If Wallabies five-eighth Quade Cooper follows through on his move to French club Toulon, he’ll be in good company after the European champions signed a trio of internationals.
Already with a reputation of luring seasoned Test players from all over the world, on Monday news emerged that Toulon will welcome Ireland stalwart Paul O’Connell, England prop Matt Stevens and South Africa back-rower Duane Vermeulen to the club after this year’s World Cup.
The 28-year-old No.8 Vermeulen’s move was the most significant of the three given he’s in his prime, having played 29 Tests for the Springboks and only last year was nominated for the World Player of the Year award.
He joins from Super Rugby side the Stormers on a three-year deal, French newspaper Var-Matin said, and is set to replace departing New Zealander Chris Masoe.
Ireland captain and lock O’Connell, 35, has signed for one year with the option of another as he leaves Munster following 15 years at the Irish province.
Speaking to Var-Matin newspaper, the club’s president Mourad Boudjellal said O’Connell “really wanted to finish his career the way Jonny Wilkinson did”, referring to the England great’s Toulon swansong that ended with a French and European double 12 months ago.
O’Connell, who has 101 Ireland caps, will join following the World Cup in September and October.
Despite worries about a troublesome shoulder, he passed a medical.
O’Connell’s arrival will offset the loss of World Cup-winning locks Bakkies Botha and Ali Williams, who both retired at the end of the just-completed season.
South Africa-born Stevens, 32, joins from the Sharks on a two-year deal after an 46-cap international career for England.
The trio join an impressive recruitment that has already seen the likes of All Blacks great Ma’a Nonu and American wrecking ball Samu Manoa agree to move to the reigning triple European champions.
Queensland Reds No.10 Cooper has reportedly signed with Toulon, although since that announcement by the club in April, there’s been plenty of speculation he might backflip.
There have also been reports that his Reds teammate, James O’Connor, is set to return to Toulon next season but the Australian Rugby Union only last week reiterated that he has another year to run on his contract with the Queensland Rugby Union.