Sam Simmonds survives despite the shipwreck (Montpellier)
Amid the (very) disappointing performances of the MHR, the English third-line center is treading water. In the Top 14, the former Exeter player only missed two matches and often struggled to put his team ahead. Described as a “machine” within the Cistes locker room, Simmonds will undoubtedly have to lead his team towards a fight other than qualification this season…
Esteban Abadie, master of the air (Toulon)
Not the strongest (1m88, 100kg), but what a player! Already impressive last season with Brive, Esteban Abadie established himself within an already well-stocked Toulon third line. Imperial in the air, impenetrable in defense and very active offensively, the former Racing 92 player is the real pick of Toulon's recruitment.
Damian Penaud, outstanding scorer (UBB)
Express adaptation. After nine years spent in Auvergne, Damian Penaud is flying with UBB. Barely back from the World Cup, the winger has (already) scored 7 tries in just five matches played (plus 2 in the Champions Cup...), which makes him the top scorer in the Top 14 at this stage of the season. A recruit who largely lived up to the expectations placed on him.
Judicaël Cancoriet, shadow worker (Stade Rochelais)
The former international flanker (4 caps) was undoubtedly not the most anticipated player this season for Marcel-Deflandre. But it is clear that the ex-Massicois and Clermontois did the job. Taking advantage in particular of the absences of Botia and Alldritt, Cancoriet rarely disappointed. His slaughter in defense did his team good and, offensively, the 27-year-old often put his team ahead with his power. A good pick so far.
Pierre Popelin, twirling (Castres)
Replacing Urdapilleta was not an easy task. The keys to the truck seemed to have been given to Le Brun but the Castres staff trusted Pierre Popelin. Lacking playing time in La Rochelle, the fly-half or full-back had a great start to the season. Ultra-offensive and precise with his left paw, the former Vannes player is, for the moment, the second best scorer in the championship with 121 points scored.
Arthur Iturria, sacred leader (Bayonne)
The return to his roots did Arthur Iturria good. Returning to his best level at the end of last season, the second or third line quickly adapted to the Bayonne side. Aligned eight times in this first half of the season, the ex-international (15 caps) reigns in the air and does not spare himself in the combat zones. Another good pick within an increasingly ambitious club.
Patrick Sobela, grinding machine (Perpignan)
Certainly, USAP's results this season are up and down. But one man stands out. Best tackler in his club (108 tackles) and one of the best performers in the championship, Patrick Sobela impresses with his physical strength. A real ball of muscle, the former Lyon player has already made a reputation among Catalan supporters. And when we know what that represents...
Joe Simmonds, the new Pau regulator (Pau)
Best director in the championship at this stage of the season (126 points), Joe Simmonds has had a very good first part of the season. Coming to take on another challenge in his career after playing seven years at Exeter alongside his brother, the English fly-half reassures with his kicking game and his technical ease with the ball in hand. Shunned by the various English coaches in recent seasons, Simmonds has already established himself as a boss in Béarn.
Domingo Miotti, the Argentinian conductor (Oyonnax)
Arriving from Glasgow last summer, Domingo Miotti is the conductor of the Oyomen's game at the start of the season. Author of 71 points, the Argentinian international (10 caps) is a complete player. Precise, reliable and a good attacker, he is one of the architects of Oyonnax's attractive game in this first part of the season.
Henry Arundell, at full speed (Racing 92)
Five tries in four matches in this first half of the season including a hat-trick for his first performance against Toulon, Arundell is launched. The England international has already impressed with his speed and his disconcerting support. Capable of playing at the back as well as on the wing, the former London Irish player convinced his managers to extend him and give up the XV de la Rose. But we feel that the English moped still has something under its belt...
Mentions: Tatafu (UBB), Mori (Bayonne), Papali'i (Castres), Urdapilleta (Clermont), Jackson (Lyon), Hervé (Toulon), Ruru (Oyonnax), Tedder (Racing 92), Ribbans (Toulon), Orie (Perpignan).
Joe Marchant (Stade Français)The England international is discreet in the center of the Parisian attack. The former Harlequins has not yet demonstrated all his talent. Patience…
Nepo Laulala (Stade Toulousain)The All Black arrived to blow Dorian Aldegheri and replace Charlie Faumuina. Dominated in the melee and little visible in the game, Laulala will have to raise his level of play.
Jack Nowell (Stade Rochelais)The England international (44 caps) was the flagship recruit of the offseason on the Rochelais side. But he has not yet convinced. Often placed in the center, Nowell has not regained his level of a few seasons ago.
Pita-Gus Sowakula (Clermont)The former Waikato Chiefs player only played three games and was out of the group in the last match against UBB. Too bad given the physical potential of the All Black, who will perhaps be more visible in the second part of the season.
Carlü Sadie (UBB)Arrived in the suitcases of Yannick Bru from the Durban Sharks, the solid South African right pillar has not yet convinced on the right flank of the Gironde scrum. Behind the powerful Tameifuna and with Falatea's injury synonymous with the end of the season, the UBB will surely need a Sadie at the level.
They played little or not at all: Reece Hodge (Bayonne), Leicester Fainga'anuku (Toulon), Jack Goodhue (Castres), Sam Whitelock (Pau), Josua Tuisova (Racing 92), Semi Radradra (Lyon), Monty Ioane (Lyon)…