Our series celebrating the best foreign talent to have played in the English Premiership continues. Our attention has turned to nations not so regularly represented in the English game. James Barker has selected the backline of the Emerging Nations Premiership XV, here is the forward pack.
Emerging Nations Premiership XV forwards
8. Samu Manoa – Northampton Saints
An easy choice to begin the forwards selection. Samu Manoa arrived at Northampton from San Francisco Golden Gate as a little known US international. He left three years later considered one of the best players in the Premiership and was signed on a long-term contract by Toulon.
Manoa quickly became popular with the Saints faithful and well known for his physical ball-carrying game. He established himself as a key part of the dominant Northampton pack that eventually won the title in 2014. Such was his influence, Toulon gave him an unprecedented four-year contract following his nomination for Premiership player of the year. Manoa spent three years in France before having a brief spell at Cardiff Blues and then the Seattle Seawolves.
7. Jacques Burger – Saracens
If captains were being nominated in this series, Jacques Burger would be nailed on as skipper for the Emerging Nations Premiership XV. The Namibian took “putting your body on the line” completely literally, and has the war wounds to prove it. Over his career, he has had two double cheekbone reconstructions, three shoulder surgeries, and “around nine or ten” right knee surgeries.
Burger joined Saracens from the Bulls in 2010, after being persuaded by Brendan Venter not to go to Japan. This proved to be the best decision of his career as Burger was named Saracens’ Player of the Year in 2011 as they won the Premiership for the first time. He earned a second winners medal in 2015 and made over 100 appearances before retiring in 2016. He is now back in Namibia working on the family farm, so still no rest for that body.
6. Dan Lyle – Bath, Leicester Tigers
The oldest entry to the Emerging Nations Premiership XV is American Dan Lyle, who joined Bath in 1996 in the early days of professionalism. The man from Kentucky arrived in England from Old Mission Beach Athletic Club in California.
Lyle had taken the leap to become a backrow, principally a number eight, after struggling to land his dream in the NFL. Within two years he was vindicated as he helped Bath win the European Cup in 1998, the only time the club has achieved this. Lyle remained at Bath until 2003, by which time he had been made captain. After playing in the 2003 World Cup he had a season at Leicester before retiring and is now a leading figure for the USA Sevens team.
5. Erik Lund – Leeds Carnegie
Erik Lund joins this team as the most prominent Norwegian rugby player. The elder brother of former England international Magnus, Erik made his breakthrough with Rotherham before being signed by Leeds in 2007.
He was a dependable performer for the Headingley-based team despite their multiple relegations during his time there. The 6ft 8in lock was unsurprisingly known as “The Viking” and formed a powerful second-row partnership with Marco Wentzel before he left in 2010. Lund joined his brother at Biarritz where he remained until retirement.
4. Andrei Ostrikov – Sale Sharks
One of the first players Steve Diamond signed after returning to Sale from the Russian national team was Andrei Ostrikov. He only took up rugby aged 16 yet made his international debut just four years later.
Ostrikov played for Agen and Aurillac before moving to Manchester in 2011. Here he remained, racking up 146 appearances over eight years despite several bad injuries. In 2019 he returned to France with Grenoble in PRO D2.
3 Titi Lamositele – Saracens
The third of four Americans in this pack is tighthead Titi Lamositele. Still only 25, the prop from Washington spent five years with Saracens before recently moving to Montpellier. Making his international debut at 18, Lamositele has a fantastic chance to reach 100+ caps and could well be seen in England again.
He was a regular in the Saracens squad despite competition from the likes of Vincent Koch and Juan Figallo and leaves England with 93 appearances to his name.
2. Joe Taufete’e – Worcester Warriors
US hooker Joe Taufete’e has just left Worcester for Lyon, who were arguably denied a shot at the TOP14 title this season. That shows the regard for another player who arrived in England from the US without a high-profile reputation.
Arriving in 2016 from the San Diego Breakers, Taufete’e had already played in one World Cup. In 2019 he broke the record for most international tries by a front-rower, which earned him a nomination for the World Rugby Men’s Player of the Year award. He played 46 times for Worcester and surely would have reached 50 appearances without the season pause.
1. Paulica Ion – Bath, London Irish, London Welsh
Rounding off the Emerging Nations Premiership XV is Romanian prop Paulica Ion. First playing for Bath, Ion had his most successful spell at London Irish between 2009 and 2012, when the Exiles were Heineken Cup regulars.
The loosehead then joined London Welsh during their first Premiership season, where they made a valiant attempt at avoiding relegation. Ion was an international regular for over a decade, playing in four World Cups for Romania. After relegation with Welsh, he joined Perpignan, where he played over 50 times.
- Mike MacDonald – Worcester Warriors, Leeds Carnegie & USA
- Zurabi Zhvania – Wasps & Georgia
- Alexandru Taurus – Sale Sharks & Romania
- Norm Hadley – Wasps & Canada
- Jebb Sinclair – London Irish & Canada
- Phil Murphy – London Irish & Canada
Emerging Nations Premiership XV
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