With the Aviva Premiership only weeks away, there’s been no stopping the Premiership clubs attracting some of the big names in rugby. With deals done right across the board, we’re looking at some of the best signings made by each club and how they’ll get on this season. Check out your club’s new additions and let me know your thoughts in the comments below.
Bath – After a dismal showing last season, the final table didn’t read too well for Bath Rugby, particularly after a very successful season in 14-15. There wasn’t a huge difference in personnel for the club, it just didn’t seem to go to plan. However, they will be looking to right the wrongs with some extra punch in their squad. Luke Charteris (from Racing 92) – A lineout stalwart, Charteris arrives back in the UK after spells with Racing 92 and Perpignan. A Top 14 winner with the Paris based side, Charteris will add another dimension to the Bath forward pack. Despite missing the Top 14 final due to commitments with Wales in New Zealand, Charteris has shown his capabilities with the best in Europe. He’ll offer Bath great ball carrying, set piece dynamism and an epic defensive work rate. Bath have also acquired the signature of number 8 Taulupe Faletau. A dominant figure and spearhead of the Welsh national team, Faletau you get sheer brute strength – a guy who will get you yards anywhere on the pitch, anytime. Bath could well build their pack around Faletau. He has some of the best stats in Europe – a tackling, ball carrying off loader, Faletau is certainly one of the best in the business. Expect him and Bath to have great seasons.
Bristol – Generally speaking, the first season in the Premiership following promotion is an extremely tough one. Bristol will be looking to compete, no doubt, but it’s whether they can make a sustained effort of it for the whole campaign. A great signing for Bristol is Samoan Tusi Pisi, from Super Rugby’s new additions the Sunwolves. Pisi showed at RWC 2015 his flair and panache for playing attacking rugby. Joining his brothers George and Ken in the Premiership, Pisi brings a wealth of experience. After spells in Super Rugby, Japan and also with French side Toulon, he’s certainly played alongside some of rugby’s finest. With a couple of tries and over 100 points for the Sunwolves this season, Bristol will be relishing the prospect of having someone with his quality as a great attacking option. Bristol will do well and finish above the relegation place and have a successful first season in the Premiership.
Exeter Chiefs – The Chiefs will be looking to build on last year’s hugely successful season. A spirited performance in the Premiership final and reaching the knockout stages in the Champions Cup. The influx of Australians continues for the South West club, despite captain Dean Mumm returning to Australia to his former side the Waratahs. Queenslands Reds tighthead Greg Holmes joins the Chiefs, albeit on a poor run of form in Super Rugby. Rob Baxter clearly wants to add more strength and experience to compete at scrum time, but Holmes offers an all round game that will suit the Chiefs. His scrummaging will provide a good attacking platform for the Chiefs to potentially go beyond their second place finish in 2015-16.
Gloucester – Gloucester are in need of a great season. After finishing 8th, 9th and 9th over the previous three seasons, the Cherry and Whites will be hoping they can compete for at least a playoff place come May 2017. A new addition to the team sees Scotland International Matt Scott come into the Gloucester back line on a long term deal. Joining from Edinburgh, Scott had an impressive Six Nations and shows Gloucester’s intent on creating a more dynamic back line. A proven try scorer for both Edinburgh and Scotland, he’ll provide Gloucester with attacking options going forward as well as reliable cover in defence. Whether Gloucester can go up against the Premiership big guns will be determined by their home form. If Scott can help them gain momentum at home, I think they’ll improve on last season’s finish but a top four finish may just be little too far.
Harlequins – A number of key Quins players had very good tours down under and will be looking to mount an assault on the summit of the Premiership this season. Recent finishes in the Premiership have been inconsistent by their own standards. Quins have looked to bolster their pack with incoming lock forward Mark Reddish from the Highlanders in Super Rugby. Despite only playing half a dozen games for the New Zealand franchise, his lineout prowess has been vital for the Highlanders’ good form. Harlequins are renowned for their abilities at the breakdown, especially with the likes of Robshaw, and Reddish will only add to that. His work rate at the breakdown is efficient and consistently wins turnovers for his side. The Quins dominant forward pack will be a strong force this season and I wouldn’t be surprised if they were up there competing with the likes of Saracens towards the business end of the season.
Leicester Tigers – The Tigers had a very good season last year, making it into the semi final against an impressive Saracens side that took the double. Leicester are another team that have the qualities to go all the way and there’s no doubting their attacking intent by signing the likes of Australian Matt Toomua and South African JP Pietersen. Both Super Rugby regulars with the Brumbies and the Sharks respectively, Toomua was a player sorely missed by the Wallabies against England. Playing in the final test was just too little too late. Toomua had an epic World Cup and consistently caused defences problems. He will score tries, no doubt. A centre partnership with Manu Tuilagi, if he’s fit, would be devastating to any opponent. Really looking forward to seeing Toomua’s inclusion. Pietersen is on a whole other level when it comes to scoring tries. His blistering pace will fit in just nicely in the Tigers’ backline and I’d tip him to lead the try scorers at the end of the season. He compliments his attacking with sound defensive duties and not one to shy out of a tackle. We could well see Leicester in the final next year and providing key players are still around and fit, they could well go all the way under Richard Cockerill.
Newcastle Falcons – Newcastle had a pretty good season last year and sitting in 11th really didn’t do them any justice. They had some excellent wins against some of the big names but all came down to consistency, which slipped at key points. Luckily though they were able to stay up and will be looking to finish at least mid table in 2016-17. Someone who will undoubtedly help them do this is Fijian Vereniki Goneva. A winger with an eye for the try line, Goneva could be the standout player for the Falcons this season. He had a great scoring record during his time at the Tigers and I’m sure he’ll be taking that up to the North East, but I think this could be a tricky season for the Falcons. Their Premiership opponents could well be too strong and could lead to a potential relegation battle.
Northampton Saints – After a Premiership win and runner up spot in the last three seasons for the Saints, it was inexplicable of them finishing fifth last time out. Losing certain winnable games created an inconsistency not normally seen around Franklin’s Gardens. But securing the acquisition of Louis Picamoles is a big one at that. Arriving at the Midlands club from Toulouse, there really is no mistaking Picamoles’s immense capabilities in defence. It’s clear to see that Jim Mallinder wants to tidy up their defensive approach. Picamoles will tackle and work all day. His tackle count generally tops the stats most games and will bring experience that will allow the Saints to compete for the top spots again. Definitely one to watch and wouldn’t be surprised if the Saints really clear up their defensive inefficiencies this term.
Sale Sharks – Sale were one of the surprise packages for me last season. Finishing in a respectable 6th close behind the Saints, they showed the grit and determination of a Sharks side of old. The Sharks will want to better it and will look to bring the game to their opponents, but again, home form could be the deciding factor. The Sharks have brought in AJ MacGinty from Connacht following the departure of Danny Cipriani. The USA international is a proven points scorer, both with the boot and scoring tries. But only playing 13 games for Connacht last season could impact on whether he is a regular starter for the Salford based club. MacGinty will be suited to a club like Sale, as he’ll be in a position to express himself more freely and look to bring a new approach to the 10 jersey.
Saracens – There’s no denying the dominance Saracens have shown over the last few seasons, both domestically and in Europe. Their international players had excellent summers down under and yet again look the team to beat to win the Premiership. With the inclusion of Schalk Burger, the outgoing Stormers and South African international brings yet more physicality to an almost unstoppable forward pack. He may be getting on a bit, but Burger brings yet more experience and dominance into a side renowned for its South African power. There’s not really much Burger won’t do for you on the field. He’ll tackle, carry the ball, upset the lineout and is devastating at the breakdown. Saracens may well be winning back to back titles, unless there is a team that can upset their continued dominance.
Wasps – Dai Young has created a Wasps team reminiscent of days of old. The Midlands club have been a breath of fresh air over the past season. They’ve played running rugby at its best and are undoubtedly attracting the best players around. It’s great to see Danny Cipriani back at his old club. He had a phenomenal tour with the England Saxons against South Africa and looks in good stead for the new season. Cipriani will bring a great attacking approach and will compliment his team mates with his flair and the ability to read the game from anywhere on the field. He showed in South Africa that he his kicking is still on point. Wasps have so much strength in their squad that they should be competing in a final next season. They’re certainly a team to watch, if not the team to watch.
Worcester Warriors – Worcester will be hoping their fortunes changes, following a season predominantly competing in the relegation battle. They did pretty well to stay up and additions to the squad will be focussed on a successful campaign. The Warriors will be pleased to have the likes of Ben Te’o, arriving from Leinster, in the ranks for this season. The New Zealand born centre certainly proved his worth this season, following his inclusion in the England squad to Australia. The latest of the cross-coders to pursue the union dream, nobody will want the job of running down his channel. As Eddie Jones stated “he hits” – certainly evident in his league days. Worcester have a gem at 12 – he’ll certainly be one to watch and whether Eddie Jones continues to see something special in him, we’ll have to wait and see. Unfortunately, I can’t see Worcester posing too much of a threat and can see another relegation scrap. Perhaps they’ll prove me wrong.
Whatever happens, there’s certainly an exciting season in prospect. Even with the players mentioned, we’re in for a treat and can’t come quick enough.