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The Rugby Pod names its best-ever Premiership player import

By Liam Heagney
Schalk Brits on 2009 Barbarians duty (Photo by Phil Cole/Getty Images)

With the curtain having fallen last Saturday on the Gallagher Premiership careers of Bristol duo Charles Piutau and Semi Radradra, The Rugby Pod has given its verdict on which player should be named the all-time best-ever player import in the English top-flight.


Piutau, the former All Black who now represents Tonga, still hasn’t confirmed his next move but the Fijian Radradra is heading back to the Top 14 to play for Lyon next season.

Both lined out for the Bears last weekend at Ashton Gate versus Gloucester in the find round of the Premiership and their exits prompted a debate between Jim Hamilton and Andy Goode, the respective ex-Scotland and England internationals, as to who their all-time favourite Premiership import was.

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Goode initially ventured down the Australian route, suggesting Pat Howard was top of his list before he agreed with Hamilton that South African Schalk Brits should be top of the pile. However, the debate ended with a curveball, as Irishman Geordan Murphy was tossed in the mix on the back of his incredible honours as a Leicester player.

It was presenter Andy Rowe who sparked the debate, asking who did Hamilton and Goode think over the years had been the best-ever Premiership import. Here is how their conversation unfolded:

Hamilton: When you go through the achieves and producer Rob hit us with some because he loves his ruggers that much from when he was four years old and watching Francois Pienaar turn out for Saracens. You think that Francois Pienaar, the South African World Cup-winning iconic moment, arguably the most iconic moment in rugby, playing in the Premiership back in the day. We have had some great players. We were chatting about Pat Howard as well.

Goode: Pat Howard, 100 per cent would be the biggest impact. We won it five times, once with him as coach, four times as a player. Coming over from Australia, he had a massive impact. What do you judge the best import on? Is it just their individual ability and then you’re talking Charles Piutau or you’re talking Semi Radradra or Nick Evans as well, another one? Or are you talking about someone that has won a lot of Premierships playing at the top week in and week out? It’s a different conversation, isn’t it? Pat Howard, for me, had a massive impact on my career but also a hell of an import. Nick Evans was unbelievable, only won the Prem once. For me, one of the best imports – you played with him, Jim – Schalk Brits.


Hamilton: For me, I would say Schalk Brits. I’ll tell you why, because of the way he played rugby with a smile on his face and he punched Owen Farrell, I know it wasn’t in the Premiership. But the way that he played rugby, one of the most naturally gifted athletes. I reckon he could have played NFL. As a hooker being able to carry the ball, being able to step. We have had loads. I remember playing with Dan Lyle, for example, from the US Eagles. There have been loads. Martin Castrogiovanni at Leicester, who was a bit of a cult hero. He loved going down and taking a knee so that when he got up everyone cheered. Sebastian Chabal as well at Sale. There are loads if you go through the archives. But for me, because I played with him and the way that he played rugby and because of the general consensus around Schalk Brits, I am going to say him.

Goode: I love the bloke as well, so he wins it.

Rowe: What about your mate Geordie Murphy, played in seven Premiership-winning teams and won two Heineken Cup finals?

Hamilton: I don’t see him as an import.

Goode: He is an import.

Hamilton: Well, I am as well if he is.

Goode: No, Jim, you came from Cov (Coventry). He came over from Ireland when he was about 18 and he lived with Martin Johnson’s parents. One of the most decorated players. Yeah, it’s a shout. Geordan Murphy is a shout.



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