Friday, August 22, 2008
A little over seven weeks since Toulouse were victorious against Clermont in the final, it's time for the Top 14 to take centre stage yet again, as Frances top domestic rugby competition kicks off this Tuesday. With the world sitting up and taking notice after a few surprise signings, this Top 14 season will have some of the biggest names in rugby on display and it is their progress that will capture the attention of fans the world over.
We take a look at a few of the big name players who will be plying their trade in France this year. From Marshall to Masoe , Goode to Gasnier , the Top 14 is starting to look akin to soccer's English Premier League, with most of the top teams splattered with international talent and star quality.
Possibly the biggest talk has been centred around newly promoted big spenders Toulon , who secured the services of Jerry Collins not too long ago, and then more recently can boast rugby league star Sonny Bill Williams on their teamsheet. Those two players alone will create a huge deal of hype and have all eyes on Toulon this season.
Daniel Carter surprised all when he chose Perpignan over Tana Umag a coached Toulon, but has been forthright about his reasons for spending his sabbatical with the catalan side, citing playing in the Heineken Cup as his main motivation. Chris Cusiter of Scotland, and Henry Tuilagi of Samoa will be there by his side as he makes the transition into European rugby.
In terms of the title, Toulouse will be favourites once again, and with Frederic Michalak returning from South Africa, as well as David Skrela moving over from Stade Francais, perhaps their biggest challenge will be finding their starting fifteen in a side that has talent in abundance.
Last seasons finalists Clermont, with all the running power of Rougerie and Nalaga on the wings, will be looking to have another strong season, and will be as determined as ever to get over that final hurdle this time around.
Argentinean class will be on display at Stade Francais, as Hernandez , Corleto , and now Leguizamon , will be aiming to get the team from Paris up to the top once again. Throw in league star Mark Gasnier , and the side now coached by Australian Ewen McKenzie will be one to watch yet again.
A few other notable mentions are Chris Masoe who has gone to Castres, Justin Marshall who left Ospreys to play at Montpelier, former Leicester pivot Andy Goode who will be at Brive, and Wallaby Rodney Blake who will be scrumming down with Bayonne. There's a smattering of South Africans spread right the way across France, but since John Smit has left Clermont and Victor Matfield has left Toulon, there aren't any household names that come to mind.
There are of course other top players who we may have missed mentioning, particularly the locals, but this video is simply to give you an idea of what's coming up in the Top 14, and why well be doing what we can to bring you coverage of all the stars in action throughout the season, starting this Tuesday.
Song: Follow the Flow by Epik High