With ALEX DAVIS, LORRAINE MARSDEN and MATTHEW SHAW
TOULOUSE OLYMPIQUE‘s raid of St Helens is set to continue with the capture of Dom Peyroux.
League Express understands the French club will add the back-rower to their squad for 2021 as their recruitment ahead of a Super League push picks up pace.
Joseph Paulo has already agreed to join the club from the Super League champions and he’s set to be joined by his 31-year-old team-mate next year.
Peyroux has gone from scapegoat to unsung hero during his five seasons with Saints, emerging as a pivotal cog under Justin Holbrook.
He hasn’t been as involved under Kristian Woolf, with the emergence of James Bentley limiting him to 12 appearances.
He is now set to continue his career in France under Sylvain Houles, whose squad will also boast the talent of Eloi Pelissier next season.
The French hooker has joined the club from London Broncos for 2021 and will join the likes of Ben Reynolds and Mitch Garbutt at the club next season.
Peyroux had five years in the NRL with Gold Coast Titans and the New Zealand Warriors before making the move to Saints, where he has made over 100 appearances.
Capped 11 times internationally for Cook Islands and Samoa, he is set to add quality to Olympique next year.
LEIGH CENTURIONS are closing in on the signing of forward James Bell.
The 26-year-old had agreed to sign for Toronto Wolfpack but their recent uncertainty has seen the Centurions make a play for the former New Zealand Warrior.
Bell has spent the last two seasons with Toulouse and can play either back-row or loose forward.
He started the 2020 campaign strong, scoring four tries in five games.
Bell was a star performer in New Zealand Warriors’ reserve grade side, which resulted in him captaining New Zealand Maori in 2016.
The year after he made his NRL debut for the Warriors, but only made two first-grade appearances before joining Toulouse in 2019.
They had spotted Bell in the World Cup after he represented Scotland in the 2017 tournament.
Leigh also confirmed the signing of former halfback Ryan Brierley this week, their latest major signing ahead of 2021.
He joins the likes of Blake Wallace, Jamie Ellis and Adam Walker next season.
“It’s a pleasure to be back,” he said.
“Leigh is the club that shaped me and it’s one of my biggest regrets that I wasn’t part of the team which achieved promotion to Super League. That’s a wrong I want to put right by helping them to win promotion.
“There was a big pull for me to come back to Leigh and I wanted it to happen when I was there on loan in 2019. The timing wasn’t right then but now it is and I can’t wait to come back.”
BATLEY BULLDOGS Chairman Kevin Nicholas has warned that if crowds are not allowed back into stadiums when the Championship restarts in 2021, it could have dire consequences for the club.
The Bulldogs were hoping to participate in the Autumn Invitational competition in 2020 but with a lack of uptake and the Covid situation, that idea was scrapped and with cases of coronavirus still on the rise in the region, crowds returning in early next year looks increasingly unlikely.
“If things don’t change, that has pretty dire consequences,” Nicholas said.
“No income from any friendlies then we’re talking about whenever we start the season, if it’s before the 31st March, which I hope it is, there’s going to have to be some games behind closed doors and then what do we do about season tickets.
“We’re asking people to donate back money from last season’s season tickets, we can’t then, in the club’s view, ask them to buy a season ticket if they don’t know whether they will get the 13 games of the season.
“It’s a difficult time, it’s a financial blow for every club and it’s a rugby blow.”
FEATHERSTONE ROVERS coach James Webster is confident his players will return to training in better shape than in previous years, despite not having played the game since March.
With the Government’s original furlough scheme now at an end the club will look at getting the players back into training fairly soon depending on what’s allowable under government restrictions, and Webster doesn’t think they’ll have any catching up to do.
“We’ve not been able to do anything at all with the players until the end of furlough as that was the government rules, but now it’s finished we’ll look at getting them back in for some training,” confirmed Webster.
“The players haven’t trained or played for eight or nine months now but that doesn’t really make it any more difficult to plan the return because coaching is all about being adaptable.
“But from listening to the players and looking at the data they have on their phones from all the running and work that they have done voluntarily they all look to be in pretty good shape.
“They were always looking after themselves anyway because were expecting to play again this year. I think they’ll probably come back in in better than they would after a normal off-season, where they seem to finish playing, go out partying for a month and come back in not the greatest shape.
“The boys will be in a decent shape when we come back in, but what training looks likes in terms of numbers and facilities will be biggest factor.”
BRADFORD BULLS coach John Kear has been delighted to see his squad return to training in the past couple of weeks.
The players have been taking part in two sessions per week, whilst following all the current Coronavirus protocols and for Kear this time together has been invaluable on more than just a playing front.
“We’ve been following all the RFL guidelines and our training base is Covid-secure so it’s been really good to see all the players back,” said Kear.
“There are all excited to be back and be with their pals again. Some have come back in excellent condition and some less so, but that is to be expected.
“They have really appreciated the chance to get a ball in their hands again.
“But it has been as important for their mental wellbeing to be back as well. That has been one of the main reasons we brought them back a bit early, they needed interaction and it’s great to see them back together.
“Its been good for me to get back coaching as well. It certainly gives you a sense of value and purpose when you can get back doing your job.
“With just two sessions we’re seeing each other, but not as much as we used to, but it’s still good seeing everyone and the joy on their faces.
“There has certainly been an upturn in spirits among the guys and the banter is back on the WhatsApp group. That had almost ground to a halt while we were away because we were away from each other for so long, but everyone is bouncing again, which is great to see.”
Meanwhile Ethan O’Hanlon has become the latest member of the reserves team to agree terms with the club for 2021.
LONDON BRONCOS have confirmed that France international Eloi Pelissier has left the club.
The hooker has scored five tries in 28 games over his three years with the Broncos, but has decided to move back to France for family reasons.
“I have loved living in London, it’s such an amazing city,” said Pelissier, who has joined Toulouse.
“I sacrificed a lot for my family during the last three years for my rugby and London Broncos. This year I wanted to bring my family in London but we realised it’s a difficult thing to do, especially in the current climate.
“I’m very very sad but I decided to ask the club for a release and go back to France where we can be a family.
“Thanks everyone. London Broncos will be forever in my heart.”
Elsewhere coach Danny Ward has put his faith in some of the best up-and-coming local talent by handing five of the club’s Academy graduates first-team contracts for 2021.
Jonah Verella, Josh Hodson, Will Blakemore, Rob Oakley and Jacob Jones will all join Ward’s squad for pre-season training in November.
The quintet now means that around three-quarters of the Broncos’ first team squad is home-grown.
“Alongside retaining our out-of-contract first team players, promoting our own Academy graduates was top priority in planning for 2021,” said Ward.
“We believe in producing our own players and a squad made up of over 70 percent home grown lads is something we are immensely proud of.
“It takes a big investment of time and energy to do this, but we have seen the success this brings the club over the years and we’ll continue to do so.
“This is just the start of the next chapter for these lads, there is plenty of hard work ahead, but they have shown the right attributes so far and we look forward to seeing their progress continue.”
SHEFFIELD EAGLES have signed former Hull FC winger Mike Adlard on a one-year deal after plying his trade in the 15-man game with Hull rugby union.
Adlard will join up with his former teammate Connor Bower with the Eagles in 2021.
“Mike has been out of the sport for a couple of years,” Eagles Head Coach, Mark Aston, said.
“He was full-time with Hull before playing at a decent level of rugby union.
“He is another good kid with massive amounts of potential. While being rather big and strong, he has great feet and can play at fullback too.
“He can certainly beat defenders, which is a skill in its own, and it’s great that we can bring another exciting player into the club at this stage.”
“However, he does know that it will take him a while to establish himself.”
Adlard is looking forward to the competition for places in the backline that the Eagles have with senior players like Ryan Millar and Rob Worrincy as well as younger players such as new signing Jack Render.
“It’s always good to have that competition,” Adlard said.
“Even when you think you’re at the top, you have got to keep fighting for your position on the field.
“You’re never sitting back in training as you know you’re not the only person going for that spot.”
SWINTON LIONS have made Widnes Vikings youngster, Jordan Brown, their latest signing for 2021.
Brown, 20, came through the junior ranks with Warrington Wolves before switching to the Vikings and Head Coach, Stuart Littler, knows how much potential Brown has to offer.
“Our squad is really taking shape now and Jordan’s signing adds to the competition for starting shirts.
“He is a good size athlete and can competently cover both the middle and back-row positions up front. Jordan has played in the academy and reserves at Widnes after being part of the Warrington scholarship scheme.
“We are really looking forward to getting to work with Jordan as we see a lot of potential in him.
“He’s another highly promising young talent that meets our recruitment profile.
WHITEHAVEN have fought off competition from a number of clubs to earn the signature of St Helens academy product Sean Croston from Newcastle Thunder.
The 20-year-old came through the ranks at Saints before starting to study at Newcastle University. That move allowed him to join the Thunder Academy team. He was promoted to their first team for the 2020 season but failed to make any first team appearances before the season was cut short.
“Sean is an exceptional talent,” said Haven head coach Gary Charlton.
“He’s young, enthusiastic and looks like he has plenty of ability.
“As soon as I talked to him I knew he was someone that needed to be at Whitehaven. He is going to be fighting for his place against some recognised, senior players but he said that’s the way he likes it. This is a great attitude to have and we are very happy to have him on board.”
OLDHAM have added two more new faces to their ranks with the signings of Liam Kirk from Championship outfit Bradford Bulls and Warrington Wolves Reserves full-back or stand-off Callum Green.
Kirk’s signing sees him link back up with Matt Diskin, who was previously his academy coach at the Bulls, while Green already has a long standing history with the club.
The 21-year-old’s uncle is club legend Neil Roden, who scored 113 tries in 295 appearances for Oldham. It means Green is also related to Neil’s cousin Martin Roden, who played 77 times for Oldham between 2009 and 2011 and then became assistant coach to Tony Benson, taking on the role of caretaker boss near the end of the 2012 campaign before the appointment of Scott Naylor as coach in the autumn of that year.
“Liam was in my academy team at Bradford for a number of years and he’s a terrific forward,” said Diskin.
“Until you work with him you don’t appreciate his quality.
“He’s an experienced, talented forward and I make no secret of the fact that I’ve tried to sign him previously.
“I’m absolutely delighted to get him on board this time and I know he’ll slot easily and comfortably into our squad and do exceptionally well.
“Callum is a young lad with loads of promise. He will obviously have benefited from coming through the Wigan system and then playing at Warrington. He has a lot of pace and he can play in a few positions in the backs.
“Like the other youngsters we’ve signed, he has all his rugby future ahead of him and if he works hard in pre-season I’m sure he’ll take the step-up to Championship rugby with both hands.”
HALIFAX coach Simon Grix is backing the #LetFansIn campaign being pushed across sport.
Growing calls to allow supporters back in grounds to help clubs financially has grown in recent weeks.
Grix has backed those calls and says the return of spectators is paramount to the sport’s future.
“Here at The Shay We’re more than comfortable having more than a 1,000 fans in here,” he said.
“We’ll have the government guidelines at the forefront of our minds and making sure everyone is safe in doing so. But having them back in is paramount for the sport, it just doesn’t feel the same without them.”
DEWSBURY RAMS hooker Sam Day admits he cannot wait to return to training with the club.
As with most clubs, the Rams are waiting for the RFL to give the green light to do so.
And for Day, that can not come soon enough.
“I am very excited to get back,” said Day.
“Rugby has literally been part of my normal routine since I was 17 and I am 26 now. I have never had this much time off from training and rugby before so it’s been really strange.
“It has been nice in a way to have a break but I am definitely ready to get back to it now.
“It’s going to be a long pre-season, but even just about getting back to training with the lads and touching a rugby ball again, which I have hardly done since March,
“I’ll just be so nice to get amongst all that again.”
YORK CITY KNIGHTS Head Coach James Ford believes he has a squad full of players who will set standards, driving York’s progress.
The Knights have noticeably brought in players with both Super League and big-game experience into their squad for 2021 with the likes of Adam Cuthbertson and Ryan Atkins all travelling to North Yorkshire.
“I’m a big believer in the culture of the team,” Ford told Sky Sports’ podcast, Golden Point.
“People set standards and challenge players to get to their standards and they’ve been massive for our transformation as a club. People like Horny (Graeme Horne), Ben Cockayne and Tim Spears and we’ve got some new ones now who will hopefully do the same.
“You can have cultural assassins, ticking away at that environment and you’re not going to get every piece of recruitment right. You’re going to get some that don’t quite fit and sometimes they don’t suit the coat. There’s no magic pill to get your recruitment 100 percent right but we believe, Jon Flatman and I, the more time we put into it, the more chance we have getting it right.”
Former WIDNES VIKINGS player Jamie Durbin has been served with a suspended prison sentence.
Durbin, had previously been issued with a restraining order in June for harassment after attending a relative’s home in Widnes on several occasions over a three-day period asking for both alcohol and money.
However, the 36-year-old has since breached the order, attending the address this month and also back in August.
The former player, who signed for the Vikings in 2005, admitted breaching the restraining order and was handed a 24-week imprisonment suspended for a year at Warrington Magistrates Court.
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