Bok World Cup winner among top French recruits
SPOTLIGHT: The new French Top 14 season begins on Friday with a host of international names set make their debuts for their clubs over the weekend.
AFP looks at five of the arrivals ahead of the campaign.
Kurtley Beale (Australia)
The 92-time Australia playmaker has joined Racing 92 and will supplement an already international set of three-quarters which includes Scotland fly-half Finn Russell, France pair Virimi Vakatawa and Teddy Thomas as well as Ireland winger Simon Zebo.
Beale, who can feature across the backline, remains eligible for the Wallabies due to the number of his Test selections but is yet to be named on one of new head coach Dave Rennie’s monthly watchlists.
Cobus Reinach (South Africa)
Rugby World Cup winner Reinach has signed a three-year deal at Montpellier where he will join up with Handre Pollard to create an all-Springbok half-back partnership.
Reinach arrives from Northampton Saints where he had been shortlisted for the English Premiership’s player of the season award in 2019 in a campaign where he scored 12 tries in 22 league games.
Kotaro Matsushima (Japan)
The Japan three-quarter has signed a two-year contract with Clermont to replace the departed Nick Abendanon at fullback despite featuring solely on the wing during last year’s World Cup.
Matsushima is set to become just the sixth homegrown Japanese player to feature in France’s two professional divisions after the likes of fullback Ayumu Goromaru and hooker Takeshi Hino for Toulon and Toulouse respectively.
He will add top-class finishing ability, which is underlined by his record of 22 tries in 39 Tests, to a back-line which already includes former All Black centre George Moala and France wing Alivereti Raka.
Will Skelton (Australia)
The 2.07 metre Australia second row heads to La Rochelle after winning the European Champions Cup and the Premiership twice with Saracens, who have been relegated to the English second-tier for salary cap breaches.
Skelton, 28, who has 18 Wallabies caps, is replacing Toulon-bound French lock Thomas Jolmes and will feature in a pack alongside New Zealand’s two-time World Cup winner Victor Vito, fellow Australia international Lopeti Timani and France tight-head prop Uini Atonio.
Izaia Perese (Australia)
The Australian three-quarter has crossed codes again by arriving at Bayonne from the Brisbane Broncos after being released by the NRL outfit in February for drug-related offences.
Perese, 23, previously played for Super Rugby side the Queensland Reds, scoring four tries in 17 appearances and attracting the attention of then-Wallabies coach Michael Cheika with a squad call-up in 2017.