Whilst plenty has been written about the big name movers and shakers in world rugby ahead of the new Premiership season, we thought we’d take a look at those slightly less high-profile signings that we predict are going to do big things for their new clubs and leave their former Directors of Rugby crying with regret like your mate on that night out they bumped into their ex.
Calum Clark (Northampton to Saracens):
One of the higher profile signings on this list, Clark’s name might ring a bell more for his disciplinary problems than his on-field performances. Despite this, if you ask any of the Franklins’ Gardens’ faithful they’ll tell you CC should have far more than his solitary England cap based on his showings for the Saints.
A strong ball carrier, rabid tackler and supreme scavenger at the breakdown, Clark has all the tools to succeed but the aforementioned bans, a couple of injuries and a highly competitive back row meant Clark could never quite permanently nail down that Saints shirt.
Saracens will be delighted that Clark has sought out a new lease of life at Allianz Park, knowing that they’re getting a world class talent who’s perhaps not lived up to his potential.
DTH Van der Merwe (Scarlets to Newcastle):
A regular (extremely long) name on Celtic League scoresheets for Glasgow, DTHVDM proved himself to be more than just a nonsensical captcha with his performances at the 2015 World Cup for Canada. He joined Scarlets immediately following the tournament, scoring two tries on his debut against Leinster.
Top scorer for the Llanelli side in his first season with an impressive strike rate of 7 tries in 14 appearances, he went on to bag 8 in the following campaign, including one in Scarlets’ victory over Munster in the final.
However, a precarious financial situation at the Welsh club likely hastened his departure, and with Newcastle’s artificial pitch and exciting backline facilitating some excellent running rugby expect to see the South African-born winger towards the top of the try-scoring list come season’s end.
Ethan Waller (Northampton to Worcester):
Having built up something of a cult following with his charity work and musical performances during his time at Northampton, “Beef” was unfortunate to find himself competing with his seemingly indestructible elder brother Alex for the Saints’ loosehead jersey.
Semi-regular appearances over the years showed flashes of his capabilities, but Waller was never really given the chance to shake up the pecking order. At the age of 24, Waller has sensibly decided to leave his hometown club in search of regular first-team rugby, and if he gets it Worcester have a potential star on their hands.
A talented scrummager who is equally skilled in the loose, Waller will be hoping a move to Sixways will be enough to shake off his reputation as an understudy and show what he’s really capable of.
Owen Williams (Leicester to Gloucester):
Lost in amongst the whole George Ford-Freddie Burns debacle was the news that Leicester fly half Owen Williams would also be moving to the West Country. Williams was, at times, the Tigers’ first choice 10, with performances drawing the attention of the Welsh Rugby Union. Despite this, Leicester never really went all in on him, replacing him with first Burns and now Ford.
A lack of clear commitment from the coaching team is probably the main reason Williams has only just received his first international cap, but if he can establish himself as the main playmaker for the Cherry & Whites he has the potential to cause some major selection headaches for Wales.
His consistency off the tee and controlled flair helped Tigers through some tough spots in previous years, and Gloucester will be expecting the same this season.
Jason Woodward (Bristol to Gloucester):
With Bristol doing what they had adamantly denied they’d do and investing a load of money into a squad which then got immediately relegated, it was somewhat inevitable there’d be a bit of poaching going on. Probably the best pick of the bunch goes to Gloucester who managed to bag the signing of Jason Woodward, one of the few shining lights in an otherwise poor Bristol season.
Managing to score four tries despite the fact Bristol never seemed to have any possession, ever, Woodward caught the eye of Eddie Jones who called him into an England training squad earlier this year. Gloucester will be hoping to capitalise on the former All Black Under 20s’versatility and Super Rugby experience.
He’s unlikely to displace Mike Brown for England just yet, but an ability to kick goals and slot in anywhere in the backline means he’s a valuable addition to the squad.