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14 rugby transfers to get excited about ahead of next season

By Neil Fissler
Manu Tuilagi of England is put under pressure by Jordie Barrett of New Zealand during the Autumn International match between England and New Zealand at Twickenham Stadium on November 19, 2022 in London, England. (Photo by Steve Bardens - RFU/The RFU Collection via Getty Images)

Leinster’s signing of Jordie Barrett from the Hurricanes is maybe the standout move in this season’s flurry of rugby transfers.

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Here’s a look at 14 of the biggest rugby transfer stories of the season so far, brought you by the inimitable Neil Fissler.

Owen Farrell: Saracens to Racing 92
Racing has been looking high and low to replace Finn Russell, and they have signed a born winner who loves winning a trophy and will relish the challenge of playing in the Top 14. A massive loss to England and the Premiership.

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Viliame Mata: Edinburgh to Bristol
The Bears pulled off a massive coup when they signed up the Fijian superstar, who was one of the stand performers at the World Cup. He has been brought in to add much-needed bulk to the forwards and will be a nuisance on both sides of the ball.

Louis Lynagh: Harlequins to Benetton
Another player that will feel that he has plenty to prove next season to his current employers who were seemingly content to simply allow him to move away without offering a new deal. He knows his way to the try line and will be a huge asset to Italy and Benetton.

Josh Kemeny: Melbourne Rebels to Saints
He is a player whose career is in danger of losing his way with two serious knee injuries. Kemeny lacks the physicality of Lewis Ludlam, whom he is replacing, but he has pace to burn and looks like a very astute acquisition by Saints.

Waisea Nayacalevu: Toulon to Sale Sharks
The Sharks needed a big-name signing in the centres to cover for the loss of Manu Tuilagi, and the explosive Fiji captain will certainly provide that. A menacing runner will be looking to punch holes in Premiership defences from the first whistle.

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Jordie Barrett: Hurricanes to Leinster
Leinster caused a minor sensation and had their fans salivating when they announced All Black star Barrett was moving to Dublin on a six-month deal later this year. He is guaranteed to draw attention to the URC from around the world.

rugby transfers Jordie Barrett
Jordie Barrett looks on during a Hurricanes Super Rugby training session at McRae Park on January 26, 2024 in Napier, New Zealand. (Photo by Kerry Marshall/Getty Images)

André Esterhuizen: Harlequins to the Sharks
Quins fans almost went into a state of mourning when it was announced that World Cup winner Andre the Giant was returning to South Africa for family reasons. A truly world-class performer who will help to drag the Sharks out of the doldrums.

Sam Spink: Western Force to Saracens
The outside centre headed to Australia when Wasps went out of business, and many will say it’s been the making of him. He was brilliant in his first campaign in Perth and continued to impress this season. He could easily force himself into Steve Borthwick’s thinking quite quickly.

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Guy Pepper: Newcastle Falcons to Bath
England boss Steve Borthwick has already taken note of his destructive defensive displays in his breakthrough season. Pepper, who caught the eye for England A against Portugal, joins a Bath squad that is loaded with some of the best young talent in the land.

Guy Pepper
Guy Pepper of Newcastle Falcons poses for a portrait during the squad photocall for the 2023-2024 Gallagher Premiership Rugby season at Kingston Park on August 23, 2023 in Newcastle upon Tyne, England. (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

Joey Manu: Sydney Roosters – Toyota Verblitz
Raw power and stunning footwork have made Manu a true NRL superstar, but he will need all that more to crack the superior code. He will have the perfect mentor in Sir Steve Hansen the Verblitz director of rugby who took Sonny Bill Williams under his wing when he switched codes.

Kyle Sinckler: Bristol Bears – Toulon
An interesting move for the former England tighthead, who has been seen as one of the best in the world since he broke through under Eddie Jones. Some observers believe Kieran Brooks struggled in France to start with, and he’s arguably better in the scrum.

Giacomo Nicotera: Benetton – Stade Francais
Stade have made a couple of decent signings for next season. The addition of South African full-back Joe Jonas from Biarritz is promising, but landing Italian hooker Giacomo Nicotera, who uses archery to improve the accuracy of his throwing, will add significant depth to the middle of their front row.

Nicolas Martins: Soyaux-Angoulême – Montpellier
One of the stand-out performers from the World Cup will finally get the chance that he fully deserves to play in the Top 14 after learning his trade in the lower divisions. He has proved he can perform on the world stage, so Montpellier should be a doodle.

Giovanni Habel-Kuffner Stade Francais – Bayonne
The Kiwi-born Samoan with a German passport is a big ball-carrying back rower who doesn’t shy away from confrontation. He found himself surplus to requirements in Paris with Yoan Tanga’s imminent arrival, and he is a great playmate for Manu Tuilagi.

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D
Diarmid 10 hours ago
Players and referees must cut out worrying trend in rugby – Andy Goode

The guy had just beasted himself in a scrum and the blood hadn't yet returned to his head when he was pushed into a team mate. He took his weight off his left foot precisely at the moment he was shoved and dropped to the floor when seemingly trying to avoid stepping on Hyron Andrews’ foot. I don't think he was trying to milk a penalty, I think he was knackered but still switched on enough to avoid planting 120kgs on the dorsum of his second row’s foot. To effectively “police” such incidents with a (noble) view to eradicating play acting in rugby, yet more video would need to be reviewed in real time, which is not in the interest of the game as a sporting spectacle. I would far rather see Farrell penalised for interfering with the refereeing of the game. Perhaps he was right to be frustrated, he was much closer to the action than the only camera angle I've seen, however his vocal objection to Rodd’s falling over doesn't legitimately fall into the captain's role as the mouthpiece of his team - he should have kept his frustration to himself, that's one of the pillars of rugby union. I appreciate that he was within his rights to communicate with the referee as captain but he didn't do this, he moaned and attempted to sway the decision by directing his complaint to the player rather than the ref. Rugby needs to look closely at the message it wants to send to young players and amateur grassroots rugby. The best way to do this would be to apply the laws as they are written and edit them where the written laws no longer apply. If this means deleting laws such as ‘the put in to the scrum must be straight”, so be it. Likewise, if it is no longer necessary to respect the referee’s decision without questioning it or pre-emptively attempting to sway it (including by diving or by shouting and gesticulating) then this behaviour should be embraced (and commercialised). Otherwise any reference to respecting the referee should be deleted from the laws. You have to start somewhere to maintain the values of rugby and the best place to start would be giving a penalty and a warning against the offending player, followed by a yellow card the next time. People like Farrell would rapidly learn to keep quiet and let their skills do the talking.

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