Top 10 transfers of the summer so far

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Transfer season in rugby may not create the same kind of wide-eyed, frothing-at-the-mouth fervour that it does in its round-balled cousin, but there are nonetheless always intriguing movements as players come to the end of their contracts. Here’s our countdown of the top 10 transfers ahead of the 2014/2015 season.

10. Freddie Burns – Gloucester to Leicester Tigers

Burns’ presence on this list is perhaps a touch controversial, given the woeful season he enjoyed last year. However, his performance in England’s first test against New Zealand, when he looked composed behind a dominant pack (something the Tigers certainly boast), was hugely impressive. If the Tigers have signed that player, and not the one that looked painfully short of confidence in Gloucester colours, then they’ve got a gem. It’s undoubtedly a big if.

9. Marland Yarde – London Irish to Harlequins

Yarde’s progress may have stalled somewhat in a season disrupted by injury last year, but when he returned, both in the last few games of the Premiership season and on England’s tour to New Zealand, we saw what a dangerous finisher he is. Harlequins have recruited well out wide, and Yarde should form part of a devastating back three.

8. Alapati Leiua – Hurricanes to Wasps

This one has gone under the radar somewhat, but anyone who’s paid any attention to the Super 15 this year will know how dangerous Leiua has been. Strong, quick and with the ability to distribute, he will be a serious weapon in what will be some Wasps backline next season.

7. Josh Furno – Biarritz to Newcastle Falcons

One of several Italian arrivals in the Premiership this season, Furno is the most impressive. He was one of Italy’s standout performers in the Six Nations, his bullocking runs always obvious thanks to his Samson-esque locks. In a Newcastle squad that was functional without ever really being very exciting, Furno will be a welcome addition.

6. Piri Weepu – Auckland Blues to London Welsh

This one had to make the list, simply for the utter disbelief that spread across Twitter when rumours that it might happen first came out. Weepu is a World Cup winner and a vastly experienced scrum-half – exactly the type of player London Welsh need if they are to avoid yo-yoing back into the Championship again. He has come through battles with serious illness in the past, and everyone will be hoping he can shine for the Premiership new boys.

5. Gareth Anscombe – Chiefs to Cardiff Blues

This is a great signing not just for the Blues, but for the Welsh game in general. Fans have seen their biggest names fleeing to all corners recently, so to acquire someone of Anscombe’s quality is a big deal for Cardiff. With Halfpenny’s departure, Anscombe will likely slot right in to his preferred fullback role, although he can also do a job at fly-half. One slight hitch will be his participation in the ITM Cup, which means he won’t arrive until October.

4. Sam Burgess – South Sydney Rabbitohs to Bath

Back-row? Centre? Doesn’t matter. Anyone that’s seen Burgess in action in rugby league will know what a devastating talent he is. Sure, it will take him a bit of time to get up to speed with the rules, but once he’s done that there’s absolutely no doubt that he has all the skills to be a hugely successful union player. The World Cup may come too soon for him, but equally if he does settle quickly then Lancaster will surely be tempted – and why not? He’s that good.

3. Jon Davies – Scarlets to Clermont Auvergne

Davies joins Clermont and will line up outside Wesley Fofana in what will be possibly the most devastating centre combination in club rugby next season. Quick, strong and with a brilliant reading of the game, Clermont have added a superb player to their already impressive ranks.

2. Richard Hibbard – Ospreys to Gloucester

Gloucester have recruited shrewdly this summer, and no-where is that more evident than in their area of great weakness last season – the front row. In Hibbard they have a Lions series-winner and perhaps more importantly, a guy that is hard as nails on the pitch. Along with John Afoa, they should have a rock solid platform from which their hugely exciting backline can launch. With a new, high quality coaching duo in place, too, there can be no more excuses for underachievement.

1. Leigh Halfpenny – Cardiff Blues to Toulon

What have Toulon lost most from Jonny Wilkinson’s retirement? Unerring accuracy from the kicking tee. What is Leigh Halfpenny’s greatest strength? You guessed it. His presence will allow the likes of Matt Giteau and James O’Connor to flourish in the playmaking roles without having to worry about goal-kicking. Of course, Halfpenny is a more than handy counter-attacker too. A brilliant signing all round.

What do you make of out list? There were several other big name transfers that came close – and potentially a few still to be confirmed this summer (Adam Jones, we’re looking at you) – but these are the ten that made the cut. Who do you think we missed out?

By Jamie Hosie
Follow Jamie on Twitter: @jhosie43

Photo by: Patrick Khachfe / Onside Images

18 thoughts on “Top 10 transfers of the summer so far

  1. I know you mention him in the paragraph, I personally think that Afoa is more of a significant signing for Gloucester than Hibbard.

    1. If John Afoa can show the form he did in his first couple of seasons at Ulster I think you may be right. Tight-heads of his quality are few and far between and he could make a massive difference to Gloucester given their well-documented scrimmaging problems. When he’s on his game he’s also a pretty devastating ball-carrier in the loose as well, so himself and Hibbard should add some much needed grunt up front.

  2. My thoughts were the same on Hibbard / Afoa. Although you might argue that one without the other still leaves the Gloucester front row looking pretty weak.

    Couple of big ones that might warrant inclusion;

    James Hook – replacement for Burns and hopefully gets a long run at 10 instead of chopping and changing along the back line. Based on Burns’ inconsistent form last year they’ve picked up a better player

    Alesana Tuilagi – if he’s still anywhere near as good as he used to be, Falcons have a game winning player on their roster. The kind of players they need to avoid a relegation fight

  3. What about Mils Muliaina to Connacht, or Bundee Aki to the same squad?

    And Burgess better learn how to tackle or he’ll spend more time in the sin bin than on the park. Union refs, especially in the NH, are far less forgiving than their league counterparts.

    1. Almost all of the clips you’ll be seeing of Burgess are when you could tackle without arms in League. Luckily for us, for this season they finally changed that rule, so he’ll have had a full season of tackling “properly” before coming to Bath.

  4. The best signings have to be players that are unlikely to miss club matches do to international call ups.. Someone like Ben Mowen is a superb signing for Montpellier, likewise Toby Flood for Toulouse. Neemia Tialata, also at Toulouse now, or John Afoa’s move to Gloucester are also perfect signings.
    If you look at Habana for example, has he really been money well spent by Boudjellal? He spent the bulk of last season out injured, originally damaging in hamstring whilst on international duty, but the great man managed only one try in just 10 games for Toulon.
    Very interested to see how Halfpenny does at Toulon – Delon Armitage, love him or hate him, has been a key player for Laporte’s side in the last two seasons.
    Two signings slightly under the radar are Zac Guildford to Clermont and Gio Aplon to Grenoble. If Guildford sorts himself out off the field, and with Jonno Gibbes now part of the Clermont coaching staff he has a perfect Kiwi mentor, he could be a great additional to the Top 14.

  5. From this list, Anscombe is the biggest signing for me. Wouldn’t be surprised to see him playing 10 for Wales in the near future, even though he will probably play at 15 for the Blues.

    Speaks volumes about the strength in depth of NZ rugby when an U20 WC winning player, playing for one of the strongest NZ teams (in recent years) has to move in his early twenties to get a shot at the international stage.

    Leiua I’m also excited to see. If the Wasps back line can all stay fit I see no reason why they can’t challenge for top honours this year.

    I think the Aviva will be much closer this year. Saracens, saints, quins, Leicester, bath, Gloucester and wasps could all be much more competitive with each other.

    1. Didn’t Anscombe play for New Zealand Juniors v Wales U20 in the IRB junior world cup in 2011? If so doesn’t that mean he’s tied to NZ unless they give permission?

        1. Sorry I should have been clearer – as in playing for Wales, rather than anything to do with Cardiff Blues. Mind you if there is a problem he can always get a passport and play 7’s then he’s sorted!

          1. I believe NZ Maori are the official AB 2nd team, so it doesn’t matter if Anscombe played for NZ u20s.

            Also it only fixes nationality if both teams involved are 2nd sides, so SA u20s vs England u20s wouldn’t lock anyone in. And finally, an 18 year old, playing for an u20s side, is not locked in regardless (hence Timo Swiels decision not to play for the SA u20s again).

            1. Actually, the Junior All Blacks are the “New Zealand A” team.

              But yes, you’re right – it would only matter if that team also played a designated second side, such as Wales or (sometimes) France.

              1. I’ve not heard of the Timo Sweil incident but according to Wikipedia he didn’t play for SAu20s against another designated ‘a’ team |(i.e withdrew from the IRB 2011 junior champs) because he has a British passport and didn’t want to commit to SA, so I’m not sure Anscombe wouldn’t be in the same situation, if that were indeed true. Wales u20 are the designated A team for Wales, thus this has the hallmarks of the Steven Shingler incident all over again (except with Wales on the receiving end) unless he goes via the sevens route/permission is granted (which Wales were unwilling to do with Shingler)- as per another rugbyblog article (not that I would blame him tbh).

                1. After reading up on it, the Junior All Blacks are “New Zealand A” but they haven’t actually played since 2009. The Baby Blacks (New Zealand U20s) are not and have not been a designated second side, so Anscombe will be fine to play for Wales.

  6. Thanks geat, i knew someone on here would get the answer i was looking for because i couldn’t figure it out and neither did the people i knew. we all assumed that the junior all blacks were the u20s, so massive thanks on that. Hopefully now the fly half debate in wales will be settled…….!

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