Former Edinburgh flanker Scott Newlands has enjoyed a successful season with French ProD2 champions Oyonnax. But the 27-year-old is currently facing an anxious wait to learn whether he will be able to remain at the club.
Oyonnax have dominated throughout the campaign and earned the one automatic promotion spot with three matches to spare, securing a berth in the top flight for the first time in the club’s history. They received the trophy on Saturday before posting a 38-3 win over Beziers. With the title wrapped up several weeks before the end of the league programme, coach Christophe Urios has been able to strengthen his squad in anticipation of making the step up.
Newlands, who spent four seasons with Edinburgh after joining from Border Reivers, wants to extend his stay in France to a third year, and Urios is equally keen to retain the services of the Scotland A and sevens international.
“He is a player who is important to our project who wants to stay and whom we want to keep,” said Urios of Newlands. “Our strategy consists of improving the group, while preserving the team spirit. It’s all about keeping the framework and reinforcing it with experience and talent.”
However, the rules concerning foreign players in the Top 14 are stricter than those in the second tier. The regulations governing ‘joueurs issus de la formation française’, or JIFF, dictate that 60 per cent of the squad must be French or have come through the club’s academy system.
In planning for life in the top flight, Urios has allowed 13 men to leave the club and has made 14 signings, as well as keeping other non-French players who operate in key positions. He believed he would also have Newlands available for what promises to be a tough campaign at the higher level against the big spenders.
However, he has been forced to revise that view after scrum -half target Mathieu Loree opted for Grenoble rather than Oyonnax. Urios is now on the hunt for a No. 9 who will satisfy the JIFF rules. Provided he can find someone who fits the bill, he will be able to offer a contract extension to Newlands, who has become a key contributor for the club, playing in all but two of the matches in the current campaign and scoring three tries in the process.