Rugby Union: Tyneside link for Castaignede

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So many of the French international side are now being linked with moves to Courage league clubs that the team plane from Heathrow to Paris may be half empty when the Tricolores fly home after their Five Nations match at Twickenham on Saturday week, writes Chris Hewett.

Yesterday, Thomas Castaignede, the impish little centre from Toulouse, was linked with Newcastle in an authoritative French sports paper. The 22-year-old engineering undergraduate has sounded out the possibility of continuing his studies at Durham University and is understood to be close to signing a four-year deal.

Other leading Frenchmen on the transfer grapevine include Abdel Benazzi, the loose forward from Agen, and Sebastien Viars, the Brive full-back. Both are being pursued by Wasps. Harlequins are said to be interested in Olivier Merle, the lock from Grenoble, while Bristol and Gloucester are said to have approached the Dax flanker Olivier Magne and his club-mate Ugo Mola, a right wing, respectively.

Over the border from Newcastle, a new Scottish Rugby Union management structure will include David Murray, the chairman of Rangers FC who has been drafted in as a consultant.

Ian McLauchlan, the "Mighty Mouse" of Scottish front-row play and a legendary Lion of the 1970s, will chair a new Business and Development Board and the SRU has pulled in further commercial expertise in the august shape of Sir William Purves, chairman of Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank Corporation Holdings, and Dr George Mathewson, chief executive of the Royal Bank of Scotland.

An unnamed Springbok player has tested positive for the use of a banned substance, it was announced yesterday by the South African Rugby Football Union.