PRO14 champions Leinster have seen some key men depart over the summer, while there has been plenty of rebuilding at the Ospreys, Dragons and Ulster, as they look to bounce back from disappointing seasons. RugbyPass takes a look at some of major signings for the 2018/19 season.
1. George North, Ospreys
Seems to have been around forever, but still just 26. The British and Irish Lions winger scored his 33rd try for Wales in the first Test of their two-match series against Argentina. Signed a National Dual Contract via the WRU in November before finally making his choice of club at the end of April.
North’s focus is on the national team so expect his game-time to be managed, but with that in mind it should mean that he should be at his optimum when he plays. With no Heineken Champions Cup rugby this season, it is a chance for the club to rebuild under Allen Clarke and drastically improve from a poor PRO14 campaign last season.
2. Joey Carbery, Munster
Ulster were keen to have him, Leinster wanted to keep him, but in the end it’s Munster where Joey Carbery will be playing his rugby next season. Lacking game-time at 10 while at Leinster behind Johnny Sexton and Ross Byrne, this move to Munster is very much with Ireland in mind.
Joe Schmidt’s preferred option as back-up to Sexton, but he needs to better equip himself when it comes to game management and minutes at Munster will also him to do so. The Auckland-born playmaker will have the world class Conor Murray inside him and plenty of familiar faces from the Ireland set-up around him to ensure a smoother transition.
3. Ross Moriarty, Dragons
So keen were the Dragons to get their man, they funded the transfer themselves, without a WRU National Dual Contract. They confirmed the deal back in November and the number 8 is very much the Dragons marquee signing. Still just 24 years old, so plenty left in the tank.
Has 23 caps to his name and started all three of Wales’ summer tour matches. That tour ended on a sour note for Moriarty when he was red carded for his neck hold at the end of the second Test with Argentina, his subsequent suspension means he’ll miss the Dragons opening PRO14 match, but expect him to make up for lost time.
4. Tadhg Beirne, Munster
Released by Leinster at the end of the 2015/16 after four sub appearances that season, the turnaround in fortunes from Beirne was nothing short of meteoric in his two seasons at the Scarlets. With a World Cup a little over a year away and Joe Schmidt keen to have him, a move back to Ireland was always on the cards.
He made his Ireland debut on the successful Australia tour and expect plenty more caps. Munster have been missing a bit of ballast in the second row since the departure of Donnacha Ryan to Racing 92 and Beirne will provide that. His versatility means he’s comfortable in the backrow too, expect him to become a Thomand Park favourite.
5. Uzair Casseim, Scarlets
The Springbok number 8 signed from the Cheetahs. The Scarlets are assembling a mean pack with Blade Thomson coming in from the Hurricanes too, not to mention the likes of Wales internationals James Davies and Aaron Shingler already there. Casseim is a physical player, but has the ball handling skills that are required to fit in with the style of play at Parc Y Scarlets.
6. Jordi Murphy, Ulster
With Leinster awash with backrows and Murphy struggling for game time he agreed to the move last December. He subsequently became a key member of the team following injuries to Sean O’Brien and Josh van der Flier, helping Leinster to a Champions Cup and PRO14 double. Signed a two-year deal at the Kingspan Stadium. He will certainly be first choice there, which will give himself optimum opportunity to stake his international claims.
7. Joe Tomane, Leinster
A rugby league convert, who made the transition in 2011. His Super Rugby record at the Brumbies was impressive, 25 tries in 68 games, before moving to Montpellier in 2016. His two seasons in the with the Top 14 club yielded 16 tries in 44 appearances. With Isa Nacewa gone Tomane fills in that centre/wing vacancy.
The other bonus is that the 17-times capped Australian international has a Samoan passport, so that means he wouldn’t be considered a ‘non-European player’. Last season was dogged by the fact that Scott Fardy, James Lowe and Jamison Gibson-Park could not all be selected in the same 23-man squad for the Champions Cup.
8. Dmitri Arhip, Cardiff Blues
The Ospreys thought they were losing the Moldovan juggernaut to Montpellier, but his rumoured £400,000-per-year deal with the Top 14 club collapsed and the Blues pounced. Originally signed as injury cover in the 2012/13 season he went on to make 91 appearances in five seasons while at the Swansea-based club.
The tighthead was John Mulvihill’s first major signing since taking over from Danny Wilson, with the Australian waxing lyrical “He has proven himself a world-class tight-head prop both in terms of scrummaging and around the pitch and is the perfect fit for us”. At 120kg and 1.82m Arhip he’s certainly hard to shift.
The signing provides a good foundation for the Blues’ twin assault on the PRO14 and Champions Cup, as they seek to build on their Challenge Cup success in May.
9. Scott Williams, Ospreys
Swapping the Scarlets for the Ospreys as they rebuild their backline in Swansea following the departures of Rhys Webb and Dan Biggar. The ball-carrying centre has bags of experience to his name with 57 caps and will be someone that outhalf Sam Davies can lean on, as he attempts to fill the ample boots of Biggar.
10. Billy Burns, Ulster
An England Under 18 and Under 20 international with 100 appearances for Gloucester and just 24 years old – this could turn out to be one of the signings of the summer. With Danny Cipriani joining the Premiership club, opportunities were going to be limited, so Irish-qualified Burns jumped at the chance to try and push for a World Cup spot with Ireland, replacing the departed Paddy Jackson at Ulster and within Joe Schmidt’s Irish squad potentially too.
Aled Davies, Ospreys
With Rhys Webb departing for France to play for Toulon, the Ospreys have filled the vacancy with this former Scarlet, who signed a two-year deal. Aled Davies was the understudy to Gareth Davies at the Scarlets and being first choice at the Ospreys will give him a chance to push for more international honours.
He has 11 caps, six of which came in 2018, three times off the bench in the Six Nations and three times on their summer tour, finishing with a start in the final Test against Argentina. Scrum half is a real area of depth for Wales and the move to Ospreys will be beneficial for all parties – club, country and player.
Samu Manoa, Cardiff Blues
The 20 stone 6 foot 7′ number 8 made 50 appearances in three seasons for the big-spending Toulon and the USA international will now try his hand at the PRO14. The Blues will be hoping to see the form of his Northampton Saints days when he won both the Aviva Premiership and European Challenge Cup in 2014, picking up Northampton’s Players’ Player and Supporters’ Player of the year awards too.
John Barclay, Edinburgh
A key signing for Richard Cockerill’s side, only for him to succumb to a nasty ruptured Achilles tendon injury in the Scarlets PRO14 semi-final win over Glasgow at the end of May, ruling him out for at least six months. They’ll be keen to get him back as soon as possible from a club and international perspective.
Sign up to our mailing list here and we’ll keep you up to the minute with weekly updates from the world of rugby.