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Gloucester bring in five London Irish players, including Ben Donnell

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

Gloucester boss George Skivington has bolstered his squad for next season with the signing of five players from London Irish, the club where he was an assistant under Declan Kidney before moving to Kingsholm in June 2020.

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The relentless break-up of the out-of-work former London Irish squad had continued earlier on Tuesday with Saracens striking a deal with Argentinian utility back Lucio Cinti before Gloucester later revealed they were signing three former first-team players and two more from the suspended London club’s academy.

A statement read: “Gloucester Rugby are delighted to announce the signings of five new players from London Irish. Scrum-half Caolan Englefield, lock/back row Ben Donnell and wing Michael Dykes all join the senior squad with exciting fly-half Rory Taylor and powerful tighthead prop Afolabi Fasogban joining our academy squad.

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“English-qualified Englefield, 23, who won caps at junior level for Ireland, has worked closely with new attack coach James Lightfoot-Brown over the years, signs on to enhance the half-backs following the departure of Ben Meehan. Despite his young age, Donnell, 22, already has bags of senior experience.

“He joined the Irish academy at 16 and went on to captain the club’s U18s side. His first senior appearance came aged just 18 during the 2017/18 season, coming off the bench against Gloucester in the Anglo-Welsh Cup. At 6ft 6ins and 115kgs, Donnell is a physical unit, operating at lock and back row. He is sure to add size and versatility to an already powerful forward pack.

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“Dykes, like many of the Irish academy graduates, is a lethal attacker. He scored seven tries in his first 10 games of professional rugby, including a memorable Gallagher Premiership hat-trick against Harlequins in January this year. In addition to the senior trio, two of Irish’s brightest young talents will also join, linking up with the academy.

“Prop Afolabi Fasogban, who impressed in the England U20s’ first game of the Junior World Championship against Ireland last weekend, and fly-half Rory Taylor make the move to Kingsholm where they will be developed by transition coaches T Rhys Thomas and Tim Taylor into first-team players.”

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Skivington said: “With James coming in to run our attack next season, it made sense for us to take a look at some of the Irish boys when they became available as these are players he has worked with for a few years.

“He knows the ability and potential they have, and they understand the way in which he wants to play, so it was a no-brainer. With Ben, Caolan and Michael, we have three young guys that have already been impressing at senior level.

“We are also really excited to bring in Afolabi and Rory to our academy too. Irish have an excellent track record of bringing academy players through, and these are two of the brightest future prospects so we are delighted to have secured their future with us.

“With the additional coaches we have brought in for this season, we think we have got the perfect set-up in place to get the best out of these players and to mould them into first-team regulars.”

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