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France

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Top 14France’s Top 14, the world’s richest rugby championship, suffered a record deficit of US$ 25.5 million last season, as player salaries soared.

In a recent report, it was found that clubs opted to boost their squads over cutting costs.

“Clubs prefer to strengthen their sporting power… to the detriment of reducing their deficits,” said a report by the National Rugby League’s audit department.

The Top 14 accounted for the bulk of a US$ 35.6 million deficit for all 30 professional clubs in France, which has become an increasing magnet for foreign stars.

Average player salaries have increased 12% in the past season, according to the report released Monday.

All Black Colin Slade is the latest foreign star to have signed for a French club, along with other pricey stars, such as Dan Carter.

Salaries have taken off while revenues grew only 10%, mainly through extra television income.

Only one Top 14 club is able to fully self-finance its operation, against 7 at the end of 2013 / 2014.

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Simon Mannix

Simon Mannix

Once-capped All Black, Simon Mannix, has extended his contract as coach of Pau, ensured of promotion to the Top 14 next season, through until 2018, the club announced Tuesday.

Mannix, who had another year to run on his contract, extended his deal by 2 more years, according to Pau president Bernard Pontneau.

The 43-year-old, who won his sole New Zealand cap against France in 1994, cut his coaching teeth with Racing-Metro (2007 – 2011) and Munster (2011 – 2014) before taking over Pau and ensuring they topped the 2nd Division ProD2.

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Colin Slade

Colin Slade

All Black and Crusaders back Colin Slade has signed with the Section Paloise Rugby Club (Pau), departing following the World Cup.

Slade said he had not found it easy to come to the decision to play overseas but he was now excited about the opportunity.

“This is certainly not a decision taken lightly. I have given it a lot of thought and considered all my options, but I am now satisfied that moving to Pau after this year is the right decision for me at this point in my life,” Slade said.

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Jano Vermaak

Jano Vermaak

3-Times capped Springbok Jano Vermaak is returning home to South Africa with a World Cup dream.

The 30-year-old, who has been a shining star for the revitalised French giants Toulouse in the Top 14, spoke from the city in the southwest of France.

He was quite open about his goals, although there remains some uncertainty about which team he will use as – hopefully – as a springboard to a World Cup spot.

“I am coming back to South Africa with the goal of giving myself a chance of possibly getting into the World Cup squad,” the 30-year-old scrumhalf said.

“At this stage I do not yet know which team I will be playing for in South Africa,” Vermaak said, adding: “I have a few options, but we’ll make that call in the next month or so.”

He said he simply can’t wait to be back in SA and will arrive after the completion of the French Top 14 season in May, or June if Toulouse make the play-offs.

That will give him 3 or 4 weeks of Super Rugby to have a crack at a World Cup spot.

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Will Genia

Will Genia

Australia and Reds scrumhalf Will Genia has signed a 3-year contract to join Top 14 club Stade Francais after this year’s Rugby World Cup.

“We can confirm that Will Genia will be part of our squad after the World Cup (which ends 31 October). It’s a great signing and one which will strengthen our squad in a vital position,” Stade Francais president Thomas Savare said on radio France Bleu 107.1.

The Papua New Guinea-born Wallaby had been linked with a move to Europe for months but Bath were firm favourites to sign the 27-year-old, who even signed a pre-contract with the English Premiership side.

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Jake White at Montpellier

Jake White at Montpellier

Former Springbok coach Jake White has extended his stay at French Top 14 club Montpellier.

According to French rugby newspaper, Midi Olympique, White has signed a new deal which will keep him at the club until 2017.

White originally signed a 6-month deal at the end of December, but has been rewarded for Montpellier’s improved performances with a 2-year contract extension.

Under White’s guidance, Montpellier have moved up to 7th in the Top 14 standings, and have lost just twice in their last 12 matches.

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Nicolás Sánchez

Nicolás Sánchez

Argentina flyhalf Nicolas Sanchez has left European champions Toulon to get ready for his wedding in May and to prepare for the World Cup.

Sanchez joined the French and European champions in October as an injury replacement for Frederic Michalak.

But after the latter returned to action on Saturday in the 34 / 24 defeat at home to Toulouse, Sanchez was no longer available for Top 14 action.

He could have continued to turn out for Toulon in the European Cup – the champions hosts Wasps in the quarterfinals next weekend – but he said he preferred to return home.

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Bees RouxFormer Bulls prop Bees Roux has signed for Oyonnax as medical cover for Antoine Guillamon, the Top 14 side announced on Monday.

The 33-year-old Roux played this season with the Lions, having previously lined out for the Leopards (2002 – 2006), the Griquas (2007 – 2008) and Cheetahs (2007).

He also played for French clubs Clermont (2008 – 2009) and Begles-Bordeaux (2011 – 2012) and Italian club Benetton (2012 – 2013).

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SIX-NationsSomewhere, shaking his cauliflower ears in dismay, a grizzled old retired prop was probably secretly wishing someone would just stick the ball up his jumper and make a cautious 3 inches.

For everyone else watching this was surely the most thrilling day that 5 or 6 Nations rugby has seen: a fantasy finale, a chest-squeezer and knee-knocker, a day to fall back in love.

There are the stats: 221 points scored across the 3 matches, the most in a single weekend – 27 tries, run in from deep and wide and everywhere in between.

There was England’s record score against France, Ireland’s biggest away win, the most tries Wales have scored in 1 championship half.

Then there was the style. This was rugby we thought had died and been laid to rest, killed by detailed analysis and the professional urge to be sensible.

Sensible? This was glorious chaos, March madness to put a spring in every watcher’s step and an ulcer in the stomach of every defence coach.

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SIX NationsIt should be a 3-way fight between England, Ireland and Wales for the Six Nations title on Saturday, although France still have an outside chance.

The Top 3 are locked on 6 Points with 3 wins apiece, while England’s points difference of +37 puts them 1st, ahead of Ireland’s +33 and Wales’ +12.

France are 4th with 4 Points and a points difference of +22.

Philippe Saint-Andre’s side could still steal the title if Wales and Ireland lose and Les Bleus then beat England by a margin of 8 points or more, but it looks a remote possibility.

If teams are level on points, and match-points difference, then England are likely to win the Championship on tries scored, having crossed 11 times to Ireland’s 4 and Wales’ 5. In the highly unlikely event this was also level come Saturday night, the trophy would be shared.

Wales are in action 1st away to Italy in Rome (14:30 SA Time, 12:30 GMT), before Ireland take on Scotland at Murrayfield (16:30 SA Time, 14:30 GMT), ahead of England’s home match against France at Twickenham (19:00 SA Time, 17:00 GMT).

With the Six Nations wide open, we assess the 4 teams’ chances.

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Ricky Januarie

Ricky Januarie

South African scrumhalf Enrico “Ricky” Januarie will play for Top 14 side La Rochelle next season, after signing a 2-year contract.

The 33-year-old, capped 47 times and a member of the 2007 World Cup-winning squad, will join from rivals Lyon.

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FranceYoung Stade Francais flyhalf Jules Plisson has been called up for France’s final Six Nations clash with England on Saturday as coach Philippe Saint-Andre named a 16th different halfback pairing.

Plisson, 23, comes in for injured first-choice No 10 Camille Lopez, who misses the game at Twickenham due to a knee problem.

With Sebastien Tillous-Borde remaining at scrumhalf, it will be the 16th different halfback pairing Saint-Andre has picked in just over 3 years and now 37 matches at the France helm.

Clermont’s Lopez, who has been Saint-Andre’s first-choice playmaker for France’s last 7 internationals dating back to the November Tests, was on Wednesday ruled out for 4 to 6 weeks.

Saint-Andre defended his rotation, saying he had no choice in changing his halfback partnership.

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Philippe Saint-Andre

Philippe Saint-Andre

France coach Philippe Saint-Andre on Monday gave a strong indication that Saturday’s game against England at Twickenham would be his last match in charge of a Six Nations game.

Asked if that would be the case he replied: “the chances are high that it will be, yes.”

“But I prefer to stay in the present and on this hugely important week ahead of us,” he added.

Saint-Andre, who won 69 caps for France as a wing, took over as France coach after the World Cup of 2011 and his present contract takes him through until the end of this year’s World Cup in England.

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Gurthrö Steenkamp

Gurthrö Steenkamp

Springbok prop Gurthrö Steenkamp has announced his retirement from international rugby, stating his wish to focus his career at Toulouse.

Steenkamp, many would feel, was still heavily in contention to make the Springbok World Cup squad after featuring through 2014. His retirement may well cause Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer some headaches.

The 33-year-old loosehead prop began his career at the Cheetahs in 2002 and then the Cats in 2004 before moving to the Bulls where he played the bulk of his rugby from 2005 – 2011.

Steenkamp was also selected for the Springboks from 2004 and made 53 appearances, scoring 6 tries.

The burley prop has been a part of the Toulouse setup since 2011 and has made 76 appearances for the French Giants.

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Rory Kockott

Rory Kockott

France coach Philippe Saint-Andre on Thursday called up prop Nicolas Mas, scrumhalf Rory Kockott and centre Maxime Mermoz for his 30-strong squad to prepare for the Six Nations match against Italy.

The French were left reeling last weekend when they lost 13 / 20 to Wales at the Stade de France – ending any hopes they had of winning this year’s tournament.

Saint-Andre subsequently launched a bitter attack on his players saying that some of them were “prima-donnas” who failed to live up to their responsibilities on the field.

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Rene Ranger

Rene Ranger

Explosive attacking back Rene Ranger is to return to the Blues next season and will be available to play for North Harbour in the ITM Cup this year.

The 28-year-old has gained an early release from his contract with French club Montpellier after 2 seasons.

Ranger scored 25 tries in his 65 Super Rugby caps for the Blues, enjoying 6 caps for the All Blacks. He has become a fan favourite with Jake White’s Montpellier side, scoring 6 tries in his first 15 games and helping the team enjoy a strong season in the European Club Championships this year.

He said his return to New Zealand is primarily for family reasons.

“Family comes first and that is the big motivator to return. I want to be able to help my mom more,” Ranger said.

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Wiaan Liebenberg

Wiaan Liebenberg

Montpellier coach Jake White has his sights set on luring young Blue Bulls loose forward Wiaan Liebenberg to France.

The 22-year-old former Baby Bok captain is currently not in the Bulls’ Super Rugby plans – which makes a move to France very likely.

Loose forwards like Lappies Labuschagne, Pierre Spies, Arno Botha, Deon Stegmann and his brother Hanro are ahead of Liebenberg in the pecking order at the Bulls.

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Tom Taylor

Tom Taylor

Canterbury and Crusaders back, Tom Taylor, has announced he will move to France to play for the Bayonne Club at the end of this year.

Taylor says it’s been a tough decision to leave, but it is a great opportunity for him and he is looking forward to the next chapter of his career.

“I have absolutely loved my time here at Canterbury and the Crusaders, especially being a Christchurch boy.

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Morgan Parra

Morgan Parra

France have been hit by an injury crisis with scrumhalf Morgan Parra and backs Wesley Fofana and Remi Lamerat ruled out Monday for the rest of the Six Nations campaign.

Parra will miss the rest of the Six Nations after being ruled out for at least 10 weeks with a knee injury.

Parra, who plays for Clermont in the Top 14, suffered a tear to the posterior ligament in his right knee during France’s 13 / 20 defeat to Wales at the Stade de France on Saturday.

The 26-year-old’s knee will be immobilised for 4 weeks and according to a Clermont statement: “his return to competition won’t be possible before 10 weeks”.

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FranceWalesGeorge North will make his 50th international appearance, in record time, against France on Saturday, and will be looking to continue his purple patch against Les Bleus.

At just 22-years-old, North will become the youngest international player ever to reach the milestone – it will be his 47th cap for Wales, added to three for the British and Irish Lions.

The towering Northampton wing scored tries against France in each of the 2 previous matches and will be looking to continue that form as Wales seek a 4th straight win over Philippe Saint-Andre’s side.

North will make his comeback for Wales having sat out the 26 / 23 win over Scotland 2 weeks ago due to a pair of concussions suffered against England the week before.

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Steffon Armitage

Steffon Armitage

A court in southern France called for further inquiries to be held into allegations of assault against Toulon’s former England flank Steffon Armitage.

Armitage faces a 5 to 6 month suspended prison sentence and €5,000 ($5,649) fine over the incident which occurred in a Toulon restaurant on 13 December.

“There are still a number of grey areas in this case that perhaps further investigation will throw light on,” Armitage’s lawyer Clement Lambert said.

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Omar Mouneimne

Omar Mouneimne

Eastern Province Rugby CEO, Charl Crous has confirmed reports that Kings defence coach, Omar Mouneimne, has been approached by French team Lyon OU to possibly assist them on a consultancy basis.

“At this point in time nothing has been confirmed and there is no agreement in place with Lyon. Omar played a valuable role in making the Southern Kings one of the toughest teams defensively in the 2013 Super Rugby competition, and we can already see the positive impact that his return has had on the team,” said Crous.

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Jano Vermaak

Jano Vermaak

Springbok scrumhalf Jano Vermaak is set to join the Stormers at the end of the season after 2 years with Toulouse.

The former Lions and Bulls scrumhalf joined the 4-time European champions in 2013, and featured regularly in his 1st season in the Top 14.

He has fallen down the pecking order this season however, with Sébastien Bezy and Jean-Marc Doussain both ahead of him, making just 2 starts so far.

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Rory Kockott

Rory Kockott

Castres scrumhalf Rory Kockott has been ruled out of Saturday’s crucial Top 14 game with Oyonnax, after suffering a quadriceps injury in France’s Six Nations defeat against Ireland.

The injury update came via the club’s scrum coach and recently appointed consultant Maurico Reggiardo.

The 28-year-old South Africa-born player – who became eligible to play for the French last year – may not be fit enough either to be named in the Six Nations squad for the game with Wales on Saturday week.

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Rory Kockott

Rory Kockott

Rory Kockott may be dropped after France coach Philippe Saint-Andre promised changes for their next Six Nations game against Wales.

Saint-Andre, speaking on Sunday, the day after his side lost 18 / 11 to defending Six Nations champions Ireland at Lansdowne Road, said several players had not performed at the level required for Test rugby.

While the 47-year-old, who has just 3 away wins (2 against Scotland and 1 against Argentina) to his credit since taking over at the helm after the 2011 World Cup Final, initially refused to name names he gave a curt response when asked about Kockott’s performance.

“He can do better,” said Saint-Andre.

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Fabien GalthieSidelined Montpellier coach Fabien Galthie has taken club president Mohed Altrad to an employment tribunal, judicial sources said Thursday, after being relieved of his responsibilities.

Galthie was effectively replaced as coach in late December when Altrad brought in South African World Cup winner Jake White to replace the former France captain.

Since then, former scrumhalf Galthie has been officially suspended from his duties, although he remains employed by the French Top 14 outfit.

Galthie’s complaint stems from his claim that he is no longer occupying a role that conforms with his employment contract, which will run until June 2017.

The two men are due to meet on March 30 to try to find an amicable solution, otherwise the case will go to the tribunal.

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FranceProp Eddy Ben Arous’s inclusion in place of injured Alexandre Menini is France’s only change from the win over Scotland for Saturday’s Six Nations game against Ireland in Dublin.

Menini was replaced by Racing Metro’s Ben Arous early in the second half in Saturday’s game in Paris after sustaining a foot injury.

Ben Arous, 24, will be making his 1st start after winning 2 previous caps.

Camille Lopez’s 5 penalties helped France edge out Scotland 15 / 8.

With Brice Dulin still hampered by an arm injury, Scott Spedding will again start at fullback.

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Steffon Armitage

Steffon Armitage

Prosecutors have requested a 5 to 6 month suspended prison term and £5000 fine against Toulon’s flank Steffon Armitage who appeared in a French court Tuesday on charges of assault.

Armitage, last season’s European player of the year and capped 5 times by England, is alleged to have struck a 31-year-old man on 13 December in a Toulon restaurant after an evening drinking with teammates following the side’s 23 / 8 victory over Leicester in the European Champions Cup.

According to witnesses, a fight broke out and Armitage, 29, and Toulon prop Xavier Chiocci, who was later released without charge by police, felled the restaurant goer before striking him, injuring his eye.

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Steven Kitshoff

Steven Kitshoff

Stormers and Western Province prop Steven Kitshoff has signed a contract with French Top 14 club, Bordeaux-Begles.

Kitshoff’s agent, Hilton Houghton, confirmed that his client has signed 2-year deal with the French club.

The 22-year-old is still contracted to Western Province until the end of October and will leave for France after the conclusion of this year’s Currie Cup competition.

Kitshoff, a former Baby Bok who boasts 45 Super Rugby caps, last played a first class match on 3 May last year before a knee injury ended his 2014 season.

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World RugbyA strong second half saw Rugby World Cup 2015 hosts England storm back to beat Wales 21 / 16 in their Six Nations opener in Cardiff, a result which lifted them above Ireland back to 3rd in the latest World Rugby rankings.

According to the World Rugby (previously IRB), the victory sees England regain the mantle as the leading northern hemisphere nation in the rankings behind New Zealand and South Africa and they now sit 0.35 points above Ireland after their 26 / 3 victory over Italy in Rome had no impact due to the 11 places separating the teams.

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FranceScotlandFrance (9) 15 / 8 (8) Scotland (Final Score)

France and Scotland did battle in the RBS 6 Nations at

Stade de France, Paris, France at 19:00 SA Time (18:00 French Time, 17:00 BST & GMT).

This was the live match discussion Article.

The match was broadcast LIVE on SuperSport 1 on TV in SA.

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Jacques du Plessis

Jacques du Plessis

Flip van der Merwe

Flip van der Merwe

The Blue Bulls Company (Pty) Ltd on Friday confirmed that efforts to keep Vodacom Bulls locks Jacques du Plessis and Flip van der Merwe in Pretoria have been unsuccessful, with both players taking up contracts in France at the end of the domestic 2015 season.

Du Plessis has signed a two year deal with Montpellier and Van der Merwe will join Clermont, also after the completion of the ABSA Currie Cup competition.

The BBC’s High Performance Manager, Xander Janse van Rensburg said talks with both players have been ongoing for some time.

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ToulonCell C SharksToulon (5) 10 / 12 (9) Sharks (Final Score)

Toulon and the Cell C Sharks did battle in a friendly cross-hemisphere match prior to the

Super Rugby season at Stade Mayol, Toulon at 22:00 SA Time (21:00 French Time, 20:00 GMT).

This was the live match discussion Article.

The match was broadcast LIVE on SuperSport 1 & CSN on TV in SA.

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Rory Kockott

Rory Kockott

South African-born scrumhalf Rory Kockott will make his first start for France in their Six Nations opener against Scotland on Saturday in Paris, coach Philippe Saint-Andre announced on Wednesday.

After three substitute appearances for Les Bleus during the November internationals, the 28-year-old Castres half-back will line-up alongside Camille Lopez, who starts at flyhalf.

It will be the 14th different starting half-back pairing aligned by Saint-Andre since taking over the France reins three years ago – in November, Toulon scrumhalf Sebastien Tillous-Borde started all three Tests but was suffering from a knee injury in the build up to the Six Nations.

“It’s logical (to pick Kockott) given our organisation in November,” said Saint-Andre.

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