Gloucester will lose Mercier to Grenoble

Poor old Gloucester. Currently labouring under the title of "champions without a championship" thanks to the iniquities of the Premiership play-off system, they will soon find themselves without an outside-half into the bargain.

Ludovic Mercier, recruited from Aurillac by Philippe Saint-André a couple of seasons ago and the accumulator of well over 600 points in next to no time, will return to France this summer to spearhead Grenoble's challenge for domestic honours next term. His fellow countryman, the hooker Olivier Azam, is also set to leave the club, with Castres leading the race for his signature.

Nigel Melville, the director of rugby at Kingsholm, has resigned himself to a mini-exodus following months of financial uncertainty, redundancies among the back-room staff and talk of pay cuts among the playing squad. Some players are owed thousands of pounds in bonuses. Mercier, a world-class goal-kicker, was never likely to be short of lucrative offers from his homeland, where the professional clubs are blissfully unrestricted by a salary cap. Neither was Azam, a strong candidate for World Cup duty this autumn.

Grenoble are in an ambitious frame of mind. Promoted last season, they beat the powerful Montferrand to a place in the end-of-term play-offs and still have a puncher's chance of qualifying for the 2003-04 Heineken Cup. With Mercier on board – he watched their match against Agen at the weekend and has signed for two years – and largely affected by World Cup call-ups, they will fancy their prospects of progress.

Should Azam agree terms with Castres, who have had a rough time of it since losing a Heineken Cup semi-final to Munster last spring, he will replace the former national captain Raphael Ibanez in the middle of the front row. Ibanez is being pursued by both Leicester and Harlequins – Leicester's first-choice hooker, Dorian West, is nearing the end of the road, while Quins have already waved farewell to the inspirational Keith Wood – and is believed to favour a spell in England after World Cup duty in Australia.

Whatever the extent of Gloucester's problems, there is a greater feeling of alarm elsewhere in the West Country. The prospective merger between Bath and Bristol, two of the Premiership's bottom three, has prompted a gathering of the clans, with petitions being posted on a variety of websites. Significantly, though, members of the official Bath supporters' club have yet to declare their hand – a sign, perhaps, of their concern at Bath's three-point deficit at the foot of the table.

Suggested Topics
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Drifting and forgotten - turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Our partner charities help veterans on the brink – and get them back on their feet
Putin’s far-right ambition: Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU

Putin’s far-right ambition

Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU
Tove Jansson's Moominland: What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?

Escape to Moominland

What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?
Nightclubbing with Richard Young: The story behind his latest book of celebrity photographs

24-Hour party person

Photographer Richard Young has been snapping celebrities at play for 40 years. As his latest book is released, he reveals that it wasn’t all fun and games
Michelle Obama's school dinners: America’s children have a message for the First Lady

A taste for rebellion

US children have started an online protest against Michelle Obama’s drive for healthy school meals by posting photos of their lunches
Colouring books for adults: How the French are going crazy for Crayolas

Colouring books for adults

How the French are going crazy for Crayolas
Jack Thorne's play 'Hope': What would you do as a local politician faced with an impossible choice of cuts?

What would you do as a local politician faced with an impossible choice of cuts?

Playwright Jack Thorne's latest work 'Hope' poses the question to audiences
Ed Harcourt on Romeo Beckham and life as a court composer at Burberry

Call me Ed Mozart

Paloma Faith, Lana del Ray... Romeo Beckham. Ed Harcourt has proved that he can write for them all. But it took a personal crisis to turn him from indie star to writer-for-hire
10 best stocking fillers for foodies

Festive treats: 10 best stocking fillers for foodies

From boozy milk to wasabi, give the food-lover in your life some extra-special, unusual treats to wake up to on Christmas morning
Phil Hughes head injury: He had one weakness – it has come back to haunt him

Phil Hughes had one weakness – it has come back to haunt him

Prolific opener had world at his feet until Harmison and Flintoff bounced him
'I have an age of attraction that starts as low as four': How do you deal with a paedophile who has never committed a crime?

'I am a paedophile'

Is our approach to sex offenders helping to create more victims?
How bad do you have to be to lose a Home Office contract?

How bad do you have to be to lose a Home Office contract?

Serco given Yarl’s Wood immigration contract despite ‘vast failings’
Green Party on the march in Bristol: From a lost deposit to victory

From a lost deposit to victory

Green Party on the march in Bristol
Putting the grot right into Santa's grotto

Winter blunderlands

Putting the grot into grotto
'It just came to us, why not do it naked?' London's first nude free runner captured in breathtaking images across capital

'It just came to us, why not do it naked?'

London's first nude free runner captured in breathtaking images across capital