Best Rugby Free Agents still available this summer

Despite being four weeks away from most European domestic leagues starting again, there are still a lot of quality players without a club for the 2022/23 season.

Danny Cipriani

We begin with one of the most talked about players in English rugby over the past five years. Danny Cipriani has been a massive figure in English rugby ever since he made his debut for Wasps aged just 17 all the way back in 2004.

In only a few years’ time, Cipriani was the starting fly-half for Wasps and was number 10 for England for the 2008 Autumn Internationals but was dropped after poor performances. It was in this series where Cipriani’s commitment to rugby was put in question due to his flashy and celebrity lifestyle.

Off the field issues combined with injuries caused Cipriani to move around over the next few years and never really got a sustained period for England, even when he was voted Player of the Year by the Rugby Players Association for the 2018-19 season when he was with Gloucester.

After one season with Bath, Cipriani has made it clear that he will not be playing in England again, with the most rumours linking him to a move to Major League Rugby. There are a few other rumours of a move to France or Japan. At 34, Cipriani still has at least one year left to offer to any team looking for an exciting, creative number 10.

Nick Phipps

One of the most experienced free agents still on the market, Nick Phipps has had a brilliant career up to this point. Starting his career eleven years ago, Phipps made his debut for Melbourne Rebels in the 2011 Super Rugby season, having signed for them in July of the previous year.

Having toured with the Wallabies in late 2010, he made his debut for Australia in the lead up to the 2011 Rugby World Cup. For the next eight years after his debut, Phipps was one of the most consistent players in an Australian jersey, but he tended to make most of his appearances off the bench.

Still, by 2019 Phipps had racked up 72 appearances internationally and had moved back to his home town of Sydney to move to the Waratahs in 2014. With his international career winding down around 2019, Phipps decided to move to London Irish.

Phipps played 65 times for the Irish, scoring six Premiership tries in that time. Phipps made a big impact on the London Irish team and was named one of the club captains just one year after he joined, so it was surprising to see Phipps leaving the team, with former Melbourne Rebels scrum half Joe Powell being Phipps replacement.

While we know Phipps won’t be playing in England, there is not much other information on where Phipps could go. Phipps could become one of the many Australian player moving to Japan, or even a move to Major League Rugby.

Mike Brown

With the fifth most appearances in premiership history, Mike Brown brings a huge amount of experience to any team. Having made his debut for Harlequins in 2005 and it was only a couple of seasons until Brown established himself as the starting full back for Harlequins, scoring nine tries in the 2006-07 season.

Browns England debut came slightly sooner than expected as he was one of the few players not to be affected by food poisoning while touring South Africa in 2007 and so made his debut in a 58-10 defeat. Over the next few years, Brown would not nail down a starting shirt for England as he vied with Ben Foden for the 15 shirt.

Club success happened during this time, with Brown winning Challenge cup and Premiership in back to back finals, with Brown starting both games. It was by 2014 that Brown had nailed down the starting fullback shirt for England and was one of the few players to survive the horrible 2015 World Cup performance.

Under Eddie Jones, Brown was crucial as England won 3-0 in Australia in 2016 as well as the Six Nations winning teams. Brown was again part of the Harlequins title winning team in 2020/21 but did not play in the semi-final or final due to being suspended for a stamp.

After an unsuccessful year with Newcastle, Brown has been linked to premiership teams like Saracens and Sale, while a reunion with Harlequins has been teased as Brown has been training with former teammate and current Quins nine Danny Care as he looks for a new team.

Pablo Matera

Considering how good Matera was last season, he has to be considered the best player on this list and it is surprising to see that he has not yet signed for anyone. Pablo Matera is a name that some premiership fans may remember, having made his debut for Leicester Tigers in October 2013 at just 20 years old.

Matera made an impact on the premiership, but with only eight appearances it was not necessarily the biggest. Matera did make his debut for Argentina and featured in all of the games for the 2013 Rugby Championship.

Matera took the opportunity to join Argentinian side Jaguares when they were included in Super Rugby in 2016. In his 52 games for the side he scored eleven tries and was named captain for the 2018 season. After a couple of years with Stade Francais, Matera signed a one year deal with the Crusaders.

It was in this year that Matera showed his world class quality, playing 78 minutes in the final as the Crusaders defeated the Blues. Matera became a hero for the Crusaders fan base due to his excellent work over the ball, dominant ball carrying and brilliant work ethic.

Having already rejected a huge deal to join Premiership strugglers Bath, it seems like Matera will be going to the highest bidder which looks likely to be a Japanese team. Despite some controversy due to some historical tweets that caused him to lose the captaincy of Argentina, Matera is the best unattached player this summer.

Tevita Kuridrani

For any team who signs Tevita Kuridrani, there will be a lot of disappointed opposition defenders who are not looking forward to facing him. Starting his career playing in Fiji, Kuridrani got the attention of Super Rugby team Brumbies after some brilliant domestic and international performances.

It landed Kuridrani with the Brumbies for the 2012 and he established himself as a starter for the 2013 season, including starting in all 16 games in the 2016 season. The Fijian born back made his Australian debut in 2013 against New Zealand.

Over the next seven years, Kuridrani would become a Brumbies legend, playing in 135 games for the side as well as starting in the 2013 Super Rugby Final which the Brumbies would lose 27-22 to the Chiefs despite leading 22-12 at the 60th minute.

He would also become an Australian regular, scoring 20 tries in 60 appearances for the Wallabies and constantly being awarded Man of the Match due to his high work rate and big hitting ability.

Kuridrani’s time in Australia ended when he moved to Biarritz in the Top 14. But when the side were already relegated, Kuridarani went AWOL, having supposedly taken a holiday to Fiji thinking that the season was over. It is why Kuridrani is not returning to Biarritz despite a year left on his contract.

But there are still a lot of suitors for the former Wallabies star and he could still offer a lot to any side that picks him up.

Francis Saili

As well as losing one former international Australian back, Biarritz have also lost former New Zealand back Francis Saili. Born in Auckland, Saili picked up rugby very quickly and was playing for New Zealand at schoolboy level as well as starting in the final of the IRB Junior World Championship in 2011 which New Zealand won.

Saili would make his New Zealand debut in 2013 against Argentina as well as making his debut for the Blues in 2012. Saili would score seven tries for the Blues in his 35 appearances. But it was clear that Saili would not be able to break into the New Zealand team due to talent like Ma’a Nonu, Conrad Smith, Sonny Bill Williams and Malakai Fekitoa.

So Saili decided to make the move to Europe, signing for Munster on a two-year deal. Saili had some good performances in his time with Munster including being awarded man of the match in the 2017 Pro12 semi-final victory, as well as starting in the final a week later. Saili did struggle a bit with injury in his time in Ireland.

After that spell, Saili signed for Premiership side Harlequins. But he joined the side while the team was rebuilding and struggled with injuries throughout his time in London. Saili was a big signing for Biarritz in 2020 but left the club this summer after they were relegated from the Top 14.

It seems likely that Saili will sign with Top 14 side Stade Francais, with French newspaper Midi Olympique linking Saili heavily with the team. At 31, Saili will have a lot to offer if he does sign for Stade or any team that he signs for.

Luther Burrell

Luther Burrell is one of those players who has made the switch from rugby union to rugby league and back to union. His career in rugby started off with Leeds Carnegie who were a premiership side at the time.

Burrell quickly made a name for himself as a hard hitting centre who could create a line break from nothing. Burrell made a move to Sale in 2011, but it was his move to Northampton that gave Burrell the most success.

Burrell spent six seasons with the Saints where he became a Premiership and Challenge Cup winner in 2014, with Burrell starting in both games. His performances earned Burrell an England call up and Burrell scored his first try against France in the 2014 Six Nations.

Burrell would play for England 15 times but never established himself in the team. Burrell left Northampton in 2019 and signed a deal with Newcastle Falcons. Having left the Falcons this summer, Burrell has spoken about the clubs racism which has begun an investigation by the RFU.

So as the investigation continues, it is still unclear whether Burrell still wants to play rugby, considering the horrible racism he has been through. If Burrell still wants to continue playing rugby, then there will still be lots of suitors for him as the centre can still offer a lot to a few different teams.

Janco Venter

Namibia has the tendency to produce a few good rugby players and Janco Venter is certainly one of them. The 6ft 4in forward began his career playing for local sides before moving to Jersey Reds in the championship in 2018. After 35 appearances with the side, he was recruited by Saracens.

Venter was recruited by Saracen to help in their efforts in getting out of the championship after they had been relegated due to financial regulation breaks. Venter would go on to play 12 times for Saracens and would become a championship winner, taking Saracens back up to the Premiership.

Internationally, Venter has been capped 25 times by Namibia and is one of only two players in the squad not to be with a team at the moment. Venter was also part of both the 2015 World Cup squad and the 2019 World cup squad, missing out on the opportunity on a win because of Typhoon Hagibis causing the last game to be cancelled.

While Venter may not be the quality of a top side, there are certainly some lower down sides in the URC and Premiership who would benefit from his signature. Very good in the lineout, Venter is also a powerful carrier who can make big hits when needed. He may have limitations in his game, but at 27 there is still a lot of growing that he can do if Venter signs with the right side.

Latest Rugby News & Articles

Stay up to date with the latest rugby news & articles.

Rugby Cups

List of all rugby cups.

Rugby Leagues

List of all rugby leagues.