Top 14 players to watch: the return of French rugby clubs, the world stars ready

If you’re a rugby fan who doesn’t watch the Top 14, maybe you should get on it soon.

The top division of French club rugby has many of the best players in the world, the most notable promising players and continental challengers who compete in its ranks, giving it the deserved distinction of being one of the best world leagues.

Unfortunately, partly due to the fact that English language coverage of the Top 14 is hard to come by, some potential fans face a certain barrier to entry.

That’s where FloSports is here to help, providing insight into some of the biggest names and personalities playing at their rugby club in France – and what they’re talking about – as the league kicks off a new season at the start of the next month.

Here’s a look at five names to watch as the Top 14 season kicks off. Coverage will continue throughout the year on FloRugby.

Antoine Dupont, scrum half, Toulouse

Dupont is the reigning World Rugby Men’s 15s Player of the Year. Need we say more?

Even at just 25, Dupont has already captained his country and led it to a Six Nations Grand Slam, won a European Rugby Champions Cup (2020-2021) with his club team and s is arguably the best active scrum-half – and likely overall player – on the planet.

A total package with few weaknesses, Dupont, a two-time Six Nations Player of the Tournament, is nigh unstoppable with the ball in his hands for club and country and full power for Toulouse, the team that got him signed from Castres in 2017.

He won two Top 14 titles in his time with the Rouge et Noir, but a fourth-place finish in the regular season and an early exit from the playoffs last season likely led Toulouse to seek a return to the top this time around, in particular with the standards the team and its fans have the most successful rugby club in Europe.

With players like Dupont playing for you, anything is possible.

2022 Racing 92 – Castres Olympique

Morgan Parra, fly half, Stade Français

A legendary Clermont figure, making nearly 300 appearances and scoring more than 2,300 points for the club in 13 years, Parra opted for a change of scenery in the offseason, and the 33-year-old French national team veteran has signed with the Parisian stadium. French. It’s his first new club for the first time in over a decade.

It’s not like Parra, who helped lead Clermont to Top 14 titles in 2010 and 2017, is over the hill either. His 160 points scored a season ago ranked among the top 10 in the league, helping him prove he was still capable of contributing at a high level.

He now joins one of the most successful teams in French club rugby, and Stade Français have lost their luck a bit lately, having failed to win a league title since 2015 and finishing 10th or less in table final four times since. then.

Parra’s veteran leadership and ability to lead as a former Clermont captain could prove influential in his new club’s rise to the top.

2022 Stade Français vs ASM Clermont Auvergne

Dany Priso, props man, Toulon

Priso was a bit of a forgotten man after the prop missed out on selection for the France squad for the 2019 Rugby World Cup, watching from home as the Blues only managed to qualify for the quarter-finals – their lowest joint position at a World Cup. – for the second consecutive tournament.

No string puller in French rugby talks about him now.

Priso was one of the key men behind La Rochelle’s stunning run to the Champions Cup title last season, with the Privateers lifting their first continental trophy before they even lifted a Top 14 championship at home in France.

Using his increased stock to move away from the Atlantic coast, the Cameroonian-born Priso is with Toulon for the 2022 season. He has signed a three-year deal to lead the club’s front line.

News aside, what Priso perhaps appreciates most is that he’s back in the national team conversation, as coach Fabien Galthie selected him for the France squad. of 42 players for a two-Test series against Japan last month.

Warrick Gelant, fullback, running 92

Although a large part of the Top 14 player pool is French (obviously), there are countless examples of international imports arriving in the country and ruling it, despite the changing culture, language barriers and all the rest.

South Africa’s Gelant – capped 10 times by the Springboks since 2017 – could be the next in a growing line of underdogs to impact the league landscape.

Signed by Racing 92 in the offseason to try to fill the void left at the back by stud Teddy Thomas (who left to sign with La Rochelle following their Champions Cup victory), Gelant, 27 , never played. rugby club outside his homeland but has a heavy resume of former South African clubs signing his paychecks including the Bulls, Stormers and Western Province.

In addition, many of his compatriots have come to France to build muscle, including Handre Pollard, the Springbok star who played a crucial role in securing a maiden Top 14 title for Montpellier last season.

Who says Gelant can’t be an important part of the Racing team either?

2022 Union Bordeaux Begles vs Stade Toulousain

Romain Ntamack, opening half, Toulouse

Ntamack and Dupont go together like peanut butter and jelly.

The two prodigies of French rugby for some time now, Ntamack – who has played professionally for Toulouse since 2017 when he was 18 – is one of the best No 10s in the world and is on course to possibly overtake the professional achievements of his father, Emile, who made nearly 50 appearances for the French national team in the mid to late 1990s.

With Romain sitting at 28 caps to his credit at 23, there is a bright future ahead of the Blues and Toulouse, as long as they keep him and the other stars of the team.

Breakthrough World Rugby Player of the Year in 2019, Ntamack is set to flourish again in a loaded red and black squad that includes the likes of himself, Dupont and other emerging talents from the French national team, such as the back Melvyn Jaminet and lock Thibaud Flament. All players listed are 25 years of age or younger.

And with nine tries in total for his club in all competitions a year ago, Ntamack’s game still has plenty of room to develop as well.

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