Lucrative Migrations

Posted: January 11, 2015 in Transfer

With the World Cup being played this autumn we can expect the rugby transfer market to become very busy in the coming months. Already we have seen former Australian captain James Horwell moving from the Queensland Reds to Harlequins, Adam Ashley-Cooper moving from the NSW Waratahs to the Bordeaux-Begles, and Dan Carter moving to Racing Metro to become rugby’s first million-pound-man. A 12 hour period on Wednesday on December 17th saw these three deals happen, meaning a total of 264 test caps (so far) will be swapping Southern Hemisphere rugby for the northern brand.

These three signings alone are enormous. Horwell will bolster Conor O’Shea’s already fine Harlequins side, and join names such as Joe Marler, Chris Robshaw and Nick Easter in the pack. Horwell will no doubt go on to become as big a success in Harlequins as Nick Evans.

Adam Ashley-Cooper is easily Australia’s best back in recent years and is so consistent, be it on the wing, in the centre, or at fullback. Rafael Ibanez will be watching Australia with interest and delight during the autumn competition.

And, finally, Dan Carter. It’s rumoured that when Jacky Lorenzetti was asked what do you do when one of the best outhalves in world rugby is leaving your team, he simply smiled and stated that you sign on of the best outhalves in world rugby history. Carter’s return to France is the biggest transfer news so far, and here’s hoping that his time in Racing Metro works out better than his sabbatical in Perpignan.

So much was made of Dan Carter’s potential millions that other New Zealand signings were made nearly insignificant. Ma’a Nonu, the 94 cap New Zealand centre, is also flying to France from England in October to join the world class Toulon. Apparently Tana Umaga was a big factor in Nonu joining-he must be the one to hand him the cheque. Jeremy Thrush is also leaving New Zealand for Gloucester-how big an influence did Jimmy Cowan have, I wonder?

With Nonu and Carter leaving after the World Cup, you have to ask what is going to happen to the rest of the kiwi old guard. Mealamu, Woodcock and McCaw are all going to be courted by the same French giants as Nonu, and with them not having another World Cup in them it may be time to gain a more financially stable future for their families. Conrad Smith is another player who will not play in Japan in 2019, so it will be interesting to see how his future options pan out. The same can be said for some of the younger All Blacks too. Sonny Bill Williams is a man who has already played his rugby in Europe, so would a return to Toulon to join his fellow All Blacks be an option? Maybe if Nonu was happy to split the shift. But if not, I’m sure other clubs would be willing to have him in their squad. Ben Franks is also being courted by London Irish-what a signing he would be for the Exiles.

One thing for certain is that the Irish teams are going to have to invest in some shrewd business if they want to compete seriously in next year’s Champions Cup. The cannot compete with Toulon et al financially, there’s no secret there. And Connacht already did well to sign Mils Muliaina for this season’s effort. But post-World Cup Europe is a different animal. Clubs will want to shake off the World Cup hangover, as will the players. They will be rested, of course, but their introduction during the competition will mean the difference between progressing from the group and winning the competition.

If they are to compete with intent to win, Munster, Ulster and Leinster will need to invest in players that can do a big job with a small price tag (Connacht, I think, would need a figure such as Boudjellal in order to have a chance). These deals have been done before and with great effect. Munster brought in Trevor Halstead, Rua Tupoki, Gary Longwell, Christian Cullen and a certain All Black named Doug Howlett. In the past Leinster signed Isa Nacewa, who has hugely influential, as well as Felipe Contepomi, Rocky Elsom and Brad Thorne. And Ulster had half a Springbok team at one point, with the likes of John Afoa, Ruan Pienaar, Franko Van Der Merve and Louis Ludik doing a job (with most still plying their trade up north).

Attracting big game players on a tight budget will no doubt pose a problem for the provinces but they are usually quite good at solving that. The public will hope their teams will be able to compete toe-to-toe with the best in Europe next year.

JJ Hanrahan will don the green, black and yellow of Northampton next season, with Rob Thorne being lined up to replace him. Jimmy Gopperth is swapping Leinster for Wasps, but is being replaced by Jonny Sexton. Mick Kearney is also leaving Connacht to learn his trade under Matt O’Connor. Not a bad start by either team (if Rob Thorne works out, that is). Munster are also looking to lure Tomás O’Leary back from London Irish and rumours were circulating that Ben Smith was being courted by the Southerners. But a winger is not what Munster need. To compete in Europe they need a solid, exciting centre partnership with far more strength in depth. Ironically, it is the weakest province who currently have the most exciting centre partnership, with Bundee Aki and Robbie Henshaw lining up for Connacht. How long will that partnership will last must be a constant worry for Pat Lam.

The upshot of all this is thats at least fans in Europe will get to see some big names from down below on a more regular basis. But probably the French fans more than others.

  1. Sean Walsh says:

    Where does Ian Madigan’s future lie?

    With Sexton returning does he spend the next 4 years as his back up playing the odd Rabo game? Should he forget about out half and commit himself fully to becoming an inside centre replacing Darcy?

    If Henshaw stays with Connaught is there a possibility he would move west?
    9. Marmion 10. Madigan 12. Aki 13. Henshaw 15. Muliaina, with the young wingers rotating?

    If he wants a successful career at 10 surely leaving Leinster for 1st team opportunities is a must.


  2. jneville88 says:

    Even if Madigan was to leave Leinster it wouldn’t be to go West. He’s good enough to play with the top English, Scottish, Eelsh and French teams.

    Playing with Connacht would also mean he’s not playing in the highest level in Europe, which I reckon wouldn’t be an option for him.


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