Balshaw set for Biarritz switch
April 26, 2009
Balshaw is the latest name to look across the English Channel for his latest move © Getty Images
Gloucester winger Iain Balshaw has become the latest English player to secure a move to France after signing a two-year deal with Top 14 side Biarritz.
The 30-year-old, capped 35 times by England, joins a growing list of high-profile names to opt for a lucrative switch from the Guinness Premiership and is unlikely to be the last with fellow Rugby World Cup winner Jonny Wilkinson reportedly on the verge of a move across the English Channel.
Amongst those Premiership stars set to grace the Top 14 next season are James Haskell and Tom Palmer (both Stade Francais), Riki Flutey (Brive), Shaun Perry (Brive), Joe El Abd (Toulon), Kris Chesney (Toulon), Ayoola Erinle (Biarritz), Tom May (Toulon) and Jamie Noon (Brive).
Injury-blighted Balshaw, who had been linked with a move to Top 14-bound Racing Metro 92, has secured an early release from Kingsholm after Biarritz agreed to pay a transfer fee and the former British & Irish Lions international will be joined by Clermont Auvergne winger Fabien Alexandre whose signature was also confirmed on Sunday.
Rugby Football Union concern at the player drain from English rugby's top flight led to a veiled warning that moves abroad could jeopardise future international honours. However, with Balshaw, who was last capped during the 2008 Six Nations, failing to claim a place in Martin Johnson's Elite Player Squad last year a move to France held no such fear.
Biarritz, French champions in 2002, 2005 and 2006, are currently placed fifth in the Top 14 table and have missed out on the semi-final play-offs but are on course for automatic Heineken Cup qualification.
Balshaw is unlikely to be the only player to leave Kingholm after another under-performing season. Olly Barkley's return to his former club Bath could be confirmed today, with ex-England centre Anthony Allen poised to join Leicester and fly-half Ryan Lamb reportedly on his way to London Irish.