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'I'm pleased': Ex-Wasps lock James Gaskell confirms his new club

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by Henry Browne/Getty Images)

James Gaskell has become the latest out-of-contract Gallagher Premiership player to finally find himself a new club, Japanese club Shokki Shuttles naming the ex-Wasps lock and former France international second row Yoann Maestri as two of six new signings for the 2023 season.

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It was May 20 when former England Saxons pick Gaskell was listed in the batch of seven additional players that would be leaving the financial-troubled Wasps at the end of the 2021/22 season after eight seasons at the club he joined following six seasons at Sale.

The 32-year-old was one of the numerous players across the league in England to feel the squeeze caused by the reduced salary cap but he has now found himself an exciting new deal 13-and-a-half weeks later.

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He will link up with the same Japanese club that Freddie Burns spent a season at before he returned to the Premiership to kick the tittle-clinching drop goal for Leicester in last June’s final at Twickenham.

“I have always wanted to play in Japan, so I’m pleased to be able to come to Japan. I am looking forward to playing with my new team,” said Gaskell on the Shuttles website.

The list of new arrivals also includes the 34-year-old Maestri, the 65-cap French lock who has two formative seasons at Toulon before going on to become a nine-season stalwart of the Toulouse pack. He had been at Stade Francais in recent times, spending the past four seasons there. “I am honoured to join Toyota Industries Shuttles,” he said.

“I have spent my entire professional career in France, but the new experiences I am about to experience bring back the feelings I had when I made my debut. We are ready to help this team reach Division 1 and look forward to meeting our teammates, staff and fans.”

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Tom Swiel, the 29-year-old former Newcastle and Harlequins back who has recently been at the Stormers, has also joined as had James Mollentze, the 23-year-old Lions out-half. Local Japanese duo Ryota Fukamura and Kosuke Oike have also been signed.

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