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Wales Online
Wales Online
Ben James

All the Welsh players playing in France next season as Alun Wyn Jones becomes World Cup joker

Alun Wyn Jones has joined Toulon as World Cup cover, adding to the growing contingent of Wales players plying their trade in France.

The addition of Test rugby's most-capped player means there are now eight Welsh internationals playing in the top two tiers of French rugby and 10 Welsh players overall.

It's perhaps not as excessive as the exodus around a decade ago, when the likes of Jamie Roberts, Mike Phillips, Dan Lydiate, Jonathan Davies, James Hook, Lee Byrne and Luke Charteris were all playing in France around the time of the 'civil war' back home in Wales.

But the recent problems in the game in this country has seen more players head for the exit doors as budgets tighten and squad sizes fall.

Given the nature of the uncertainty, there's also an element of players finding their moves late in the day - with many in the second tier of French rugby, the Pro D2.

Here's all the Welsh players who will be playing in France next year....

Top 14

Montpellier - Henry Thomas

The new Wales call-up had been told that his place in Warren Gatland's squad meant he'd have to leave Montpellier, with whom he won the Top 14 title in 2022. However, that stance appears to have changed and the former England international is set to stay with the club.

Racing 92 - Will Rowlands and Regan Grace

There had been fears that Will Rowlands wouldn't be available for the World Cup, having not yet met the 25-cap threshold to continue playing for his country while employed overseas. However, the PRB stated that his registration will still belong in Wales during the autumn warm-ups, allowing him to win enough caps to carry on at Test level as he heads for Paris after a spell at the Dragons.

He should, in theory, join up with another Welsh face in the French capital. There have been reports that rugby league convert Regan Grace has been released by Racing. However, when the Parisian club put out a list of leavers last week, the former St Helens wing wasn't on it.

He's yet to play a game in union after some serious injury set-backs, but he is on the mend and aiming to make a comeback soon.

Toulon - Dan Biggar and Alun Wyn Jones

Former Wales captain Jones joins the Challenge Cup winners as a World Cup joker. That means he'll be on a short-term contract, providing cover while Toulon have players in the World Cup. However, it's not out of the question that the second-row will stay longer if needed.

If he does, he could well line up alongside another Welsh skipper, with Dan Biggar having joined the French giants during last season. The fly-half has already made an impression on and off the pitch, being near-fluent in the language in a short space of time.

Pro D2

Provence - Tomas Francis

The 31-year-old tight-head will join up with new club Provence after the World Cup, having signed a three-year deal with the Pro D2 club. As he still had a year remaining on his Ospreys contract, he had to ask for the approval of the Ospreys and the WRU to move.

Both Ospreys head coach Toby Booth and Wales head coach Warren Gatland agreed to the request, paving the way for his next move.

Biarritz - Rhys Webb and Tyler Morgan

Wales scrum-half Webb's future had been the subject of speculation for some time, with it becoming apparent a while ago that he was unlikely to sign a new deal with the Ospreys. That was confirmed when he called time on his Test career, pulling out of the World Cup training squad to sign with an overseas club.

However, it was only this week that the destination was finally revealed publicly, even if it had been something of an open secret. Biarritz will be his next club, with Webb speaking exclusively to WalesOnline following the move.

He'll join former Dragons and Scarlets centre Tyler Morgan in the Basque country, with the Wales centre having signed a new two-year deal after making 21 appearances and scoring four tries during his first campaign in France.

There's reports that Wales fly-half Rhys Patchell, who is without a club after leaving the Scarlets, could also be heading to Biarritz.

Brive - Ross Moriarty

The combative Wales back-row headed to France prior to the end of last season, leaving the Dragons for a relegation scrap with Brive.

Unfortunately for Moriarty, his efforts weren't enough to keep his new club in the Top 14. But it's clear he'll be doing all he can to get them back, having ruled himself out of Wales selection to settle into his new life in France this summer.

Grenoble - Sam Davies

The former Dragons fly-half could have been forgiven for thinking he'd escaped off-field drama when he swapped Welsh rugby for France earlier this summer, after a final season in Wales that saw contract uncertainty and the threat of strike action. You can read our recent interview with him here.

Of course, things are never that simple - with his new club Grenoble having missed out on promotion to the Top 14 and then demoted to the third tier for their financial management not long after Davies had agreed a deal with the club. Thankfully, the situation has been resolved - with Grenoble to stay in Pro D2 with a six-point penalty.

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