Rugby in Brief: Ulster are not chasing McGrath - Anscombe
Leinster breathed a double sigh of relief as speculation surrounding two transfer targets for other clubs cooled – for the short-term at least.
Clermont filled the No 8 slot they had been eyeing up for Jamie Heaslip, while Ulster dismissed speculation rising prop idol Jack McGrath could be about to switch north. Ulster coach Mark Anscombe told the Irish Independent that while new Ireland cap McGrath has become a coveted player, a possible transfer north has "not crossed his desk".
Anscombe confirmed that injury-prone Paddy McAllister has been struck down by hamstring trouble yet again and with Tom Court destined for London Irish next summer, Callum Black remains their only front-line loose-head prop next season.
However, the Ulster coach laughed off speculation McGrath may be earmarked for a provincial switch, even though the IRFU seem keen on not having competing props in the same provincial set-up.
CLERMONT SIGN UP LEE UNTIL 2017
Clermont have clearly been seriously impressed by 'medical joker' Fritz Lee after they snapped up the Samoan back-rower until 2017.
According to the endless ream of Chinese whispers, Clermont are one of an ever-lengthening list of clubs eyeing Jamie Heaslip, but this signing may see them drop down the list of Heaslip's potential suitors.
READ AND HANSEN SCOOP TOP AWARDS
Kieran Read and Steve Hansen have capped the perfect year for the All Blacks after being named IRB Player and Coach of the Year respectively, writes DAVID KELLY.
The duo were long odds-on favourites to scoop the privileged awards after the All Blacks created history by becoming the first country in the professional era to win every game in a calendar year. Predictably, the All Blacks were crowned Team of the Year for the sixth time in eight seasons.
Read is the third New Zealander to be named IRB Player of the Year, following in the footsteps of Dan Carter (2005 and '12) and Richie McCaw (2006, '09 and '10).
Former Irish international hooker Keith Wood won the inaugural award in 2001, although many felt Brian O'Driscoll should have succeeded him in 2009.
There was no Irishman shortlisted this year and no debate either as 28-year-old Read enjoyed a fantastic year and played no small part in ensuring his team went through 2013 with a perfect record.
He edged out Eben Etzebeth (South Africa), Leigh Halfpenny (Wales), Sergio Parisse (Italy) and Ben Smith (New Zealand).
Hansen won the Coach of the Year award for the second year in succession.