Rugby Digger - transfer news and rumours: 'Bristol plan double swoop for All Blacks duo Ryan Crotty and TJ Perenara'

Ryan Crotty and TJ Perenara
Ryan Crotty (centre) and TJ Perenara (left) could be moving to Ashton Gate Credit: GETTY IMAGES

 Read our dose of all the latest Aviva Premiership transfer news and rumours, plus a round-up of all the biggest rugby news stories from around the world with Rugby Digger...

Not content with recently signing one All Black, Bristol are planning an audacious double swoop for two more.

It has been confirmed that All Blacks loose forward Steven Luatua will re-unite with his former Super Rugby coach Pat Lam at the English Premiership strugglers for the 2017/18 season.

The 25 year-old, who plays Super Rugby for the Auckland Blues, won his 15th cap for the All Blacks against Italy in November and his departure comes as a surprise for New Zealand Rugby two years out from the World Cup in Japan.

Now The Bristol Post is suggesting two of his New Zealand team-mates could be joining him at Ashton Gate - centre Ryan Crotty and scrum-half TJ Perenara.

TJ Perenara is the All Blacks' second-choice No 9 Credit: GETTY IMAGES

The Postreports that Bristol are planning a significant squad overhaul this summer, regardless of whether they are relegated or not. And the capture of two world-class players would be a major statement of intent.

It would also quieten talk of Jason Woodward departing for Harlequins. The England-qualified New Zealander has ambitions of playing international rugby for the Red Rose and fears relegation will harm his chances.

Quins have been mooted as a possible destination for the 26-year-old full-back, with England No 15 Mike Brown linked with a move to Exeter Chiefs. However, the arrivals of Crotty and Perenara, on top of Luatua, will see him stay.

Jason Woodward is unlikely to leave Bristol for Harlequins Credit: GETTY IMAGES

Newcastle have announced the signing of France centre Maxime Mermoz for next season. The 30-year-old former Toulouse, Perpignan and Toulon player will join the Falcons side in the summer at the end of his short-term deal at Leicester.

Newcastle director of rugby Dean Richards believes Mermoz's signing signals the ambitions of the Kingston Park club.

"Maxime's signing is a major statement of intent for Newcastle Falcons," Richards said. "We have been working hard over a long period of time to make this move happen and we are delighted that a player of such proven calibre is keen to play a key role in the ambitious plans we have for the club.

"The fact that he will spend the back half of this season with Leicester Tigers is ideal in the sense that he will already be accustomed to Aviva Premiership rugby by the time he arrives with us in the summer, and we are excited by what he will bring to the group."

There are serious doubts surrounding Kurtley Beale's future at Wasps following reports Wallabies boss Michael Cheika will start negotiations to bring the 28-year-old utility back home to Australia.

Beale made his big-money move to Wasps in 2016 but his two-year contract reportedly contains a clause which allows him to leave after one year and Cheika is determined to lure him back to Super Rugby and the Waratahs.

"I spoke to him when we were on tour and he told me how he was going over there and kept me up to date with where he's at," Cheika told AAP. "Obviously I'm keen for him to come back, there's no doubt about that. I'm sure that time will come around soon enough, when it's time to start putting our proposal to him and start speaking about coming back.

"He's one of our top players and we're very, very keen for him to be playing in Australia - even though he's still eligible to play for the Wallabies from overseas."

Australia are keen to bring Kurtley Beale home Credit: REX FEATURES

Should Beale leave early, his departure will be offset by the arrival of South Africa superstar Willie le Roux, who will definitely be at the club next season. It will also free up a 'marquee' spot in the Wasps squad, with The Coventry Telegraph suggesting Dai Young will target a world-class forward.

Although Wasps have plenty of eye-catching talent, their squad is actually one of the smallest in the Premiership and, as such, 'squad players' are expected to be brought in.

Fijian international centre Gabriel Lovobalavu is one such player, claims the paper. The 31 year-old has been playing in the French Top 14 since 2008 with Toulon and, currently, Bayonne.

Gabriel Lovobalavu previously played for Toulon Credit: GETTY IMAGES

Newcastle Falcons winger Marcus Watson is also being tipped to move to the Ricoh Arena, as is 26-year-old Northampton tighthead prop Gareth Denman.

Speaking of Northampton, the fly-half transfer merry-go-round is happily spinning away and the only club seemingly yet to jump on board are the Saints. Although it's not for the lack of trying.

As we know, Harlequins have signed South African No 10 Demetri Catrakilis from Montpellier with All Black Aaron Cruden brought in as his replacement by the French giants.

Leicester have offloaded Owen Williams to Gloucester and brought in George Ford from Bath, with Freddie Burns going in the opposite direction. James Hook, meanwhile, is leaving Kingsholm and returning to Ospreys.

George Ford (centre) has played for Leicester before Credit: GETTY IMAGES

Saints were linked with both Ford and Cruden as well as Ireland's Paddy Jackson, Scotland's Finn Russell and Wales' Dan Biggar. Now Springbok international Pat Lambie is the latest name to be linked with Franklin's Gardens.

And while this searching for a fly-half is going on, scrum-half Lee Dickson is rumoured to be moving to Sale Sharks next season.

The Ford switch to Leicester has reportedly cost the Tigers a record transfer fee of £500,000.

Bath managing director Tarquin McDonald has confirmed that the west country club have received "appropriate compensation". And The Times claims Leicester have shelled out half a million to secure his services, a record transfer fee for a player moving between English clubs.

While on the subject of Leicester, back-row forward Brendon O'Connor has agreed new terms to extend his stay at Welford Road, as has flanker Mike Fitzgerald and prop Greg Bateman.

The club are also being linked with 24-year-old Leinster back rower Jack Conan, but may face competition from Exeter. Cardiff Blues have snapped up centre Jack Roberts from Leicester for the 2017/18 season on a long-term deal.

Former Wales scrum-half Martin Roberts has joined Exeter Chiefs from Bristol on loan. The Chiefs are in desperate need of a No 9 as they are without injured trio Will Chudley, Dave Lewis and Niko Matawalu.

Harlequins have announced that former London Welsh flanker Ryan Hodson has joined the club with immediate effect as short-term injury cover.

And finally, Saracens are close to signing lock Dominic Day, according to The Rugby Paper. The 31-year-old lock, who previously played for Bath, is currently plying his trade in Australia with Melbourne Rebels.

Sarries have also signed hooker Tom Lindsay from Gloucester on a short-term deal.

Latest rugby news...

International trio leaving Warriors

Mark Bennett Credit: REX FEATURES

Glasgow have announced that Scotland internationalists Mark Bennett, Josh Strauss and Gordon Reid will depart at the end of the season.

Centre Bennett - nominated for World Rugby's breakthrough player of the year award following the 2015 World Cup - is to join Edinburgh after Scotstoun chiefs clinched the signing of Dark Blues team-mate Huw Jones ahead of next season.

Prop Reid and back-rower Strauss, who has been linked with Newcastle Falcons, are also moving on when their deals expire in the summer.

Glasgow, meanwhile, have signed loosehead Oli Kebble from Super Rugby outfit Stormers ahead of the 2017/18 campaign. The prop lives with current team-mate Huw Jones, who signed a two-year contract with the Warriors earlier this month.


Dagg snubs Europe commits to All Blacks

Israel Dagg Credit: EPA

Israel Dagg has turned down lucrative offers to play overseas and recommitted to New Zealand Rugby through to 2019.

The outside back's re-signing comes just days after Ben Smith's contract extension and gives All Blacks coach Steve Hansen another option at full-back for the next World Cup in Japan.

"There's no doubt that there were some attractive offers to consider," the 61-Test Dagg said. "But at the end of the day I love my life here in New Zealand with my family, friends and team mates and I'm not ready to give that up."


Gibbes new boss at Ulster

Jono Gibbes Credit: GETTY IMAGES

Ulster have announced the appointment of Jono Gibbes as their new head coach for the 2017/18 season.

The New Zealander, who has signed a two-year-deal with the Guinness PRO12 side, is currently the forwards coach with Clermont Auvergne and previously held a similar role with Leinster between 2008 and 2014.

The 40-year-old will replace Neil Doak at the Kingspan Stadium, and said: "The respect that I have for (director of rugby) Les (Kiss), as a coach and as a person, was one of my main reasons for making this decision. He really sold his vision of where he wants to take Ulster over the next few years."


Former All Black Lauaki dies aged 35

Sione Lauaki Credit: GETTY IMAGES

Former New Zealand back-row forward Sione Lauaki has died at the age of 35.

Tonga-born Lauaki played in 17 Tests for the All Blacks from 2005 to 2008, before moving to France in 2010 and playing for Clermont Auvergne and Bayonne.

He was forced out of rugby in 2012 due to kidney and cardiovascular problems.

The news follows 15 months on from the death of All Blacks great Jonah Lomu, and less than two years since another former New Zealand star, Jerry Collins, died in a car crash.

Former All Blacks captain Tana Umaga wrote on Twitter: "Another brother gone! Much love and Condolences to his family!"


Walker: I would be open to Brumbies return

Andrew Walker Credit: GETTY IMAGES

Former Australia international wing Andrew Walker has revealed he would jump at the chance to make an astonishing return to Super Rugby with the Brumbies.

The 43-year-old veteran, who hasn’t played professional rugby since 2008, competed in the Brisbane 10s last week.

Stephen Larkham's Brumbies are without both Lausii Taliauli and Tomás Cubelli due to injury.

"I haven't really stopped playing footy, so my fitness is pretty high," he told The Canberra Times. "I've probably lost about 10 per cent of speed, but I make up for that with experience. We can do things with the Brumbies and set it back on the right track again.

"The fire is still blazing, as soon as I threw the jumper on last weekend it turned into a bonfire. I was thinking, 'how good is this?'. I really, really love the Brumbies so if there was anything I could do to help, then I'd do it in a heartbeat."


Nonu signs on at Toulon

Ma'a Nonu Credit: AFP

Former All Blacks centre Ma'a Nonu has signed a one-year contract extension with Toulon which means the two-time Rugby World Cup winner will stay in the Top 14 until June 2018.

The 34 year-old joined Mourad Boudjellal's big spenders after helping New Zealand defend their Rugby World Cup crown in England.

Bristol had been linked with a move for Nonu, but they have now turned their attentions to Ryan Crotty.

Aviva Premiership transfers 2016/17


IN: Luke Charteris (from Racing 92), Taulupe Faletau (from Dragons), Elliott Stooke (from Gloucester), Michael van Vuuren (from Leicester Tigers), Harry Davies (from Cardiff Blues), Kahn Fotuali'i (from Northampton Saints), Jack Walker (from Yorkshire Carnegie), Aled Brew (from Dragons), Leroy Houston (from Queensland Reds - short-term deal), Will Homer (promoted from academy), Max Clark (promoted from academy), Robbie Freuan (from Crusaders), Paul Grant (from Otago), Jack Wilson (from Highlanders), Ben Tapuai (from Western Force), Freddie Burns (from Leicester Tigers).

OUT: Will Spencer (to Worcester Warriors), Ollie Devoto (to Exeter Chiefs), Rob Webber (to Sale Sharks), Jonathan Evans (to Scarlets), Luke Arscott (to Bristol), Max Northcote-Green (to London Irish), Brett Herron (to Ulster), Stuart Hooper (retired), Dominic Day (to Toyota Verblitz), Amanaki Mafi (to NTT Shining Arcs), Tom Woolstencroft (to Wasps), Leroy Houston (to Queensland Reds), Horacio Agulla (to Castres), Kyle Eastmond (to Wasps), Alafoti Fa'osiliva (released), David Wilson (to Newcastle Falcons), Niko Matawalu (to Exeter Chiefs), George Ford (to Leicester Tigers).


INS: Martin Roberts (from Ospreys), Rhodri Williams (from Scarlets), Luke Arscott (from Bath), Tusi Pisi (from Sunwolves), Jordan Williams (from Scarlets), Nick Fenton-Wells (from Bedford Blues), Jordan Crane (from Leicester Tigers), Thretton Palamo (from Saracens), Jon Fisher (from Northampton Saints), Soane Tonga'uiha (from Oyonnax), Will Hurrell (from Doncaster Knights), Giorgi Nemsadze (from Tarbes), Ryan Bevington (from Ospreys), Jason Woodward (from Hurricanes), Shane Geraghty (from London Irish), Dan Tuohy (from Ulster), Siale Piutau (from Yamaha Jubilo), Steven Luatua (from Auckland Blues).

OUTS: Matthew Morgan (to Cardiff Blues), Marco Mama (to Worcester Warriors), Dwayne Peel (retired), Craig Hampson (to Wasps), George Watkins (to Jersey Reds), Ellis Genge (to Leicester Tigers), Tommaso Benvenuti (to   Benetton Treviso), Josh Ovens (released), Darren Hudson (released), James Stephenson (released), Auguy Slowik (to Worcester), BJ Edwards (to Cardiff Blues), Martin Roberts (to Exeter Chiefs).


INS: Greg Holmes (from Queensland Reds), Ollie Devoto (from Bath), Dave Dennis (from NSW Waratahs), Lachlan Turner (from Toulon), Niko Matawalu (from Bath), Martin Roberts (from Bristol).

OUTS: Adam Hughes (to Dragons), Josh Jones (to Salford Red Devils), Alex Brown (to USA Perpignan), Brett Sturgess (to Ampthill), Jerry Sexton (to London Irish), Chrysander Botha (released), Byron McGuigan (released), Lewis Stevenson (to Connacht), Dave Lewis (to Harlequins).


INS: Lewis Ludlow (promoted from academy), Matt Scott (from Edinburgh), Motu Matu'u (from Hurricanes), Josh Hohneck (from Highlanders), Tom Denton (from Leinster), Andy Symons (from Worcester Warriors), Dan Thomas (promoted from academy), Ollie Thorley (promoted from academy), Cameron Orr (from Greater Sydney Rams), Salesi Ma'afu (from Cardiff Blues), Carl Fearns (from Lyon).

OUTS: Elliott Stooke (to Bath), Steve McColl (to Yorkshire Carnegie), Luke Cole (to Rotherham Titans), Tom Hicks (to Rotherham Titans), James Gibbons (to Ealing Trailfinders), Rob Cook (retired), Bill Meakes (to Western Force), Steph Reynolds (released), Dan Murphy (to Harlequins), Nick Wood (retired), James Hudson (retired), Nicky Thomas (to Scarlets), James Hook (to Ospreys), Tom Lindsay (to Saracens).


INS: Charlie Mulchrone (from Worcester Warriors), Ruaridh Jackson (from Wasps), Aaron Morris (from Saracens), Mark Reddish (from Highlanders), George Naoupu (from Connacht), Cameron Holstein (from Pau), Alofa Alofa (from La Rochelle), Dan Murphy (from Gloucester), Renaldo Bothma (from Bulls), Elia Elia (from Crusaders), Dave Lewis (from Exeter Chiefs),  Demetri Catrakilis (from Montpellier), Ryan Hodson (from London Welsh).

OUTS: Kieran Treadwell (to Ulster), Tito Tebaldi (to Benetton Treviso), Ben Botica (to Montpellier), Beau Robinson (released), Nick Easter (retired), Ollie Lindsay-Hague (released).


INS: Matt Toomua (from Brumbies), JP Pietersen (from Sharks), Tom Brady (from Sale Sharks), George McGuigan (from Newcastle Falcons), Pat Cilliers (from Montpellier), Luke Hamilton (from Agen), Ellis Genge (from Bristol), George Ford (from Bath).

OUTS: Leonardo Ghiraldini (to Toulouse), Tommy Bell (to London Irish), Laurence Pearce (to Sale Sharks), Vereniki Goneva (to Newcastle Falcons), Miles Benjamin (retired), Seremaia Bai (retired), Sebastian De Chaves (to London Irish), Michael van Vuuren (to Bath), Jean de Villiers (retired/released), George Tresidder (to Rotherham Titans), Jordan Crane (to Bristol), Tiziano Pasquali (to Benetton Treviso), Matías Agüero (to Provence), Christian Loamanu (to Provence), Niall Morris (retired), Sam Yawayawa (to Nottingham), Opeti Fonua (to Newcastle Falcons), Freddie Burns (to Bath), Jack Roberts (to Cardiff Blues).


INS: Joshua Chisanga (from Kenya Sevens), Vereniki Goneva (from Leicester Tigers), Sam Lockwood (from Jersey), Sam Egerton (from England Sevens), Harrison Orr (from Ealing Trailfinders), Joel Hodgson (from Yorkshire Carnegie), Ben Sowrey (from Worcester Warriors), Evan Olmstead (from London Scottish), Nick Civetta (from RC I Medicei), Andrew Davidson (from Glasgow Hawks), Kyle Cooper (from Sharks), Tyrone Holmes (from Glasgow Warriors), Opeti Fonua (from Leicester Tigers), Dominic Waldouck (from Ohio Aviators), David Wilson (from Bath), Fred Burdon (from Yorkshire Carnegie), Maxime Mermoz (from Toulon).

OUTS: George McGuigan (to Leicester Tigers), Todd Clever (released), Andy Goode (retired), Rob Hawkins (retired), Richard Mayhew (to Yorkshire Carnegie), Joshua Furno (to Zebre), Kensuke Hatakeyama (to Suntory Sungoliath), Giovanbattista Venditti (to Zebre), Kane Thompson (to Manawatu), Eric Fry (to Sacramento Express), Ruki Tipuna (to Bay of Plenty), Jamie Booth (to Manawatu), Scott MacLeod (retired), Gonzalo Tiesi (retired), Alesana Tuilagi (released), Anitelea Tuilagi (released), Michael Cusack (to Yorkshire Carnegie), Taione Vea (retired).


INS: Louis Picamoles (from Toulouse), Campese Ma'afu (from Provence), Charlie Clare (from Bedford Blues), Nic Groom (from Stormers), Juan Pablo Estelles (from Club Atletico del Rosario), Api Ratuniyarawa (from Agen), Nafi Tuitavake (from Narbonne), David Ribbans (from Western Province), Rob Horne (from Waratahs).

OUTS: Alex Corbisiero (sabbatical), Matt Williams (to Worcester Warriors), Danny Hobbs-Awoyemi (to London Irish), Patrick Howard (to Dragons), Kahn Fotuali'i (to Bath), Jon Fisher (to Bristol).


INS: Rob Webber (from Bath), Laurence Pearce (from Leicester Tigers), Kieran Longbottom (from Saracens), Josh Charnley (from Wigan Warriors), AJ MacGinty (from Connacht), Dan Mugford (from Nottingham), Mike Phillips (from Racing 92), Halani Aulika (from London Irish), Lou Reed (from Cardiff Blues), Byron McGuigan (from Exeter Chiefs), Curtis Langdon (from London Irish), Denny Solomona (from Castleford Tigers).

OUTS: Vadim Cobilas (to Bordeaux Begles), Tommy Taylor (to Wasps), Danny Cipriani (to Wasps), Tom Brady (to Leicester Tigers), Phil Mackenzie (to San Diego Breakers), Nick Macleod (to Dragons), Joe Ford (to Yorkshire Carnegie), Chris Cusiter (retired), Mark Easter (retired), Viliami Fihaki (to Edinburgh Rugby).


INS: Schalk Burger (from Stormers), Alex Lozowski (from Wasps), Mark Flanagan (from Bedford Blues), Sean Maitland (from London Irish), Vincent Koch (from Stormers), Andrew Fenby (from London Irish), Fa'atiga Lemalu (from Sunwolves), Tom Lindsay (from Gloucester).

OUTS: Charlie Hodgson (retired), Rhys Gill (to Cardiff Blues), Catalin Fercu (to Timisoara Saracens), Kieran Longbottom (to Sale Sharks), Dave Porecki (to London Irish), Jacques Burger (retired), Aaron Morris (to Harlequins), Thretton Palamo (to Bristol), Biyi Alo (to Worcester Warriors), Ben Ransom (to London Irish), Alistair Hargreaves (retired), Hayden Smith (to Esher).


INS: Marty Moore (from Leinster), Tommy Taylor (from Sale Sharks), Danny Cipriani (from Sale Sharks), Tom Cruse (from London Irish), Guy Armitage (from London Welsh), Craig Hampson (from Bristol), Tom Woolstencroft (from Bath), Marcus Garratt (from Cornish Pirates), Kurtley Beale (from NSW Waratahs), Matt Symons (from London Irish), Nick de Luca (from Biarritz), Kyle Eastmond (from Bath), Willie le Roux (from Sharks).

OUTS: Charles Piutau (to Ulster), Alex Lozowski (to Saracens), George Smith (to Suntory Sungoliath/Queensland Reds), Jamie Stevenson (to London Scottish), Ed Shervington (retired), Ruaridh Jackson (to Harlequins), Bradley Davies (to Ospreys), James Downey (retired), Ben Jacobs (retired), Carlo Festuccia (to Zebre), Andrea Masi (retired), Lorenzo Cittadini (to Bayonne), Sailosi Tagicakibau (released), James Cannon (to Connacht).


INS: Ben Te'o (from Leinster), Jackson Willison (from Grenoble), Will Spencer (from Bath), Marco Mama (from Bristol), Perry Humphreys (promoted from Academy), Dewald Potgieter (from Yamaha Júbilo), Matt Williams (from Northampton Saints), Francois Hougaard (from South Africa Sevens), Biyi Alo (from Saracens), Alafoti Fa'osiliva (from Bath), Michael Dowsett (from Brumbies), Wilhelm van der Sluys (from Western Province), Auguy Slowik (from Bristol), Connor Braid (from Canada Sevens), Chris Vui (from North Harbour), Joe Taufete'e (from San Diego Breakers)

OUTS: Darren O'Shea (to Munster), Charlie Mulchrone (to Harlequins), Jean-Baptiste Bruzulier (to Nevers), Ben Sowrey (to Newcastle Falcons), Heath Stevens (to London Welsh), Joe Rees (to Rotherham Titans), Andy Symons (to Gloucester), Alex Grove (to Birmingham Moseley), Ravai Fatiaki (released), Dan George (released), Matt Gilbert (to Hartpury College RFC), Dan Sanderson (to Yorkshire Carnegie), Sam Smith (retired).

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