The Premiership has rolled out the stars for the 2018-19 season with a glittering array of talent trucked in from all over the globe.
As the season kicks off here’s our top ten signings.
CHARLES PIUTAU (Ulster to Bristol)
The former All Black is now the highest paid player on the planet raking in £1million a season from big spending new boys Bristol. The marquee signing has hit a snag though early on with a shoulder injury ruling him out of the opening night clash with neighbours Bath.
CHRIS ASHTON (Toulon to Sale)
The former England flyer broke the Top 14 try-scoring record in just one season with Toulon and Sale will be hoping he does the same in Manchester. Ashton’s return to England is due to a desire to once more pull on the national jersey but he may find try-scoring opportunities more limited than in France.
LIMA SOPOAGA (Highlanders to Wasps)
One of the top fly-halfs in the world, Wasps have pulled off a major coup with the signature of the 27-year-old All Black. Both with the ball in hand and off the boot the former Highlander is one of the best playmakers on the planet. Wasps fans enjoy.
TAQELE NAIYAROVORO (Waratahs to Northampton)
The flying Fijian was unstoppable for NSW in Super Rugby this season, scoring 15 tries and carrying for a whopping 1,478 metres. The Saints have picked him up in the form off his life and if they can keep him fit he will cause carnage.
JAMIE ROBERTS (Harlequins to Bath)
The Wales veteran desperately wants to make it to the 2019 Rugby World Cup so has moved west to Bath to hopefully give his career a late bloom. The years of direct running may have taken their toll on the good doctor whose best years maybe behind him.
234 - gloucesterrugby's Franco Mostert made the most tackles in Super Rugby this year (234) and also won the most lineouts (87). Monster. pic.twitter.com/xaxvGpCdQA— RugbyRuck (@rugby_ruck) August 30, 2018
FRANCO MOSTERT (Lions to Gloucester)
One of a trio of Lions that Johan Ackermann has brought to Kingsholm from his former South African club. 27-Test Springbok Mostert is superb in the lineout, mobile in the loose and rugged at the breakdown. Expect him to make a big impact.
DAN BIGGAR (Ospreys to Northampton)
After scoring over 2000 points in Swansea over 11 seasons, and playing 62 Tests for Wales, the 28-year-old has made the move to England in search of a new challenge. On his day he is one the world’s top playmakers and could be the missing link to Saints success.
JAMES HASKELL (Wasps to Northampton)
At 33 years of age the England flanker may be beyond his best but his experience and competitiveness more than make up for a wearying physique. He played over 100 games for Wasps and will want to put in a huge season to make sure he is selected for RWC 2019. Saints will benefit.
🎥Watch as the team prepare for @WorcsWarriors on Saturday, we get to know new arrival @brad_shields, including what made him sign for the club, who he's been spending his time with and loads more!— Wasps Rugby (@WaspsRugby) August 29, 2018
Get your tickets now from https://t.co/u0fvkrVdhn pic.twitter.com/ULuS2rW5CM
BRAD SHIELDS (Hurricanes to Wasps)
Shields is regarded by many as one of the unluckiest New Zealand players in history never to represent the All Blacks. The 27-year-old flanker played exactly 100 games for the Hurricanes in Super Rugby and will be hungry to perform for his new club and country.
DANNY CIPRIANI (Wasps to Gloucester)
Some might be surprised to see Cipriani included, especially after his recent night out in Jersey, but the fly-half is both talented and determined and with a pack of hardened Springboks giving him ball on the front foot he could wreak some havoc.
Sam Simmonds plans to continue his pursuit this season of what he describes as an “ultimate goal” – World Cup selection.
In the past 18 months, 23-year-old Simmonds has gone from making his league debut to helping Exeter be crowned English champions, as well as winning seven England caps, which included scoring two tries on his Six Nations debut against Italy.
With the Rugby World Cup in Japan just over a year away, Simmonds knows that he faces an intense career spell that could start at Sandy Park and finish in Yokohama.
“I see this season as quite a big one for me,” Simmonds said.
“I will take it week by week, and if I can perform well for Exeter, which I hope I can, that then puts me in good stead for international honours.
“The England experience has been eye-opening. It’s great. I feel like it has improved me as a player and improved my understanding of the game.
“When I first turned up, I was nervous, but now I am looking forward to going back and to keep kicking on.
“It would be a dream to play in a World Cup. That is a long-term goal, but the short-term goal is to play well for Exeter and to hopefully be involved in the autumn series, which rolls on to the Six Nations, and the ultimate goal is the World Cup.
“In my mind, it is so far away, although I am sure it will creep up quite quickly.”
Simmonds’ ability to play with pace, power and considerable footballing skills has underpinned him shooting through the ranks.
It proved a rapid rise to the top, making his England bow just nine months after first gaining a place in Exeter’s Premiership team, but he quickly grasped the situation.
“I felt at the time that I couldn’t sit back and think I’ve played for England and won the Premiership, because I felt if I did that I would just stop and be happy with what I had done,” he added.
“You need to keep pushing on and moving forward, and I feel like the time I have had off this summer has allowed me to do that.”
Exeter, Premiership finalists in each of the past three seasons and 2017 champions, begin their latest title quest at home to Leicester on Saturday.
And after losing against Saracens at Twickenham three months ago, the Chiefs have no intention of seeing their healthy appetite for silverware diminish.
“Rob (Exeter rugby director Rob Baxter) has said we felt that the first year we got there, it was like ‘wow, we are in the Premiership final’, then the second year we got over that and won it,” Simmonds continued.
“We finished top last season, we were the best team throughout the year, but we just weren’t as good as Saracens were on the day. It’s sport. It happens.
“We weren’t good enough to win on the day, but the great thing about sport is you get other opportunities.”
*Simmonds was speaking at the opening of Exeter Chiefs’ new fitness analysis suite, launched in partnership with Red Bull.
The wait is nearly over and to continue our build up ahead of the new PRO14 season, we have profiled every team competing in rugby’s premier professional club competition in Ireland, Italy, Scotland, Wales and South Africa.
Here, we take a look at five of the league’s best signings this summer.
TADHG BEIRNE – SCARLETS TO MUNSTER
The 26-year-old secondrow-cum-backrow is a significant coup for the Limerick side, with his versatility and fitness making him one of the stand-out stars on the British Isles over the last two terms.
Apart from his imposing 6’5 frame, Beirne carries well, tackles effectively and is a serial turnover merchant, with a record breaking 39 turnovers, 17 more than any other player.
JOEY CARBERY – LEINSTER TO MUNSTER
The 22-year-old is another exciting capture for Johann van Graan’s side with his nimble footwork, intelligent game management, accurate passing and place-kicking all at the centre of his vast skillset.
The Irish playmaker made 37 appearances for Leinster during his two years at the club, and was part of their successful double-winning campaign last term.
With the Wold Cup in sight, more game time at No10 will be among Carbery’s key focuses at Thomond Park – a position he was unable to feature at regularly during his tenure at Leinster.
JOHN BARCLAY – SCARLETS TO EDINBURGH
The 31-year-old, who has made 71 appearances for Scotland, returns home after five years at the Welsh region.
Although he is not expected to play until December due to an Achilles injury, Barclay will add real mettle and leadership to an improving side that made the PRO14 quarter-finals last season.
Fifteen wins may have exceeded manager Richard Cockerill’s expectations last term, but with talisman Barclay and out-half Simon Hickey, he has two players who can inspire them to further success.
KYLE GODWIN – BRUMBIES TO CONNACHT
The Australian international looks a real gem of a signing for the Westeners.
At 6’2, the Zimbabwean-born star possesses speed, power, good defence and has the game management skills to unlock the pace of Tiernan O’Halloran and Matt Healy out wide.
With four out of their first six games at home, Connacht have a real chance to gather some early momentum, especially with the acquisition of the talented former Brumbies man.
GEORGE NORTH – NORTHAMPTON TO OSPREYS
The 26-year-old can make the magic happen at the Liberty Stadium but it is unlikely he will feature regularly in the PRO14, especially in the build up to next year’s World Cup.
The two-time British & Irish Lion is one of the most dangerous wingers in world rugby, and is certain to add a real x-factor to an Ospreys side low on confidence and leadership.
Their nine wins last season was their lowest since 2008, and combined with the departures of Rhys Webb and Dan Biggar, the Swansea outfit will be looking towards the inspirational North to help them take flight.