MUNSTER COACH ANTHONY Foley was quick to deny reports that his captain Paul O’Connell could finish off his career with Toulon in the Top 14 next season but even without capturing the Ireland second row, the French league still has a LOT of foreign talent coming in after the World Cup.
It was a little ridiculous watching Toulon play Leinster and seeing Carl Hayman trying to out-drive Cian Healy, Ali Williams and Bakkies Botha competing for lineouts, Matt Giteau controlling things in midfield (though he was poor on Sunday) and Leigh Halfpenny punishing the Irish province from the tee.
Even Barbarians teams rarely have so much talent at their disposal. Worryingly for the Irish provinces, the rich are getting richer next season. Williams and Botha are retiring, but Mourad Boudjellal is replacing the duo with Northampton’s American giant, Samu Manoa.
And it gets worse. Chris Masoe is on his way to Racing Metro and South Africa’s disemboweler-in-chief, Duane Vermeulen, is his strongly rumoured replacement.
And there’s no point in Irish fans drying their tears at this point, because Toulon’s recruits behind the scrum are even more potent. Try Quade Cooper, Ma’a Nonu and Clermont’s Fijian wing Napolioni Nalaga.
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Clermont have mourned the loss of their destructive back by signing someone equally mesmeric – Highlanders wing Waisake Naholo.
European rugby is being dominated by French clubs at the moment, with Toulon in their third straight European Cup final while Clermont are in their second decider in three years.
However, the moves made by the chasing pack in France could push the established duo. Racing Metro have signed Dan Carter, Will Genia will be playing for Stade Francais and Bordeaux have acquired Adam Ashley Cooper.
This list of incoming transfers is pretty frightening, especially since some of the weaker teams in the Top 14 can afford some pretty big stars.
The provinces showed by signing All Blacks Francis Saili and Charles Piutau that they can compete financially but for every big player purchased by an Irish team, there are seven or eight going to France.
Will we just have a Toulon v Clermont European Cup final for the next decade?
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