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Done deals: Comings and goings in the Top...

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TOP 14    

Done deals: Comings and goings in the Top 14 transfer market

The new Top 14 season kicks off on August 19. Which is just seven weeks away. Time is, therefore, short for those few remaining transfer deals to be signed, sealed and delivered in time for the start of the new campaign.

While rumours still abound about the French futures (or not) of Johan Goosen (really), Marvin O’Connor, and a number of other players, here’s how the clubs currently stack up, and a rundown of the key signings.

AGEN

Agen came late to the transfer-market party, only ensuring Top 14 rugby next season with a ProD2 play-off final win over Montauban in May. They are granted a little extra time to bring in players – but, on the whole, they’re picking up what’s left behind by everyone else. They’ve done well to grab the experienced Ricky Januarie from La Rochelle, as well as the late-availability Akapusi Qera, who was cruelly dumped from Montpellier at the club’s end-of-season barbecue.

IN — Mieres (fly-half, Dax), Cedaro (second row, La Rochelle), Januarie (scrum half, La Rochelle), Lucas Tolot (wing, Montauban), Loris Tolot (fullback, Montauban), Jammes (hooker, Grenoble), Qera (back row, Montpellier), Bosch (hooker, Jaguares), Rubio (scrum half, Narbonne), Salawa (winger, Mont-de-Marsan), Farré (back row, Albi), Bazadze (prop, Montpellier), Ngauamo (hooker, Mont-de-Marsan), Phelipponneau (prop, Vannes), De Marco (second row, Oyonnax), Tanga-Mangene (back row, Castres), Metge (fullback, Oyonnax), Butler (prop, La Rochelle).

OUT — Francis (fly half, Grenoble), Hollinshead (fly half, Coca Cola West Red Sparks), Darbo (scrum half, Montauban), Tau (back row, Perpignan), Vaquin (back row, retired), Baget (back row, retired), Demotte (second row, La Rochelle), Tadjer (hooker, Brive), Paris (Castres), Nnomo (prop, Marmande), Dufour (hooker, Bordeaux), Decron (centre, Bordeaux), Cadiou (scrum half, Montauban), Bouvier (fly half, Carcassonne), Tardieu (fullback, Colomiers), Vergnon (second row, Valence d’Agen), Margveliani (prop, Valence d’Agen), Soulan (fly half, Dijon), Morlay (hooker, not retained), M’Bonyo (back row, not retained), Cirikisuva (back row, not retained), Gal (back row, not retained), Fanals (back row, not retained), Deschamps (wing, pas conservé), Tongia (fullback, not retained)

BORDEAUX

The drawn-out exit of ex-head coach Raphael Ibanez was the story of another sputtering season at Bordeaux – though the departures of Adam Ashley-Cooper, Lionel Beauxis, Ian Madigan and Steven Kitshoff are also worthy of mention. The recruitment team has avoided courting really big names, but South African Tian Schoeman and New Zealander Fa’asiu Fuata’i add a dash of southern hemisphere glamour

IN — Ravai (prop, Aurillac), Pélissié (hooker, Aurillac), Gayraud (second row, Bayonne), Houston (back row, Queensland Reds), Diaby (back row, Grenoble), Schoeman (fly half, Bulls), Naqalevu (centre, Dax), Fuatai (fullback, Otago), Riva (centre, return from loan at Angoulême), Dufour (hooker, Agen), Vigne (back row, Béziers), Roumat (back row, Biarritz), Woki (back row, Massy), Decron (centre, Agen).

OUT — Kitshoff (prop, Stormers), Auzqui (prop, Grenoble), Botha (second row, Perpignan), Palmer (second row, not retained), Madaule (back row, Toulouse), Saili (back row, Pau), Audy (scrum half, Oyonnax), Madigan (fly half, Bristol), Beauxis (fly half, Lyon), Ashley-Cooper (wing, Kobelco Steelers), Vakacegu (wing, Biarritz), Buttin (fullback, Lyon), Bruté de Rémur (hooker, loaned to Carcassonne), Requet (second row, Montauban), Labouteley (second row, Perpignan), Edwards (back row, Provence), Wrampling (back row, Massy), Waqaliva (centre, Aurillac), Tuwai (wing, Aurillac), Pilati (fullback, Dax).

BRIVE

Brive fans knew that they would one day have to cope without inspirational captain Arnaud Mela. The 37-year-old called time on his career at the end of last season, and has taken up a coaching role at Albi. Sadly for Brive, he has tempted Patrick Toetu, Will son of Gary Whetton, Lomualito Tafili, Swan Cormenier and Gymael Jean-Jacques to join him.

More positively, Félix Le Bourhis has joined from Bayonne, and Florian Cazenave has returned from enforced exile in Italy, after French rugby authorities finally rescinded a law that prevented him from playing while wearing protective goggles.

IN — Johnston (prop, Worcester), Brugnaut (prop, Racing 92), Puafisi (prop, Glasgow), Leleimalefaga (prop, Worcester),Tadjer (hooker, Agen), Lagrange (second row, La Rochelle), Herjean (back row, Narbonne), Marques (scrum half, Toulouse), Cazenave (scrum half, Reggio), Le Bourhis (centre, Bayonne), Romanet (wing, Lyon), Benjamin (hooker, La Rochelle).

OUT — Lavergne (prop, loaned to Angoulême), Pointud (prop, Toulouse), Toetu (prop, Albi), Buys (prop, Oyonnax), Ribes (hooker, retired), Mela (second row, retired, Albi staff), Whetton (back row, Albi), Iribaren (scrum half, Racing 92), Péjoine (scrum half, retired), Cabannes (centre, Mont-de-Marsan), Tuatara-Morrison (centre, Colomiers), Radikedike (wing, not retained), Steenkamp (second row, not retained), Tafili (prop, Albi), Cormenier (prop, Albi), Gymael Jean-Jacques(hooker, Albi), Escorne (hooker, not retained), Brayer (back row, Mont-de-Marsan), Konaté (back row, not retained), Delord (scrum half, Lyon), Queyrel (wing, not retained).

CASTRES OLYMPIQUE

Losing Antoine Dupont to Toulouse was a shock to fans, but coach Christophe Urios is in consolidation mode, so Castres have been relatively quiet in the transfer market certainly compared to the last couple of seasons. He’s confident in the balance of his squad, and is just tinkering. Young out-half Yohan Le Bourhis shows plenty of promise at 10, while Taylor Paris, from Agen, has been brought in to take some of the line-breaking, try-scoring pressure off David Smith out wide.  

IN —  Radosavljevic (scrum half, Clermont), Clermont (prop, Carcassonne), Domenech (scrum half, Carcassonne), Le Bourhis (fly half, Biarritz), Batlle (wing, Grenoble), Paris (wing, Agen), Firmin (hooker, Dax), Gerbaud (fullback, La Rochelle).

OUT — Mach (hooker, retired), Dupont (scrum half, Toulouse), Seron (scrum half, Carcassonne), Agulla (wing, Hindu), Fontaine (centre, Colomiers), Grolleau (prop, Lavaur), Sentenac (prop, Angoulême), Hannoyer (second row, loaned to Dax), Tanga-Mangene (back row, Agen), Reggiardo (scrum half, Aurillac), Icart (fly half, Vannes), Javaux (fly half, not retained)

CLERMONT

Another club with a quiet run through the transfer market. The prospect of Rabah Slimani and Davit Zirakashvili packing down together will send more than just shivers down opposition front rows everywhere, as coach Franck Azema adds more scumming oomph to go with the frankly terrifying backline that will from time to time feature all of David Strettle, Nick Abendanon, Wesley Fofana, Morgan Parra, Remi Lamerat and Camille Lopez.

IN —  Slimani (prop, Stade Français), Allison (back row, returned from loan to  Aurillac), Uhila (prop, Hurricanes), Laidlaw (scrum half, Gloucester), Betham (centre, Leicester), Falatea (prop, Colomiers), Vili (centre, Brive), Grosso (wing, Castres)

OUT — Ric (prop, Lyon), Domingo (prop, Pau), Debaty (prop, Oyonnax), Bardy (back row, Montpellier), Radosavljevic (scrum half, Castres), Stanley (centre, Pau), Planté (wing, Pau), Svimonishvili (prop, not retained), Rude (hooker, Aurillac), L. Lee (back row, Aurillac), Vaz (back row, Aubenas), Sanga (scrum half, Montpellier), Defrance (fly half, Mont-de-Marsan), Fuala’au (wing, not retained), Le Huby (fullback, not retained).

LA ROCHELLE

La Rochelle will look to follow up their stunning 2016/17 season with more of the same. (Now – temporarily – former) All Black scrum-half Tawera Kerr-Barlow is the clear marquee-signing this year. He’ll have a friend at the base of the scrum in Victor Vito, while there will be no language barrier to worry about with either Brock James and ex-Worcester man Ryan Lamb at 10.

IN —  Orioli (hooker, Toulon), Lamboley (second row, Toulouse), Demotte (second row, Agen), Kerr-Barlow (scrum half, Chiefs), Lamb (fly half, Worcester), Doumayrou (centre, Stade Français), Sinzelle (wing, Stade Français), Bourgarit (hooker, Auch), Jolmes (second row, Grenoble), Alldritt (back row, Auch).

OUT — Seneca (prop, Nevers), Lagrange (second row, Brive), Cedaro (second row, Agen), Graham (second row, not retained), Le Bail (scrum half, Vannes), Januarie (scrum half, Agen), Holmes (fly half, Toulouse), Lagarde (centre, Vannes), Rawaca (centre, Bayonne), Raikuna (wing, not retained), Popelin (wing, France Sevens squad), Vaslin (prop, Dijon), Butler (prop, Agen), Benjamin (hooker, Brive), Poences (hooker, Angoulême), Edwards (second row, Aurillac), Picquette (second row, Vannes), Destruels (second row, Angoulême), Bendjaballah (back row, Oyonnax), Fuertes (fly half, Oyonnax).

LYON

The flow of players from Toulon to Lyon has turned into something of a flood. Another two – Jonathan Pelissie and the never-less-than-impressive Liam Gill are the latest to join the ranks. Alexis Palisson and Albi’s Timilai Rokoduru are something of a mix-and-match on the wing – while Jean-Marcellin Buttin will want to kickstart a career that stalled somewhat when he moved from Clermont to Bordeaux.

IN —  Choirat (prop, Bayonne), Gill (flanker, Toulon), Ric (prop, Clermont), Lacombe (hooker, Racing 92), Oosthuizen (second row, Sharks), Roodt (second row, Grenoble), Van der Merwe (second row, Racing 92), Cotte (back row, Bourgoin), Pélissié (scrum half, Toulon), Beauxis (fly half, Bordeaux), Mignot (wing, Grenoble), Palisson (wing, Toulouse), Rokoduru (wing, Albi), Buttin (fullback, Bordeaux), Delord (scrum half, Brive), Dominguez (fly half, Pakuranga), Séguret (centre, Albi), Tarley (wing, Massy), Cotte (flanker, Bourgoin), Weiss (prop, Mulhouse)

OUT — Botha (prop, Biarritz), Mavinga (prop, Newcastle), Navrozashvili (prop, Albi), Ti’i Paulo (hooker, Tasman), Njewel (second row, Oyonnax), Paulino (second row, Narbonne), Privat (second row, retired), Bonnaire (back row, retired) Tison (back row, Carcassonne), Isa (back row, Toulon), Figuerola (scrum half, retired), Durand (scrum half, retired), Potgieter (fly half, Perpignan), Bonnefond (centre, France Sevens squad), Romanet (wing, Brive), Nalaga (wing, London Irish), Loursac (fullback, retired), Porical (fullback, not retained), Gear (wing, not retained), Mapusua (hooker, not retained), Goux (second row, loaned to Bourgoin), Browning (back row, Oyonnax), Galletier (centre, Montpellier), Clunies-Ross (wing, not retained), Huyard (wing, Mont-de-Marsan).

MONTPELLIER

Aaron Cruden. And Ruan Pienaar. And Louis Picamoles. If Montpellier had signed no one else, few fans would have complained. Getting the latter’s signature was a drawn-out and costly affair for club owner Mohed Altrad, so the pressure will be on one of the club’s favourite prodigal son’s to deliver. New coach Vern Cotter has inherited a powerful squad. If he can add some much-needed and long-lost je ne sais quoi, fans will be really happy.

IN — Picamoles (back row, Northampton), Camara (back row, Toulouse), Bardy (back row, Clermont), Pienaar (scrum half, Ulster), Cruden (fly half, Chiefs), Serfontein (centre, Bulls), Kornath (back row, Grenoble), Devergie (back row, returned from loan to  Colomiers), Sanga (scrum half, Clermont), Galletier (centre, Lyon), N’Gandebe (wing, Massy), Giudicelli (hooker, Lyon), Devergie (flanker, returned from loan to Colomiers), Sese (flanker, Stade Francais), Aprasidze (scrum-half, Lelo Saracens)

OUT — Bazadze (prop, Agen), Tchale-Watchou (second row, not retained), Qera (back row, Agen), Battut (back row, not retained), Spies (back row, not retained), White (scrum half, Exeter), Catrakilis (fly half, Harlequins), Du Plessis (fly half, returned from loan to Bayonne), O’Connor (wing, not retained), Michel (fullback, not retained), Van Wyk (hooker, not retained), De Coninck (back row, loaned to Biarritz), Wright (scrum half, not retained), Roméra (scrum half, Oyonnax), Van der Merwe (wing, Edinburgh), Nakailagi (wing, not retained), Ishchenko (prop, loaned to Vannes).

OYONNAX

Oyonnax, as you’d expect from a promoted side, have been grafting in the transfer market as they bid to build on their instant return to the top flight. Both Rory Grice, from Grenoble, and Curtis Browning, from Lyon, look like smart signings, as does ex-Quins centre Matt Hopper, while Vincent Debaty will bring all kinds of gnarled experience to the front row.

IN —  Buys (prop, Brive), Ceccarelli (prop, Zebre), Debaty (prop, Clermont), Vartanov (prop, Racing 92), Elliot (hooker, Chiefs), Battye (second row, Béziers), Njewel (second row, Lyon), Browning (back row, Lyon), Grice (back row, Grenoble), Audy (scrum half, Bordeaux), Hopper (centre, Harlequins), Giresse (wing, Biarritz), Bendjaballah (back row, La Rochelle), Roméra (scrum half, Montpellier), Fuertes (fly half, La Rochelle), Lasmarrigues (centre, Racing 92), Vial (prop, Bourgoin), Vartanov (prop, Racing 92), Inman (centre, Rebels)

OUT — Greyling (prop, retired), Rapant (prop, not retained), Bordes (hooker, Massy), Cudmore (second row, retired – on staff), De Marco (second row, Agen), Faure (back row, not retained), Swerling (back row, not retained), Cibray (scrum half, Provence), Aziza (scrum half, Narbonne), Taufa (centre, Grenoble), Sheridan (centre, not retained), Vainikolo (wing, Valence), Tawalo (fullback, Biarritz), Metge (fullback, Agen), Halangahu (prop, not retained), Marie (prop, Limoges), Cotet (prop, Aubenas), Chouvet (fly half, Valence), Giordano (centre, Provence).

PAU

Simon Mannix has worked wonders in the two seasons since Pau returned to the top-flight after an absence of nearly a decade. He built a workmanlike side around the combined All Black talent of Colin Slade and Conrad Smith. Like Urios at Castres, he’s in consolidation mode. Benson Stanley and Frank Halai look the most dynamic of the new intake, while Peter Saili will bring some blockbusting go-forward from the back of the scrum.

IN —  Adriaanse (prop, Sharks), Domingo (prop, Clermont), Bouchet (hooker, Grenoble), Foley (second row, Munster), Puech (back row, Colomiers), Saili (back row, Bordeaux), Nicot (centre, Colomiers), Stanley (centre, Clermont), Halai (wing, Wasps), Planté (wing, Clermont), Corato (prop, Auch)

OUT — Jacquot (prop, Morlaas), King (prop, retired), Boundjema (hooker, Narbonne), Pierce (second row, not retained), Bernad (back row, not retained), Diarra (back row, not retained), Coughlan (back row, retired), Lacrampe (scrum half, retired), Moa (scrum half, not retained), Fernandez (fly half, Hindu), Ratuvou (wing, not retained), Dupichot (wing, returned from loan to Racing 92), Sclavi (prop, Angoulême).

STADE FRANCAIS

New billionaire owner. New head coach. New future – when, for a while, it looked as if there wouldn’t be one for Stade Francais. Given April’s troubles in Paris, it’s no wonder signings have been scarce. Argentinian prop monster Ramiro Herrera is a straight swap for Slimani on the front row, while Otago’s Tony Ensor could be an interesting choice as a replacement for Toulon-bound Hugh Bonneval, and Romain Martial has all the experience in the world out on the wing, but Greg Cooper will be developing a side almost from scratch – just as his predecessor Gonzalo Quesada had to a few years ago. He’ll be hoping the money doesn’t run out this time.

IN —  Cittadini (prop, Bayonne), McLeod (scrum half, Grenoble), Bouhraoua (scrum half, France Sevens squad), Yobo (centre, Toulon), Martial (wing, Bayonne), El Ansari (prop, Massy), Revert (second row, Toulon), Coville (scrum half, returned from loan to Vannes), Herrera (prop, Jaguares), Meite (flanker, Beziers), Ensor (fullback, Otago), Francoz (flanker, La Rochelle), Coville (scrum-half, returned from loan to Vannes)

OUT — Slimani (prop, Clermont), De Malmanche (hooker, not retained), Boutaty (second row, not retained), Mostert (second row, not retained), Papé (second row, retired), Ross (back row, Sale), Lakafia (back row, Toulon), Dupuy (scrum half, retired), Genia (scrum half, Australia – Queensland Reds?), Doumayrou (centre, La Rochelle), Sinzelle (wing, La Rochelle), Ratini (wing, not retained), Bonneval (fullback, Toulon), Seneca (prop, Vannes), Tramon (hooker, Narbonne), Sio (back row, not retained).

RACING 92

Racing will be determined to put 2016/17 behind them – though the poor form on tour of big French international signing Virimi Vakatawa will concern coaches Labit and Travers. The sevens winger has signed on the dotted line to bolster his experience at the 15-player version of the game. It’s experience that cannot come soon enough – the worry is it may be too little too late. On the other hand, Teddy Iribaren from Brive looks a tidy signing. And landing Donnacha Ryan from Munster was a smart piece of backroom work. But the big news out of 92 Towers is that Chris Masoe has taken up a backroom role at the club, as defence coach.

IN —  Johnston (prop, Toulouse), Kakovin (prop, Toulouse), Ryan (second row, Munster), Chouzenoux (back row, Bayonne), Iribaren (scrum half, Brive), Vakatawa (wing, FFR), Albacete (second row, Toulouse), Dupichot (wing, returned from loan to Pau), Pauvert (centre, Saint-Nazaire), Bienvenu (centre, Toulouse)

OUT — Brugnaut (prop, Brive), Vartanov (prop, Oyonnax), Lacombe (hooker, Lyon), Grobler (second row, Toulon (Gloucester 2018), Van der Merwe (second row, Lyon), Williams (second row, retired), Dubarry (back row Biarritz), Masoe (back row, retired), Missoup (back row, not retained), Hart (scrum half, Munster), Lorée (scrum half, Mont-de-Marsan), Dussartre (centre, Grenoble), Maïau (prop, Grenoble), D’Hooghe (second row, Montauban), Godener (back row, Grenoble), Anon (scrum half, Carcassonne), Robinson (fullback, Bayonne), Lasmarrigues (centre, Oyonnax), Maylon (wing, Angoulême), Bly (wing, Vannes), Reynaert (fullback, Valence).

TOULON

Club boss Mourad Boudjellal has said that the currently reportedly incomplete overseas class of 2017 – which includes Fecundo Isa, JP Pietersen Chris Ashton, Luke McAlister and Edoardo Padovani – will be the last he tries to tempt to the south of France, as he moves to developing a 100% Made in France squad.

How that exercise plays out remains to be seen, but there’s no doubt there has been a sea-change in policy, prompted at least in part by tightening player rules in France. The Toulon squad for the new season is younger, fresher – and more French – than it has been for years.

But watch out for that two-thirds overseas back three of Pietersen, Ashton and Hugh Bonneval. They will cause serious problems to most defences – and expect an occasional appearance from promising young (and French) scrum half Anthony Meric – who looks set to be the future of Toulon, alongside last season’s late breakthrough fly-half Anthony Belleau.

IN — Isa (back row, Lyon), Lakafia (back row, Stade Français), Monribot (back row, Bayonne), McAlister (fly half, Toulouse), Pietersen (wing, Leicester Tigers), Wisniewski (fly half, Grenoble), Ashton (wing, Saracens), Radradra (wing, Parramatta Eels), Bonneval (fullback, Stade Français), Padovani (fullback, Zebre).

OUT — Saulo (prop, London Irish), Orioli (hooker, La Rochelle), Smith (back row, Toyota Verblitz), Pélissié (scrum half, Lyon), Bernard (fly half, Biarritz), Gill (flanker, Lyon), Giteau (centre, Suntory Sungoliath), Yobo (centre, Stade Français), Barba (wing, St Helens), Mitchell (wing, retired), O’Connor (wing, Sale), Tuilagi (wing, not retained), Halfpenny (fullback, not retained), Goromaru (fullback, Yamaha Júbilo), Revert (second row, Stade Français), Davis (back row, Bayonne), Annetta (back row, loaned to Béziers), Jacquelain (wing, Grenoble).

TOULOUSE

Backroom troubles continue to hamstring the once-mighty Toulouse, but their scragging of scrum-half wunderkind Antoine Dupont from Castres has to go down as something of a coup – while the mouthwatering prospect of him flicking out bullets to fellow youngster Romain N’Tamack in the not-too-distant future suggests that something in the Toulouse garden may actually be rosy.

IN —  Pointud (prop, Brive), Faumuina (prop, Blues), Madaule (back row, Bordeaux), Dupont (scrum half, Castres), Holmes (fly half, La Rochelle), Kolbe (fullback, Stormers), Ramos (fullback, returned from loan to Colomiers), Mouchous (fly half, Tarbes).

OUT — Johnston (prop, Racing 92), Steenkamp (prop, retired), Kakovin (prop, Racing 92), Tolofua (hooker, Saracens), Albacete (second row, Racing 92), Lamboley (second row, La Rochelle), Camara (back row, Montpellier), Dusautoir (back row, retired), Marques (scrum half, Brive), Flood (fly half, Newcastle), McAlister (fly half, Toulon), Palisson (wing, Lyon), Pirlet (prop, loaned to Narbonne), Tebaldini (scrum half, Narbonne), Bienvenu (centre, Racing 92).

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Done deals: Comings and goings in the Top 14 transfer market