The first players in an innovative exchange agreement signed in May by Scottish Rugby and the French fourth tier club Stade Nicois have been revealed.
However, Scottish Rugby has refuted claims made on a French website that the scheme could lead to full ownership of the Nice-based club by a Scottish consortium, backed by the governing body, before the start of the season.
Nice president, Patrice Prevot, was reported last week to have said that Scottish Rugby had invested money in the French club, and in return would place several players with them each season.
Describing the set-up, Prevot said: “The SRU were looking for partners on the continent. The discussions took 13 months. It’s a long-term arrangement. The Scottish Rugby Union decided to invest as a major partner alongside the Allianz Group which has just extended its partnership for five years. In addition to the financial support, which matches that of Allianz, the SRU will make available young internationals looking to develop, as well as experienced players. The partnership should also make it possible to form links and operate exchanges.”
The first signing under the arrangement was Peter Murchie, the former Glasgow Warriors full back whose contract with the Scotstoun-based side was not renewed at the end of last season. The 31-year-old had spent eight years at the club and during that time earned three Scotland caps.
Others confirmed to be joining Nice are Scottish rugby contracted age group caps Josh Henderson, who will vie with Italian international Luciano Orquero for the stand off berth, and back row Bruce Flockhart – both members of the Glasgow Warriors academy – as well as London Scottish hooker David Cherry, who has spent the past three seasons with the Exiles. Another making the switch is another back rower, Tyrone Holmes, who played for Newcastle Falcons last year after being released by Glasgow Warriors, having earned a Scottish cap against South Africa in 2014.
Nice Rugby has existed in its current form since 2012 and currently operates in Federale Division 2 with a budget of €1.4 million for the coming season. The club’s stated ambition is to reach Pro D2, the fully professional second division, by 2021. A Scottish Rugby spokesman stated that the ambition of the club to progress through the divisions and the opportunity for players to operate in a different environment were more important than Nice’s current level.
He likened the arrangement to existing tie-ups elsewhere, saying, “We are looking to place players into a variety of different environments, at different levels. For younger players it is to broaden their experiences and for those reaching the end of their careers to provide pathways into coaching. In return we can provide opportunities in Scotland for players from other countries. Our arrangement with Stade Nicois is consistent with our recent activity with Western Force in Australia, Western Province in South Africa, Lille and London Scottish.”
Women’s international Jade Konkel joined Lille, while Edinburgh lock Lewis Carmichael spent time on loan with Western Force.
Claims in the French media that the terms of the deal will also allow Scotland’s sevens squad to use the facilities in Nice as its training base have also been dismissed as inaccurate by Scottish Rugby which has no plans to change existing arrangements at Oriam and Ravenscraig.
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