November sees the rugby world focus its attention on the international scene as some of the best players from around the globe battle it out.
With coaches knowing the 2019 World Cup in Japan is veering closer and closer, they are looking to get their partnerships in place and have a settled team as they look to hit peak form over the next two years.
However, for some of the game’s biggest names, they are left out in the wilderness, unable to impress international selectors.
Here is our International Exile XV of players who will be watching from the November series from the stands.
1. Ben Franks
The London Irish prop infamously only cares about two things, scrummaging and lifting heavy weights. And, to his credit, he is good at both, dominating scrums both sides of the equator for over a decade and squatting 300kg.
Moving to Europe after his second World Cup win, one of only 20 players ever to do so, he continues to be a world-class loosehead.
2. Bismark du Plessis
The best hooker in the world at one point, the man mountain of a front-rower is a walking wrecking ball. He has continued to dominate teams in the Top 14, currently plying his trade with Montpellier.
Still only 33, he won 79 caps, won the World Cup in 2007 and defeated the Lions in 2009. Having not won a cap since the World Cup, he continues to terrorise teams in the domestic game.
3. Charlie Faumaiuna
‘Big Charlie’ as he is so affectionately baptised by his legion of fans left New Zealand after the Lions tour for the fruitful pastors of Southern France. The 125kg monster tight-head called time on a stellar 50-cap All Black career, peaking with 2015 Rugby World Cup triumph.
Having recently made his Toulouse debut he is sure to be a revelation with the power game so coveted in the Top 14, a dynamic, powerful, industrious prop. Destined to be a fan favourite.
4. Donnacha Ryan
The behemoth from Tipperary moved to Paris this season, joining Dan Carter and co in white and blue hoops. A tyrant in defence and a nuisance at the set piece, ending a successful 13-year association with Munster which included two Celtic League victories and a Heineken Cup success.
An unlucky culprit of the Lions strength in depth in the second row, he ends a 47-cap Ireland career, peaking with a first ever victory against New Zealand.
5. Will Skelton
Standing six-foot-eight and weighing in at 140 kg, Goliath wouldn’t want to tackle big Will. Seamlessly fitting in at Saracens, adding to an embarrassment of riches at lock after a successful short-term spell last season.
With soft hands and a massive running game, he is the perfect impact player for Mark McCall to send on when the opposition start getting tired. Still only 25 I wouldn’t bet against him winning more caps for the green and gold.
6. Scott Fardy
The unsung hero of the Wallabies back row for several years, playing second fiddle to the cat-burglar David Pocock and human Duracell bunny Michael Hooper. The tall rangy blindside joined Leinster this season, he continues to govern lineouts and the breakdown in the Irish capital.
The former Brumbies man won the last of his 39 caps in 2016 but remains a world class operator in the engine room.
7. Steven Luatua
The Bristol man joined unexpectedly from Auckland Blues this season after an underwhelming career in black. Exceptionally talented, he has lit up the championship this season so far and turned in a scintillating performance for the Barbarians against New Zealand on Saturday.
One of the biggest signings of the summer, promotion for Bristol seems inevitable. Often struggling with form and fitness he looks back to his best, a terrifying proposition for opposition.
8. Victor Vito
Kieran Read’s understudy for so many years and used mainly as an impact player by Steve Hansen, the former Hurricanes colossus left New Zealand for the riches of France in 2016. The back-rower from Wellington is an unstoppable brute with the hands of a fly-half.
Winning the Top 14 Player of the Year in his debut season at La Rochelle he seems to be getting stronger as a player, bucking the trend of Southern Hemisphere talent moving in the twilight of their careers.
9. Rhys Webb
The man from Bridgend is one of the world’s best scrum-halves sniping and poaching around the breakdown with tremendous effect. Winning 28 caps to date his international career is over at the end of the season when he joins Toulon.
A sudden change in selection criteria to those playing abroad is set to rob the Wales team of a fantastic player, a strange decision indeed.
Although Webb is involved this November, he won’t be available to Wales once his move to Toulon is complete.
10. Aaron Cruden
For years, the Kiwi playmaker was the heir to the throne of the 10 jersey, however terrible luck with injuries and the sudden dazzling form of a certain Beauden Barrett caused the Chiefs man to fall down the pecking order.
This resulted in a lucrative offer to join Vern Cotter in Montpellier was too good to turn down. A silky out-half with vision, guile and flawless decision making he remains one of the best.
11. Chris Ashton
An electric winger and natural born finisher, the league convert now plies his trade in Toulon. Continuing his exhilarating form at Saracens last season, he is making an enormous impact in France.
Undoubtedly a world class player, he was never a favourite of Eddie Jones, his fiery character almost certainly robbed him of more caps.
12. Malakai Fekitoa
A recent arrival in Toulon, the ex-Highlanders player is a dynamic centre equally adept at terrorising opposition both with and without the ball. Yet to make his debut with the club he is sure to be a beloved member of the side, with colossal collisions galore.
Ending a promising career in black, winning 24 caps, it must be a worry for New Zealand to lose players in their prime.
13. Rob Horne
The Australian outside back bid farewell to his home side the NSW Waratahs after the Super Rugby season and was welcomed to Franklins Gardens for the new pastures of the Aviva Premiership.
Abrasive, lively and ferocious in defence, he was a reliable member of the green and gold backline for the last seven years, winning 34 caps. Announced as vice-captain in 2016 before suffering a season-ending leg injury his experience and knack for finding the try line will be invaluable for the Saints.
14. Simon Zebo
The flying Munsterman recently announced his departure to the Top 14 next season and has already been sent to the international wilderness.
Capped 35 times for Ireland, Zebo has sparked much debate with supporters and pundits alike separated in their opinion of whether the provincial record try scorer should be selected by Joe Schmidt. While the dispute over his selection is subjective his abilities on the field are more obvious, an enigma in attack, his flair and precocious skills are a weapon to any side he plays for.
15. Charles Piutau
Arguably the best player in the world not playing Test rugby. The Auckland versatility back is most adept at 15 but can play anywhere across the backline. Leaving the shores of New Zealand as he was about to enter his rugby prime aged 24, his loss was a tremendous blow to the All Blacks.
Combining pace, power and a speed of thought afforded to very few he has terrorised defences in the PRO14 and Europe. Returning to the Aviva Premiership next season with Bristol after a short stint with Wasps expect him to just get better and better.
Aled Price, Pundit Arena
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