As teams are making their way back into pre-season ready for yet another year of rugby we take a look at the big name moves and attempt to formulate some kind of team out of those players on the move this summer. With the French wage cap having just been increased to €10m its fair to say this really has been silly season in the transfer market.
Props have been in extremely high demand this year with the likes of Brian Mujati, Paul Doran-Jones and Gethin Jenkins not even able to claim a spot on the bench in our team. The same story is true in the back three with the likes of Digby Ioane, Zane Kirchner and Carlin Isles all missing out whilst James O’Connor and Kurley Beale have deliberately been missed out as they are still yet to confirm their next destinations. Anyway, here is our full XV and bench transfer rugby team…
1 Alex Corbisiero
After joining up with the Lions as a replacement for the injured Cian Healy, Corbisiero made his mark on the tour this summer dominating at scrum time and even getting his name on the score sheet in the final test. He has huge boots to fill at Northampton Saints with Soane Tonga’uiha moving on this summer but if he can remain injury free then he looks set to be a fantastic addition to Jim Mallinders squad.
2. Chiliboy Ralepelle
Bulls hooked Chiliboy Rapelle is set to hook up with Toulouse this season. The 22 times capped Springbok hooker will add extra power to the Toulouse front row and provide a strong running option in the loose.
3. Nicolas Mas
At 33 French tighthead Mas may not have too many more years left in the game but his experience and powerful scrummaging will act as a great ballast for the already powerful Montpellier pack. Although not the biggest tighthead in world rugby, Mas’ 49 caps for France show just how highly regarded he is in the game
4. Ali Williams
All Blacks lock Ali Williams has delayed his retirement plans to hook up with French Top 14 giants Toulon for the 2013/14 season. The 77 times capped New Zealander will help replace the loss of experienced lock Nick Kennedy.
5. Richie Gray
Despite a poor season at new club Sale giant Scottish lock Richie Gray was still takes to Australia as part of the Lions squad were he made an impact in the mid-week team. Less than a year on from his move South of the border he is on the road again, this time to Top 14 Champions Castres where his giant frame should make an impact in the French league.
6. Dan Lydiate
Despite being injured for much of last season, Lions coach Warren Gatland had enough faith in Lydiate to take him on tour and play him in the second two tests. His hard tackling and non-nonsense work at the breakdown is sure to see him become a fans favourite at Racing Metro.
7. Matt Kvesic
After a real breakthrough at Worcester Warriors last season Kvesic was called up to the England tour of Argentina as the only specialist openside and took his opportunity with both hands. A move to Gloucester is sure to see him challenging England captain Chris Robshaw for the 7 shirt ahead of the World Cup in 2015.
8. Billy Vunipola
Another back-rower to have made a name for himself on England’s tour of Argentina, a six minute hat trick in the opening game of the tour ensured he instantly made his mark on the international scene. Joining up with his brother Mako at Saracens this summer Vunipola looks set to push hard for a starting place in the England team this season.
9. Kahn Fotuali’i
Believed by some to be the best scrum half in the World at present, Samoan Fotuali’i has made a huge impact in his two seasons at the Ospreys and looks set to carry his quick thinking and running rugby style to new side Northampton Saints. The addition of Fotuali’i could be key to helping add a spark to the Saints backline and get them playing consistent attacking rugby.
10. Johnny Sexton
Although somewhat of a reluctant mover, Lions fly-half Johnny Sexton is set to become one of the highest paid players in France this summer when he joins up with new club Racing Metro. The Irish playmaker should help to get Racing’s impressive backline moving and get them over the gainline on a consistent basis.
11. George North
Giant Welsh wing was arguably the star of the Lions tour this summer making hard yards, huge tackles and competing at the breakdown. Although another reluctant mover, North looks set to make a huge impact at new club Northampton Saints were he should be able to provide them with a constant threat down the wing.
12. Jamie Roberts
What a year for Jamie Roberts, qualifying as a doctor, winning the 6 Nations and a Lions tour and playing on stage with the Manic Street Preachers. He has now topped it all off with a move to Paris to link up with new club Racing Metro. His hard running style is sure to make an impact on the Top 14 this season.
13. Jonathan Joseph
Joseph is set to link up with Bath this summer after a victorious tour of Argentina with England. His pace and guile is sure to add an extra dimension to the Bath midfield were he could link up with England colleague Kyle Eastmond to devastating effect.
14. Bryan Habana
The 86 times capped Springbok flyer has scored 250 test points and is possibly the fastest man in rugby. In Habana, Toulon have got themselves an absolute Stormer, he will guarantee them a regular hall of points and should make his mark on the Top 14 this season.
15. Drew Mitchell
Another class international act, Mitchell’s 150 points in 63 tests means he will be yet another key addition in Toulons already impressive attacking armoury. Mitchell once again showed his class against the Lions this summer providing a stand-out performance for the Warratahs as they lost to the touring team.
16. Scott Lawson
The Scottish hooked has recently found his way back into the Scotland set-up ahead of his move to newly promoted Newcastle Falcons this summer. His experience is sure to be invaluable as the Falcons look to retain their top flight status this term.
17. Soane Tonga’uiha
The giant Tongan prop has been a revelation since his move to Northampton and looks set to once again make an impact at new club Racing Metro. Whilst he is renowned for his scrummaging ability, Tonga’uiha is also more than capable of scoring a couple of tries having recorded 85 points for Northampton.
18. Martin Castrogiovanni
98 times capped Italian tighthead Castrogiovanni has finally been able to confirm his move to Heineken Cup Champions Toulon were he will link up with an already impressive front row. His experience and scrummaging technique combined with his flowing locks and shaggy beard are sure to see him become a cult favourite at the club.
19. Jim Hamilton
Scotland lock Jim Hamilton was at the heart of everything his country did well in this years Six Nations and was incredibly unfortunate not to receive a Lions call-up this summer. A powerful enforcer not afraid of winding up the opposition will help add grit to the Montpellier pack and may even result in a few turnovers.
20. Facundo Isa
21. Tavis Knoyle
The young Welsh scrum half has already been capped 11 times by Wales and looks set to make a push for a regular start with new club Gloucester were he will link up with old Scarlets boss Nigel Davies. Knoyle will join a raft of young talent at Kinhsholm were the club will once again look to make an assault on the Premiership’s top 4.
22. Morné Steyn
45 times capped Springbok Morné Steyn has recorded 530 points for his country and has become renowned for his howitzer of a right boot. Capable of knocking kicks over from long distance he has achieved numerous records for both club and country and looks to bring a consistent source of points to Stade Français this season.
23. Rene Ranger
After his impressive return to the All Blacks set up this summer, Ranger squeezes into the final spot in the team ahead of a number of other top class players. In the series against France this summer he proved exactly what the All Blacks will be missing when he heads over to France to join up with Montpellier.