Club Rugby: George North, Bryan Habana and Other Transfers

Terence O'RorkeContributor IAugust 1, 2013

Club Rugby: George North, Bryan Habana and Other Transfers

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    With every season of the professional era that passes, activity in the transfer market increases accordingly. Rugby has never enjoyed such a high global profile, a continuing development reflected in the movement of players between clubs as they seek new challenges and greater rewards.

    Agents play a significant role in the sport, and opportunities for players to maximise their full potential are greater than ever before; the shop window has never been so well stocked or so well dressed.

    Read on for the biggest transfers of another busy summer, with star players such as George North, Bryan Habana and Jonathan Sexton already in preseason training with their new clubs.

George North (Scarlets to Northampton)

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    The Welsh thoroughbred was one of the outstanding performers in the British & Irish Lions' triumphant tour of Australia, scoring tries in the first and third Test victories and proving a constant thorn in the Wallabies' side.

    If North's star was already shining ahead of the trip down under, then it is the brightest in rugby's night sky right now following a series of stellar performances.

    North is a once-in-a-generation athlete and has already been dubbed Wales' Jonah Lomu. Northampton fans are in for a real treat. The Saints have been there or thereabouts in recent seasons without perhaps achieving their full potential. That could well change with 21-year-old North in their ranks.

Bryan Habana (Stormers to Toulon)

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    No summer is complete without an array of big-name recruits arriving at Toulon, and the Heineken Cup champions have been true to form with the signing of World Cup-winning South African Bryan Habana.

    A long-time target of Toulon's multi-millionaire owner Mourad Boudjellal, the flying wing joins South Africans Danie Rossouw and Joe Van Niekerk in the rugby-mad city on the shores of the Mediterranean, as well as former Springboks skipper John Smit.

    Despite winning Europe's premier competition last year, Toulon again failed narrowly in their bid for domestic glory. Boudjellal will be hoping that Habana and fellow new signing former All Blacks lock Ali Williams will lead them to the holy grail.

Jonathan Sexton (Leinster to Racing Metro)

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    One of only a handful of shoe-in picks ahead of the Lions tour, Ireland's Jonathan Sexton more than justified his selection for all three Tests and cemented his reputation as one of the world's leading fly-halves.

    Sexton has all the skills, blending an eye for the gap with a solid defense and superb kicking game. And there are none more competitive, as his rivals for the No. 10 jersey at Racing will find out.

    Racing are one of several ambitious French clubs with chequebooks big enough to attract the very best, and they have had a particularly productive summer. Joining Sexton at Racing are Wales duo and fellow Lions stars Jamie Roberts and Dan Lydiate in what promises to be a hugely exciting season for the Parisian club.

James Johnston (Harlequins to Saracens)

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    This may not register widely as one of the most significant transfers of the summer, but James Johnston's potential value to new club Saracens should not be underestimated. 

    Tight-head prop Johnston was the cornerstone of a successful Harlequins pack that won the Premiership in 2012, and his departure will be keenly felt by the London club. 

    Saracens were over-powered in their Premiership semi-final with Northampton last season, and the arrival of the 27-year-old Samoa prop is clearly designed to make sure that does not happen again.

Jamie Roberts (Cardiff Blues to Racing Metro)

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    Wales inside-centre Jamie Roberts missed the first two Tests of the Lions' tour of Australia. A mere three points separated the teams as the spoils were shared. 

    Recently qualified doctor Roberts was fit for the decider and had a big impact, scoring the Lions' final try in a 41-16 victory. Roberts' ability to get over the gain line gives his side go forward, while he is also a rock in defense. 

    A Grand Slam winner and World Cup semi-finalist, Roberts is a key player of a Wales team with real ambition, and he looks well set to form a telling partnership at Racing with fly-half and fellow Lion Jonathan Sexton.

Other Key Transfers

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    Dan Lydiate (Dragons to Racing Metro)

    Rene Ranger (Auckland Blues to Montpellier)

    Billy Vunipolu (Wasps to Saracens)

    Nicolas Mas (Perpignan to Montpellier)

    Alex Corbisiero (London Irish to Northampton)

    Soane Tonga'uiha (Northampton to Racing Metro)

    Brian Mujati (Northampton to racing Metro)

    Nick Kennedy (Toulon to Harlequins)

    George Ford (Leicester to Bath)

    Davit Khinchagishvili (Brive to Racing Metro)