All Blacks star headlines Top 14 new signings
SPOTLIGHT: The new French Top 14 season starts this weekend with champions Toulouse heading to La Rochelle in a re-run of June’s final.
AFP Sport looks at five new foreign signings for the upcoming campaign:
Ngani Laumape (Stade Francais)
The 28-year-old New Zealand centre joins the Parisians to replace France pair Gael Fickou and Jonathan Danty who have left for local rivals Racing 92 and La Rochelle.
Laumape has signed a three-year deal in the French capital and unlike the Les Bleus midfielders will be available for his club throughout the season.
According to newspaper the New Zealand Herald, the 15-time All Black will earn 600 000 euros ($700 000) per season at the Stade Jean-Bouin and will likely partner Fiji’s Waisea Nayacalevu despite rules on a minimum average number of French academy products in a matchday squad weighing on head coach Gonzalo Quesada’s selection choices.
Tevita Kuridrani (Biarritz)
The 30-year-old joins fellow former Wallaby and close friend Henry Speight at the promoted outfit ahead of their first top-flight season since 2014.
Kuridrani will have to take his international form, scoring 22 tries before his last Australia appearance at the 2019 Rugby World Cup, to the Basque Country if the side with the league’s lowest budget (13 million euros) are to avoid relegation.
Jiuta Wainiqolo (Toulon)
The Fiji Tokyo Olympic gold medallist heads to the Mediterranean coast to a much-changed side compared to the galactico-filled generation including Jonny Wilkinson and Bakkies Botha which won three straight European Champions Cups.
Following the departure of outspoken president Mourad Boudjellal, 22-year-old Wainiqolo will line up with South Africa’s Rugby World Cup winner Cheslin Kolbe, who has left Toulouse mid-contract in a transfer worth a reported record 1.8 million euros.
Lima Sopoaga (Lyon)
The 16-time New Zealand flyhalf heads to the foothills of the Alps after three seasons with Wasps in the English Premiership.
The 30-year-old is Lyon’s long-awaited international quality stand-off after they were linked with Ireland’s Johnny Sexton and will be backed up by young French talent Leo Berdeu.
Brendan Paenga-Amosa (Montpellier)
The 25-year-old Australia hooker is only likely to arrive in December, after the Rugby Championship and the November Tests.
He will fight with former France captain Guilhem Guirado for a starting berth after Bok hooker Bismarck du Plessis left the GGL Stadium over the summer for the side backed by Syrian billionaire Mohed Altrad.