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Dublin: 6 °C Friday 14 December, 2018
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Here’s who the Top 14 clubs have signed for the 2016/17 season

As always, a handful of big-name Southern Hemisphere stars have joined the French clubs.

THE TOP 14 pre-season got underway last night with Pau’s 41-12 victory over Pro D2 outfit Angoulême.

The French top tier kicks off in just over three weeks’ time, so we’ve rounded up all the major incoming transfers in the Top 14 this summer.

Bayonne

Having returned to the Top 14 thanks to a promotion play-off final win over Jeremy Davidson’s Aurillac, Bayonne have signed former All Blacks lock Tom Donnelly from Montpellier.

Scotland's Johnnie Beattie Beattie has moved to Bayonne. Source: Inpho/Billy Stickland

He is joined by compatriot Tanerau Latimer, who brings a wealth of Super Rugby experience and five All Black caps of his own to the back row.

Scotland international number eight Johnny Beattie has made the move from Castres, while 50-times capped Italy tighthead Lorenzo Cittadini comes on board from Wasps.

Former Wales international prop Ben Broster adds further to the front-row options, as do Samoa hooker Manu Leiataua - signed from Aurillac – and 24-year-old Georgian prop Davit Khinchagishvili, who joins from Racing 92.

Bordeaux

Ian Madigan is the marquee signing for UBB this summer and it will be fascinating to follow the Ireland international’s time in France. 25-year-old Wallabies-capped lock Luke Jones is another who should add notable quality.

Also keen to aid Bordeaux’s league and European campaigns – UBB are in the same pool as Ulster in the Champions Cup - are Moldovan international prop Vadim Cobîlaș, formerly of Sale, and scrum-half Julien Audy, who has signed from La Rochelle.

VISUEL_ATLANTIQUE_JOUEURS-VIGNETTE Madigan in UBB's 'atlantique' alternate jersey.

Brive

After a positive season that saw Brive finish eighth in the Top 14, they have brought in the 30-year-old lock Julien Le Devedec, now a France international, from Bordeaux.

Joining him in the Corrèze region are dynamic fullback Benjamin Lapeyre from Racing 92 and former Fiji Sevens international Seremaia Burotu, who comes on board from Biarritz.

19-year-old Georgian scrum-half Vasil Lobzhanidze is an interesting recruit. He became the youngest player ever to appear in a World Cup match last year and has already established himself at senior Test level. He also played against Ireland in the World Rugby U20 Championship in June.

Castres

Castres have recruited extensively ahead of a season that will see them compete in the same Champions Cup pool as Leinster, with France international lock Loïc Jacquet and prop Daniel Kötze among the new faces.

31-year-old Argentina wing Horacio Agulla joins from Bath, with Tonga international back row Steve Mafi signing from the Western Force and South African centre Robert Ebersohn making the move from Montpellier.

Maama Vaipulu has looked good in the Chiefs’ back row in Super Rugby, while former Brumbies and Rebels wing Afusipa Taumoepeau joins from Albi.

South African hooker Jody Jenneker is a good signing from relegated Oyonnax, as Germany prop Damien Tussac signs from Montauban and wing Pierre Bérard joins from Montpellier.

Clermont

Sean O'Brien with Rémi Lamerat Lamerat signs from Castres. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

The Auvergne-based club – Champions Cup pool opponents for Ulster – have limited their incoming transfer business to three new summer signings, with France international centre Rémi Lamerat among them.

Former Wallabies lock Sitaleki Timani makes the move from Montpellier, while 18-times capped Wales prop Aaron Jarvis arrives from the Ospreys as his compatriot Jonathan Davies returns to the Scarlets.

Grenoble

With Bernard Jackman having taken over as director of rugby, the signing of Aly Muldowney from Connacht looks a clever one. The 32-year-old lock is ideally suited to how FCG want to play the game.

Experienced scrum-half David Mélé joins from Toulouse to add further leadership, while Sisa Waqa is an exciting proposition for the club’s supporters.

Jackman has lured the 30-year-old into union from rugby league, where Waqa was a Fiji international and a prolific try scorer for the Melbourne Storm and Canberra Raiders. His finishing ability could be important this season.

La Rochelle

All Blacks number eight Victor Vito is the big-name signing for La Rochelle, who finished ninth last season, while 34-year-old Brock James will add experience at out-half.

Victor Vito Vito has signed for La Rochelle. Source: Photosport/Andrew Cornaga/INPHO

24-year-old South African centre Paul Jordaan, a former U20 international, has signed from the Sharks, while La Rochelle have also captured the highly-promising scrum-half/fullback Arthur Retière from Racing. The 18-year-old is already an U20 and 7s international for France.

Prop Mohamed Boughanmi arrives from Toulon, experienced France 7s international Steeve Barry returns to the club, and 23-year-old hooker Jérémie Maurouard has also joined.

Lyon

Runaway Pro D2 champions last season, Lyon are intent on making their mark on the top flight in 2016/17.

With head coach Pierre Mignoni taking advantage of his Toulon ties, Frédéric Michalak joins, as do fullback Delon Armitage, France prop Alexandre Menini, back row Virgile Bruni, and promising centre Théo Belan.

Springbok lock Franco Mostert is an excellent signing from the Lions, although he appears to have some regrets about opting to leave his homeland, while 22-year-old Australian back row Curtis Browning signs from the Reds.

Adding further South Hemisphere influence is Kiwi lock Josh Bekhuis, from the Blues, and 10-times Wallabies capped out-half/fullback Mike Harris, a reliable kicker.

Toulon’s Delon Armitage Chris Masoe and Juan Fernandez Lobbe celebrate Bryan Habana's try Delon Armitage is among Lyon's signings this summer. Source: Inpho/Billy Stickland

Far from limiting themselves, Lyon have also signed hooker Mickaël Ivaldi from Montpellier, veteran Kiwi prop Karena Wihongi from Castres, Argentina international prop Francisco Gómez Kodela from Bordeaux, powerful All Blacks-capped wing Rudi Wulf from Castres, and Samoan international lock Maselino Paulino from the Scarlets.

Montpellier

Jake White’s Montpellier machine won the Challenge Cup and reached the Top 14 semi-finals last season, and are now intent on further growth. Leinster are Champions Cup pool opponents.

Fijian giant Nemani Nadolo will add major firepower after signing from the Crusaders, as will Wallabies wing Joe Tomane, who leaves the Brumbies to come to France.

France international centre Alexandre Dumoulin is an excellent addition from Racing 92, while Kiwi out-half Ben Botica comes in from Harlequins. Wings Vincent Martin and Joffrey Michel join from Toulon and Perpignan, respectively.

Antoine Guillamon adds depth to the propping stocks, while Georgian international lock Konstantin Mikautadze brings a bruising presence from Toulon.

Nemani Nadolo makes a break Leinster may have to stop Nadolo in his tracks. Source: Photosport/John Davidson/INPHO

It wouldn’t be White without a pair of South African signings, of course, with 34-year-old Springboks-capped hooker Tiaan Liebenberg and former Baby Boks lock Nico Janse van Rensburg joining the mini-diaspora in Montpellier.

Pau

The Irish trio of James Coughlan, Paddy Butler and Sean Dougall have considerable competition for places at Pau this season after an influx of back rows.

Former England international Steffon Armitage has signed from Toulon, ex-Wallabies number eight Ben Mowen comes in from Montpellier, the mobile Pierrick Gunther joins from Oyonnax, and France-capped Ibrahim Diarra moves from Castres.

Heavyweight prop Malik Hamadache signs on from Albi, while former France scrum-half Julien Tomas brings experience from Stade Français. Lock Fabrice Metz, capped by France this summer, joins from Racing.

The capture of three-times capped All Black out-half/fullback Tom Taylor from Toulon could prove to be an important move as Pau look to shift up the table after an 11th-placed finish last season.

Racing 92

The reigning champions, who secured the 2015/16 title with only 14 men for the majority of the final against Toulon, have lured the most exciting player in the Pro12 to France this summer.

Leone Nakarawa The offload king has pitched up in Paris. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Fiji international Leone Nakarawa joins from Glasgow Warriors for what is believed to be a weighty fee, the lock having had a year left to run on his contract in Scotland.

Irish scrum-half James Hart joins Nakarawa at the Parisian club, having shifted up from Grenoble – also despite having a year left on his contract.

Six-times capped former All Blacks wing/centre Anthony Tuitavake comes on board from Montpellier, as Samoan international prop Viliamu Afatia shifts up from Agen.

Intriguingly, Racing have convinced 35-year-old ex-New Zealand and Toulon lock Ali Williams to come out of retirement to play for them this season, while South African lock Gerbrandt Grobler - nearing the end of a two-year suspension from rugby after testing positive for drostanolone in 2014 – has also signed.

Racing are part of Munster’s Champions Cup pool.

Stade Français

Despite a deeply-disappointing 2015/16 season that saw the Parisians finish 12th, a year after being crowned Top 14 champions, head coach Gonzalo Quesada is keeping faith with the same playing squad.

The only new addition is Fijian wing Alipate Ratini, who was sacked by Grenoble in 2015 due to misconduct.

Toulon

Following their first trophy-less season since 2012/13, Mourad Boudjellal is hoping to see Toulon return to glory in the forthcoming campaign.

François Trinh-Duc Trinh-Duc replaces the departed Quade Cooper. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

France out-half François Trinh-Duc is an interesting addition from Montpellier, his home club, while Pierre Bernard provides another out-half option after joining from Bordeaux.

Wallabies flanker Liam Gill should prove an effective addition on the openside, while Japan fullback Ayumu Goromaro brings lots of profile with him from the Reds.

Springboks locking pair Marcel van der Merwe and Juandré Kruger will add grunt to the pack, while 22-year-old South African back row Aidon Davis comes on board from the Kings.

Finally, 35-year-old Vincent Clerc moves from Toulouse to sample the delights of the Côte d’Azur.

Toulouse

After a quiet three years with Castres, Scotland lock Richie Gray will hope that joining Toulouse – Connacht’s Champions Cup pool opponents – on a four-year deal brings success in France.

Explosive France wing Sofiane Guitoune, Italy international hooker Leonardo Ghiraldini, and Samoa back row Piula Faʻasalele have all joined.

Fiji tighthead Manasa Saulo moves to la Ville Rose, while Portugal international scrum-half Samuel Marques is another new face. South African prop Maks van Dyk, who had a spell at Leinster in 2014/15, signs from the Cheetahs.

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Here’s who the Pro12 clubs have signed for the 2016/17 season

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Murray Kinsella

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