Three All Blacks who could soon be on their way to Harlequins as part of new deal

Alex Broun 2/03/2018
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The All Blacks can’t completely control the flood of New Zealand players heading overseas so they have done the next best thing.

The NZRU’s new partnership with English club Harlequins could see a number of high profile All Blacks heading over for a northern sabbatical/cash grab, especially after the 2019 RWC.

Here’s three All Blacks who could be heading north:

THE DEFINITE 

Beauden Barrett

New Zealand star Beauden Barrett

New Zealand star Beauden Barrett

The two-time World Rugby player of the year has already played 62-Tests for the All Blacks and at 26 the NZRU will be hoping to have him around for the next two Rugby World Cups – Japan 2019 and France 2023.

But after the RWC next year Barrett will be looking for a change rather than slugging it out in Super Rugby for four more years.

With Lima Sopoaga already departing – perhaps never to return – NZ need to manage BB very carefully and a few seasons up north could be exactly what he needs to top up the retirement funds and keep him fresh to return to NZ in 2022.

THE RISING STAR

Luke Jacobson

Luke Jacobson in action during the World Rugby U20 Championship Final in 2017.

Luke Jacobson in action during the World Rugby U20 Championship Final in 2017.

The captain of New Zealand’s all-conquering team at last year’s World Rugby Under 20 Championship, the 20-year-old is now part of the Chiefs squad for Super Rugby.

But once Super Rugby finishes it’s unlikely he’ll be blooded this year for the All Blacks with Steve Hansen probably opting to give him a few years to mature.

Jacobson is already being talked about as a future All Blacks captain and the perfect way of fast tracking his skills could be a northern winter with Quins at the end of 2018-19.

The other option would be Mitre 10 Cup and a pre-season for Super Rugby in 2019 which may not be enough to gauge his readiness for RWC 2019.

THE WILDCARD

Sam Cane

Sam Cane - a few seasons up north could see him back in black for the RWC 2023

Sam Cane – a few seasons up north could see him back in black for the RWC 2023

The Chiefs flanker has started this year’s Super Rugby in exceptional form and although it seems like he’s been around a long time – like Barrett he is just 26.

And just like BB the All Blacks will hope he can last two more RWCs so a spell at Harlequins after RWC 2019 makes perfect sense.

Captain and No8 Keiran Read will be 34 at the end of RWC2019 and will likely retire so NZ will need Cane even more come 2023 – hence the need to manage him carefully.

The one factor to consider is the toll of the northern game on loose forwards.

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Franco Mostert off to Gloucester and Danny Cipriani heading to France - here's the latest rugby rumours

Alex Broun 14/02/2018
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All the latest from the rugby rumour mill with Springboks going back and forth and lots of stars on the move in England. Here’s our round-up:

David Denton

Worcester Warriors back-rower David Denton will be leaving the club after just one season, with rumours flying that he is set to link with Leicester Tigers.

The 28-year-old has made 14 appearances for Warriors since moving to Sixways last summer.

Warriors Director of Rugby Alan Solomons said: “We’re sorry to see Dents go but that’s the nature of professional sport.

Denton said: “I’ve really enjoyed my short time here and would like to thank the Club and fans for making me feel so welcome.”

Obviously he hasn’t enjoyed it too much or he wouldn’t be heading for the exit door so soon.

Danny Cipriani could be on the way back to France

Danny Cipriani could be on the way back to France

Danny Cipriani

Not surprisingly the former England fly half is leaving at season’s end with the arrival of All Blacks No10 Liam Sopoaga making him surplus to requirements.

But where will the 30-year-old go to next?

He’s been heavily linked with a number of French clubs – Toulon, Stade Francais and Lyon all believed to be competing for his signature.

However, Sale Sharks has also been rumoured to be in the running to bring Cipriani back to the AJ Bell Stadium after his four-season stint from 2012.

This was the 14-caps England international second spell with Wasps after returning to the club in 2016 after short-lived spells at Melbourne Rebels and at the Sharks.

JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA - MAY 20: Franco Mostert of the Lions challenged by Jesse Kriel of the Blue Bulls and Rudy Paige of the Blue Bulls during the Super Rugby match between Emirates Lions and Vodacom Bulls at Emirates Airline Park on May 20, 2017 in Johannesburg, South Africa. (Photo by Sydney Seshibedi/Gallo Images/Getty Images)

Franco Mostert could soon be in a different shade of red

Franco Mostert

Big news for the Cherry and Whites with the buzz that they have lined Lions and Springbok star Franco Mostert to replace departing Kiwi Jeremy Thrush

Former All Black Thrush is out of contract at the end of this season and he is expected to leave the club with France likely to be his destination.

With doubts also over Argentina international Mariano Galarza’s future, Gloucester are in the market for a top-class lock for next season and look set to pull off a huge coup by signing Mostert.

Mostert’s contract expires with the Lions at the end of the 2018 Super Rugby season and, although he has reportedly attracted the interest of several Premiership clubs, Gloucester are thought to be the favourites for his signature due to South African coach Johan Ackermann who used to coach the 27-year-old at the Lions.

GLOUCESTER, ENGLAND - APRIL 15: Mike Haley of Sale Sharks in action during the Aviva Premiership match between Gloucester Rugby and Sale Sharks at Kingsholm Stadium on April 15, 2017 in Gloucester, England. (Photo by Steve Bardens/Getty Images)

Mike Haley – looking for an escape route

Mike Haley

Talk is the Sale Sharks’ full-back is on the move with the 23-year-old keen to leave the Manchester club.

He was recently in Ireland to discuss a potential move to Munster, although his preferred move may actually be to the reigning premiers, Exeter Chiefs.

The stumbling block with Exeter is that Haley still has another season to run on the three-year contract he signed back in 2016 and if he were to leave for another Premiership club, Sale would demand significant compensation.

There’s a problem with Munster as well as Haley is no longer Irish-qualified, having played for the England Saxons in 2016 on their tour of South Africa.

Watch this space.

LONDON, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 02: Vincent Koch of Saracens lunges to score their seventh try during the Aviva Premiership match between Saracens and Northampton Saints at Twickenham Stadium on September 2, 2017 in London, England. (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

Vincent Koch is a big coup for the Bulls

Vincent Koch

The Rassie Erasmus effect already looks to be paying off with reports circulating that the 27-year-old tighthead has agreed to cut short his stay with Saracens and return to Pretoria at the conclusion of the current English Premiership.

This is good news for the Bulls but the real winners are the Springboks.

Erasmus, back in his role as SA Rugby director of rugby for less than three months, was at Twickenham on Saturday, scouting England’s performance against Wales in preparation for a three-Test tour to South Africa by the Roses in June.

He already has a potent group of tightheads that includes Wilco Louw, Coenie Oosthuizen, Frans Malherbe and recently-retreaded loosehead, Thomas du Toit.

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Arrogant All Blacks open the Bledisloe Cup door for wobbling Wallabies

Alex Broun 6/02/2018
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You can look at it two ways.

In the first it’s a bold step forward for Rugby, spreading the gospel of the game by taking one of Rugby’s biggest annual matches to new locations across the globe – and giving the favourites a chance to play at the venue of the 2019 Rugby World Cup final – a year in advance.

In the second it’s a cynical cash grab and the height of arrogance which may yet undermine the All Blacks nearly twenty year hold on the precious trophy.

I refer of course to the NZRU’s stunning decision to wave their right to a home decider for the Third Bledisloe test this year – instead taking the October 27 game to the 72,000-seater International Stadium in Yokohama near Tokyo, where the RWC final will be staged on November 2 next year.

The financial details of the deal have not been revealed but there’s no doubt the NZRU would be receiving considerable coin to give up a plum home fixture and take the game to Japan.

It’s doubtful that Australia would be receiving any of that, although Raelene Castle, the new Rugby Australia CEO, seemed pretty happy with the announcement – as no doubt Wallabies coach Michael Cheika would have been realizing he would not have to be heading to Auckland or Wellington with the Bledisloe on the line.

Steve Hansen may be looking for a quick exit if it all goes wrong in Yokohama.

Steve Hansen may be looking for a quick exit if it all goes wrong in Yokohama.

Then you can’t blame the Kiwis for being confident. The last time Australia actually held the Bledisloe was back in 2002 and since then the Cup has never gone to a third match decider – the All Blacks have already retained the Bledisloe by winning the first two matches, normally by a comfortable margin.

So dominant have New Zealand been over the last 16 years that they have won 80% of the matches between the nations, 35 out of 45 with two draws, at an average match score of 28.4 to 18.3.

That is considerably up on the 67.67% winning ratio prior to 2003, when the average match score was  just 18.1 to 12.5. Such has been New Zealand’s domination post the millennium.

Last year New Zealand wrapped up the Bledisloe after two games – 54-34 in Sydney, (at one stage the All Blacks led 54-6 before Australia scored four late tries) and 35-29 in Dunedin.

The magnificent new International Stadium in Yokohama

The magnificent new International Stadium in Yokohama

The fact that Australia won the final game in Brisbane 23-18, their first win since 2015, was thus rendered academic.

So if the Wallabies are to have any chance of making use of the neutral venue they must win at least one of the two preceding games – in Auckland (where the Wallabies have not won since 1986) on August 25th or Sydney a week earlier, August 18th, where the Wallabies have had more joy, winning seven out of the 17 matches played there since 1999.

But if they don’t then there is a long pointless wait till Yokohama over two months later.

Understandably All Blacks coach Steve Hansen is pretty confident, focusing on the opportunity to test out RWC facilities prior to 2019. The All Blacks will also play a second Test in Japan the following weekend, against the home nation in Tokyo.

“It will be great for the team to prepare in two of the Rugby World Cup cities and play at the same venues” said Hansen after the announcement.

“As well as preparing for a huge Bledisloe Cup Test and another important Test against Japan, it’ll also give the team a chance to have a really good ‘dummy run’ of the facilities, and experience the unique Japanese culture.

“We look forward to again being hosted by the Japanese later in the year.”

Hansen’s plan is pretty clear: a big first up win in Auckland to re-establish their dominance then a follow up win in Sydney, where they won by 20 points last year, to tuck the Bledisloe away. Then enjoy a few weeks acclimatizing in Japan.

It’s up to the Wallabies to change that.

The Wallabies have already played at Yokohama Satdium, where they took on Japan last year.

The Wallabies have already played at Yokohama Stadium, where they took on Japan last year.

This is the fourth time a Bledisloe Cup match has been played at a neutral venue and the second in Japan. The first was in 2009 when the All Blacks won 32-19 in Tokyo.

But the other two, in Hong Kong, have been shared with New Zealand winning in 2008 and Robbie Deans’ Wallabies winning in 2010. So the All Blacks can be beaten in Asia.

The door to reclaiming the Bledisloe has been left ajar. It’s now up to the Wallabies to prise it open.

2018 Bledisoe Cup dates

1st Test             August 18          Sydney

2nd Test           August 25         Auckland

3rd Test            October 27        Yokohama

Bledisloe Cup Results at neutral venues

Australia              14           New Zealand      19                           Hong Kong          1 Nov 2008

Australia              19           New Zealand      32                           Tokyo                    31 Oct 2009

Australia              26           New Zealand      24                           Hong Kong          30 Oct 2010

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