Move over Jonny, Bakkies and Juan Martín, there’s a new bunch of Galacticos in Toulon.
The club from the Côte d’Azur have been making waves once again with their recruitment this season, as they currently battle near the bottom of the Top 14 and seek to quickly bounce back to trophy-hunting in both domestic and European competitions.
Owner Mourad Boudjellal is not one for subtlety and his aggressive pursuit of new recruits for next season has already borne fruit.
On Thursday evening, the club announced the signings of Eben Etzebeth (RPI – 90) for two years and Nehe Milner-Skudder (65) for three years, with Etzebeth joining after the 2019 Rugby World Cup and Milner-Skudder arriving in the south of France as early as June 2019.
Milner-Skudder will join Julian Savea (78), Josua Tuisova (77) and Rhys Webb (80) in the Toulon back line, all of whom are under contract for the 2019/20 season, whilst French international half-back Baptiste Serin (77) has also been signed. Malakai Fekitoa (74) may be one of the players sacrificed, with the former All Black in the last year of his deal and currently linked with Gallagher Premiership side Wasps, although if terms on an extension could be reached, it would see him link up with two of his former All Black teammates.
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As for Etzebeth, he will line up alongside Liam Messam (82), Christopher Tolofua (68) and, if reports are to be believed, Sam Whitelock (87) in the new-look Toulon pack next year, whilst Facundo Isa (81) is in the final year of his current contract. Toulon are also believed to be eyeing up some further front row reinforcements.
In a slight twist from the previous and first Galactico era at Toulon, the club are also building around a number of key French players, with Mathieu Bastareaud (80) continuing to play a significant role for the side, as do Charles Ollivon (72), despite injury affecting his Toulon career to date, and Stéphane Onambele (68) in the back row.
Hugo Bonneval (68), Xavier Chiocci (77), Raphaël Lakafia (75) and Romain (76) and Sébastien Taofifénua (66) are some of the French internationals who have been running out at the Stade Mayol, to varying degrees of influence, recently.
The club have also committed to Anthony Belleau (73) at 10, a fly-half that has been with the club since he was 18 and brings some much-needed stability at a club which regularly has a large turnover in personnel.
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