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