Given the overflow of talent in New Zealand, coupled with the money on offer in Europe, many Kiwis head north to ply their trade. What would be your top New Zealand 23 consisting of players currently playing in Europe? Connor Whittick takes a look at some of the options and puts forward a proposed squad:
- Ben Franks (London Irish). The veteran prop has been plying his trade in the second division of English rugby this year and has impressed for London Irish after joining from the Hurricanes in 2015.
- Corey Flynn (Glasgow Warriors). At the age of 36, Flynn’s playing career must be coming towards an end, but the veteran hooker has impressed in Europe after joining Toulouse in 2014, and will be wearing the Black and White jersey of the Barbarians later this month.
- Ben Tameifuna (Racing 92). The giant prop was called up to the Tonga squad for the 2016 Autumn Internationals after failing to break into the All Blacks set up whilst playing for the Chiefs.
- Mark Reddish (Harlequins). Started for the Highlanders in the memorable 2015 Final of Super Rugby, and has since moved to England to ply his trade for the Harlequins.
- Jeremy Thrush (Gloucester). The former All Black lock has become a fan’s favourite at Kingsholm since signing in 2015 after a 7 year stint with the Hurricanes.
- Mike Fitzgerald (Leicester Tigers) The 30 year old has become an important part of the Leicester pack since his move from the Chiefs in 2015, and has shown his versatility by playing in both the second and back row.
- Brendan O’Connor (Leicester Tigers). Tipped by some to represent England, O’Connor is a mobile loose forward and has performed very well for the Tigers despite some injury setbacks.
- Victor Vito (La Rochelle). A 2 time World Cup winner with New Zealand, Vito has proven his worth with La Rochelle this season with the club flying high at the top of the Top 14
- Jamison Gibson-Park (Leinster). The first Pro 12 player on this list, Gibson-Park has played well for Leinster this year, and many tip him for a place in the Ireland setup in the future, becoming eligible for selection in 2019.
- Dan Carter (Racing 92). Who else? Carter has consistently shone for Racing 92 in the Top 14, scoring 15 points and winning the Man of the Match Award in the 2016 final of the competition.
- Johnny McNicholl (Scarlets). The former Crusader and Canterbury speedster has made it clear that he has international ambitions with Wales in the future, and with his Scarlets side exceeding expectations in the Pro 12 this year many expect McNicholl to find a place in the Welsh backline in the future.
- Jimmy Gopperth (Wasps). Recently nominated for Aviva Premiership player of the year, the versatile back has been nothing short of phenomenal for the Wasps since his move from Leinster.
- Bundee Aki (Connacht). A key member of the Connacht side that won the Pro 12 in 2016, the former Chief shall be representing the Barbarians later this month, and is tipped by some to receive international honours with Ireland in the future.
- Isaia Toeava (Clermont Auvergne), a versatile back and former All Black, Toeava signed for Clermont in 2016 and hasn’t looked back, with his club side seeking to win the European Championship next week.
- Charles Piutau (Ulster). Although he has shown a slight dip in form over the last few months, Piutau has been nothing short of a revelation for Wasps and Ulster since moving to Europe in 2015. Many tip the flying back to return to New Zealand in time for the 2019 World Cup.
- Rhys Marshall (Munster). The former New Zealand u20 hooker has impressed in the Pro 12 this season since signing from Chiefs last Summer.
- Aled de Malmanche (Stade Francais). The former Chief and All Black can play in any 3 of the front row positions, and is currently in his sixth year at Stade Francais.
- John Afoa (Gloucester). One of the highest paid players in world rugby, Afoa will turn 34 this year, and has had a career many fellow players would envy after winning 35 All Black caps and amassing over 100 Super Rugby games for the Blues.
- Hayden Triggs (Leinster). Triggs has formed a reliable second row partnership with Devin Toner for Leinster in Ireland, with the reliable lock celebrating his 35th birthday earlier this year.
- Nick Williams (Cardiff Blues). The big ball carrying back row forward has played for four different European clubs since joining Munster in 2008.
- Jono Kitto (Leicester Tigers). The 3rd Tiger on this list, Kitto has impressed for Leicester since joining them in 2015, contesting with Ben Youngs and Sam Harrison for the scrum half position at the club.
- Ma’a Nonu (Toulon). An All Black veteran and former 2 time World Cup winner, Nonu is part of a bulky Toulon back line that has performed well in the Top 14 this season.
- Willis Halaholo (Cardiff Blues). A 2016 Super Rugby winner with the Hurricanes, many were surprised after Halaholo’s move to Wales was confirmed, with some tipping the big centre to achieve full All Black honours prior to his move.
Watch every match of the Lions Tour of NZ streaming live on rugbypass.com, home of the best online rugby coverage including news, highlights, previews & reviews, live scores, and more!
Sign up to our mailing list for a weekly digest from the wide world of rugby.Sign Up Now