Recruitment ahead of the new Top 14 season has been high-profile as ever. Here are ten names to look out for.
Ian Madigan (Bordeaux-Bègles)
Under plenty of pressure to provide UBB with the assured performer at fly-half that they’ve been looking for, after the side troubled the top six last season only to finish in seventh place, albeit securing Champions Cup rugby. The 27-year-old with 30 Tests caps doesn’t lack for experience, and has tasted success with Leinster and Ireland. He might prove to be the most important signing of the lot.
Luke Jones (Bordeaux-Bègles)
Consistently so good for the Rebels during his time in Melbourne, the 25-year-old international lock can offer UBB double-digit tackle counts week in and out, along with an impressive success rate at securing line-out ball. In a league where the set-piece is so important, that makes the acquisition of Jones seem very smart indeed. Classy player.
Rémi Lamerat (Clermont)
Gradually muscling his way into consideration for France, having featured recently in the June tour to Argentina. Lamerat truthfully has the full package – quick feet, power, and speed as well. Making the step up from Castres to Top 14 and Champions Cup contenders Clermont will put him right in the shop window for France boss Guy Novès.
Sisa Waqa (Grenoble)
Grenoble boss Bernard Jackman insinuated this week that Waqa might be the missing piece for the club this season with his speed and power out wide. Unlike other rugby league converts whose lack of Union experiences tends to be a burden, Waqa has been retracing his steps from his youth in the sport and could provide some fireworks.
Victor Vito (La Rochelle)
The type of big-name signing La Rochelle need after back-to-back ninth-place finishes in the Top 14 over the last two seasons. Vito brings not just the obvious high skill-set you’d expect from a Super Rugby winner and World Cup winner, but also real leadership. Arrives at the Stade Marcel-Deflandre with high expectations.
Franco Mostert (Lyon)
Mostert did enough during the 2015 Super Rugby season to alert the attentions of clubs overseas, but he went above and beyond that this year in Super Rugby with a string of outstanding displays, leading to his Test debut in the series against Ireland back in June. He was the sixth-highest tackler in the competition this year too with 155.
Nemani Nadolo (Montpellier)
The biggest move of the lot. Nadolo’s performances in Super Rugby last year, and then at the 2015 Rugby World Cup with Fiji, secured his global status as a superstar of the sport. So strong and yet still so skillful with the ball in hand, his power will fit right in with Montpellier’s game-plan. Don’t be surprised to see him pop up on a few highlight reels.
Steffon Armitage (Pau)
Throughout his time in France when he was rightly hailed as the best flanker on the continent, if Armitage was going anywhere then it was back home to the Premiership to further his international career. Times change though, and Pau’s swoop to bring Armitage into the fold might prove to be the smartest bit of business this year. Still a phenomenal operator over the ball at the breakdown.
Leone Nakarawa (Racing 92)
Much like his Fiji team-mate Nadolo, the towering figure of Nakarawa is a constant offload-producing highlight reel waiting to happen. Fresh from winning gold with the Fiji Sevens side in Rio, Nakarawa at his best was the standout player in the PRO12 with Glasgow Warriors on the way to their 2015 title. A big signing for the defending Top 14 champions.
Liam Gill (Toulon)
International rugby with the Wallabies has never worked out for Gill, stranded behind David Pocock and Michael Hooper and remarkably only winning 15 Test caps in the four years since his debut. Toulon might just be the place for him to thrive. Brilliant over the ball at the ruck, Gill could emulate the achievements of Steffon Armitage in Toulon’s back-row.