Peace, at last, for Australian rugby fans.
The Rugby World Cup is in the rear-view mirror and Super Rugby Pacific is on the horizon.
Can a new season spring hope for Australia following a disastrous year, where the Wallabies failed to make it out of the pool stage for the first time?
At the very least, Australian fans can feel a sense of excitement with the vast majority of their five Super Rugby franchises stronger, at least on paper, than in 2023.
A softer overseas market and the opportunity to face the Lions in 2025 and play at a home World Cup in 2027 has seen the regular player drain that usually occurs at the end of a four-year cycle not occur.
The arrival of a new Super Rugby commission, which is tasked in promoting the competition, has seen all 12 franchises announce their squads for 2024.
The orchestrated announcement day follows a haphazard approach earlier this year as teams were left to their own devices and timelines to reveal their rosters for 2023.
Last year’s beaten finalists, the Chiefs boast a squad with nine current All Blacks. But the departure of co-captains Sam Cane (Japan) and Brad Weber (France), as well as Brodie Retallick, will leave a big hole.
“We can’t replace the experience that we’ve lost from this season, but we have a lot of belief in the men we have selected. We are looking forward with anticipation to seeing them take their opportunity in the new year,” Chiefs coach Craig McMillan said.
But the Chiefs still boast a strong squad, which is bolstered by the return of Quinn Tupaea from injury. He will likely partner Anton Lienert-Brown in a rock-star midfield partnership, with Damian McKenzie the likely fly-half.
There are eight new signings (seven rookies) and two familiar faces returning to the club – fly-half Kaleb Trask and prop Reuben O’Neill.
“These guys have been knocking on our door for a while now and we are excited to offer them a place this year. They have been impressive throughout NPC and during their time in our environment, so rightly earn their spot within our squad,” McMillan said of the rookie additions.
“It’s a new look squad for us but despite the changes, there remains a lot of continuity within this group. They are familiar with our environment, know how we do things, and bring a lot to the table.”
Props: Sione Ahio, George Dyer, Kauvaka Kaivelata, Ollie Norris, Reuben O’Neill, Jared Proffit, Aidan Ross
Hookers: Bradley Slater, Samisoni Taukei’aho, Tyrone Thompson
Locks: Naitoa Ah Kuoi, Josh Lord, Manaaki Selby-Rickit, Tupou Vaa’i, Jimmy Tupou
Loose forwards: Kaylum Boshier, Samipeni Finau, Tom Florence, Luke Jacobson, Simon Parker, Wallace Sititi, Malachi Wrampling-Alec
Halfbacks: Cortez Ratima, Xavier Roe, Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi
Fly-halves: Josh Ioane, Damian McKenzie, Kaleb Trask
Midfielders: Anton Lienert-Brown, Rameka Poihipi, Daniel Rona, Quinn Tupaea, Gideon Wrampling
Outside backs: Liam Coombes-Fabling, Peniasi Malimali, Etene Nanai-Seturo, Emoni Narawa, Shaun Stevenson
Mick Byrne has announced a 37-man Fiji Drua squad, which is headlined by 18 members that recently participated at the World Cup.
There are five rookies in the squad, which has farewelled fly-half Teti Tela.
Flying Fijian hooker Tevita Ikanivere returns to the squad, where he is joined by Test halves Frank Lomani, Simione Kuruvoli and Caleb Muntz.
“We have selected a squad that we believe can compete in one of the world’s toughest club rugby competitions, Byrne said.
“We will be out to make an even bigger impact in 2024, so it’s fantastic for us to play a record seven games in front of our passionate fans. The seven teams coming over next season will definitely notice that.”
Byrne added: “There will be some great competition for spots in the matchday 23 and as coaches, we are looking to the selection headaches this will create.”
Fijian Drua squad:
Props: Emosi Tuqiri, Haereti Hetet, Livai Natave, Jone Koroiduadua, Mesake Doge, Meli Tuni
Hookers: Mesulame Dolokoto, Tevita Ikanivere, Zuriel Togiatama
Locks: Etonia Waqa, Isoa Nasilasila, Leone Rotuisolia, Sailosi Vukalokalo, Te Cirikidaveta
Loose forwards: Elia Canakaivata, Kitione Salawa, Meli Derenalagi, Motikiai Murray, Vilive Miramira
Halfbacks: Frank Lomani, Peni Matawalu, Philip Baselala, Simione Kuruvoli
Fly-halves: Kemu Valentini, Isaiah Armstrong-Ravula, Isikeli Rabitu, Caleb Muntz
Midfielders: Apisalome Vota, Iosefo Masi, Michael Naitokani, Waqa Nalaga
Outside backs: Ilaisa Droasese, Selestino Ravutaumada, Taniela Rakuro, Epeli Momo
Utility: Tuidraki Samusamuvodre
The Rebels were one of the big movers over the past 10 months, as they lured arguably the biggest name in Australian rugby down south: Taniela Tupou.
Indeed, Tupou is one of the headline signings across the entire competition and has the potential to turn the Rebels into one of the biggest threats in the 12-team comp.
Nor is he the only big signing, with Wallabies forward Lukhan Salakaia-Loto returning to Super Rugby with the Rebels.
Former All Blacks midfielder Matt Proctor has also joined the Rebels, as has Eddie Jones-capped England halfback Jack Maunder.
Exciting Australian sevens young gun Darby Lancaster has also joined the Rebels, while Test outside back Filipo Daugunu has also jumped ship from the Rebels.
“I can’t wait for the season to begin,” head coach Kevin Foote.
“Our management has done an outstanding job with recruitment. We’ve signed world class players like Taniela, Luhkan, Filipo, Jack Maunder and Matt Proctor.
“We’ve also invested heavily in our staff – Brad Harris played a crucial role in Fiji’s historic World Cup campaign and has already hit the ground running, while Rob Taylor carries a wealth of international coaching experience and is someone we’re really excited to have at our Club driving our elite player development.”
Melbourne Rebels squad:
Props: Cabous Eloff, Pone Fa’amausili, Sam Talakai, Matt Gibbon, Taniela Tupou, Isaac Kailea
Hookers: Alex Mafi, Jordan Uelese, Ethan Dobbins
Locks: Lukhan Salakaia-Loto, Josh Canham, Angelo Smith, Daniel Maiava, Tuaina Tall Tualima
Loose forwards: Rob Leota, Josh Kemeny, Brad Wilkin, Vaiolini Ekuasi, Zac Hough
Halfbacks: Jack Maunder, Ryan Louwrens, James Tuttle
Fly-halves: Carter Gordon, Mason Gordon, David Palu
Midfielders: Matt Proctor, David Feliuai, Nick Jooste, Lebron Naea, Lukas Ripley, David Vaihu
Outside backs: Lachie Anderson, Andrew Kellaway, Darby Lancaster, Filipo Daugunu, Jake Strachan, Joe Pincus, Glen Vaihu
Super Rugby-winning coach Jamie Joseph is back in New Zealand’s south, having finished up as Japan’s coach following eight years in the role.
But life without Aaron Smith, the World Cup-winning halfback, has begun.
The Highlanders are on a rebuilding mission after several years steadily falling down the pecking order. But there’s not many better suited to lead the charge than Joseph, who led the Brave Blossoms to the 2019 World Cup knockout stage for the first time.
The Highlanders also have strong foundations, with All Blacks props Jermaine Ainsley and Ethan de Groot to lock down the scrum. Their back-row is hard working.
Folau Fakatava, the livewire No.9 who played for the All Blacks in 2022, will also likely lead the charge.
Look out for former Fiji Drua winger Timoci Tavatavanawai.
Props: Jermaine Ainsley, Ethan de Groot, Luca Inch, Ayden Johnstone, Daniel Lienert-Brown, Saula Ma’u
Hookers: Henry Bell, Ricky Jackson, Jack Taylor
Locks: Mitchell Dunshea, Fabian Holland, Pari Pari Parkinson, Will Tucker
Loose forwards: Nikora Broughton, Oliver Haig, Billy Harmon, Max Hicks, Hayden Michaels, Hugh Renton, Tom Sanders, Sean Withy
Halfbacks: James Arscott, Folau Fakatava, Nathan Hastie
Fly-halves: Ajay Faleafaga, Cameron Millar, Rhys Patchell
Midfielders: Jake Te Hiwi, Tanielu Tele’a, Josh Timu, Matt Whaanga
Outside backs: Martin Bogado, Connor Garden-Bachop, Sam Gilbert, Jonah Lowe, Jona Nareki, Jacob Ratumaitavuki-Kneepkens, Timoci Tavatavanawai
The Waratahs have lost Ben Donaldson and former captain Michael Hooper, but Darren Coleman has strengthened some key areas.
Up front, Angus Bell, who missed the bulk of 2023, headlines the front-row. But others like Hayden Thompson-Stringer and Tom Ross have joined the Waratahs.
In the second row, young gun Miles Amatosero has arrived from Clermont. He’s been joined by former Force star Fergus Lee-Warner who can play in the second-row and in the loose.
The backline is settled, with Vuate Karawalevu arriving to inject some more speed out wide.
Props: Angus Bell, Archer Holz, Daniel Botha, Hayden Thompson-Stringer, Harry Johnson-Holmes, Tom Lambert, Tom Ross
Hookers: Dave Porecki, Mahe Vailanu, Theo Fourie
Locks: Miles Amatosero, Hugh Sinclair, Jed Holloway, Ned Hanigan
Loose forwards: Charlie Gamble, Fergus Lee-Warner, Lachie Swinton, Langi Gleeson, Ned Slack-Smith
Halfbacks: Jake Gordon, Jack Grant, Teddy Wilson
Fly-halves: Tane Edmed, Jack Bowen, Will Harrison
Midfielders: Izaia Perese, Lalakai Foketi, Mosese Tuipulotu, Joey Walton
Outside backs: Mark Nawaqanitawase, Dylan Pietsch, Harry Wilson, Max Jorgensen, Vuate Karawalevu
Former All Blacks captain turned coach Tana Umaga has jumped across from the Blues to join Moana Pasifika as their new coach.
Umaga has 20 new players in his squad, with James Lay joining to help stiffen up the front-row. Former Wallabies star Sekope Kepu, 37, is back after an injury-riddled 2023.
In total, there are 19 players in the squad who featured in the recent World Cup.
Levi Aumua, the destructive midfielder, is the big loss for the side. The giant centre has joined the Crusaders.
Moana Pasifika squad:
Props: Abraham Pole, Donald Brighthouse, James Lay, Sateki Latu, Sekope Kepu, Suetena Asomua.
Hookers: Samiueka Moli, Sama Malolo, Tomasi Maka.
Locks: Irie Papuni, Ofa Tauatevalu, Samuel Slade, Tom Savage, Viliami Napa’a.
Loose forwards: Alamanda Motuga, Lotu Inisi, Miracle Faiilagi, Ola Tauelangi, Semisi Paea, Sione Havili Talitui, Solomone Funaki.
Halfbacks: Aisea Halo, Ereatara Enari, Jonathan Taumateine.
Fly-halves: Christian Lealiifano, William Havili.
Midfielders: D’Angelo Leuila, Fine Inisi, Henry Taefu, Lalomilo Lalomilo, Pepesana Patafilo.
Outside backs: Anzelo Tuitavuki, Danny Toala, Julian Savea, Neria Fomai, Nigel Ah Wong, Otumaka Mausia, Viliami Fine.
The Brumbies have lost Nic White (Force) and Pete Samu (France), but otherwise have named a strong squad.
Alaalatoa is expected to miss the opening stages of the competition as he recovers from his Achilles injury. Coach Stephen Larkham will hope the likes of Blake Schoupp and Rhys Van Nek can ensure their front-row stocks remain rich.
It’s a big year for Darcy Swain to get back in the Wallabies mix, while Luke Reimer could feature more prominently at openside flanker after being a supersub in recent years.
Ryan Lonergan could start the year as captain and the halfback will run the show now Nic White has headed west.
Noah Lolesio and Jack Debreczeni will continue to battle it out for the No.10 jersey.
ACT Brumbies squad:
Props: Allan Alaalatoa, James Slipper, Fred Kaihea, Sefo Kautai, Blake Schoupp, Rhys Van Nek, Harry Vella
Hookers: Lachlan Lonergan, Connal McInerney, Billy Pollard
Locks: Nick Frost, Cadeyrn Neville, Darcy Swain, Lachlan Shaw
Loose forwards: Rob Valetini, Charlie Cale, Jahrome Brown, Tom Hooper, Rory Scott, Luke Reimer, Ed Kennedy
Halfbacks: Ryan Lonergan, Harrison Goddard, Klayton Thorn
Fly-halves: Noah Lolesio, Jack Debreczeni, Declan Meredith
Midfielders: Tamati Tua, Len Ikitau, Ollie Sapsford, Hudson Creighton, Austin Anderson
Outside backs: Tom Wright, Corey Toole, Ben O’Donnell, Andy Muirhead
The departure of Ardie Savea is the notable loss for the Hurricanes, but they have welcomed home Brad Shields.
The Hurricanes are settled across the backline, but it’s in the second-row where they have lost a couple of regulars.
Former All Black Dom Bird and James Blackwell have departed and been replaced by former Blues player James Tucker and Super Rugby rookies Ben Grant and Josh Taula.
World Cup-winning hooker Dane Coles has also retired, with Asafo Aumua’s importance growing.
Props: Siale Lauaki, Tyrel Lomax, Tevita Mafileo, Xavier Numia, Pouri Rakete-Stones, Pasilio Tosi
Hookers: Asafo Aumua, Jacob Devery, James O’Reilly
Locks: Caleb Delany, Ben Grant, Justin Sangster, Josh Taula, James Tucker, Isaia Walker-Leawere
Loose forwards: Devan Flanders, TK Howden, Brayden Iose, Du’Plessis Kirifi, Peter Lakai, Brad Shields
Halfbacks: Richard Judd, TJ Perenara, Cam Roigard
Fly-halves: Brett Cameron, Aidan Morgan
Midfield: Jordie Barrett, Riley Higgins, Billy Proctor, Bailyn Sullivan, Peter Umaga-Jensen
Outside backs: Harry Godfrey, Ruben Love, Josh Moorby, Kini Naholo, Ngatungane Punivai, Salesi Rayasi, Daniel Sinkinson
The post-Brad Thorn is very much off and running, with new coach Les Kiss naming a 41-man squad.
There are 14 players with international experience, including 11 Wallabies. Former All Blacks props Alex Hodgman and Jeffery Toomaga-Allen and Fijian international Peni Ravai have been included to bring some experience and shore up their front-row stocks.
The Reds’ youth is still a feature of their squad, with the average age being 24.
Kiss has balance across his entire squad, with the No.10 jersey the most open.
While Tom Lynagh finished the year at fly-half, Junior Wallabies playmaker Harry McLaughlin-Phillips is highly regarded. James O’Connor and Lawson Creighton offer Kiss some more depth at fly-half.
“We’ve named a well-balanced squad for the 2024 Super Rugby season.
“We identified key positions where we needed to bring in some experience and we’ve done that heading into next year.
“Our squad boasts 14 players who have represented their country and nine who have played over 50 times for Queensland. They’ll all bring their own expertise to our squad on-and-off the field.
“We’ve also selected a number of players coming into their first season of Super Rugby who will no doubt bring enthusiasm and energy to the group.
“There is work to do when pre-season starts in December and myself and the new coaching staff are excited to see where we can go as a squad.”
Props: Alex Hodgman, Jeffery Toomaga-Allen, Peni Ravai, Zane Nonggorr, George Blake, Massimo de Litiis, Sef Fa’agase
Hookers: Matt Faessler, Josh Nasser, Richie Asiata, Max Craig
Locks: Angus Blyth, Ryan Smith, Cormac Daly, Taine Roiri, Connor Vest
Loose forwards: Fraser McReight, Liam Wright, Harry Wilson, Seru Uru, Joe Brial, John Bryant
Halfbacks: Tate McDermott, Kalani Thomas, Louis Werchon
Fly-halves: Tom Lynagh, Harry McLaughlin-Phillips, Lawson Creighton
Midfielders: James O’Connor, Hunter Paisami, Taj Annan, Josh Flook, Isaac Henry, Frankie Goldsbrough
Outside backs: Jock Campbell, Jordan Petaia, Suliasi Vunivalu, Floyd Aubrey, Mac Grealy, Tim Ryan
New playmaker, new coach.
Vern Cotter has lost two-time World Rugby player of the year Beauden Barrett to Japan, but the new Blues coach has a readymade replacement in Stephen Perofeta.
Perofeta spent much of the past two years at fullback, but will return to the No.10 jersey a more seasoned player. He will have Harry Plummer likely outside him, but the midfielder could easily jump into fly-half too.
The Blues still have plenty of speed out wide, with Mark Telea and Caleb Clarke on the wings.
Up front and the Blues have regained Angus Ta’avao and his return helps ease the blow of losing Nepo Laulala.
There’s muscle in Patrick Tuipulotu in the second-row, while the back-row remains a strength of the Blues with Dalton Papali’i joined by Hoskins Sotutu and Akira Ioane.
Props: Joshua Fusitua, Jordan Lay, Marcel Renata, PJ Sheck, Angus Ta’avao, Ofa Tu’ungafasi
Hookers: Kurt Eklund, Ricky Riccitelli, Soane Vikena
Locks: Josh Beehre, Sam Darry, Laghlan McWhannell, James Thompson, Patrick Tuipulotu
Loose forwards: Adrian Choat, Akira Ioane, Dalton Papalii, Rob Rush, Anton Segner, Hoskins Sotutu, Cameron Suafoa
Halfbacks: Finlay Christie, Sam Nock, Taufa Funaki
First-fives: Stephen Perofeta, Lucas Cashmore
Midfielders: Corey Evans, Rieko Ioane, Bryce Heem, Meihana Grindlay, Harry Plummer
Outside backs: Kade Banks, Caleb Clarke, Cole Forbes, AJ Lam, Zarn Sullivan, Caleb Tangitau, Mark Telea
The Western Force have some room to add more players, with Simon Cron naming a 36-man squad.
Headlining the squad is the arrival of Wallabies halves Nic White and Ben Donaldson, with the latter equally capable at fullback.
Whether Donaldson plays at fly-half or fullback remains to be seen, but it could depend on how Max Burey and the fit-again Reesjan Pasitoa track over the next three months.
Cron has brought in former All Blacks prop Atu Moli to help shore up the scrum, with Reds front-rower Harry Hoopert also joining the Force.
Cron will be desperate that Wallabies lock Izack Rodda returns to full fitness, with the experienced forward battling foot injuries over the past 24 months since returning from a short stint in France.
Will Harris adds some strength to the back-row position.
“A lot of the core team, who played high minutes this year are back again, which offers essential continuity,” Cron said.
“We’ve made some strategic signings of people we know will add to our team environment. Some experienced players will help with our player mentoring, as well as on-field consistency and decision making.
“The coaches, and players, wanted to improve positional competition so we can train at a higher intensity while continuing to drive up training standards and expectations.”
Props: Atu Moli, Santiago Medrano, Angus Wagner, Harry Hoopert, Marley Pearce, Charles Hancock, Siosifa Amone
Hookers: Tom Horton, Feleti Kaitu’u
Locks: Izack Rodda, Jeremy Williams, Felix Kalapu, Lopeti Faifua
Loose forwards: Michael Wells, Tim Anstee, Ollie Callan, Carlo Tizzano, Jackson Pugh, Will Harris, Papillon Sevele
Halfbacks: Issak Fines-Leleiwasa, Nic White, Ian Prior
Fly-halves: Reesjan Pasitoa, Max Burey, Campbell Parata
Midfielders: Sam Spink, Hamish Stewart, Henry O’Donnell, Bayley Kuenzle, Nikolai Foliaki, Ollie Cummins
Outside backs: Ben Donaldson, Harry Potter, Chase Tiatia, George Poolman
Axed inside two season by the Waratahs, Rob Penney is back in Super Rugby as Scott Robertson’s replacement as head coach of the Crusaders.
Now, we’ll learn a bit more about Australian rugby.
Should Penney succeed, it will be another mark against Australian rugby.
He has landed some quality signings, with Welsh star Leigh Halfpenny recently unveiled.
Ryan Crotty – the former All Blacks star midfielder – has also returned from Japan.
But the Crusaders have suffered a couple of recent blows, with star hooker Codie Taylor to miss much of the next season as he enjoys some time off.
Prop Oli Jager has also requested a release to play elsewhere.
Already the Crusaders will be without Sam Whitelock (France) and Richie Mo’unga (Japan), who have left for overseas opportunities.
Hookers: Codie Taylor, Brodie McAlister, George Bell, Ioane Moananu
Props: Joe Moody, Finlay Brewis, George Bower, Tamaiti Williams, Fletcher Newell
Locks: Scott Barrett (c), Quinten Strange, Tahlor Cahill, Zach Gallagher, Jamie Hannah
Loose forwards: Ethan Blackadder, Cullen Grace, Tom Christie, Christian Lio-Willie, Corey Kellow, Dominic Gardiner
Halfbacks: Noah Hotham, Mitchell Drummond, Willi Heinz
First fives: Fergus Burke, Taha Kemara, Rivez Reihana
Midfielders: David Havili, Dallas McLeod, Levi Aumua, Ryan Crotty, Jone Rova
Outside backs: Will Jordan, Sevu Reece, Macca Springer, Manasa Mataele, Chay Fihaki, Leigh Halfpenny, Heremaia Murray