Teams across Europe are busy building their squads for the 2019/20 season and Clermont have snapped up a new lock for the upcoming campaign.
With the likes of Paul Jedrasiak and Sébastien Vahaamahina – the Top 14-leading number four with an RPI of 84 – potentially away with France at the Rugby World Cup later this year and Flip van der Merwe and Sitaleki Timani both well into their 30’s, Clermont have made the proactive move to bolster their stocks in the engine room.
The French side, who are currently at the summit of the Top 14, have signed Harlequins lock George Merrick on a two-year deal set to begin in the summer, with an option to extend that contract to 2022.
Merrick has made over 50 appearances for Harlequins in the Gallagher Premiership, but has never been able to fully cement himself into the regular starting XV. He previously represented England at U20 level in 2012, where he played alongside the likes of Luke Cowan-Dickie, Henry Slade and Marland Yarde, as well as club teammates Kyle Sinckler, Jack Clifford, Sam Twomey and Charlie Walker.
The 26-year-old is a product of the Quins academy and is not the only home grown lock to be moving to pastures new of late, with Charlie Matthews having left the club at the end of the 2017/18 season in order to join Wasps, and Twomey having linked up with London Irish at the same time.
Merrick’s departure signals the continuing revolution at the Twickenham-based club, with Head of Rugby Paul Gustard moulding the club’s roster to his liking. Further Quins academy products are also believed to be moving on at the end of the season, with Walker and Luke Wallace among those reported to be heading to new clubs in the summer.
The second row will be hopeful of enjoying a productive career in France and Clermont head coach Franck Azéma has already praised Merrick’s hard-working nature and consistency. Merrick will join fellow Englishman Nick Abendanon at the club, whilst the likes of David Strettle, Alex King and Richard Cockerill have all enjoyed successful stints in Clermont-Ferrand previously.
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