The coming Premiership season looks set to be a competitive one, with almost all the teams in the division bringing in a wealth of talent who will hope to make an instant impact.
Connor Whittick has been looking at players joining the Premiership from abroad, and assessed what they will bring to their new clubs:
1 Zurab Zhvania (Wasps)
While he’s not the first Georgian prop to play in the Premiership, Zhvania was picked up from Stade Francais where he made a name for himself with dynamic carrying and solid scrum work (he is Georgian, after all). The scrum hasn’t always been Wasps’ strongest asset in recent times, and Zhvania should help rectify this.
2 Franco Marais (Gloucester)
3 Ruan Dreyer (Gloucester)
A favourite of Ruan Ackermann’s, the tighthead has the big task of replacing John Afoa, so eyes will be on the Kingsholm forward to assert himself at scrumtime.
4 Michael Fatialofa (Worcester)
Played nearly every minute of every match in Hurricanes’ 2016 Super Rugby season, but suffered from a leg infection that kept him out of the game for nearly a year. Will hope to regain his Super Rugby form.
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5 Franco Mostert (Gloucester)
Easily capable of playing lock and flanker, Mostert is a hard-working South African international who is likely to have a huge role at Gloucester, where he will be reunited with former boss Johan Ackermann. A very big signing for Gloucester and one that reflects how ambitious they are for the coming season.
6 Connor Collett (Newcastle)
Known in New Zealand for his strong defensive game, which pundits have compared him to England World Cup winner Joe Worsley. English qualified and a similar signing to that of Gary Graham last year, who proved to be a huge addition to Newcastle’s back row.
7 Jaco Kriel (Gloucester)
Injury has kept Kriel from seeing too much game time this season, but when fit he is undoubtedly one of the most competent flankers in World Rugby. Equally strong in the loose and the tight, and with an immense engine, Kriel will hope to impress this season so that he will regain his place in the South African setup.
8 Brad Shields (Wasps)
A controversial England selection against South Africa, the Hurricanes captain has won many plaudits in New Zealand, and was a key member of Hurricanes’ Super Rugby winning side in 2016 alongside Fatialofa. Could play a big part in England’s World Cup, with Eddie Jones reportedly a big fan.
9 Nic Stirzaker (Bristol Bears)
Saracens fans may remember this English-qualified scrum half from a brief spell at the Allianz last season. Been an important member of the Rebels squad for the last six seasons, and will be battling with Harry Randall to be Bristol’s first choice nine.
10 Lima Sopoaga (Wasps)
One of the highest profile signings going into the new season, Wasps beat off competition from numerous French sides to secure the signing of Sopoaga, who has been one of the most consistent fly halves in Super Rugby for years. Wasps fans will expect a lot from the man replacing Danny Cipriani, but there are not many tens in World Rugby more up for the job.
11 Andrew Kellaway (Northampton Saints)
The Aussie back broke a record by scoring ten tries in the 2014 IRB Junior World Cup, and joins Northampton Saints alongside another Waratahs winger, Taqele Naiyaravoro. Equally confident on the wings or at fifteen, Kellaway’s age and ability mean he could have an extremely long and successful career at the Midlands side.
12 Rohan Janse Van Rensburg (Sale Sharks)
Like Stirzaker, RJVR had a spell in the Premiership last year where he impressed at Sale, earning himself a long-term contract for the seasons ahead. Two seasons ago the centre was regarded as one of the most talented players in World Rugby, with his immense physicality and pace his most significant assets, but his form has not been the same since a string of injuries. If he can regain his 2016 Super Rugby form he will have a huge role in a new-look Sale backline.
13 Francois Venter (Worcester Warriors)
Another South African international heading to the Premiership, Venter is a dependable and solid player who follows his former coach Rory Duncan to Sixways Stadium, where he will likely partner Ben Te’o in the centres.
14 Alex Cuthbert (Exeter Chiefs)
Cuthbert hasn’t exactly had the best of luck with his recent performances for Cardiff and Wales, but has copped an unfair amount of stick from rugby supporters and pundits. When firing the large winger can be unstoppable, and if any Prem coach is going to get the best out of him it is Rob Baxter. A very intriguing signing and one that could have huge dividends for the Devonians.
15 Charles Piutau (Bristol Bears)
Rumoured to be one of the highest paid players in World Rugby, this will be Piutau’s second spell in the Premiership, where he will reunite with his brother Siale. The former All Black was the former Pro 12’s Players’ Player of the Year in 2017, and is well known in rugby circles for his explosive turn of pace and footwork.
Which of these signings do you think will have the biggest impact in the Gallagher Premiership next season?
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