Scrum is the priority for Top 14’s Bigspending Toulon

French Second Division rugby champions Toulon unveiled their newlook squad for next season on Tuesday which showed 17 new faces of which 12 are in the scrum.

The ambitious outfit have plans to recruit three more players as they look to launch a serious challenge for the championship and upset the usual suspects of Toulouse, Clermont, Stade Francais, Biarritz and Perpignan.

Their most eyecatching signing was All Black legend backrow forward Jerry Collins, who, even though he is only 27 opted like several of his national team-mates to turn their backs on the international scene and take a big money offer from Europe.

Collins is likely to form a formidable backrow with Springbok international Joe van Niekerk.

Whilst they will provide fireworks on the pitch Toulon will be hoping that controversial Australian scrum-half Matt Henjak will also keep his best for matchday and not make the papers because of his offpitch behaviour, which saw him sacked from Australian rugby when he broke the jaw of Western Force team-mate Haig Sare in a bar in February.

No less than six of the new faces in the scrum are front row forwards, having secured three from Albi, who were relegated because they failed to meet the financial requirements of the league’s governing body.

Hooker Guillaume Ribes and props Jerome Filitoga and Mathieu Larrouy have jumped ship eager for another bite among the elite.

However, they will face tough competition from another three new signings, Georgian international prop David Kubriashvili, signed from Montpellier, and two southern hemisphere players Kiwi prop Ben Castle, who arrived from the Waikato Chiefs and South African hooker Christiaan Liebenberg, who has left the Stormers.

Toulon may have lost World Cup winning lock Victor Matfield after just one season and also missed out on signing his second row partner Bakkies Botha, but they have secured the services of highly-rated 21-year-old South African Ross Skeate.

Backing him up will be former Mont-de-Marsan star Jocelino Suta.

Aside from Collins and van Niekerk Toulon have also invested in Fijian international Sisaro Koyamaibole, who arrives from Italy, and Olivier Missoup from Oyonnax.

Toulon will have three choices at fly-half in Italy international Ramiro Pez, Montauban’s Sebastien Fauque and Damien Vidal.

Centre Luke Rooney makes up the new faces, the 25-year-old Australian having switched codes from rugby league where he played with the Penrith Panthers.

Sapa-AFP –

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