He may not be everyone's favourite rugby player, but he sure has made his presence felt since moving to France at the start of the decade. He represented Grenoble in the old Parker Pen Shield before joining cash rich Stade Francais in 2002. He declared his allegiance for France soon afterwards and he was a major part of the Stade side that went down to Toulouse in the 2005 at Murrayfield. He may not be the most classical centre in the world, and may use the boot a tad too much, but he is definitely one of the most significant southern hemisphere signings in the 15 years of the European Challenge Cup and the Heineken Cup.
Mark Van Gisbergen (Wasps & England via New Zealand)
Yet another player who came from the southern hemisphere to play some rugby and ended up playing internationally in the northern hemisphere, he was an integral part of the Wasps squad that won one Parker Pen Challenge Cup and two Heineken Cups. There are not many players who can boast three European club rugby titles but the former Waikato marksman can claim membership of that ultra exclusive club. Van Gisbergen once equalled Jonny Wilkinson's Guinness Premiership record of 28 successive kicks at goal. No mean feat that. During the middle of the decade he was one of the finest full backs on the planet and even if his form has tapered off since those heady days he still remains an integral part of the Wasps squad, and he could well win his fourth European medal this year with Wasps playing in the newly named Amlin Cup.
Pat Lam (Newcastle & Northampton via Samoa & New Zealand)
Lam captained a Northampton side to European Cup victory containing leaders of the calibre of Budge Pountney, Tim Rodber and Paul Grayson. That alone says a lot about how highly regarded he was in the game. Lam was immense that day in Twickenham, when Munster hearts were broken, even if all anyone can remember nine years later are Ronan O'Gara's missed kicks to win the final. He played once for the All Blacks and captained Samoa to victory over Wales in the 1999 World Cup but the feat of captaining the Saints to European Cup glory in 2000 is most definitely a career highlight.
This article first appeared in the November 2009 issue of Emerald Rugby Magazine www.emeraldrugby.com