The Top 14 has attracted some of the game’s best talent.
The money available to French clubs has allowed them snap up some of the game’s biggest stars. Indeed the World Cup saw Dan Carter, Ma’a Nonu and Conrad Smith play their last games for New Zealand before joining various French clubs.
While New Zealand lost some their ageing stars, South Africa saw Duane Vermeulen leave at the peak of their careers.
Dan Carter (Racing 92)
Needing to replace Johnny Sexton, Racing 92 decided to break the bank to land 33 year old Dan Carter. While the kiwi fly half had his critics over recent years, Carter silenced them with his performance in the World Cup Final.
Carter has since won over supporters in Paris after his performance during Racing’s 33-3 win over Northampton.
Conrad Smith (Pau)
Despite being 34 years of age, Conrad Smith was key to the All Blacks retaining the World Cup. While the centre may have been overshadowed by the likes of Nehe Milner Skudder and Julian Savea, his on field intelligence made him a key man in Steve Hansen’s squad.
Nevertheless some were surprised by the fact that he joined newly promoted Pau. However a player with Smith’s experience could prove to be exactly what Pau need in a relegation battle.
Ma’a Nonu (Toulon)
Despite the presence of Sonny Bill Williams, Ma’a Nonu retained his place at inside center in the All Black squad. Indeed the way in which Nonu transitioned from being a superb crash ball centre into a world class distributor has been impressive.
As a result Toulon signed Nonu with the view of pairing him with Mathieu Bastareaud in midfield. The physical duo could yet improve impossible to stop as they seek to land yet another European title.
Colin Slade (Pau)
Seen as a possible successor to Dan Carter, the loss of Colin Slade could negatively impact both the All Blacks and Crusaders. Indeed at 28 years of age, losing Slade could be felt in the longer term by New Zealand rugby.
Like Smith, Slade has joined relegation threatened Pau and could face a difficult season in France.
Quade Cooper (Toulon)
The transfer saga involving Quade Cooper and Toulon seemed to drag on all summer. After Mourad Boudjellal announced the signing of the Wallaby playmaker, it seemed that Cooper had changed his mind, but ultimately decided to join the French giants.
While Cooper’s debut saw him provide an excellent assist, there is much speculation over the future of the mercurial fly half after Toulon announced that François Trinh-Duc will be joining them next season.
James O’Connor (Toulon)
Although Quade Cooper has been involved in his fair share of controversies, his chequered past pales in comparison to that of James O’Connor.
After having his ARU contract torn up following a drunken episode at Perth Airport, O’Connor was forced to leave for London Irish.
Nonetheless the versatile back returned to Australia with the Queensland Reds for the 2015 Super Rugby season, with the view of regaining his place in the Wallaby squad.
However despite being involved in a number of training squads, Michael Chieka decided to not select the troubled player, allowing him make the move to Toulon.
While the European champions signed a talented player, he could spark trouble in the changing room.
Sekope Kepu (Bordeaux Bègles)
Although the Australian scrum had been maligned for years, in a short space of time, Mario Ledesma challenged this interpretation, providing the Wallabies with an aggressive set piece.
Key to this change has been Sekope Kepu at tight head. While a player with Kepu’s standing might have previously attracted the interest of the French super clubs, the ability of Bordeaux Bègles to attain a player of his stature underlines the financial power of the Top 14.
Will Genia (Stade Francais)
Despite the fact that Genia was probably at the height of his powers during 2013, Genia continued to be a mainstay in the Wallaby team during the World Cup.
Indeed the scrum half regained some of the form that saw him become one the game’s top scrum halves during the tournament.
This resulted in interest from European clubs, with Bath thought to have been a possible destination for Genia. However the 27 year old ultimately decided upon Stade Francais.
Adam Ashley Cooper (Bordeaux Bègles)
Like Kepu, Adam Ashley Cooper finds himself playing with the previously unfashionable Bordeaux Bègles this season.
Despite being 31 years of age, Cooper finishing ability saw him become a sought after player, with Bordeaux moving early, announcing the signing of the versatile in December 2014.
Duane Vermeulen (Toulon)
Although Duane Vermeulen is Arguably the best number 8 on the planet, his move to Toulon was not met with the same fan fare as Quade Cooper’s.
However Vermeulen’s physical attributes will suit the Top 14 perfectly. His pace and power will prove invaluable in Toulon’s bid to retain the European Cup.
Alan Drumm, Pundit Arena
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