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Atonio signs new deal as Haddad undergoes surgery

Uini Atonio

France Grand Slam winner Uini Atonio has extended his contract with club side La Rochelle and plans to end his career with the European champions.

The 32-year-old joined the team on the Atlantic Coast back in 2011 when they were still in the French second flight and has now been with them for more than a decade.

During that time, he has broken into the France side, making his debut in 2014. After spells in and out of the team, Atonio has now established himself as first choice under Fabien Galthié.

He started every game of the 2022 Guinness Six Nations for Les Bleus who were crowned champions for the first time in 12 years, winning the Grand Slam in the process.

And Atonio has decided to extend his stay with La Rochelle, where he works under former Ireland fly-half Ronan O’Gara, through to 2025.

He said: “We’ve got a great squad who worked so hard to go and win something that naturally it makes you want to carry on. We have finally won the title that we all wanted last season so that’s really pleasing. I hope to stay here until the end of my career, first I need to get to 2025 (laughing).”

While it was good news for Atonio, there was a blow for teammate Matthias Haddad, the back-rower who broke into the side last season.

A world champion with France Under-20s while playing up two age groups, Haddad forced his way into La Rochelle’s starting side at the end of last season and earned a call-up for France’s tour of Japan in the summer.

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A post shared by Matthias Haddad-Victor (@matthias_haddad)

He revealed on Instagram that he has undergone knee surgery however, and faces three months on the sidelines as he recovers.

Haddad did not get a cap on the Japan tour and may now have to wait until the 2023 Guinness Six Nations for the opportunity to make his France debut.