 Go to comments
Shaylen 3 hours ago
Is Ireland versus South Africa a battle for the title of ‘world champions’?

Ireland have all the tools required to hurt SA. They develop quick ball, hold onto the ball for long periods, stretch the game when its on, have powerful mobile forwards, a good kicking game and they can hold their own in the scrum. They also can force turnovers regularly and in general do well at the breakdown. When Munster, the Ospreys and Glasgow all won games in SA this year against the Bulls and Stormers they did just that and won. It is also the reason why Ireland won the game at the world cup last year. The problem for Ireland is that SA have all the tools required to hurt them as well and hurt them a great deal more than England did in the Six Nations. They are physical and powerful at the set piece, they rush up and counter the Irish attacking system and they can really attack the breakdown and slow your ball down. Their counterattacking threat is also a big weapon and they score many tries from turnover turning defence into offence in a second. Toulouse and the Bulls nailed Leinster in this way and Glasgow did the same thing to Munster. So the series will be really interesting because both sides are so good at countering each other. Interested to see what kind of surprises Tony Brown springs and how the SA game develops. Feel like SA have more potential to surprise Ireland but then a new coaching set up as well as the fact that Japanese and foreign based players tend to take about 5 to 6 weeks to get up to speed might work in Irelands favour. SA have shipped at least one game in 4 of the last 5 June/July test windows going back to 2018 for this exact reason.

48 Go to comments
Flankly 4 hours ago
'Let them keep talking' - Mike Catt claps back over Bok remarks

The comments were reported weirdly. De Allende did say it would be war, but he said it amidst comments like “Ireland play such good footy”, and “they are so good at the breakdown”. He said that the Boks lost heavily to Ireland a few years back and that they felt the Irish press was dismissive of the Boks. I don’t recall that, but I suppose it is true, and that SA players would want to turn around that sentiment. The RWC loss to Ireland would naturally pour fuel on the fire. In short, it is a natural thing for passionate players like him to feel very strongly about the goal of registering a convincing series win against Ireland. There is really nothing to see here. As an aside, the SA team shouldn’t be too self-righteous about this kind of a situation. Recall that in 2004, after SA won the Ireland series in SA, Jake White noted that no more than two Irish players were good enough for selection in his Bok side. "Considering the facts, I think only two of their players would be included in the Bok team - O'Driscoll (centre) and maybe one of the locks. How could we have lost against the Irish?" O’Driscoll disagreed and said that it was close, and Ireland were just tired. My Irish friends were pretty incensed by the comments, quite rightly. And I am sure it was part of the energy that drove them to some famous wins against the Boks. The Etzebeth thing was a little different. I think he was just not hearing what was being said. It is not that unusual for someone to say “We will see you in the final”. Of course it is a statement of confidence, which every team should have, but it is also a compliment. I think there was a cultural fly-by, in which a “see you soon” comment was taken to mean “we will beat you again”. But it was a good story, and a convenient clickbaity headline. I don’t think anyone is intentionally trying to rile up anything. But if you interview a Bok player and prod them about their passion wrt the Ireland tour, you are likely to hear some pretty heartfelt words. And so you should.

21 Go to comments
Turlough 5 hours ago
Are Ireland and Leinster the biggest chokers in world rugby?

Obviously there is a series coming up between SA and Ireland…… Ireland won the six nations (again) went unbeaten for almost 20 games til last Autumn beating all the top world teams twice. Held our nerve to beat NZ in a home NZ series. The RWC draw meant that we had to play a title contender in the Quarter that was a 50:50 and the schedule meant that we had to play a top 5 team 7 days before that quarter against a team who were lining us up all tournament and all year. Maybe Ireland should have focussed more on NZ at the expense of the preparation for the Scottish match? Who knows but thats a coaching issue, I saw no mental frailty during that match. As it happenned NZ were clearly better and got through. France have also been eliminated in the quarters last two world cups (including their home match). They have been solidly beaten by Ireland two years in a row. Where are the jibes there? If Ireland have an issue at the end of games it is game management. Against Toulouse, they aimlessly played on with a scrum advantage and then missed the drop. Leinster’s scrum was completely dominant so a scrum was likely worth a penaltyto win the game off the tee. No penalty, then set of the drop goal attemp then. That was missing, that’s end game management. NZ were getting there with this in 2011 but the Semi Victory over SA in 2015 was a victory of game management. Ireland will address it (hopefully very soon). I like the way the Irish team are staying so quiet. These jibes from SA players and pundits no doubt fueling that quiet energy. Underdog status suits Ireland perfectly. Ireland may not win, but expect a major performance in Loftus.

17 Go to comments
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