With the new rugby season just weeks away, we today launch Friday Focus, a weekly look at various aspects of what promises to be a thrilling 2017-18 campaign.
This week we profile one of a number of high-profile internationals joining the European rugby scene this summer – 50-cap All Black Charlie Faumuina, who has left Auckland's Blues Super Rugby side for TOP 14 giants Toulouse.
At 1.84m and 127kg, Faumuina is not just a big name, but a big guy. However, his impressive physique is not his only asset. Pat Lam, one of his former coaches with the Blues, has described the 30-year-old prop as having “footwork like a ballerina”.
His mobility – allied to an ability to play at both loose-head and tight-head – has stood him in good stead ever since he switched from rugby league to union at Papatoetoe High School.
By 2007 he had made his provincial debut for Auckland and gained his first international honours, for New Zealand Under-21s against Canada.
The bearded front-rower's rugby union career continued its rapid upward curve with a Super Rugby bow for the Blues against the Sharks in 2009.
Faumuina then made the Blues' tight-head jersey his own with a series of powerful displays in 2011 and 2012, and was rewarded on September 8, 2012, when he made his debut for the All Blacks as a substitute in the 73rd minute against Argentina.
A first start for the All Blacks followed the next month against Australia in Brisbane, but since then his versatility – as well as the fierce competition at prop – has meant he has largely been used as an impact substitute for the rest of his New Zealand career, with only 11 more starts.
However, Toulouse's new signing has still earned a World Cup winner's medal, playing in six of New Zealand's seven matches – including the final – as they lifted the trophy in 2015.
He also featured in all three of the All Blacks' recent Tests against the British and Irish Lions before packing his bags for Toulouse, where he will be competing against two other internationals for a starting place in France's Cyril Baille and Lucas Pointud.
Toulouse – who have been drawn in Pool 2 of the Challenge Cup with Cardiff Blues, Lyon and Sale Sharks – open their TOP 14 campaign at Oyonnax on August 26, with their first home game against Pau the following week.