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Rugby Union: Aussies to look out for in the Top 14

Plenty of Australians have graced French top-flight rugby over the years and with the season just starting, here’s a look at Aussie stars hoping to shine in the Top 14 this term.

Will Skelton (La Rochelle)

Named Australia skipper prior to the 2023 World Cup, Will Skelton is a tremendous leader for both the Wallabies and his club side La Rochelle.

Making the big move to Europe in 2017 when joining English Premiership side Saracens, Skelton decided to make the hop across the Channel to join La Rochelle in 2020.

It has proven to be a great decision for the 6ft 8in lock, who after winning two European Champions Cup titles and two Premiership titles with Sarries, has gone on to lift the Champions Cup two more times with La Rochelle.

While also winning the Super Rugby title with the Waratahs in 2014, if Skelton was to hang up his boots now, he would go down as one of the most successful players in club rugby history.

However, at the age of 31, Skelton will still feel like he has plenty more to give and there is still the Top 14 title that has eluded him during his time in France.

Skelton has finished runner-up with La Rochelle twice in the Top 14 and will be determined to overcome that final hurdle under head coach Ronan O’Gara this season.

La Rochelle are the current favourites to win the title this season at 2.75.

Richie Arnold (Toulouse)

Going up against La Rochelle for the title this season will be the reigning champions Toulouse, with Australian lock Richie Arnold in their ranks.

The 33-year-old from Wagga Wagga played limited Super Rugby earlier in his career but has flourished in his later years in the second row.

Making his international debut earlier this year, the veteran lock has been enjoying his time at Toulouse since joining the club back in 2019.

Starting the grand final against La Rochelle last season, Arnold helped Toulouse overcome Skelton’s side with a 29-26 victory at the Stade de France.

The giants in the south of France have two other Australians in their ranks for this season, with hooker Malachi Hawkes and lock Emmanuel Meafou also looking to have an impact this term.

Toulouse are 2.87 to be crowned champions of France once again, while Toulon are 11.00 to win the title this season.

Toulon have Australian Noah Lolesio able to pull the strings at fly-half, after the former Brumbies star joined the Top 14 outfit in 2020.

Meanwhile, Pau are the early frontrunners after the first four games of the season and have a couple of Australians in their number.

In the back-row there’s Reece Hewat, while flying down the wing is the 26-year-old Jack Maddocks from Sydney.

Pau are outsiders at 101.00 to maintain their strong start to the season and shock the big boys by winning the title.

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