A small turn and then goes away. Arrived last summer at the Stade Français with the status of superstar, the all black center Ngani Laumape is already leaving the club of the capital, without ever having lived up to expectations. But he is not the only great international rugby player to have flopped in the Top 14. Lydiate, Ioane, Weepu, Savea… A look back at the most significant disappointments.
Gethin Jenkins (Toulon, 2012-2013)
In Wales, Gethin Jenkins is a monument. 129 selections under the leek jersey, 5 selections with the Lions armada (this super-team which brings together the best players from the British selections), etc. For many, he is the best left prop in the history of Welsh rugby, a real rock in the scrum. So when RC Toulon manages to hire him in 2012, it looks like a very good move, the man who will finally manage to stall the Var melee. Unfortunately, not everything will go to plan: Jenkins will spend a year in the shadow of another legendary left prop, England’s Andrew Sheridan. Between injuries and performances below the expectations of the public and the staff, he will still play 21 games, but most of them as a substitute. During his time at the RCT, the lily-of-the-valley club won their first European Cup… but Jenkins injured his calf in the final, and forfeited the last Top 14 matches. He will return to Wales incognito after a short season.
Dan Lydiate (Racing 92, 2013-2014)
Yet another Welshman who failed to make the Top 14. Dan Lydiate arrived at Racing 92 in 2013 (still called Racing-Métro 92 at the time) with the label of one of the very best 3rd rows in the world. Tireless tackler-scratcher, the baby-faced player has two victories in the 6 Nations Tournament with Wales (2012, 2013). He even left the 2012 Tournament with the title of best player, just that. However, he will never be able to make his mark at Racing. Arrived in the shoes of a holder, he never manages to convince the staff and slips little by little on the sidelines. Before disappearing completely in the stands. At the end of the 2013-2014 season, he only had 11 match sheets. However, his contract is for two years and Lydiate, heartbroken, begins a new season in Ile-de-France. He won’t go all the way. After 3 months of the same caliber (only 4 games played since September 2014), he agrees with the Ile-de-France management to leave Racing amicably, and return to his country.
Digby Ioane (French Stadium, 2013-2015)
Fast, powerful, good defender, explosive. In 2013, we no longer present Digby Ioane, then one of the best wingers on the international scene. Undisputed holder in selection (11 tries with the Wallabies) and with his club Queenslands Reds, it is a surprise to see him sign at the Stade Français during the summer of 2013. A surprise that very quickly loses its attractive side, given the Australian performances. Developing homesickness very early, Ioane seeks to leave at the end of his first year of contract. He still remains one more year, the time to be crowned champion of France in 2015. An honorary title, since the winger was not registered on the match sheet at the Stade de France. In the end, he will have played 31 games in two seasons, for 5 small tries.
Zac Guilford (Clermont, 2014-2015)
New Zealand winger Zac Guildford exploded in the eyes of the oval planet during the 2011 Rugby World Cup. then win the ultimate trophy against France (8-7, 23/10/2011). But caught up in his alcoholism problems, the player went on to controversy and even stopped his career. He hopes to revive by signing two seasons in Clermont, in 2014. Without success. After 21 games played, only 3 tries scored and a fight in an Auvergne bar, the terrible child of New Zealand rugby terminated his contract in May 2015 to return home.
Piri Weepu (Oyonnax, 2015-2016)
The all-black scrum-half, world champion in 2011, had already lost his luster when he arrived in Ain. Eclipsed in the land of the long white cloud by the hatching of Aaron Smith, Weepu went into exile in England in 2014. His coat of arms partially restored, he sets himself a challenge: to help Oyonnax, who has just qualified for the European Cup, to grow a little more. Missed bet: Oyomen will be relegated at the end of the 2015-2016 season, Weepu, who arrived overweight, will spend more time in the infirmary than on the pitch. The story will end with a dismissal in January 2016 after tensions with club coach Johann Authier.
Quade Cooper (Toulon, 2015-2016)
The same year, RC Toulon welcomes another star of the oval planet: the whimsical opener Quade Cooper. the golden boy Australian, revealed to the face of the world in 2011 by winning the Tri-Nations with his selection and Super Rugby with the Queensland Reds of Melbourne, wants to revive after a 2015 World Cup lived in the shoes of a substitute. Toulon is the ideal place for him: Bernard Laporte’s winning machine has just won its third consecutive European Cup and is looking for a successor to Jonny Wilkinson. Challenge too high for Cooper. Convincing in his debut, the New Varois gradually lost the confidence of the staff and ended his season with a meager record of 15 games played for only 2 tries. The transplant did not take, and the opener even asked to be released from his 2nd year of contract to return home. The Mayol stadium will never have had the chance to see the undeniable attacking talent of the Australian at work.
Ayumu Goromaru (Toulon, 2016-2017)
Any rugby lover knows Ayumu Goromaru. At the 2015 Rugby World Cup, it was he who led Japan to victory against South Africa (32-24, group stage, 09/19/15). The rear scored 24 points in this match which remains the greatest rugby feat in Japanese history. After this successful competition, Goromaru becomes a hero in his country. When he signed with the RCT a year later, it was with star status. A Japanese television crew even follows him on the Rade. Unfortunately, his French adventure will not be as glorious: 5 small matches in all competitions and above all, 0 points scored for the Japanese rugby sniper. Result, a premature departure after a short year in the Top 14.
Julien Savea (Toulon, 2018-2020)
When Savea signs with the RCT, it is a human bomb that is announced on the Rade. The one we readily compared to the legend Jonah Lomu piled up the essays under the black tunic. Even if the best try scorer of the 2015 World Cup (8 tries) then knew the first less good shot of his career, his signature was unexpected for an RCT which was struggling to return to the front of the national scene. But the colossus will not change the situation. Savea never really adapted to his new life in Var, and it shows on the field: in two seasons, he scored only 7 tries in 32 games. Too little, for a player of his standing. He will return to New Zealand in May 2020 and will keep bitter memories of his Toulon experience.