With the season of contract negotiations long since underway and much business having already been agreed, there is one clear tendency this season – teams want ball-carrying back-rows.
RugbyPass sources have confirmed that Bath, Exeter Chiefs, Leicester Tigers, Newcastle Falcons and Worcester Warriors are all keen to add to their options in that position before the beginning of next season.
It is not just Aviva Premiership clubs looking in that department, either, with Connacht, Glasgow Warriors, Ospreys and Scarlets all looking in the Guinness PRO14, too.
The tough place these nine sides find themselves in now is that much of the transfer business for next season has already been concluded, even if it hasn’t been announced, and the pool of players for these teams to target is rapidly dwindling.
The battle with the gain-line is one of the most important contests in rugby and players that can regularly win it are often worth their considerable weight in gold.
As impressive as the Scarlets have been this season, when they are without Aaron Shingler, they lack the ability to breach defences around the fringes, Exeter are losing their go-forward engine in Thomas Waldrom and the Leicester pack has looked unusually impotent in this area this season. There are further stories similar to these at all of those nine teams.
One of the most notable names available is that of England international James Haskell. He has already been linked with Glasgow, but if it is his wish to stay in contention for an international spot heading towards into 2019 Rugby World Cup, a Premiership club would be his only possible destination.
At the other end of the career spectrum is Gloucester’s Charlie Beckett. The versatile lock/blindside is a prominent ball-carrier and whilst not considered to be quite in the same echelon as Haskell, has the whole of his career ahead of him and would not put the same squeeze on a side battling the salary cap as the Wasps flanker would do.
It will be worth keeping an eye on these nine sides as they try to finalise their summer recruitment plans and bolster their back-rows with strong ball-carriers.
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