Charles Piutau (Bristol): Piutau made a significant impact in his debut season in Europe with London Wasps and was nominated for the Premiership Player of the Season award, while also being named in the Team of the Season.
The 17-capped All Black moved to Ulster on a £500 000 a year deal the following season and collected both the PRO12 Player of the Year and Ulster Player of the Year awards. He made 23 appearances in total and was joint-top scorer with nine tries. This prompted Bristol to sign him for an English top-flight record fee of £1.8 million.
Daniel Carter (Racing 92): Carter is the highest points-scorer in Test Match history and has won the World Rugby Player of the Year award a record three times (2005, 2012 and 2015). Carter has won four Super Rugby titles with the Crusaders, six Tri-Nations and Rugby Championships with the All Blacks and two World Cups (2011 and 2015).
After 13 seasons with the Crusaders, it was announced in December 2014 that Carter would be joining Parisian club Racing Metro after the 2015 Rugby World Cup on a three-year deal worth a reported €1,500,000 a season, making him the world’s highest paid rugby player.
On 24 June 2016, Carter helped Racing Metro win the 2016 Top 14 final with a 29-21 win against Toulon at Camp Nou, Barcelona scoring 15 points (5 penalties) and was named Man of the Match.
Aaron Cruden (Montpellier): Cruden burst onto the scene at a young age when he captained New Zealand to the 2009 Junior World Championships and was named Junior World Player of the year in the same year.
He was a key figure in the Chiefs’ back-to-back Super Rugby titles of 2012 and 2013. However Cruden has often had to play second fiddle to the likes of Dan Carter and Beauden Barrett. There is no doubting his talent and Cruden started the 2011 World Cup final in place of the injured Dan Carter. His 50th and final cap came in the third Test in the recent British and Irish Lions tour.
Victor Vito (La Rochelle): Vito was instrumental in underdogs La Rochelle finishing first in the Top 14 last season only to lose to Toulon in the semi-finals.
The 30-year-old has won two World Cups with the All Blacks. On top of his international accolades, Vito won the 2016 Super Rugby title with the Hurricanes just before making the move to the Northern Hemisphere.
Like Ma’a Nonu, he was a star of New Zealand sevens and is a highly adaptable player. Vito is one of the most talented players of his generation and captained the 2006 New Zealand Under 19 Rugby team.
Ma’a Nonu (Toulon): Nonu has won two World Cups (2011 and 2015), having been capped 103 times by the All Blacks. He has been described by 2011 World Cup-winning coach Graham Henry as ‘probably the best linebreaker in this game in this country’.
Nonu made 126 appearances for the Hurricanes either side of stints with the Highlanders and Blues before joining Toulon, after the 2015 Rugby World Cup, where he has made 42 appearances. The 35-year-old is a Top 14 finalist with Toulon as they narrowly missed out on silverware at the end of last season.
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