The Rugby World Cup may have only just concluded, but already the southern hemisphere rugby community is turning to 2024.
While those involved in the game's global showpiece -- or at least those who made the knockout phase -- enjoying the offseason, the 12 Super Rugby Pacific franchises are either already back training or are preparing to return to the paddock over the next couple of weeks.
As the weather warms up down south, so will the preseason, as teams put in the hard work in the search for that edge through the opening weeks of the competition, which kicks off on Feb. 23.
The tournament still has its detractors, meanwhile, and an independent commission is still to be formally set up. But competition organisers at least managed to agree on a day when the 12 playing squads would be confirmed.
Check out the team lists below!
Backs: Finlay Christie, Sam Nock, Taufa Funaki, Stephen Perofeta, Lucas Cashmore, Corey Evans, Rieko Ioane, Bryce Heem, Meihana Grindlay, Harry Plummer, Kade Banks, Caleb Clarke, Cole Forbes, AJ Lam, Zarn Sullivan, Caleb Tangitau, Mark Telea.
Forwards: Joshua Fusitua, Jordan Lay, Marcel Renata, PJ Sheck, Angus Ta'avao, Ofa Tu'ungafasi, Kurt Eklund, Ricky Riccitelli, Soane Vikena, Josh Beehre, Sam Darry, Laghlan McWhannell, James Thompson, Patrick Tuipulotu, Adrian Choat, Akira Ioane, Dalton Papalii, Rob Rush, Anton Segner, Hoskins Sotutu, Cameron Suafoa.
Former Scotland and Fiji Vern Cotter assumes the reins at the Blues, with Leon MacDonald having joined Scott Robertson's All Blacks coach team. Cotter won't have Beauden Barrett to build his team, nor Nepo Laulala, with the All Blacks duo among the team's departures alongside hard-working forward Tom Robinson and Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, whose code switch never lived up to its initial hype. Angus Ta'avao is a handy pick-up in the front-row while there are also a string of new faces across both the backs and forwards. Rising playmaker Lucas Cashmore will give Cotter another option at No. 10 outside of Stephen Perofeta and Harry Plummer.
Forwards: Allan Alaalatoa, Jahrome Brown, Charlie Cale, Nick Frost, Tom Hooper, Fred Kaihea, Sefo Kautai, Ed Kennedy, Lachlan Lonergan, Connal McInernery, Cadeyrn Neville, Billy Pollard, Luke Reimer, Blake Schoupp, Lachlan Shaw, James Slipper, Darcy Swain, Rob Valetini, Rhys van Nek, Harry Vella.
Backs: Austin Anderson, Hudson Creighton, Jack Debreczeni, Harrison Goddard, Len Ikitau, Noah Lolesio, Ryan Lonergan, Declan Meredith, Andy Muirhead, Ben O'Donnell, Ollie Sapsford, Klayton Thorn, Tamati Tua, Corey Toole, Tom Wright.
Stability has long been the key to the Brumbies' success and that will again be the case in 2024. Outside of Wallabies veteran Nic White, coach Stephen Larkham has maintained the crux of his squad, with 11 Test capped players up front and a further four in the backs. Harrison Goddard is a vital replacement for White, with the well travelled scrum-half heading south from the Waratahs, while Corey Toole, Tom Wright, the Lonergan brothers and Darcy Swain will all be keen to hit the ground running after missing World Cup selection under Eddie Jones. Skipper Allan Alaalatoa is expected to miss at least the opening few rounds of Super Rugby after rupturing his Achilles tendon in Bledisloe II.
Backs: Cortez Ratima, Xavier Roe, Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi, Josh Ioane, Damian McKenzie, Kaleb Trask, Anton Lienert-Brown, Rameka Poihipi, Daniel Rona, Quinn Tupaea, Gideon Wrampling, Liam Coombes-Fabling, Peniasi Malimali, Etene Nanai-Seturo, Emoni Narawa, Shaun Stevenson.
Forwards: Sione Ahio, George Dyer, Kauvaka Kaivelata, Ollie Norris, Reuben O'Neill, Jared Proffit, Aidan Ross Bradley Slater, Samisoni Taukei'aho, Tyrone Thompson, Naitoa Ah Kuoi, Josh Lord, Manaaki Selby-Rickit, Tupou Vaa'i, Jimmy Tupou, Kaylum Boshier, Samipeni Finau, Tom Florence, Luke Jacobson, Simon Parker, Wallace Sititi, Malachi Wrampling-Alec.
All Blacks skipper Sam Cane, veteran lock Brodie Retallick, scrum-half Brad Weber and cult hero Pita-Gus Sowakula are the key departures from an otherwise settled Chiefs squad, one that will still be loaded with Test talent in 2024. The Chiefs have had a handful of players graduate from the extended squad onto fulltime contracts while Kaleb Trask and Jimmy Tupou are arrivals of note from Japan and the Blues respectively.
Backs: Noah Hotham, Mitchell Drummond, Willi Heinz, Fergus Burke, Taha Kemara, Rivez Reihana, David Havili, Dallas McLeod, Levi Aumua, Ryan Crotty, Jone Rova, Will Jordan, Sevu Reece, Macca Springer, Manasa Mataele, Chay Fihaki, Leigh Halfpenny, Heremaia Murray.
Forwards: Codie Taylor, Brodie McAlister, George Bell, Ioane Moananu, Joe Moody, Finlay Brewis, George Bower, Tamaiti Williams, Fletcher Newell, Scott Barrett (capt), Quinten Strange, Tahlor Cahill, Zach Gallagher, Jamie Hannah, Ethan Blackadder, Cullen Grace, Tom Christie, Christian Lio-Willie, Corey Kellow, Dominic Gardiner.
The Crusaders are another New Zealand team headed into 2024 under a new coach, with former Waratahs boss Rob Penney taking charge. The exodus of All Blacks quality in Christchurch is significant, with Richie Mo'unga, Sam Whitelock, Leicester Fainga'anuku and Jack Goodhue all having departed, though veterans Ryan Crotty, Leigh Halfpenny, Manasa Mataele and Levi Aumua help to offset some of those backline losses. Codie Taylor is also set for an extended break to start the season, while Braydon Ennor will miss the entire campaign after he picked up an infection following knee surgery. Penney therefore has plenty to ponder over the offseason, particularly at fly-half, where Fergus Burke has also been cut down by injury.
Backs: Frank Lomani, Peni Matawalu, Philip Baselala, Simione Kuruvoli, Kemu Valentini, Isaiah Armstrong-Ravula, Isikeli Rabitu, Caleb Muntz, Apisalome Vota, Iosefo Masi, Michael Naitokani, Waqa Nalaga, Ilaisa Droasese, Selestino Ravutaumada, Taniela Rakuro, Epeli Momo, Tuidraki Samusamuvodre.
Forwards: Emosi Tuqiri, Haereti Hetet, Livai Natave, Jone Koroiduadua, Mesake Doge, Meli Tuni, Mesulame Dolokoto, Tevita Ikanivere, Zuriel Togiatama, Etonia Waqa, Isoa Nasilasila, Leone Rotuisolia, Sailosi Vukalokalo, Te Canakaivata, Kitione Salawa, Meli Derenalagi, Motikiai Murray, Vilive Miramira.
The Drua will be looking to kick on from their maiden finals appearance in 2023, and will be buoyed by their returning 18 World Cup heroes as Fiji made it to the quarterfinals for the first time since 2007. They will however be without Caleb Muntz, who was injured just days out from Fiji's World Cup opener in what was a crushing blow for the fly-half. That injury is likely to open up the opportunity for the talented Isaiah Armstong-Ravula, who starred for Fiji at last year's Junior World Championship.
Backs: Max Burey, Oliver Cummins, Nikolai Foliaki, Bayley Kuenzle, Henry O'Donnell, Campbell Parata, Reesjan Pasitoa, George Poolman, Harry Potter, Ian Prior, Samuel Spink, Hamish Stewart, Chase Tiatia, Nic White.
Forwards: Siosifa Amone, Tim Anstee, Oliver Callan, Lopeti Faifua, Charles Hancock, Will Harris, Harry Hoopert, Thomas Horton, Feleti Kaitu'u, Felix Kalapu, Santiago Medrano, Atu Moli, Marley Pearce, Jackson Pugh, Izack Rodda, Papillon Sevele, Carlo Tizzano, Angus Wagner, Michael Wells, Jeremy Williams.
Wallabies halves Nic White and Ben Donaldson headline the arrivals in Perth, as the Force try to find a way to secure a maiden Super Rugby Pacific finals berth. Harry Potter, Harry Hoopert, Atu Moli and Henry O'Donnell are further acquisitions while coach Simon Cron will be looking for injury-free runs for talented playmaker Reesjan Pasitoa and forgotten Wallabies lock Izack Rodda. Englishman Sam Spink, who made a big impression after joining the club from Wasps, has been retained, in what is a big boost for the Force's midfield.
Backs: James Arscott, Connor Garden-Bachop, Martín Bogado, Folau Fakatava, Ajay Faleafaga, Sam Gilber, Nathan Hastie, Jacob Ratumaituvuki-Kneepkens, Jonah Lowe, Cameron Millar, Jona Nareki, Rhys Patchell, Jake Te Hiw, Timoci Tavatavanawai, Tanielu Tele'a, Josh Timu, Matt Whaanga.
Forwards: Jermaine Ainsley, Henry Bell, Nikora Broughton, Daniel Lienert-Brown, Mitchell Dunshea, Ethan De Groot, Oliver Haig, Billy Harmon, Max Hicks, Fabian Holland, Luca Inch, Ricky Jackson, Ayden Johnstone, Saula Ma'u, Hayden Michaels, Pari Pari Parkinson, Hugh Renton, Tom Sanders, Jack Taylor, Will Tucker, Sean Withy
The Highlanders have undergone significant squad upheaval, with Jamie Joseph returning from Japan to take the reins of the team he led to the title in 2015. The list of departures is headed by Aaron Smith, though the champion No. 9's exit opens up the opportunity for the talented Folau Fakatava to start at scrum-half. Elsewhere, the Highlanders have picked up the powerful Timoci Tavatavanawai from Moana Pasifika, while Rhys Patchell offers cover at fly-half as the overseas replacement for Freddy Burns. Tom Sanders is a welcomed addition to the pack, but the Highlanders won't see much of Mitchell Dunshea after he suffered an Achilles injury in the Mitre 10 Cup.
Backs: Richard Judd, TJ Perenara, Cam Roigard, Brett Cameron, Aidan Morgan, Jordie Barrett, Riley Higgins, Billy Proctor, Bailyn Sullivan, Peter Umaga-Jensen, Harry Godfrey, Ruben Love, Josh Moorby, Kini Naholo, Ngatungane Punivai, Salesi Rayasi, Daniel Sinkinson.
Forwards: Siale Lauaki, Tyrel Lomax, Tevita Mafileo, Xavier Numia, Pouri Rakete-Stones, Pasilio Tosi, Asafo Aumua, Jacob Devery, James O'Reilly, Caleb Delany, Ben Grant, Justin Sangster, Josh Taula, James Tucker, Isaia Walker-Leawere, Devan Flanders, TK Howden, Brayden Iose, Du'Plessis Kirifi, Peter Lakai, Brad Shields.
For the first time in over a decade there will be no Savea in the Hurricanes squad, with Ardie enjoying a sabbatical in Japan and Julian having joined Moana Pasifika. The Hurricanes have also farewelled club stalwart Dane Coles, so too locks James Blackwell and Dom Bird. New coach Clark Laidlaw has lost a chunk of experience in those departures and will need the likes of Devan Flanders, Du'Plessis Kirifi and Cam Roigard, who was the breakout star of the All Blacks' World Cup campaign, to fill the void. Former Hurricanes skipper Brad Shields also rejoins the franchise after a lengthy stint in England, where he won Test caps under Eddie Jones, while TJ Perenara will be a welcomed sight after the scrum-half missed the 2023 season through an Achilles injury. Impressive youngsters Brayden Iose and Peter Lakai will also be expected to take another step forward in 2024.
Backs: Aisea Halo, Ereatara Enari, Jonathan Taumateine, Christian Lealiifano, William Havili, D'Angelo Leuila, Fine Inisi, Henry Taefu, Lalomilo Lalomilo, Pepesana Patafilo, Anzelo Tuitavuki, Danny Toala, Julian Savea, Neria Fomai, Nigel Ah Wong, Otumaka Mausia, Viliami Fine.
Forwards: Abraham Pole, Donald Brighthouse, James Lay, Sateki Latu, Sekope Kepu, Suetena Asomua, Samiueka Moli, Sama Malolo, Tomasi Maka, Irie Papuni, Ofa Tauatevalu, Samuel Slade, Tom Savage, Viliami Napa'a, Alamanda Motuga, Lotu Inisi, Miracle Faiilagi, Ola Tauelangi, Semisi Paea, Sione Havili Talitui, Solomone Funaki.
Moana will be without powerhouse backs Levi Aumua and Timoci Tavatavanawai, who have joined the Crusaders and Highlanders respectively. But they just over half of last year's squad returning, while Julian Savea and impressive back-rower Sione Havili Talitui add experience and quality to a team that won only one game in 2023. Eleven players will be stepping up to Super Rugby for the first time but Moana will have inaugural skipper Sekope Kepu back in 2024 after he missed all of the team's second season through an Achilles injury. All Blacks great Tana Umaga coaches Moana in 2024.
Backs: Taj Annan, Floyd Aubrey, Jock Campbell, Frankie Goldsbrough, Mac Grealy, Isaac Henry, Tom Lynagh, Tate McDermott, Harry McLaughlin-Phillips, James O'Connor, Hunter Paisami, Jordan Petaia, Tim Ryan, Kalani Thomas, Suliasi Vunivalu, Louis Werchon.
Forwards: Connor Anderson, Richie Asiata, George Blake, Angus Blyth, Joe Brial, John Bryant, Max Craig, Cormac Daly, Massimo de Lutiis, Sef Fa'agase, Matt Faessler, Alex Hodgman, Fraser McReight, Josh Nasser, Zane Nonggorr, Peni Ravai, Taine Roiri, Ryan Smith, Jeffery Toomaga-Allen, Seru Uru, Connor Vest, Harry Wilson, Liam Wright.
Incoming Reds coach Less Kiss has had a busy few months, filling out the remainder of his wider squad with a number of intriguing acquisitions. They are headed by All Blacks-capped props Alex Hodgman and Jeff Toomaga-Allen, who offset the loss of Taniela Tupou, even if the Wallabies prop didn't feature at all last season. Impressive Junior Wallabies back-rower Massimo de Lutiis is one player to keep an eye on, so too 18-year-old Frankie Goldsbrough who turned down the advances of the NRL to sign with the Reds while still at school. Harry McLaughin-Phillips will offer another playmaking option outside of Tom Lynagh and Lawson Creighton.
Backs: Jack Maunder, Ryan Louwrens, James Tuttle, Carter Gordon, Mason Gordon, David Palu, Matt Proctor, David Feliuai, Nick Jooste, Lebron Naea, Lukas Ripley, David Vaihu, Lachie Anderson, Andrew Kellaway, Darby Lancaster, Filipo Daugunu, Jake Strachan, Joe Pincus, Glen Vaihu.
Forwards: Cabous Eloff, Pone Fa'amausili, Sam Talakai, Matt Gibbon, Taniela Tupou, Isaac Kailea, Alex Mafi, Jordan Uelese, Ethan Dobbins, Lukhan Salakaia-Loto, Josh Canham, Angelo Smith, Daniel Maiava, Tuaina Tall Tualima, Rob Leota, Josh Kemeny, Brad Wilkin, Vaiolini Ekuasi, Zac Hough.
This may be the most impressive squad the Rebels have assembled in their history, as a number of big-name arrivals boost a group that was in nearly every game last year, but failed to land the victories that would have earned them a finals berth. The list of new faces is headed by Wallabies prop Taniela Tupou, who shifts south from the Reds to bolster an already solid front-row contingent, while Lukhan Salakai-Loto will add depth at lock and in the back-row. In the backs, the Rebels have recruited English No. 9 Jack Maunder and former Hurricanes flyer Matt Proctor, while Filipo Daugunu is another key acquisition in the outside backs. Supporters will also want to keep an eye on Australia sevens flyer Darby Lancaster, who was the target of multiple Australian clubs before he signed with the Rebels.
NEW SOUTH WALES WARATAHS
Backs: Dylan Pietsch, Harry Wilson, Izaia Perese, Jack Bowen, Jack Grant, Jake Gordon, Joey Walton, Lalakai Foketi, Mark Nawaqanitawase, Max Jorgensen, Mosese Tuipulotu, Tane Edmed, Teddy Wilson, Vuate Karawalevu, Will Harrison
Forwards: Angus Bell, Archer Holz, Charlie Gamble, Daniel Botha, David Porecki, Fergus Lee-Warner, Harry Johnson-Holmes, Hayden Thompson-Stringer, Hugh Sinclair, Jed Holloway, Lachlan Swinton, Ned Slack-Smith, Langi Gleeson, Mahe Vailanu, Miles Amatosero, Ned Hanigan, Theo Fourie, Tom Lambert, Tom Ross.
NSW will take a largely settled squad into the 2024 Super Rugby season, albeit one without former Wallabies skipper Michael Hooper and playmaker Ben Donaldson, the latter having headed west to the Force. Locks Fergus Lee-Warner and Miles Amatosero will bolster what has been a troublesome second-row pairing in recent times, while former Saracens prop Hayden Thompson-Stringer adds some starch up front. Tane Edmed is likely to be given first crack at making the No. 10 jersey his own, though the injury-prone Will Harrison and former Australia Under 20s pivot Jack Bowen are also options. Max Jorgensen is meanwhile expected to be fit for Round 1 despite breaking his leg during a training session with the Wallabies at the World Cup.