Johan ‘Rassie’ Erasmus was named Pro12′ Coach of the Season after guiding Munster to the semifinals of the Celtic League.
Erasmus, who is in his first season in charge of the Irish province, also had six of his Munster players named in the Pro12 Dream Team during the Pro12 Awards, which took place in Dublin on Sunday.
Erasmus recently confirmed that he will see out his contract with Munster after rumours circulated earlier this this year that he was going to return to South Africa to link up with the Springboks.
Meanwhile, Fellow South Africans Jaco Taute and Ruan Pienaar were included in the Dream Team.
Ulster gave club legend Ruan Pienaar a winning send off at Kingspan with a 17-13 victory over Leinster but it wasn’t enough for them to sneak into the Guinness PRO12 semi-finals.
The home side needed a bonus point victory at least but were unable to get the four-tries against a Leinster side who slipped to second after Munster’s victory.
Roger Wilson, on his 221nd and last Ulster appearance, and Andrew Trimble got the vital scores for Ulster while Leinster responded with a penalty try.
An emotional Pienaar led out the Ulster side with his son Jean Luc at the Kingspan Stadium in what was in final appearance for the club.
Former All-Blacks fly-half Nick Evans is to retire at the end of the season, once his commitments with Premiership side Harlequins come to an end.
Evans, 36, won 16 caps for New Zealand and has been one of the most successful overseas imports to the Premiership since moving to the Stoop in 2008.
He won a Premiership title in 2011-12 and holds Quins’ scoring record, having amassed 2,217 points in 206 games.
“I couldn’t think of a better place to finish my career,” Evans said.
“This game has taught me everything, showed me things I could never imagine and introduced me to people that are not team-mates but family.
“I need to thank the clubs I have represented, the coaches – who have helped shape the player I am today – and the fans, both in New Zealand where it all started, and here in the UK, for their support and cheers.”
Grayson Hart is set to become the second player to join Ealing Trailfinders from Glasgow Warriors this year when the international scrum-half signs on in time for pre-season.
Hart has won three caps for Scotland and follows the route paved by fly-half Rory Clegg who arrived from Glasgow Warriors in February.
“It is such an exciting time to be joining the Ealing Trailfinders as they are playing some excellent rugby and I want to help the club continue to grow.
“I want to contribute to the club on and off the field as best as I possibly can and keep developing as a player and a person.”
The 28-year-old Hart hails from Kaitaia in New Zealand and helped their U20 side win the 2008 U20 World Championship with a 38-3 win over England in the final.
However, he qualified to play for Scotland through his maternal grandmother and won his first cap away to Canada on Scotland’s 2016 summer tour. He then won a further two against Argentina and South Africa.
Oli Kebble will join the Warriors next season and the South African-born prop says he has ambitions to play international rugby for Scotland.
Oli will join Glasgow Warriors from the Cape Town-based Stormers after his Super Rugby commitments and will qualify for Scotland honours after completing three years of residency under World Rugby’s eligibility criteria.
He could follow in the footsteps of fellow-prop WP Nel who qualified for Scotland during his time with Edinburgh.
Oli said: “That’s definitely a goal of mine. I’d love to play international rugby and to play for Scotland would be a great honour. I know there’s a three-year waiting period and we’ll see how far I come, but it would definitely be a great thing if I could represent Scotland one day.
“For any rugby player, the ultimate goal would be to play international rugby, so I definitely considered that when talking to the Scottish Rugby Union, and that’s why I chose Glasgow in the end.”
Edinburgh Rugby lock Lewis Carmichael has joined Australian Super Rugby outfit Western Force on a short-term loan as part of his personal player development plan.
Carmichael – a first year pro who also plays for Melrose in the BT Premiership – will be available for the Perth based side until the end of the current Super Rugby campaign.
The agreement was brokered by Scottish Rugby’s Director of Rugby, Scott Johnson, and Edinburgh Rugby’s Managing Director, Jonny Petrie, and is designed to help players gain experience in a different training and cultural environment.
Carmichael, who progressed through the Scotland age-grade system, said: “I’m really excited to get out to Australia and it was an offer that I jumped to take.
Sale Sharks are delighted to announce the signing of Scottish International Back Row Forward Josh Strauss on a three year deal.
Josh is currently playing for Glasgow Warriors who he joined in 2012 from The Lions and Golden Lions where he was captain.
He made his Currie Cup debut in 2010 and became a cult figure with his style of play and distinctive full length beard.
Josh has been capped eleven times by Scotland after making his international debut against Japan in the 2015 World Cup at Kingsholm.
Director of Rugby Steve Diamond said: ” Josh is a world class ball carrying forward. He has been performing well for both Glasgow and Scotland over the past five years and will compliment the squad in the ball carrying department. He is a leader and a very powerful athlete.
“The new owners Simon Orange and Ged Mason are keen to help Sale Sharks to become one of the leading clubs and signings like Josh will help our cause.”
Glasgow Warriors have signed fly-half Brandon Thomson on a short-term deal from the Stormers in South Africa.
He has started training with his new teammates at Scotstoun, after arriving in Glasgow from Cape Town.
The 21-year-old will be at the club for the next two months, with Finn Russell away with Scotland and Peter Horne currently sidelined with an ankle injury.
Thomson has played six times in Super Rugby for the Stormers and has scored 26 points.
He has also represented South Africa U20s at the World Rugby Under 20 Championship and has played for Western Province in the Provincial Cup and Currie Cup.
Racing 92 are to launch legal proceedings against want-away Springbok utility back Johan Goosen over what they allege is”blatant fraud”.
The Parisian club said the 24-year-old, player of the year last season in France, had not appeared “for the last two days and seems to have vacated his residence,”
Last month the Springboks star said he was quitting rugby to return to South Africa.
“As far as Racing 92 is concerned, Johan Goosen still remains bound to the club by an employment contract lasting four years, while his residence, company car, locker and place in the locker-room all remain at his disposal,” said the club, who play Munster in European action this weekend.
Reigning 1872 Cup holders Edinburgh Rugby host Glasgow Warriors at Murrayfield in their Guinness PRO12 league match which doubles up as the first leg of this season’s 1872 Cup.
Glasgow Warriors are currently in 6th place on the PRO12 log with 27 points, 10 points off leaders Munster after 10 rounds, while Edinburgh who parted ways with Alan Solomons earlier this season are down in lowly 10th place with a mere 17 points. Both teams are doing fairly well in Europe although Glasgow are playing in the top European Rugby Champions Cup while Edinburgh are playing in the Challenge Cup.
There will be a mouth watering battle of the back rows, especially at number 8 where players who both used to ply their trade in South Africa Josh Strauss and Cornell du Preez have been selected for Glasgow and Edinburgh respectively.
The curtain has come down on the Autumn Internationals and there can now be little doubt that the gap has closed between the north and south. However, the prevailing question is: Have the Northern Hemisphere teams strengthened or have the Southern sides weakened?
In my book, it’s a 60:40 split. Forty per cent is owing to much better cohesion from Northern Hemisphere teams and continuity in terms of selection under the guidance of astute coaches. However, 60 per cent is due to the fact that Southern Hemisphere rugby has waned. Harsh questions have to be asked around competition structures in the south, as well as eligibility of foreign-based players.
Exeter Chiefs head coach Rob Baxter believes new signing Niko Matawalu can add some real ‘X-Factor’ to his backline after he today agreed a deal until the end of the season.
The Fijian international will head to Sandy Park from Aviva Premiership rivals Bath Rugby and will join up with his new team-mates once the current autumn internationals are concluded.
Equally at home either on the wing or at scrum-half, Baxter believes the 27-year-old is a great addition to the Chiefs make-up and is excited at what he can bring to the club moving forward.
“Initially Niko’s joining until the end of the season,” said Baxter. “Initially we want to have a good look at him and then we’ll see if there is an opportunity beyond that.
“As a club we’re really looking forward to bringing him here. We had a good look at him previously when he first decided to move on from Glasgow to Bath, but now the opportunity has arisen for us to sign him and it’s come at the right time for us.
We’re not expecting him to be 100 per cent straight away as he has had a relatively lengthy injury, but he’s fully fit now, he’s ready to play, and we’re hoping he will get some good game time during these autumn internationals to help get him right up to speed.”
Springbok lock Eben Etzebeth could earn substantial amounts during a short stint in England.
Bok coach Allister Coetzee told the media in London on Monday that the Stormers lock was set to sign a short-term deal with a Premiership club in England.
Etzebeth, 25, was earlier linked with a move to Saracens, a club which boasts a rich tradition of fielding South African players.
That move failed to materialise, but according to Netwerk24, the lock enforcer is now being linked to Bristol.
According to the Afrikaans publication, rumours are doing the rounds that Etzebeth could earn up to £40 000 (about R665 200) per game.
The Emirates Lions / Xerox Golden Lions have made a number of media releases in the last few days relating to player movements and news.
Herewith a summary of those releases:
Saracens are in advanced talks to sign South Africa lock Eben Etzebeth on a short-term deal.
Etzebeth is set to move to England following his international matches in November.
The 24-year-old is contracted to the Stormers and the South African Rugby Union, but last year had a three-month spell in Japan during the southern hemisphere off-season.
South African sources have indicated a similar deal is expected with Saracens.
Etzebeth, who has 53 Springbok caps, is regarded as one of the best forwards in world rugby, and the deal would be one of the biggest signings in Premiership history.
The deal would have to be approved by SA Rugby and, if it is completed, Etzebeth would act as injury dispensation for Saracens’ former club captain Alistair Hargreaves, who was forced to retire this month because of concussion.
There were some big news announcements yesterday from both of Scotland’s professional clubs. The one from Edinburgh Rugby was about a departure while the one from Glasgow Warriors was about an arrival. Sticking one’s neck out it would seem that both announcements were seen as positive news by the clubs’ fans.
Edinburgh Rugby announced that Head Coach Alan Solomons was leaving and would be replaced in the interim by Duncan Hodge while Glasgow Warriors announced the acquisition of powerhouse player Langilangi Haupeakui from US PRO Rugby outfit Sacramento Express.
Alan Solomons vacates his post before completing his contract which would have taken him to the end of the current season. His previous contract expired at the end of last season and he had signed to stay on for one more year in Edinburgh.
There has always seemed to a bit of mixed feelings between the Edinburgh fans with some rather more supportive of Solomons than others. He took over at a time were really struggling and for some he has brought stability to the club and a measure of success, taking Edinburgh to a European Cup final, albeit in the second tier of Europe, and claiming back the 1872 Cup from bitter rivals Glasgow Warriors.
His critics feel that he has not done anymore with Edinburgh than a local coach could given the same level of investment and felt that his game plan was far too prescriptive and conservative and stifled his team, now where have we heard that before? It would seem that he didn’t have the copyright on this as far as many South African coaches go in the eyes of the various sets of fans.
Julian Redelinghuys will earn his 1st start for the Springboks against Argentina in Nelspruit on Saturday, while Bryan Habana, Johan Goosen, Oupa Mohoje and Lood de Jager all return to the side for the 1st Castle Lager Rugby Championship Test at the Mbombela Stadium. Redelinghuys, capped 4 times, comes in at tighthead as replacement for the injured Frans Malherbe, who is struggling with a neck injury.
Lock De Jager has recovered from the calf injury he sustained against Ireland in June and takes over the No 5 jersey from Pieter-Steph du Toit, who will provide cover from the bench.
The 3rd change in the pack sees the return to the starting line-up of Mohoje as replacement for Siya Kolisi, who recently underwent ankle surgery.
In the back division, Springbok record try scorer Bryan Habana will run out in his 118th Test after he was named as left wing, while he was also confirmed as the Springbok vice-captain.
The versatile Goosen, who is equally at home at flyhalf and centre, has been entrusted with the fullback duties, the same position where he played in his previous outing for the Springboks, in 2014 against Italy.
Glasgow Warriors player Hugh Blake is returning to New Zealand to play for Bay of Plenty Steamers in the upcoming Mitre 10 Cup.
He’s joined the Steamers on loan until the end of October.
Hugh initially joined up with Glasgow on loan from Edinburgh during the 2014 / 2015 campaign but signed up permanently at Scotstoun last season.
He played a number of games for Warriors at the start of the 2015 / 2016 campaign but spent most of the season with the Scotland Sevens squad. He was part of the squad that won Scotland’s first World Sevens title in London.
Prior to his move to Scotland, Hugh represented New Zealand at the Under 20 level while he has also played for Otago.
Emirates Lions Coach, Johan Ackermann has made wholesale changes to the Lions squad that will meet the Jaguares this Saturday. Ross Cronjé will captain the squad. Many of the players are Currie Cup or fringe Super Rugby players.
The Blue Bulls Company (Pty) Ltd confirmed today (Tuesday) that Lodewyk (Lood) de Jager has agreed terms with them and will join the Vodacom Bulls on November 1st, 2016 on a 12-month contract.
The SA Rugby Player of the Year for 2015 is currently playing his trade in Bloemfontein, where he has played in 40 matches for the Toyota Cheetahs in the Vodacom Super Rugby tournament thus far. The 23-year old also has 20 test matches for the Springboks to his credit.
Commenting on the signing, BBC High Performance Manager, Xander Janse van Rensburg, expressed his delight with the signing.
“This is great news for us, not only because Lood is one of the best locks in the world, but also the fact that he sees the Vodacom Bulls as a team that will enhance his career and ambitions. This is a compliment to what we are trying to achieve and a massive boost to our vision to build something special again in Pretoria,” Janse van Rensburg said.
Glasgow Warriors have signed second-row Tjiuee Uanivi from South African Super Rugby franchise, the Sharks, subject to a visa and medical.
Uanivi, who recently had a short loan spell at the Southern Kings in Port Elizabeth, has penned a contract at Scotstoun until at least May 2017.
The 6ft 7in Namibia international, who has 14 caps for his country, joined the Sharks in January following a number of impressive displays at last year’s Rugby World Cup.
He scored his first try for his country against Romania in the World Rugby Nations Cup earlier this month.
Prior to joining the Sharks, the 25-year-old played 10 times for Brive in the Top 14 and European Rugby Challenge Cup.
The versatile Uanivi, who can also play across the back-row, is due to arrive in Glasgow next month.
He is the latest player to join the Warriors ahead of the 2016/17 season, with winger Leonardo Sarto, hooker Corey Flynn and scrum-half Nemia Kenatale, joining fly-half Rory Clegg and props Djustice Sears-Duru and Jarrod Firth at Scotstoun for the new campaign.
Allister Coetzee has named a new-look Springbok squad, including 9 uncapped players, for the Castle Lager Incoming Series against Ireland, featuring 3 Tests in Cape Town, Johannesburg and Port Elizabeth.
The uncapped players who have forced their way into the Springbok squad are Garth April (Cell C Sharks – flyhalf), Ruan Combrinck (Emirates Lions – wing), Faf de Klerk (Emirates Lions – scrumhalf), Nic Groom (DHL Stormers – scrumhalf), Steven Kitshoff (Overseas-based – prop), Jaco Kriel (Emirates Lions – flank), Bongi Mbonambi (DHL Stormers – hooker), Sikhumbuzo Notshe (DHL Stormers – flank) and Scarra Ntubeni (DHL Stormers – hooker).
Coetzee picked 17 forwards and 14 backs to report for duty on Sunday afternoon for the start of a 2-week long preparation camp in Stellenbosch and Cape Town. The squad will gather in Stellenbosch for the 1st week, before they break for 2 days and then reassemble on Sunday 5 June in Cape Town.
Emirates Lions head coach, Johan Ackermann has named his team to play the Argentinian side the Jaguars at Emirates Airline Park on Saturday Afternoon.
The team sees the coach sticking to his rotation policy with a total of six changes to the side that so convincingly beat the Blues last week, with exciting lock Lourens Erasmus getting a start in the second row.
Herewith the media announcement from the Emirates Lions.
The relationship between Rory Lamont and rugby has always been uneasy. When it was good, it was really good: 29 Scotland caps, two World Cups, and stints in Europe’s top leagues with Toulon, Sale and Glasgow.
When it was bad, it was really bad: whispering campaigns about his attitude, 16 operations, “double figure” concussions. By the time the game ran out of uses for him, the feeling was entirely mutual.
Three years ago this week, Lamont announced his retirement. The last of his many injuries, a lower leg fracture from the previous year, hadn’t properly healed and the end came as a relief.
“I was thinking, ‘finally it’s over’. I felt like an animal being put out of its misery. I’d had a miserable year, people questioning my integrity, and I couldn’t wait to crack on with my life and all the amazing things I was going to do.”
Never did he picture becoming a recluse, battling severe depression and suicidal thoughts. Nowhere in the retirement brochure did it say he’d lose 25kg in four months and be unable to stomach solids for a further five. The bit about being so low he hoped he’d be run over by a bus? Not what he’d signed up for either.
Glasgow Warriors have announced a group of players who will leave the club in the summer.
Prop Jerry Yanuyanutawa, looseforward Tyrone Holmes and hooker Kevin Bryce are among the departures.
Fijian international Yanuyanutawa joined the club from London Irish in 2013 and has gone on to make 46 appearances for the Scotstoun-based side.
South Africa-born Holmes joined the Warriors in 2013 and has made 34 appearances for the club over the last 3 seasons and was capped by Scotland against South Africa in 2014.
27-year-old Bryce has made 12 appearances for the Warriors since joining the club in 2013 and has gone on to represent Scotland on 2 occasions.
Loose forwards Will Bordill and Jason Hill, hookers Shalva Mamukashvili and Fergus Scott, flyhalf Gregor Hunter and prop Javan Sebastian will also be leaving the club.
In the last few days the news has broken of the imminent departure of 2 big players from Glasgow Warriors. Glasgow Warriors centurion James Eddie has announced he has retired from rugby with immediate effect and Fijian lock Leone Nakarawa will be released from his Glasgow Warriors contract at the end of the season to move to a club in France.
Southern Kings head coach Deon Davids included the returning Edgar Marutlulle and Sti Sithole in his 25-man touring squad for their trip to Argentina this weekend to face the Jaguares.
The presence of the front row duo is a welcome boost to team after both missed out on the match against the Emirates Lions last week due to injury.
Stefan Willemse, who has played at both lock and flank, is also part of the touring squad, along with No 8 Aidon Davis.
Davids also announced that backline players Elgar Watts and Jaco van Tonder would be part of the touring squad.
“At fullback we have Jaco van Tonder, we know he can play at No 15 and hasn’t had a chance to start there yet this year, and Leighton Eksteen, who can come in as a backup,” said Davids.
“We felt that, at this point of time, we want to give Jaco a chance and see how he is doing.”
Newport Gwent Dragons produced a stunning upset when they crossed the River Severn to beat Aviva Premiership Gloucester at Kingsholm in the European Challenge Cup.
But that 23 / 21 quarterfinal triumph would pale if they were to beat star-studded Montpellier at the Altrad Stadium in the south of France on Saturday evening.
So what are their chances of reaching the final of Europe’s 2nd-tier tournament? Rugby Correspondent Andy Howell assesses the head-to-head contests and marks each opposing player in the respective starting line-ups out of 10 with the Montpellier players mentioned first.
Glasgow Warriors scrumhalf Mike Blair has retired from playing with immediate effect and will take up a new coaching role at the club next season.
The 35-year-old will remain with Scottish Rugby as an assistant coach at the Warriors.
Blair joined Glasgow this season and has made 12 appearances for the club and was voted Player of the Month in October.
The 85-capped former Scotland international has had an illustrious career, representing Edinburgh Rugby, Brive, Newcastle Falcons and the Warriors.
Blair enjoyed 10 years with Edinburgh Rugby, playing his first professional game in 2001. Highlights included being runners up in the Magners League in 2009 and reaching the semifinals of the European Cup in 2012.
Scotland’s most capped scrumhalf captained his country on 14 occasions before retiring from international rugby at the start of 2013, aged 31.
He was named Scotland’s Player of the Year in 2008 and was nominated for the IRB World Player of the Year that same season. He toured South Africa with the British and Irish Lions in 2009.
Connacht’s South African lock Quinn Roux and trio of other South African players have been included in an Ireland squad which will meet for a training camp on Sunday.
The uncapped Roux is joined by loose forward CJ Stander, and hookers Richardt Strauss and Rob Herring who have all played for Ireland before. The quartet will be hoping to make it into Ireland’s final squad for their tour of South Africa in June.
However, Ireland flanker Chris Henry’s hopes of being selected for the summer tour of South Africa appear to have suffered a blow after he was left out of the squad for Sunday’s training camp.
Henry, who did not play in the Six Nations, is not among the 44 players who will meet up in county Meath.
Next Sunday afternoon at 16:00 Pacific Standard Time a little piece of rugby history will be made. The 1st match of a brand new USA pro-league will kick off when Sacramento face San Francisco on Bonney Field. The venture has the blessing of both World Rugby and USA Rugby, although it is entirely independent of either governing body. There are only 5 teams competing in the league – Denver, Ohio and San Diego in addition to the 2 above – but for US rugby this may just be the acorn from which a rugby oak emerges.
The money man is Doug Schoninger, who worked in the financing of stadiums but boasts no background in rugby. The man in charge of the rugby is a Scot, Steve Lewis, who has been steeped in the game since growing up in Glasgow and whose resume is a good deal more exotic than most.
After turning out for West of Scotland alongside the likes of Matt Duncan, Gerry McGuinness and a young Gordon Bulloch, Lewis emigrated to the US in the early 1990s. He has coached a wide variety of teams around the world from the West Point Ladies, the Beit Jala Lions (in Palestine), Nigeria’s national team, Vail Rugby, Old Blue and the New York City Sevens side that won the plate final at Twickenham in 2013. Lewis was named the USA Coach of the Year in 2014.
As rugby director of the new league it is his task to populate those 5 teams with the best players money can buy: well, the best players that UD$ 35 000.00 can buy. And if that doesn’t sound like a king’s ransom it was enough to tempt fullback Mils Muliaina and his 100 All Black caps to play a 12-match season that stretches just 3 and a half months (17 April – 31 July). The league kicks off when the American Football season is over and before the baseball has become interesting.
Springbok scrumhalf Fourie du Preez called time on his illustrious rugby career today (Thursday).
The 34-year-old Du Preez represented South Africa in 76 Tests between 2004 and 2015, captaining the Springboks in 4 Tests at the World Cup in England last year. He also won 164 caps for the Bulls and Blue Bulls from 2001 to 2011, and played 55 times for Suntory Sungoliath in Japan.
Du Preez played his last match in the green and gold in last year’s World Cup semifinal against New Zealand, where he picked up an injury which ruled him out of the 3rd-place play-off. He has subsequently finished his career with Suntory.
“Fourie du Preez will go down in the annals of South African rugby as one of the most decorated players ever,” said SA Rugby President Oregan Hoskins.
The Toyota Cheetahs will play a friendly game against Japanese club Toyota Verblitz later this year.
The game, to be played on Friday 23 July in Japan, will serve as preparation for the Japan Top League and Currie Cup competitions.
The match will further strengthen the friendship ties between the 2 teams – who share the same sponsor.
At the end of the 2014 season and after losing a number of players because of limited funding, Free State Cheetahs (Pty) Ltd established a programme whereby players could play in Japan during the Currie Cup season and return to play for the Toyota Cheetahs’ Super Rugby franchise at the conclusion of the Japanese league.
By having Toyota as a sponsor it enabled Free State Rugby to engage freely with Verblitz, a Toyota owned club in Japan.
Emirates Lions Head Coach Johan Ackermann has made a number of changes to the side who lost to the Highlanders in Dunedin during Round 3 of Super Rugby 2016, for the clash against the Toyota Cheetahs at Emirates Airline Park on Saturday.
In an enforced change due to the suspension of blindside flank Warwick Tecklenburg, the young prospect Ruan Ackermann gets his 1st run-on opportunity in the loose forwards.
Also returning to the starting lineup is Lionel Mapoe who missed the last game to be at the birth of his 1st child, as well as Andries Coetzee at fullback, together with Dylan Smith and Malcolm Marx in the front row.
This feels like a semifinal age in the tempestuous domain of European rugby.
The financial behemoths prowling the leagues of England and France are on a seemingly inexorable rise, hoovering up the galacticos of the southern hemisphere.
Theirs is a monetary clout Scottish rugby cannot hope to match.
From Edinburgh, Dave Denton has gone to Bath, Greig Tonks to London Irish. Captain Mike Coman will follow, so too Matt Scott to Gloucester at the season’s end. There may be others.
Along the M8, speculation continues to heighten on the future of Fijian sensation Leone Nakarawa – reportedly heading for Racing 92 with a year left on his contract – and Taqele Naiyaravoro, the monstrous winger, returning to the Waratahs of Australia.
A shrewd acquisition
Amidst this leakage of talent, though, the Warriors have, rather shrewdly, recruited an ex-Crusaders hooker, a 4-time Super Rugby champion, 15-Test All Black and Rugby World Cup winner.
Corey Flynn joins Gregor Townsend’s squad on a 2-year deal this summer following a sojourn at Toulouse, one of the most storied and wealthy of the French heavyweights.