Newcastle Falcons have added title-winning prowess and proven international class with the signing of French centre Maxime Mermoz.
The 30-year-old will join the club this summer following his short-term deal at Leicester Tigers, the 35-times-capped test star having performed at the top level for more than a decade.
Mermoz has won the French Top 14 title with three different clubs after successful spells with Toulouse, Perpignan and Toulon, also helping the latter to two European Champions Cups as well as starting for his country in the 2011 Rugby World Cup final.
Delighted to have brought the vastly-experienced performer to Kingston Park Stadium, director of rugby Dean Richards said: “Maxime’s signing is a major statement of intent for Newcastle Falcons.
“We have been working hard over a long period of time to make this move happen and we are delighted that a player of such proven calibre is keen to play a key role in the ambitious plans we have for the club.
“The fact that he will spend the back half of this season with Leicester Tigers is ideal in the sense that he will already be accustomed to Aviva Premiership rugby by the time he arrives with us in the summer, and we are excited by what he will bring to the group.”
In no doubt as to what Mermoz will add to his squad, Richards said: “He is a very intelligent centre who runs great lines, he has fantastic handling ability and his understanding of the game is first class.
“It is no coincidence he has won major trophies with every club he has been at, and the fact we have been able to attract a player of his standing in the game says a lot about the regard in which the Falcons are held at the moment.”
Bursting onto the scene as part of France’s Under-21s World Cup winning squad back in 2006, his first league title came with Toulouse in 2008 before moving to Perpignan the following season. Mermoz helped the Catalan club to the league title at the very first attempt, going on to spend five successful seasons at Toulon.
His time on the French Riviera brought a pair of Champions Cup medals in 2013 and 2014, and he started 19 times in Toulon’s victorious domestic league campaign in 2014, scoring six tries.
Making a total of 167 appearances over 13 seasons in France’s top flight competition, Mermoz has made 12 league outings for Toulon this term, eight of which were starts. Playing a further 40 European Champions Cup games over his glittering career, the 6 foot midfield man scored a try last weekend on his home debut for Leicester Tigers, as they recorded a big win over Gloucester.
Speaking about his move, he said: “I am really happy to join the Falcons and I have been attracted by the ambitious plans of this historic club, which was the starting point of my former team-mate and legend Jonny Wilkinson.
"I expect to share my experience and bring my contribution to achieve the ambitious goals of the team. But I also come to learn and experience something new, and to enjoy my passion in an environment and culture deeply different from what I have known in France.
"This is a big challenge, but really exciting and motivating. I love it, I feel grateful and want to pay back the trust shown in me by Newcastle Falcons.”