Although plans to ringfence the Gallagher Premiership seem to have been put on hold for the immediate future, that has not diminished the ambition of Ealing Trailfinders to move swiftly to secure a place in English rugby’s flagship competition, with the club confirming the arrival of an astonishing 27 players this summer.
That is mitigated by a sizable number of departures, but it is a mark of the commitment of owner Mike Gooley, with the club loading up on an array of experience operators and hungry youngsters with as yet unfulfilled potential.
Starting up front, the club have added Jack O’Connell (Bristol) and Campese Ma’afu (Northampton Saints) at loosehead, whilst Ben Betts (Leicester Tigers), Elliot Millar-Mills (Edinburgh), George Davis (Loughborough Students) and Jake Ellwood (Darlington Mowden Park) have all been brought in at tighthead.
They will compete with incumbent tighthead Mark Tampin, whilst hooker Alun Walker will be joined by new arrivals Matt Beesley (Northampton Saints) and George Edgson (Bedford Blues).
In the second-row, USA international Ben Landry (Glendale Raptors), Ben West (Yorkshire Carnegie), Tom Denton (Gloucester) and Junior World Championship-winner Jordan Onojaife (Northampton Saints) have all been added.
The back-row has also been significantly bolstered with another USA international incoming in Andrew Durutalo (Worcester Warriors), who returns to the club after impressing in a previous stint that drew Premiership interest. Jordy Reid (Melbourne Rebels) has also been signed, bringing a wealth of Super Rugby experience to Vallis Way next season.
In the half-backs, scrum-halves Ryan Foley (Grasse), Jordan Burns (Bedford Blues) and Ben Williams (Cardiff Met) have been brought in to compete with Luke Carter. At fly-half, emerging Premiership talent Craig Willis (Newcastle Falcons) and JWC-winner Sam Olver (Worcester Warriors) have been snapped up, as has experienced Championship operator Laurence May (Cornish Pirates).
Moving on to the centres and the marquee additions are Pat Howard (Dragons), Guy Armitage (Wasps) and double JWC-winner Harry Sloan (Harlequins). All three have made positive impacts at higher levels than the Championship in the past and could be looking forward to big seasons, if they can stay fit.
Finally, the back-three, where Ealing have brought in David Johnston (Munster), Segundo Tuculet (Narbonne), George Simpson (Cardiff Met) and yet another JWC-winner in Howard Packman (Bedford Blues). The versatility and full-back experience of the quartet should complement Ealing’s already talented wing options, including the fast-emerging Reon Joseph.
The club has lost key players to the Premiership this coming season, such as Lewis Thiede and Piers O’Conor to Bristol Bears and Will Davis to Northampton Saints, so it is not purely a case of the rich getting richer in West London.
That said, the additions are exciting and offer a strong blend of youth and experience and the battle for promotion in the Championship next season looks as open as it has for several seasons now.