Here are your rugby morning headlines for Wednesday, January 3.
Billy Vunipola ‘in talks’ over a lucrative move to Japan
England star Billy Vunipola is in talks to join Gareth Anscombe’s Suntory Sungoliath, according to The Sun. Daily mail.
The 31-year-old was previously linked with a move to the Tokyo side, but instead signed a contract extension with Premiership champions Saracens. But he hasn’t had the playing time he wanted since the World Cup ended and he could look to Asia for his next move.
Many players are choosing the Land of the Rising Sun thanks to the lucrative deals here. Welsh star Anscombe is one of them. The Welsh Flyers remain under contract in Japan, although Suntory Sungoliath canceled its registration for the Japan League One season after the team underwent surgery.
Japan’s season runs until May, with Anscombe aiming to return in time to play a good part of the season. Whether Vunipola will join him and Liam Williams in Japan remains to be seen.
Dupont during practice Saturday
France captain Antoine Dupont will today take part in the first day of rugby sevens training ahead of the Paris Olympics, the French Rugby Federation has announced.
The talisman announced in November that he would miss the upcoming Six Nations to switch to the sevens and represent his country at their home Olympics this summer. There is a possibility he could also miss the 2025 Championships, with a move to Japan rumored to be on the table after the Olympics.
Dupont will join 16 other sevens players on Wednesday at the national Marcoussis center ahead of his two world events in Vancouver and Los Angeles in February and March respectively. He will then return briefly to Toulouse at the end of the season, before moving back to the Sevens program in time for the Olympics in July.
He previously told BBC Radio 5 Live that he was “excited but a bit scared” about the big move, adding: “I’m going to have a very busy year, but I love it and I am very excited.”
When announcing the switch, he said: “For all sports fans, the Olympic Games are legendary. It is possible to hold such a sporting event in FranceThis is going to be a great party.”
Barclay clarifies ‘truck’ comment
Former Scotland international John Barclay has sought to clarify comments he made after branding the sight of a lorry during the Ospreys’ United Rugby Championship clash with Cardiff created a ‘mockery of the league’.
The former Scarlett defender made the claim after posting an image of people watching the Ospreys’ 27-21 win in Bridgend on the back of a lorry. Posting an image of the truck on the back of a series of posts, Barclay said: “This is Ospreys vs Cardiff. It makes a mockery of the league.”
However, the truck was actually used for a singer to perform before the game, and another was used as a jersey museum at Brewery Field.
Some fans felt Barclay’s comments were harsh, with one user responding: “A pre-match bandstand which some supporters jumped on and then were quickly asked to leave make a mockery of the league? I think wasting time traveling across continents could be a shame.” a safer case for that time.”
Another replied: “Not a place to stand. Temporary structure for a band.. These comments are unfair to Bridgend and the Ospreys.”
After facing some backlash, Barclay wrote on the platform Xreplied: “A couple of points to clarify my point: 1. I watched the match. It was a good match. 2. The game is in trouble and needs sponsorship. 3. The sponsor needs to see the match play in the best shape for investment 4. Playing on a sub-standard field with a truck behind is not the best game.”
Bristol signs Fiji star Mata
Bristol have announced the signing of Fiji and Edinburgh striker Viliame Mata.
Mata, who scored for Fiji against England in the World Cup quarter-finals in October, will move to Bristol for the 2024-25 season. The 32-year-old has made over 100 appearances for Edinburgh since joining them in 2016.
Bristol rugby director Pat Lam said: “Viliame is one of the strongest and most exciting back row players in the game, so we are delighted to strengthen our squad with a world-class player like him next season. Sign up to our Wales online rugby WhatsApp service here.
“His performances as a center forward for Edinburgh, and at the recent Rugby World Cup in France for Fiji, demonstrated his experience and ability at the highest level.”