Including transfers between each other, the Pro14 sides have made 74 signings this summer. But which 15 players arriving from other leagues make it to our Pro14 New Signings XV?
The start of the 2017/18 season sees two new teams joining the Pro14. The Southern Kings and the Cheetahs may have been shown the door by Super Rugby, but they have been welcomed into the fold by the Celtic/Italian league.
The hope is that the additional money, fans and talent will add some spice to a league that is often seen as the poor neighbour to the rich and powerful leagues in England and France.
However, it is not just the new sides that give the league an injection of fresh blood. All the Pro14 teams have been conducting business over the break, whilst many rugby fans have been absorbed by the Lions tour and the Women’s World Cup.
So, in order to whet our appetites for the opening weekend a mere eleven days away, the team below is comprised of players who have been signed from other leagues this summer by Pro14 teams. The English Premiership, French Top 14, Super Rugby, and Italian National Championship of Excellence have parted with some serious talent.
If this was a team in its own right then it would be no surprise to see them sitting towards the top of the table at the close of the regular season. It is possible that they may even be able to make a challenge for the title.
But instead of working together, many of these players will soon be pitting their skills against each other. For us, the observers of the newly expanded Pro14, this offers up a tantalising prospect for the coming season.
- Darryl Marfo – Edinburgh (from Bath)
The 26-year-old Scotland qualified prop has experience at several English Premiership clubs.
- Sami Panico – Zebre (from Calvisano)
10 caps for Italy at prop, but the 24-year-old can cover hooker too.
- Siosiua Halanukonuka – Glasgow (from Highlanders)
The 6-times capped 31-year-old Tongan international prop has played his whole career in New Zealand until signing for the 2014/15 champions.
- Gerbrandt Grobler – Munster (from Racing 92)
The 25-year-old lock has resurrected his career after serving a two-year ban for steroid use. He scored five tries for Racing 92 last season.
- Damian Welch – Cardiff Blues (from Exeter)
The 35-year-old is returning to where his career began from the reigning English Premiership champions.
- Scott Fardy – Leinster (from Brumbies)
Australia already seem to be missing the experience that the 39 cap Wallaby gave them. But their loss is Leinster’s gain.
- Jean Deysel – Ulster (from Sharks)
The 4-cap Springbok spent the end of last season on loan at Munster, but Ulster got his signature for the coming season.
- Samuela Vunisa – Glasgow (from Saracens)
The Fijian-born Italian has 11 international caps and can play across the back row.
- James Hart – Munster (from Racing 92)
The Dublin-born Scrum half has spent six seasons playing in France with Grenoble and Racing 92.
- Gavin Henson – Dragons (from Bristol)
The mercurial playmaker won 33 caps for Wales and 1 for the British and Irish Lions, and is now returning across the Severn Bridge. Despite this he is seen by many Wales supporters as “the one that got away”.
- Huw Jones – Glasgow (from Stormers)
After he arrived on the international scene in 2016, Jones won 8 caps and has become a household name in Scotland without having ever playing for a Scottish club.
- Christian Leali’ifano – Ulster (from Brumbies)
Capped 19 times by Australia, Leali’ifano has incredibly recovered from leukaemia and now joins Ulster.
- James Hook – Ospreys (from Gloucester)
Hook returns to Wales and the Ospreys after 6 years in England and France. Despite having earned 81 caps for Wales (and being an unused replacement for a Lions test), he is seen as a victim of his own versatility.
- Robbie Fruean – Edinburgh (from Bath)
With winning the IRB Under-19 Player of the Year back in 2007, the rugby world expected great things from Fruean. Despite the fact that they never materialized, on his day he can still light up the pitch.
- Leigh Halfpenny – Scarlets (from Toulon)
The prodigal son returns. 71 Wales caps, 4 Lions caps, and zero clubs interested in signing the fullback until the Scarlets stepped up and snapped him up. With Liam Williams exiting, they have traded the 2013 Lions fullback for the 2017 Lions fullback – an enviable proposition.
Total international caps: 287
Alex Morris, Pundit Arena