Ultimate Rugby's All Time European Imported XV

Ultimate Rugby's All Time European Imported XV

Since rugby went professional in 1995, European clubs have searched the market to sign top players to help propel them to glory both domestically and in Europe.

We have picked a XV of players who had the best careers in Europe having joined their respective clubs. We have set a few parameters with only players from outside of Europe qualifying for the side. So for example, Jonny Wilkinson can't qualify despite guiding Toulon to three Heineken Cup titles.


We have also picked players on how impactful they were at the club as well as how long they stayed at the club.

1. Marcos Ayerza - Leicester Tigers


The Los Pumas loosehead formed one of the most furious front rows in Europe during his time at Leicester Tigers.

The 66 test cap loosehead spent 11 years t Leicester Tigers making an incredible 246 appearances for the side with more than 200 of those appearances coming in the starting XV. He was also part of a squad that won four Premiership titles and played in Premiership Finals in six successive years at Twickenham. He also played in two European Cup Finals and has been part of two Anglo-Welsh Cup-winning squads.


2. Schalk Brits - Saracens

Although his fellow countryman John Smit made a massive impact at Saracens, we can't think of hooker that as much of an impact in Europe than Schalk Brits.

The smiley club legend won four Premiership titles and 2 European clubs during his time in Europe and racked up 222 appearances and scored 36 tries.

A case could easily be made for Brits being the greatest foreign signing in European rugby history.

3. Census Johnston - Toulouse

Having just announced his retirement, Johnston enjoyed a long and successful career in Europe representing the likes of Biarittz, Saracens, Toulouse, Racing 92 and Bayonne but the burning front-rower will be remembered mostly for his time in France with Toulouse.

The giant Samoan was part of French league-winning teams on three occasions (Biarritz, 2006; Toulouse, 2011 and 2012) and also won the European Cup with Toulouse, with whom he played between 2009-17.

A hat tip to former Springbok prop Brian Mujati, who was mammoth on the tighthead side of the scrum for Northampton Saints and Racing 92.

4. Bakkies Botha - Toulon

 

Brad Thorn made a massive impact at Leinster during his single season at the club while there are a number of potential options from around Europe but none quite fitted the bill as Bakkies Botha at Toulon.

The French are well known for their love of gnarly forwards and Botha was just that. Having won everything on offer in South Africa which included three Super Rugby Titles, three Currie Cups, a British and Irish Lions Tour, two Tri Nations and the Rugby World Cup, Botha joined Toulon after the Rugby World Cup.

He went on to play over 70 games for the French club winning a TOP14 title and a three-peat of Champions Cups where he started every single final. 

Botha's impact in France is highlighted by that fact that he was only four foreign players to make the TOP14 Dream Team voted for by the fans.

5. Jamie Cudmore - Clermont

Another legend of French rugby, Jamie Cudmore slots in alongside Bakkies Botha to form a formidable second row.

Cudmore made 212 appearances for Clermont for over 11 years and although the relationship between the club and player may have gone sour in recent times, he is still one of the club's greatest ever players.  

6. Jacques Burger - Saracens

After stints with the Griquas, Aurillac and the Blue Bulls Jacques Burger turned his attention to England signing with Saracens and the rest they say is history.

A mad flanker from Namibia, Burger had a blatant disregard for his own body and dished many of big hits either side of the ball. During his time at Saracens, he won two Premiership titles in 2011 and 2015 with Burger starting both finals

Again there were a number of potential candidates for the position but Burger left a legacy at Saracens and did more than enough to beat the likes of Juan Smith (Toulon), Scott Fardy (Leinster), Serge Betsen (Wasps) and Rocky Elsom (Leinster).

7. Xavier Rush - Cardiff Blues

Again there were numerous candidates for openside flanker role but we have opted for Cardiff Blues' legendary Cardiff Blues back-rower Xavier Rush.

A man that probably deserved more than his 8 All Black caps, Rush was arguably one of Wales' best every foreign imports. The Kiwi powerhouse was an instant hit with the fans with both his aggressive attacking play and leadership qualities being appreciated by all. The former club captain guided them to European Challenge Cup success in 2010. 

8. Joe van Niekerk- Toulon

Big Joe's inclusion in our side might come as somewhat of a surprise considering some of the potential candidates in the likes of Nick Williams among numerous other options.

But van Niekerk arrived at Toulon after the side had just regained promotion to the TOP14 and went on to make over 100 appearances for the side captaining the side numerous times and won two Champions Cup titles with the side.

9. Ruan Pienaar - Ulster

An absolute legend of the Kingspan, Ruan Pienaar arrived in Belfast in 2010 and during his 7-year stint with club become an all-time Ulster great.

He made well over 100 appearances for the club and was a fan favourite for the side so much so that he was named as the Supporters Player of the Year in his final season with Province.

10. Nick Evans - Harlequins

A strong rival with Schalk Brits for the best foreign signing in Premiership Rugby history!

Nick Evans left New Zealand in 2008 as the All Blacks' second choice first five to join the Harlequins and went on to play over 200 games for the London based club.

He helped the club lift their first League title in 2012 and is the club's record points-scorer. Following his retirement, Evans has been named in the Premiership Rugby Hall of Fame and works as a Harlequins assistant coach.

11. Doug Howlett - Munster

Again there are a number of potential candidates for the wing slots but we narrowed it down to two in Bryan Habana at Toulon and Doug Howlett at Munster.

A close call between the pair but we went with the Munster signing from 2008.

Both players won the Champions Cup and domestic titles with their respective clubs but we have gone with Howlett due to his overall impact at the club and due to the fact that he made over 100 appearances for Munster.

After retiring, Howlett moved into a position with the club working as the Head of Commercial and Marketing for six years.

12. Felipe Contepomi - Leinster

'The Doc' was a revelation at Leinster making over 100 games for the club winning the Heineken Cup and the Celtic League.

The Los Pumas playmaker scored 1 225 points for the Province and was nominated for the World Player of the Year award during his time at the club.

His impact on the club has seen him now work as an assistant coach with the side.

13. Matt Giteau - Toulon

Another legend at Toulon and the final Toulon player to make our list. Giteau worked superbly with Jonny Wilkinson at the French club to win three Champions Cup titles.

HE too made over 100 appearances for Toulon and is another foreign player to make the TOP14 dream team as voted for by the fans.

14. Isa Nacewa - Leinster

A gifted and versatile player, Nacewa spent most of his Leinster career in the centres and at fullback but he claims a spot on the wing - the position he played his last Champions Cup match in.

Nacewa made over 180 appearances for Leinster winning two PRO14 titles, a Challenge Cup title and four Champions Cup trophies with the Province.

A club favourite, Nacewa is often rated as the greatest foreign import of all time.

 

 

15. Juan Martin Hernandez - Stade Francais

The final place in our side goes to the magician Juan Martin Hernandez who scored over 500 points in 123 appearances for Stade Francais over six years.

Another member of the TOP14 Dream Team, Hernandez made his name in France with the likes of Racing 92 and Toulon but his most successful stint was with Stade Francais.

El Mago won the Top 14 title twice with Parisians Stade Francais and could easily slot in at inside centre, flyhalf and fullback. 

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