BERNARD JACKMAN WILL have the services of two new high-quality inside backs for his first season as head coach of Grenoble in the Top 14.
The former Ireland and Leinster hooker will be promoted from his current role as defence and collisions coach during the summer, and will plan for the 2014/15 campaign with Jonathan Wisniewski and Jackson Willison in mind.
French out-half Wisniewski will join the club from Racing Métro, where the arrival of Jonathan Sexton and his own injury struggles have pushed the 28-year-old out of Laurent Labit and Laurent Travers’ first-team plans.
Last season, Wisniewski was integral in saving Racing’s campaign, guiding them on a 10-game winning streak to secure Heineken Cup qualification. The former Toulouse academy playmaker is an excellent goal-kicker and has strong tactical appreciation skills.
Joining Wisniewski in the Isére region will be Kiwi center Willison, who is part of the Auckland Blues’ squad for their 2014 Super Rugby campaign. The 25-year-old will arrive in Grenoble upon completion of that competition, at the beginning of August.
The seven-times capped Maori All Black started seven times for the Blues in Super Rugby in 2013, scoring one try. Willison spent the previous fours years in the Chiefs’ set-up, making a total of 13 starts and crossing the whitewash no less than six times.
Willison in action for the New Zealand U19 side in 2007. PETER MORRISON/AP/Press Association Images.
In further good news for Grenoble, impressive Fijian winger Alipate Ratini has extended his contract with the club until 2015, with the option of a further year. The former sevens specialist has been excellent in the last month or so, having taken some time to settle in France after joining at the start of the season.
The 22-year-old possesses supreme speed and has been clocked at 10.7 second over 100 metres. Ratini’s most important try for Grenoble so far was the intercept effort that helped them to a shock win in Toulon earlier this month.
Meanwhile, speculation linking the club with a move for Toulon halfback Frédéric Michalak has proven unfounded.
Grenoble are currently sixth in the Top 14, inside the play-off places. They have used the Amlin Challenge Cup to expose fringe squad members and academy prospects to first-team rugby, leaving them with one win in five ahead of this evening’s clash with Bayonne.