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Toulon owner may have given up on signing Zach Mercer

By Neil Fissler
Zach Mercer of Gloucester Rugby warms up prior to the EPCR Challenge Cup match between Gloucester Rugby and Castres Olympique at Kingsholm Stadium on January 19, 2024 in Gloucester, England. (Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images)

Toulon owner Bernard Lemaitre has moved to pour cold water on a potential move to the Cote d’Azur this summer for England international No.8 Zach Mercer.

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Lemaitre is known to have a soft spot for English players. Kieran Brookes, Jack Singleton, and David Ribbans are all plying their trade at the Stade Mayol this season, while Kyle Sinckler and Lewis Ludlam are moving to the club this summer.

“They respond to the profiles we’re looking for in our recruitment.  We’re trying to have higher expectations on mentality, behaviour and lifestyle of players like this impressive compatriot Dave Ribbans,” said Lemaitre.

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Johnnie Beattie discusses the performances of Zach Mercer last season in the Top 14 | Le French Rugby Pod

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Johnnie Beattie discusses the performances of Zach Mercer last season in the Top 14 | Le French Rugby Pod

But a deal for Mercer, 26,  has proved to be more problematic with Gloucester, who lost £393,079 in 2022/2023, demanding a £1 million transfer fee for a player who still has three years left on his contract.

Montpellier were keen on reuniting with Mercer. He helped them win their first French Championship in 2022, was named in the Top 14 team of the season, and was named Player of the Season.

French teams have been keeping tabs on Mercer, whom England boss Steve Borthwick has snubbed for both the World Cup and the Six Nations, but Gloucester won’t let him leave on the cheap, however.

While it’s not unusual for some of the Top 14’s big guns to pay transfer fees, Lemaitre feels that it’s clearly too much on this occasion when he has other targets, such as Antoine Frisch, in his sights.

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“Mercer? Who don’t dream of this type of player who, in addition to his tank profile, plays behind him, animates and accelerates the game?

“It’s rare. It is, therefore, normal that we are interested in it. Now, there has two or three years left on his contract with Gloucester. That makes things difficult,” Lemaitre told the French media.

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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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