Next season a dizzying array of talent will head for the Aviva Premiership. Here are our Super Seven set to light up the league...
There has been plenty of talk about England’s up-and-coming players after the success of the Saxons and the Under-20s but some of them may have a struggle on their hands to get a start in the Premiership as domestic rugby’s financial clout and new regulations come into play.
With the salary cap up to £6.5million for this season and two marquee players allowed at each club, outside of that figure, the Premiership is welcoming some massive global names to its ranks. Here are a magnificent seven big arrivals who could make the English league even bigger box office and who are coming to a ground near you soon.
Kurtley Beale, fly-half, centre, full-back (Waratahs to Wasps) Age: 27 Caps: 60 (Australia)
Beale won’t be seen at the start of the season as he is rehabbing a knee injury but the fact Wasps can sign a player like him shows how far the club have come since flirting with bankruptcy a couple of years ago. The Australian has attracted his fair share of controversy but is a stellar talent who can fit in almost anywhere in the backline.
It will be interesting to see where Dai Young plays Beale when he has recovered as they are a pretty well stacked squad. Conveniently, for his international career, Beale is bang on the 60-cap mark needed to pass Cheika’s Law and will be familiar with Wasps’ new defence coach, Phil Blake, from his Wallaby days.
Josh Charnley Full-Back Wing (Wigan RL to Sale) Age: 25 Caps: 7 (England RL)
Charnley has been running in tries for Wigan in Super League, at around one a game, for the last six years and Sale are hoping he can do for them what Jason Robinson did when he switched codes back in 2000. Charnley scored four tries on his Test debut in rugby league, can play full-back or wing and won’t have any troubling settling in at Sale as he only a short hop from where he is currently playing.
The majority of league to union swaps don’t work, especially when players are shoe-horned into the midfield, but Charnley’ switch looks like one that will succeed. Eddie Jones will be keeping an eye on him as well.
Taulupe Faletau No.8 (Dragons to Bath) Age: 25 Caps: 62 (61 Wales, 1 Lions)
Faletau has been the outstanding No.8 in Europe for the past couple of seasons but Billy Vunipola has made up ground and the first collision between the pair when Bath play Saracens will make the ground shake.
The Welsh and English international pair are the two players fighting to fill the No 8 spot in the British & Irish Lions Test team next summer and their domestic clashes could help sort out the pecking order. Bath need Faletau to fire as well after a dismal season last year which led to the dismissal of director of rugby Mike Ford.
Greg Holmes Prop (Reds to Exeter) Age: 33 Caps: 27 (Australia)
Part of the Australian team that was whitewashed by England in June, Holmes will be champing at the bit to have another crack at Mako Vunipola and Matt Mullan and co when he lands in Exeter at the end of the Super Rugby season after 11 years with the Reds.
Signed for his all-round game, not just his scrummaging, according to Exeter boss Rob Baxter, Holmes was persuaded to move to Devon by another Wallaby, and Exeter legend, Dean Mumm so he knows what he is letting himself in for. And so do Exeter.
Schalk Burger, flanker, (Stormers to Saracens) Age: 33 Caps: 86 (South Africa)
Saracens clearly think a Champions Cup and Premiership double is not enough and have swapped one back row Burger for another, with Jacques retiring to his farm in Namibia and Springbok legend Schalk coming in. The South African has done the lot but is still only 33, despite seemingly having been around forever, and looks like one of those signings who will boost the champions on and off the field.
He will be handy to have around when Sarries lose about half their first choice team to international duty, having played his last Test match in the World Cup third-place play-off.
Louis Picamoles, No.8, (Toulouse to Northampton) Age: 30 Caps: 54 (France)
Northampton missed the ball-carrying presence of Samu Manoa last year and France missed the same quality of Louis Picamoles when he was side-lined with a hamstring injury during the Six Nations. Picamoles was the stand-out performer for France in a disappointing World Cup and will add punch to Saints up front as they bid to re-claim a top four spot.
As well as being a destructive carrier Picamoles has the hands to make the most of his bursts and is not shy of putting it about in defence so it will be eye-watering to watch him and Courtney Lawes knocking seven bells out of opponents.
Matt Toomua, centre (Brumbies to Leicester) Age: 26 Caps: 32 (Australia)
Probably the most exciting newcomer for next season, Toomua had Leicester fans licking their lips in anticipation with his display for the Wallabies in their third Test defeat to England in Sydney in June. Toomua would probably have played the whole series but for a knee injury and it will be interesting to see how he gets on as a second playmaker, under the tutelage of Aaron Mauger, at Welford Road.
Where this leaves Manu Tuilagi is open to debate but you can see him playing 13 to Toomua’s 12 when the Brumbies Super Rugby campaign is over and the Australian arrives in the Midlands. Could be very tasty.