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RUGBYPASS+ Eight new signings to set United Rugby Championship ablaze

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Eight new signings to set United Rugby Championship ablaze By Will Owen

Asaeli Tuivuaka (Fiji Sevens to Zebre)





Zebre have long struggled to break into the top half of the table. What needs to change? The leadership? Maybe. The kicking strategy? Sure. The option to just chuck the ball to a Fijian Olympic gold medalist? Now we’re talking. After Edinburgh’s success in converting Rio 2016 champion Viliame Mata into a world-renowned number 8, not to mention Toulouse utilising the rampaging Semi Kunitani as a dynamic lock/flanker, this feels like a perfect signing for the Italian side.





Asaeli Tuivuaka
Asaeli Tuivuaka was a colossal member of Fiji’s all-conquering Olympic sevens side (Getty Images)




Simon Zebo (Racing 92 to Munster)





The last selection has to be Zebo, doesn’t it? Who doesn’t love the guy? A fun-loving winger who is exhilarating on the field and delightful off it, the return of the Cork man will have Munster fans drooling. The only downside is we no longer get to witness him chortling on the pitch with Finn Russell and Kurtley Beale. Instead, we will see the incisive back-three danger man cutting lines off World Cup winners Damien de Allende and RG Snyman.





Munster may be known for their direct style, and as opposing fans we’ve all sat through Thomond Park drubbings before, but with Zebo smiling to the cameras, nobody will accuse this man in red of being dull.





More stories from Will Owen







If you’ve enjoyed this article, please share it with friends or on social media. We rely solely on new subscribers to fund high-quality journalism and appreciate you sharing this so we can continue to grow, produce more quality content and support our writers.



Jac Morgan (Scarlets to Ospreys)





Young flanker Morgan is arguably Welsh rugby’s best uncapped player. In a move that shocked many Scarlets fans, he joined a club on the up, making astute signings on its way. Alex Cuthbert is another strong addition to Toby Booth’s squad. To take such a risk at 21, Morgan must believe the Ospreys coaches can help him develop into the fully-fledged international bruiser he could so very evidently become. 





Jac Morgan
Jac Morgan has routinely made his presence felt in the red of Scarlets, and was one of the league’s top performers last term (Getty Images)




Booth’s snapping up of Leinster academy backrow Will Hickey is another really smart piece of business – poaching one of the senior members of the best academy in world rugby surely can’t backfire. Hickey could be the next Tadhg Beirne, Sam Underhill or Robin Copeland – developing in Wales before moving back to their native country to seek international honours.





Asaeli Tuivuaka (Fiji Sevens to Zebre)





Zebre have long struggled to break into the top half of the table. What needs to change? The leadership? Maybe. The kicking strategy? Sure. The option to just chuck the ball to a Fijian Olympic gold medalist? Now we’re talking. After Edinburgh’s success in converting Rio 2016 champion Viliame Mata into a world-renowned number 8, not to mention Toulouse utilising the rampaging Semi Kunitani as a dynamic lock/flanker, this feels like a perfect signing for the Italian side.





Asaeli Tuivuaka
Asaeli Tuivuaka was a colossal member of Fiji’s all-conquering Olympic sevens side (Getty Images)




Simon Zebo (Racing 92 to Munster)





The last selection has to be Zebo, doesn’t it? Who doesn’t love the guy? A fun-loving winger who is exhilarating on the field and delightful off it, the return of the Cork man will have Munster fans drooling. The only downside is we no longer get to witness him chortling on the pitch with Finn Russell and Kurtley Beale. Instead, we will see the incisive back-three danger man cutting lines off World Cup winners Damien de Allende and RG Snyman.





Munster may be known for their direct style, and as opposing fans we’ve all sat through Thomond Park drubbings before, but with Zebo smiling to the cameras, nobody will accuse this man in red of being dull.





More stories from Will Owen







If you’ve enjoyed this article, please share it with friends or on social media. We rely solely on new subscribers to fund high-quality journalism and appreciate you sharing this so we can continue to grow, produce more quality content and support our writers.



Michael Ala’alatoa (Crusaders to Leinster)





May not seem like a flashy signing on the surface, but this is a big deal at the RDS. Ala’alatoa is Leinster’s first overseas signing since a certain Scott Fardy. Leo Cullen is clearly proud of the Irish representation in his squad, so it must take a lot to impress him.





Samoan skipper Ala’alatoa must have shown he can fit into Leinster’s system as their only foreign player. A solid scrummager and tackler, expect the prop to really kick on with the four-in-a-row champions.





Jac Morgan (Scarlets to Ospreys)





Young flanker Morgan is arguably Welsh rugby’s best uncapped player. In a move that shocked many Scarlets fans, he joined a club on the up, making astute signings on its way. Alex Cuthbert is another strong addition to Toby Booth’s squad. To take such a risk at 21, Morgan must believe the Ospreys coaches can help him develop into the fully-fledged international bruiser he could so very evidently become. 





Jac Morgan
Jac Morgan has routinely made his presence felt in the red of Scarlets, and was one of the league’s top performers last term (Getty Images)




Booth’s snapping up of Leinster academy backrow Will Hickey is another really smart piece of business – poaching one of the senior members of the best academy in world rugby surely can’t backfire. Hickey could be the next Tadhg Beirne, Sam Underhill or Robin Copeland – developing in Wales before moving back to their native country to seek international honours.





Asaeli Tuivuaka (Fiji Sevens to Zebre)





Zebre have long struggled to break into the top half of the table. What needs to change? The leadership? Maybe. The kicking strategy? Sure. The option to just chuck the ball to a Fijian Olympic gold medalist? Now we’re talking. After Edinburgh’s success in converting Rio 2016 champion Viliame Mata into a world-renowned number 8, not to mention Toulouse utilising the rampaging Semi Kunitani as a dynamic lock/flanker, this feels like a perfect signing for the Italian side.





Asaeli Tuivuaka
Asaeli Tuivuaka was a colossal member of Fiji’s all-conquering Olympic sevens side (Getty Images)




Simon Zebo (Racing 92 to Munster)





The last selection has to be Zebo, doesn’t it? Who doesn’t love the guy? A fun-loving winger who is exhilarating on the field and delightful off it, the return of the Cork man will have Munster fans drooling. The only downside is we no longer get to witness him chortling on the pitch with Finn Russell and Kurtley Beale. Instead, we will see the incisive back-three danger man cutting lines off World Cup winners Damien de Allende and RG Snyman.





Munster may be known for their direct style, and as opposing fans we’ve all sat through Thomond Park drubbings before, but with Zebo smiling to the cameras, nobody will accuse this man in red of being dull.





More stories from Will Owen







If you’ve enjoyed this article, please share it with friends or on social media. We rely solely on new subscribers to fund high-quality journalism and appreciate you sharing this so we can continue to grow, produce more quality content and support our writers.



WillGriff John (Sale to Scarlets)





A signing that could have implications for Wales’ front-row pecking order. With first-choice tight-head prop Tomas Francis also returning home from England, Scarlets have taken a gamble on John, a 127kg monster.





He will vie for regional selection with Samson Lee, and could pack down with Rob Evans and Ken Owens in a potent front trio. If John can prove a dominant scrummager, Wayne Pivac will surely consider him for Test honours. John was 24 hours away from a starting debut for Wales against Scotland before the pandemic ended the 2020 Six Nations, so he will be keen to take this opportunity and live his dream.





Michael Ala’alatoa (Crusaders to Leinster)





May not seem like a flashy signing on the surface, but this is a big deal at the RDS. Ala’alatoa is Leinster’s first overseas signing since a certain Scott Fardy. Leo Cullen is clearly proud of the Irish representation in his squad, so it must take a lot to impress him.





Samoan skipper Ala’alatoa must have shown he can fit into Leinster’s system as their only foreign player. A solid scrummager and tackler, expect the prop to really kick on with the four-in-a-row champions.





Jac Morgan (Scarlets to Ospreys)





Young flanker Morgan is arguably Welsh rugby’s best uncapped player. In a move that shocked many Scarlets fans, he joined a club on the up, making astute signings on its way. Alex Cuthbert is another strong addition to Toby Booth’s squad. To take such a risk at 21, Morgan must believe the Ospreys coaches can help him develop into the fully-fledged international bruiser he could so very evidently become. 





Jac Morgan
Jac Morgan has routinely made his presence felt in the red of Scarlets, and was one of the league’s top performers last term (Getty Images)




Booth’s snapping up of Leinster academy backrow Will Hickey is another really smart piece of business – poaching one of the senior members of the best academy in world rugby surely can’t backfire. Hickey could be the next Tadhg Beirne, Sam Underhill or Robin Copeland – developing in Wales before moving back to their native country to seek international honours.





Asaeli Tuivuaka (Fiji Sevens to Zebre)





Zebre have long struggled to break into the top half of the table. What needs to change? The leadership? Maybe. The kicking strategy? Sure. The option to just chuck the ball to a Fijian Olympic gold medalist? Now we’re talking. After Edinburgh’s success in converting Rio 2016 champion Viliame Mata into a world-renowned number 8, not to mention Toulouse utilising the rampaging Semi Kunitani as a dynamic lock/flanker, this feels like a perfect signing for the Italian side.





Asaeli Tuivuaka
Asaeli Tuivuaka was a colossal member of Fiji’s all-conquering Olympic sevens side (Getty Images)




Simon Zebo (Racing 92 to Munster)





The last selection has to be Zebo, doesn’t it? Who doesn’t love the guy? A fun-loving winger who is exhilarating on the field and delightful off it, the return of the Cork man will have Munster fans drooling. The only downside is we no longer get to witness him chortling on the pitch with Finn Russell and Kurtley Beale. Instead, we will see the incisive back-three danger man cutting lines off World Cup winners Damien de Allende and RG Snyman.





Munster may be known for their direct style, and as opposing fans we’ve all sat through Thomond Park drubbings before, but with Zebo smiling to the cameras, nobody will accuse this man in red of being dull.





More stories from Will Owen







If you’ve enjoyed this article, please share it with friends or on social media. We rely solely on new subscribers to fund high-quality journalism and appreciate you sharing this so we can continue to grow, produce more quality content and support our writers.



Edwill van der Merwe (Stormers to Lions)





One of the hottest prospects in South African club rugby, Van der Merwe is a winger any spectator would be lucky to watch. At 25, he is soaring to peak form, having lit up the Currie Cup and conjured dazzling highlight-reel tries.





Van der Merwe could be one of the most exciting players in the league, and given Makazole Mapimpi’s Pro14 form prior to his Springbok call-up aged 28, don’t bet against the new Lion becoming a Test player. With 32-year-old sevens rapier Rosko Specman winning his first cap this year, it is evident Jacques Neinaber is happy to wait for his wingers to blossom.





WillGriff John (Sale to Scarlets)





A signing that could have implications for Wales’ front-row pecking order. With first-choice tight-head prop Tomas Francis also returning home from England, Scarlets have taken a gamble on John, a 127kg monster.





He will vie for regional selection with Samson Lee, and could pack down with Rob Evans and Ken Owens in a potent front trio. If John can prove a dominant scrummager, Wayne Pivac will surely consider him for Test honours. John was 24 hours away from a starting debut for Wales against Scotland before the pandemic ended the 2020 Six Nations, so he will be keen to take this opportunity and live his dream.





Michael Ala’alatoa (Crusaders to Leinster)





May not seem like a flashy signing on the surface, but this is a big deal at the RDS. Ala’alatoa is Leinster’s first overseas signing since a certain Scott Fardy. Leo Cullen is clearly proud of the Irish representation in his squad, so it must take a lot to impress him.





Samoan skipper Ala’alatoa must have shown he can fit into Leinster’s system as their only foreign player. A solid scrummager and tackler, expect the prop to really kick on with the four-in-a-row champions.





Jac Morgan (Scarlets to Ospreys)





Young flanker Morgan is arguably Welsh rugby’s best uncapped player. In a move that shocked many Scarlets fans, he joined a club on the up, making astute signings on its way. Alex Cuthbert is another strong addition to Toby Booth’s squad. To take such a risk at 21, Morgan must believe the Ospreys coaches can help him develop into the fully-fledged international bruiser he could so very evidently become. 





Jac Morgan
Jac Morgan has routinely made his presence felt in the red of Scarlets, and was one of the league’s top performers last term (Getty Images)




Booth’s snapping up of Leinster academy backrow Will Hickey is another really smart piece of business – poaching one of the senior members of the best academy in world rugby surely can’t backfire. Hickey could be the next Tadhg Beirne, Sam Underhill or Robin Copeland – developing in Wales before moving back to their native country to seek international honours.





Asaeli Tuivuaka (Fiji Sevens to Zebre)





Zebre have long struggled to break into the top half of the table. What needs to change? The leadership? Maybe. The kicking strategy? Sure. The option to just chuck the ball to a Fijian Olympic gold medalist? Now we’re talking. After Edinburgh’s success in converting Rio 2016 champion Viliame Mata into a world-renowned number 8, not to mention Toulouse utilising the rampaging Semi Kunitani as a dynamic lock/flanker, this feels like a perfect signing for the Italian side.





Asaeli Tuivuaka
Asaeli Tuivuaka was a colossal member of Fiji’s all-conquering Olympic sevens side (Getty Images)




Simon Zebo (Racing 92 to Munster)





The last selection has to be Zebo, doesn’t it? Who doesn’t love the guy? A fun-loving winger who is exhilarating on the field and delightful off it, the return of the Cork man will have Munster fans drooling. The only downside is we no longer get to witness him chortling on the pitch with Finn Russell and Kurtley Beale. Instead, we will see the incisive back-three danger man cutting lines off World Cup winners Damien de Allende and RG Snyman.





Munster may be known for their direct style, and as opposing fans we’ve all sat through Thomond Park drubbings before, but with Zebo smiling to the cameras, nobody will accuse this man in red of being dull.





More stories from Will Owen







If you’ve enjoyed this article, please share it with friends or on social media. We rely solely on new subscribers to fund high-quality journalism and appreciate you sharing this so we can continue to grow, produce more quality content and support our writers.



Emiliano Boffelli (Racing 92 to Edinburgh)





Together with back-three compatriot Ramiro Moyano, Boffelli has made the switch from France to the Scottish capital. Only 26, it feels like he’s been around forever, given his maturity and composure at the highest level.





Emiliano Boffelli
Emiliano Boffelli was part of the Jaguares side that reached the 2019 Super Rugby final (Getty Images)




He will likely battle for the full-back jersey with incumbent Blair Kinghorn – another fleet-footed, solid 15 with a massive boot. Both are capable of playing on the wing and at fly-half, so it will be interesting to see how Mike Blair decides to use them.





Edwill van der Merwe (Stormers to Lions)





One of the hottest prospects in South African club rugby, Van der Merwe is a winger any spectator would be lucky to watch. At 25, he is soaring to peak form, having lit up the Currie Cup and conjured dazzling highlight-reel tries.





Van der Merwe could be one of the most exciting players in the league, and given Makazole Mapimpi’s Pro14 form prior to his Springbok call-up aged 28, don’t bet against the new Lion becoming a Test player. With 32-year-old sevens rapier Rosko Specman winning his first cap this year, it is evident Jacques Neinaber is happy to wait for his wingers to blossom.





WillGriff John (Sale to Scarlets)





A signing that could have implications for Wales’ front-row pecking order. With first-choice tight-head prop Tomas Francis also returning home from England, Scarlets have taken a gamble on John, a 127kg monster.





He will vie for regional selection with Samson Lee, and could pack down with Rob Evans and Ken Owens in a potent front trio. If John can prove a dominant scrummager, Wayne Pivac will surely consider him for Test honours. John was 24 hours away from a starting debut for Wales against Scotland before the pandemic ended the 2020 Six Nations, so he will be keen to take this opportunity and live his dream.





Michael Ala’alatoa (Crusaders to Leinster)





May not seem like a flashy signing on the surface, but this is a big deal at the RDS. Ala’alatoa is Leinster’s first overseas signing since a certain Scott Fardy. Leo Cullen is clearly proud of the Irish representation in his squad, so it must take a lot to impress him.





Samoan skipper Ala’alatoa must have shown he can fit into Leinster’s system as their only foreign player. A solid scrummager and tackler, expect the prop to really kick on with the four-in-a-row champions.





Jac Morgan (Scarlets to Ospreys)





Young flanker Morgan is arguably Welsh rugby’s best uncapped player. In a move that shocked many Scarlets fans, he joined a club on the up, making astute signings on its way. Alex Cuthbert is another strong addition to Toby Booth’s squad. To take such a risk at 21, Morgan must believe the Ospreys coaches can help him develop into the fully-fledged international bruiser he could so very evidently become. 





Jac Morgan
Jac Morgan has routinely made his presence felt in the red of Scarlets, and was one of the league’s top performers last term (Getty Images)




Booth’s snapping up of Leinster academy backrow Will Hickey is another really smart piece of business – poaching one of the senior members of the best academy in world rugby surely can’t backfire. Hickey could be the next Tadhg Beirne, Sam Underhill or Robin Copeland – developing in Wales before moving back to their native country to seek international honours.





Asaeli Tuivuaka (Fiji Sevens to Zebre)





Zebre have long struggled to break into the top half of the table. What needs to change? The leadership? Maybe. The kicking strategy? Sure. The option to just chuck the ball to a Fijian Olympic gold medalist? Now we’re talking. After Edinburgh’s success in converting Rio 2016 champion Viliame Mata into a world-renowned number 8, not to mention Toulouse utilising the rampaging Semi Kunitani as a dynamic lock/flanker, this feels like a perfect signing for the Italian side.





Asaeli Tuivuaka
Asaeli Tuivuaka was a colossal member of Fiji’s all-conquering Olympic sevens side (Getty Images)




Simon Zebo (Racing 92 to Munster)





The last selection has to be Zebo, doesn’t it? Who doesn’t love the guy? A fun-loving winger who is exhilarating on the field and delightful off it, the return of the Cork man will have Munster fans drooling. The only downside is we no longer get to witness him chortling on the pitch with Finn Russell and Kurtley Beale. Instead, we will see the incisive back-three danger man cutting lines off World Cup winners Damien de Allende and RG Snyman.





Munster may be known for their direct style, and as opposing fans we’ve all sat through Thomond Park drubbings before, but with Zebo smiling to the cameras, nobody will accuse this man in red of being dull.





More stories from Will Owen







If you’ve enjoyed this article, please share it with friends or on social media. We rely solely on new subscribers to fund high-quality journalism and appreciate you sharing this so we can continue to grow, produce more quality content and support our writers.



Simon Zebo (Racing 92 to Munster)





The last selection has to be Zebo, doesn’t it? Who doesn’t love the guy? A fun-loving winger who is exhilarating on the field and delightful off it, the return of the Cork man will have Munster fans drooling. The only downside is we no longer get to witness him chortling on the pitch with Finn Russell and Kurtley Beale. Instead, we will see the incisive back-three danger man cutting lines off World Cup winners Damien de Allende and RG Snyman.





Munster may be known for their direct style, and as opposing fans we’ve all sat through Thomond Park drubbings before, but with Zebo smiling to the cameras, nobody will accuse this man in red of being dull.





More stories from Will Owen







If you’ve enjoyed this article, please share it with friends or on social media. We rely solely on new subscribers to fund high-quality journalism and appreciate you sharing this so we can continue to grow, produce more quality content and support our writers.



The roar of the crowd. The crackling anticipation of live rugby in pulsating stadia. The smell of linament wafting from changing rooms. The taste of lukewarm, hideously overpriced lager in plastic cups. The opportunity to sit down on a Friday night and watch Dragons playing Ulster. 





Yep, a new season is upon us, so what’s not to love?





With the dawn of each campaign comes acclimatisation. You ask why Benetton aren’t picking Paolo Garbisi before remembering he signed for Montpellier in the summer. You spend the first three weeks of the season deciding whether or not Domingo Miotti looks good in a Glasgow jersey. 





These are seminal months for the competition now formerly known as the Pro14. The arrival of South Africa’s heavyweight quartet, a glossy summer rebrand as the United Rugby Championship, and even a partnership with Jay-Z’s Roc Nation entertainment company.  





There have been some eye-catching signings in the off-season too, from a World Cup winner to an Olympic colossus, homecoming heroes to a gifted Welshman with a big future opting to switch regions. Here, The XV hand-picks some of the tastiest acquisitions for the championship ahead.





Duane Vermeulen (Blue Bulls to Ulster)





If you’re named after a Marvel Superhero, you must have been doing something right. In a buccaneering Test career, the bearded 6ft 4in, 18st Springbok gained the moniker Thor for his rampaging busts in midfield, soft-hands out of contact – few will forget his sweet offload to Fourie du Preez in the 2015 Rugby World Cup quarter-final – and rib-clattering hits.





At 35, he may well be in the latter stages of his career, but if Alun Wyn Jones, and Johnny Sexton, who have both turned 36 in recent months, are still influential figures in the URC, then there is nothing stopping Vermeulen being a talisman around which the Ulster pack can thrive. It is a statement signing to signify a new era for the league.





Emiliano Boffelli (Racing 92 to Edinburgh)





Together with back-three compatriot Ramiro Moyano, Boffelli has made the switch from France to the Scottish capital. Only 26, it feels like he’s been around forever, given his maturity and composure at the highest level.





Emiliano Boffelli
Emiliano Boffelli was part of the Jaguares side that reached the 2019 Super Rugby final (Getty Images)




He will likely battle for the full-back jersey with incumbent Blair Kinghorn – another fleet-footed, solid 15 with a massive boot. Both are capable of playing on the wing and at fly-half, so it will be interesting to see how Mike Blair decides to use them.





Edwill van der Merwe (Stormers to Lions)





One of the hottest prospects in South African club rugby, Van der Merwe is a winger any spectator would be lucky to watch. At 25, he is soaring to peak form, having lit up the Currie Cup and conjured dazzling highlight-reel tries.





Van der Merwe could be one of the most exciting players in the league, and given Makazole Mapimpi’s Pro14 form prior to his Springbok call-up aged 28, don’t bet against the new Lion becoming a Test player. With 32-year-old sevens rapier Rosko Specman winning his first cap this year, it is evident Jacques Neinaber is happy to wait for his wingers to blossom.





WillGriff John (Sale to Scarlets)





A signing that could have implications for Wales’ front-row pecking order. With first-choice tight-head prop Tomas Francis also returning home from England, Scarlets have taken a gamble on John, a 127kg monster.





He will vie for regional selection with Samson Lee, and could pack down with Rob Evans and Ken Owens in a potent front trio. If John can prove a dominant scrummager, Wayne Pivac will surely consider him for Test honours. John was 24 hours away from a starting debut for Wales against Scotland before the pandemic ended the 2020 Six Nations, so he will be keen to take this opportunity and live his dream.





Michael Ala’alatoa (Crusaders to Leinster)





May not seem like a flashy signing on the surface, but this is a big deal at the RDS. Ala’alatoa is Leinster’s first overseas signing since a certain Scott Fardy. Leo Cullen is clearly proud of the Irish representation in his squad, so it must take a lot to impress him.





Samoan skipper Ala’alatoa must have shown he can fit into Leinster’s system as their only foreign player. A solid scrummager and tackler, expect the prop to really kick on with the four-in-a-row champions.





Jac Morgan (Scarlets to Ospreys)





Young flanker Morgan is arguably Welsh rugby’s best uncapped player. In a move that shocked many Scarlets fans, he joined a club on the up, making astute signings on its way. Alex Cuthbert is another strong addition to Toby Booth’s squad. To take such a risk at 21, Morgan must believe the Ospreys coaches can help him develop into the fully-fledged international bruiser he could so very evidently become. 





Jac Morgan
Jac Morgan has routinely made his presence felt in the red of Scarlets, and was one of the league’s top performers last term (Getty Images)




Booth’s snapping up of Leinster academy backrow Will Hickey is another really smart piece of business – poaching one of the senior members of the best academy in world rugby surely can’t backfire. Hickey could be the next Tadhg Beirne, Sam Underhill or Robin Copeland – developing in Wales before moving back to their native country to seek international honours.





Asaeli Tuivuaka (Fiji Sevens to Zebre)





Zebre have long struggled to break into the top half of the table. What needs to change? The leadership? Maybe. The kicking strategy? Sure. The option to just chuck the ball to a Fijian Olympic gold medalist? Now we’re talking. After Edinburgh’s success in converting Rio 2016 champion Viliame Mata into a world-renowned number 8, not to mention Toulouse utilising the rampaging Semi Kunitani as a dynamic lock/flanker, this feels like a perfect signing for the Italian side.





Asaeli Tuivuaka
Asaeli Tuivuaka was a colossal member of Fiji’s all-conquering Olympic sevens side (Getty Images)




Simon Zebo (Racing 92 to Munster)





The last selection has to be Zebo, doesn’t it? Who doesn’t love the guy? A fun-loving winger who is exhilarating on the field and delightful off it, the return of the Cork man will have Munster fans drooling. The only downside is we no longer get to witness him chortling on the pitch with Finn Russell and Kurtley Beale. Instead, we will see the incisive back-three danger man cutting lines off World Cup winners Damien de Allende and RG Snyman.





Munster may be known for their direct style, and as opposing fans we’ve all sat through Thomond Park drubbings before, but with Zebo smiling to the cameras, nobody will accuse this man in red of being dull.





More stories from Will Owen







If you’ve enjoyed this article, please share it with friends or on social media. We rely solely on new subscribers to fund high-quality journalism and appreciate you sharing this so we can continue to grow, produce more quality content and support our writers.



Asaeli Tuivuaka (Fiji Sevens to Zebre)





Zebre have long struggled to break into the top half of the table. What needs to change? The leadership? Maybe. The kicking strategy? Sure. The option to just chuck the ball to a Fijian Olympic gold medalist? Now we’re talking. After Edinburgh’s success in converting Rio 2016 champion Viliame Mata into a world-renowned number 8, not to mention Toulouse utilising the rampaging Semi Kunitani as a dynamic lock/flanker, this feels like a perfect signing for the Italian side.





Asaeli Tuivuaka
Asaeli Tuivuaka was a colossal member of Fiji’s all-conquering Olympic sevens side (Getty Images)




Simon Zebo (Racing 92 to Munster)





The last selection has to be Zebo, doesn’t it? Who doesn’t love the guy? A fun-loving winger who is exhilarating on the field and delightful off it, the return of the Cork man will have Munster fans drooling. The only downside is we no longer get to witness him chortling on the pitch with Finn Russell and Kurtley Beale. Instead, we will see the incisive back-three danger man cutting lines off World Cup winners Damien de Allende and RG Snyman.





Munster may be known for their direct style, and as opposing fans we’ve all sat through Thomond Park drubbings before, but with Zebo smiling to the cameras, nobody will accuse this man in red of being dull.





More stories from Will Owen







If you’ve enjoyed this article, please share it with friends or on social media. We rely solely on new subscribers to fund high-quality journalism and appreciate you sharing this so we can continue to grow, produce more quality content and support our writers.



The roar of the crowd. The crackling anticipation of live rugby in pulsating stadia. The smell of linament wafting from changing rooms. The taste of lukewarm, hideously overpriced lager in plastic cups. The opportunity to sit down on a Friday night and watch Dragons playing Ulster. 





Yep, a new season is upon us, so what’s not to love?





With the dawn of each campaign comes acclimatisation. You ask why Benetton aren’t picking Paolo Garbisi before remembering he signed for Montpellier in the summer. You spend the first three weeks of the season deciding whether or not Domingo Miotti looks good in a Glasgow jersey. 





These are seminal months for the competition now formerly known as the Pro14. The arrival of South Africa’s heavyweight quartet, a glossy summer rebrand as the United Rugby Championship, and even a partnership with Jay-Z’s Roc Nation entertainment company.  





There have been some eye-catching signings in the off-season too, from a World Cup winner to an Olympic colossus, homecoming heroes to a gifted Welshman with a big future opting to switch regions. Here, The XV hand-picks some of the tastiest acquisitions for the championship ahead.





Duane Vermeulen (Blue Bulls to Ulster)





If you’re named after a Marvel Superhero, you must have been doing something right. In a buccaneering Test career, the bearded 6ft 4in, 18st Springbok gained the moniker Thor for his rampaging busts in midfield, soft-hands out of contact – few will forget his sweet offload to Fourie du Preez in the 2015 Rugby World Cup quarter-final – and rib-clattering hits.





At 35, he may well be in the latter stages of his career, but if Alun Wyn Jones, and Johnny Sexton, who have both turned 36 in recent months, are still influential figures in the URC, then there is nothing stopping Vermeulen being a talisman around which the Ulster pack can thrive. It is a statement signing to signify a new era for the league.





Emiliano Boffelli (Racing 92 to Edinburgh)





Together with back-three compatriot Ramiro Moyano, Boffelli has made the switch from France to the Scottish capital. Only 26, it feels like he’s been around forever, given his maturity and composure at the highest level.





Emiliano Boffelli
Emiliano Boffelli was part of the Jaguares side that reached the 2019 Super Rugby final (Getty Images)




He will likely battle for the full-back jersey with incumbent Blair Kinghorn – another fleet-footed, solid 15 with a massive boot. Both are capable of playing on the wing and at fly-half, so it will be interesting to see how Mike Blair decides to use them.





Edwill van der Merwe (Stormers to Lions)





One of the hottest prospects in South African club rugby, Van der Merwe is a winger any spectator would be lucky to watch. At 25, he is soaring to peak form, having lit up the Currie Cup and conjured dazzling highlight-reel tries.





Van der Merwe could be one of the most exciting players in the league, and given Makazole Mapimpi’s Pro14 form prior to his Springbok call-up aged 28, don’t bet against the new Lion becoming a Test player. With 32-year-old sevens rapier Rosko Specman winning his first cap this year, it is evident Jacques Neinaber is happy to wait for his wingers to blossom.





WillGriff John (Sale to Scarlets)





A signing that could have implications for Wales’ front-row pecking order. With first-choice tight-head prop Tomas Francis also returning home from England, Scarlets have taken a gamble on John, a 127kg monster.





He will vie for regional selection with Samson Lee, and could pack down with Rob Evans and Ken Owens in a potent front trio. If John can prove a dominant scrummager, Wayne Pivac will surely consider him for Test honours. John was 24 hours away from a starting debut for Wales against Scotland before the pandemic ended the 2020 Six Nations, so he will be keen to take this opportunity and live his dream.





Michael Ala’alatoa (Crusaders to Leinster)





May not seem like a flashy signing on the surface, but this is a big deal at the RDS. Ala’alatoa is Leinster’s first overseas signing since a certain Scott Fardy. Leo Cullen is clearly proud of the Irish representation in his squad, so it must take a lot to impress him.





Samoan skipper Ala’alatoa must have shown he can fit into Leinster’s system as their only foreign player. A solid scrummager and tackler, expect the prop to really kick on with the four-in-a-row champions.





Jac Morgan (Scarlets to Ospreys)





Young flanker Morgan is arguably Welsh rugby’s best uncapped player. In a move that shocked many Scarlets fans, he joined a club on the up, making astute signings on its way. Alex Cuthbert is another strong addition to Toby Booth’s squad. To take such a risk at 21, Morgan must believe the Ospreys coaches can help him develop into the fully-fledged international bruiser he could so very evidently become. 





Jac Morgan
Jac Morgan has routinely made his presence felt in the red of Scarlets, and was one of the league’s top performers last term (Getty Images)




Booth’s snapping up of Leinster academy backrow Will Hickey is another really smart piece of business – poaching one of the senior members of the best academy in world rugby surely can’t backfire. Hickey could be the next Tadhg Beirne, Sam Underhill or Robin Copeland – developing in Wales before moving back to their native country to seek international honours.





Asaeli Tuivuaka (Fiji Sevens to Zebre)





Zebre have long struggled to break into the top half of the table. What needs to change? The leadership? Maybe. The kicking strategy? Sure. The option to just chuck the ball to a Fijian Olympic gold medalist? Now we’re talking. After Edinburgh’s success in converting Rio 2016 champion Viliame Mata into a world-renowned number 8, not to mention Toulouse utilising the rampaging Semi Kunitani as a dynamic lock/flanker, this feels like a perfect signing for the Italian side.





Asaeli Tuivuaka
Asaeli Tuivuaka was a colossal member of Fiji’s all-conquering Olympic sevens side (Getty Images)




Simon Zebo (Racing 92 to Munster)





The last selection has to be Zebo, doesn’t it? Who doesn’t love the guy? A fun-loving winger who is exhilarating on the field and delightful off it, the return of the Cork man will have Munster fans drooling. The only downside is we no longer get to witness him chortling on the pitch with Finn Russell and Kurtley Beale. Instead, we will see the incisive back-three danger man cutting lines off World Cup winners Damien de Allende and RG Snyman.





Munster may be known for their direct style, and as opposing fans we’ve all sat through Thomond Park drubbings before, but with Zebo smiling to the cameras, nobody will accuse this man in red of being dull.





More stories from Will Owen







If you’ve enjoyed this article, please share it with friends or on social media. We rely solely on new subscribers to fund high-quality journalism and appreciate you sharing this so we can continue to grow, produce more quality content and support our writers.



Jac Morgan (Scarlets to Ospreys)





Young flanker Morgan is arguably Welsh rugby’s best uncapped player. In a move that shocked many Scarlets fans, he joined a club on the up, making astute signings on its way. Alex Cuthbert is another strong addition to Toby Booth’s squad. To take such a risk at 21, Morgan must believe the Ospreys coaches can help him develop into the fully-fledged international bruiser he could so very evidently become. 





Jac Morgan
Jac Morgan has routinely made his presence felt in the red of Scarlets, and was one of the league’s top performers last term (Getty Images)




Booth’s snapping up of Leinster academy backrow Will Hickey is another really smart piece of business – poaching one of the senior members of the best academy in world rugby surely can’t backfire. Hickey could be the next Tadhg Beirne, Sam Underhill or Robin Copeland – developing in Wales before moving back to their native country to seek international honours.





Asaeli Tuivuaka (Fiji Sevens to Zebre)





Zebre have long struggled to break into the top half of the table. What needs to change? The leadership? Maybe. The kicking strategy? Sure. The option to just chuck the ball to a Fijian Olympic gold medalist? Now we’re talking. After Edinburgh’s success in converting Rio 2016 champion Viliame Mata into a world-renowned number 8, not to mention Toulouse utilising the rampaging Semi Kunitani as a dynamic lock/flanker, this feels like a perfect signing for the Italian side.





Asaeli Tuivuaka
Asaeli Tuivuaka was a colossal member of Fiji’s all-conquering Olympic sevens side (Getty Images)




Simon Zebo (Racing 92 to Munster)





The last selection has to be Zebo, doesn’t it? Who doesn’t love the guy? A fun-loving winger who is exhilarating on the field and delightful off it, the return of the Cork man will have Munster fans drooling. The only downside is we no longer get to witness him chortling on the pitch with Finn Russell and Kurtley Beale. Instead, we will see the incisive back-three danger man cutting lines off World Cup winners Damien de Allende and RG Snyman.





Munster may be known for their direct style, and as opposing fans we’ve all sat through Thomond Park drubbings before, but with Zebo smiling to the cameras, nobody will accuse this man in red of being dull.





More stories from Will Owen







If you’ve enjoyed this article, please share it with friends or on social media. We rely solely on new subscribers to fund high-quality journalism and appreciate you sharing this so we can continue to grow, produce more quality content and support our writers.



The roar of the crowd. The crackling anticipation of live rugby in pulsating stadia. The smell of linament wafting from changing rooms. The taste of lukewarm, hideously overpriced lager in plastic cups. The opportunity to sit down on a Friday night and watch Dragons playing Ulster. 





Yep, a new season is upon us, so what’s not to love?





With the dawn of each campaign comes acclimatisation. You ask why Benetton aren’t picking Paolo Garbisi before remembering he signed for Montpellier in the summer. You spend the first three weeks of the season deciding whether or not Domingo Miotti looks good in a Glasgow jersey. 





These are seminal months for the competition now formerly known as the Pro14. The arrival of South Africa’s heavyweight quartet, a glossy summer rebrand as the United Rugby Championship, and even a partnership with Jay-Z’s Roc Nation entertainment company.  





There have been some eye-catching signings in the off-season too, from a World Cup winner to an Olympic colossus, homecoming heroes to a gifted Welshman with a big future opting to switch regions. Here, The XV hand-picks some of the tastiest acquisitions for the championship ahead.





Duane Vermeulen (Blue Bulls to Ulster)





If you’re named after a Marvel Superhero, you must have been doing something right. In a buccaneering Test career, the bearded 6ft 4in, 18st Springbok gained the moniker Thor for his rampaging busts in midfield, soft-hands out of contact – few will forget his sweet offload to Fourie du Preez in the 2015 Rugby World Cup quarter-final – and rib-clattering hits.





At 35, he may well be in the latter stages of his career, but if Alun Wyn Jones, and Johnny Sexton, who have both turned 36 in recent months, are still influential figures in the URC, then there is nothing stopping Vermeulen being a talisman around which the Ulster pack can thrive. It is a statement signing to signify a new era for the league.





Emiliano Boffelli (Racing 92 to Edinburgh)





Together with back-three compatriot Ramiro Moyano, Boffelli has made the switch from France to the Scottish capital. Only 26, it feels like he’s been around forever, given his maturity and composure at the highest level.





Emiliano Boffelli
Emiliano Boffelli was part of the Jaguares side that reached the 2019 Super Rugby final (Getty Images)




He will likely battle for the full-back jersey with incumbent Blair Kinghorn – another fleet-footed, solid 15 with a massive boot. Both are capable of playing on the wing and at fly-half, so it will be interesting to see how Mike Blair decides to use them.





Edwill van der Merwe (Stormers to Lions)





One of the hottest prospects in South African club rugby, Van der Merwe is a winger any spectator would be lucky to watch. At 25, he is soaring to peak form, having lit up the Currie Cup and conjured dazzling highlight-reel tries.





Van der Merwe could be one of the most exciting players in the league, and given Makazole Mapimpi’s Pro14 form prior to his Springbok call-up aged 28, don’t bet against the new Lion becoming a Test player. With 32-year-old sevens rapier Rosko Specman winning his first cap this year, it is evident Jacques Neinaber is happy to wait for his wingers to blossom.





WillGriff John (Sale to Scarlets)





A signing that could have implications for Wales’ front-row pecking order. With first-choice tight-head prop Tomas Francis also returning home from England, Scarlets have taken a gamble on John, a 127kg monster.





He will vie for regional selection with Samson Lee, and could pack down with Rob Evans and Ken Owens in a potent front trio. If John can prove a dominant scrummager, Wayne Pivac will surely consider him for Test honours. John was 24 hours away from a starting debut for Wales against Scotland before the pandemic ended the 2020 Six Nations, so he will be keen to take this opportunity and live his dream.





Michael Ala’alatoa (Crusaders to Leinster)





May not seem like a flashy signing on the surface, but this is a big deal at the RDS. Ala’alatoa is Leinster’s first overseas signing since a certain Scott Fardy. Leo Cullen is clearly proud of the Irish representation in his squad, so it must take a lot to impress him.





Samoan skipper Ala’alatoa must have shown he can fit into Leinster’s system as their only foreign player. A solid scrummager and tackler, expect the prop to really kick on with the four-in-a-row champions.





Jac Morgan (Scarlets to Ospreys)





Young flanker Morgan is arguably Welsh rugby’s best uncapped player. In a move that shocked many Scarlets fans, he joined a club on the up, making astute signings on its way. Alex Cuthbert is another strong addition to Toby Booth’s squad. To take such a risk at 21, Morgan must believe the Ospreys coaches can help him develop into the fully-fledged international bruiser he could so very evidently become. 





Jac Morgan
Jac Morgan has routinely made his presence felt in the red of Scarlets, and was one of the league’s top performers last term (Getty Images)




Booth’s snapping up of Leinster academy backrow Will Hickey is another really smart piece of business – poaching one of the senior members of the best academy in world rugby surely can’t backfire. Hickey could be the next Tadhg Beirne, Sam Underhill or Robin Copeland – developing in Wales before moving back to their native country to seek international honours.





Asaeli Tuivuaka (Fiji Sevens to Zebre)





Zebre have long struggled to break into the top half of the table. What needs to change? The leadership? Maybe. The kicking strategy? Sure. The option to just chuck the ball to a Fijian Olympic gold medalist? Now we’re talking. After Edinburgh’s success in converting Rio 2016 champion Viliame Mata into a world-renowned number 8, not to mention Toulouse utilising the rampaging Semi Kunitani as a dynamic lock/flanker, this feels like a perfect signing for the Italian side.





Asaeli Tuivuaka
Asaeli Tuivuaka was a colossal member of Fiji’s all-conquering Olympic sevens side (Getty Images)




Simon Zebo (Racing 92 to Munster)





The last selection has to be Zebo, doesn’t it? Who doesn’t love the guy? A fun-loving winger who is exhilarating on the field and delightful off it, the return of the Cork man will have Munster fans drooling. The only downside is we no longer get to witness him chortling on the pitch with Finn Russell and Kurtley Beale. Instead, we will see the incisive back-three danger man cutting lines off World Cup winners Damien de Allende and RG Snyman.





Munster may be known for their direct style, and as opposing fans we’ve all sat through Thomond Park drubbings before, but with Zebo smiling to the cameras, nobody will accuse this man in red of being dull.





More stories from Will Owen







If you’ve enjoyed this article, please share it with friends or on social media. We rely solely on new subscribers to fund high-quality journalism and appreciate you sharing this so we can continue to grow, produce more quality content and support our writers.



Michael Ala’alatoa (Crusaders to Leinster)





May not seem like a flashy signing on the surface, but this is a big deal at the RDS. Ala’alatoa is Leinster’s first overseas signing since a certain Scott Fardy. Leo Cullen is clearly proud of the Irish representation in his squad, so it must take a lot to impress him.





Samoan skipper Ala’alatoa must have shown he can fit into Leinster’s system as their only foreign player. A solid scrummager and tackler, expect the prop to really kick on with the four-in-a-row champions.





Jac Morgan (Scarlets to Ospreys)





Young flanker Morgan is arguably Welsh rugby’s best uncapped player. In a move that shocked many Scarlets fans, he joined a club on the up, making astute signings on its way. Alex Cuthbert is another strong addition to Toby Booth’s squad. To take such a risk at 21, Morgan must believe the Ospreys coaches can help him develop into the fully-fledged international bruiser he could so very evidently become. 





Jac Morgan
Jac Morgan has routinely made his presence felt in the red of Scarlets, and was one of the league’s top performers last term (Getty Images)




Booth’s snapping up of Leinster academy backrow Will Hickey is another really smart piece of business – poaching one of the senior members of the best academy in world rugby surely can’t backfire. Hickey could be the next Tadhg Beirne, Sam Underhill or Robin Copeland – developing in Wales before moving back to their native country to seek international honours.





Asaeli Tuivuaka (Fiji Sevens to Zebre)





Zebre have long struggled to break into the top half of the table. What needs to change? The leadership? Maybe. The kicking strategy? Sure. The option to just chuck the ball to a Fijian Olympic gold medalist? Now we’re talking. After Edinburgh’s success in converting Rio 2016 champion Viliame Mata into a world-renowned number 8, not to mention Toulouse utilising the rampaging Semi Kunitani as a dynamic lock/flanker, this feels like a perfect signing for the Italian side.





Asaeli Tuivuaka
Asaeli Tuivuaka was a colossal member of Fiji’s all-conquering Olympic sevens side (Getty Images)




Simon Zebo (Racing 92 to Munster)





The last selection has to be Zebo, doesn’t it? Who doesn’t love the guy? A fun-loving winger who is exhilarating on the field and delightful off it, the return of the Cork man will have Munster fans drooling. The only downside is we no longer get to witness him chortling on the pitch with Finn Russell and Kurtley Beale. Instead, we will see the incisive back-three danger man cutting lines off World Cup winners Damien de Allende and RG Snyman.





Munster may be known for their direct style, and as opposing fans we’ve all sat through Thomond Park drubbings before, but with Zebo smiling to the cameras, nobody will accuse this man in red of being dull.





More stories from Will Owen







If you’ve enjoyed this article, please share it with friends or on social media. We rely solely on new subscribers to fund high-quality journalism and appreciate you sharing this so we can continue to grow, produce more quality content and support our writers.



The roar of the crowd. The crackling anticipation of live rugby in pulsating stadia. The smell of linament wafting from changing rooms. The taste of lukewarm, hideously overpriced lager in plastic cups. The opportunity to sit down on a Friday night and watch Dragons playing Ulster. 





Yep, a new season is upon us, so what’s not to love?





With the dawn of each campaign comes acclimatisation. You ask why Benetton aren’t picking Paolo Garbisi before remembering he signed for Montpellier in the summer. You spend the first three weeks of the season deciding whether or not Domingo Miotti looks good in a Glasgow jersey. 





These are seminal months for the competition now formerly known as the Pro14. The arrival of South Africa’s heavyweight quartet, a glossy summer rebrand as the United Rugby Championship, and even a partnership with Jay-Z’s Roc Nation entertainment company.  





There have been some eye-catching signings in the off-season too, from a World Cup winner to an Olympic colossus, homecoming heroes to a gifted Welshman with a big future opting to switch regions. Here, The XV hand-picks some of the tastiest acquisitions for the championship ahead.





Duane Vermeulen (Blue Bulls to Ulster)





If you’re named after a Marvel Superhero, you must have been doing something right. In a buccaneering Test career, the bearded 6ft 4in, 18st Springbok gained the moniker Thor for his rampaging busts in midfield, soft-hands out of contact – few will forget his sweet offload to Fourie du Preez in the 2015 Rugby World Cup quarter-final – and rib-clattering hits.





At 35, he may well be in the latter stages of his career, but if Alun Wyn Jones, and Johnny Sexton, who have both turned 36 in recent months, are still influential figures in the URC, then there is nothing stopping Vermeulen being a talisman around which the Ulster pack can thrive. It is a statement signing to signify a new era for the league.





Emiliano Boffelli (Racing 92 to Edinburgh)





Together with back-three compatriot Ramiro Moyano, Boffelli has made the switch from France to the Scottish capital. Only 26, it feels like he’s been around forever, given his maturity and composure at the highest level.





Emiliano Boffelli
Emiliano Boffelli was part of the Jaguares side that reached the 2019 Super Rugby final (Getty Images)




He will likely battle for the full-back jersey with incumbent Blair Kinghorn – another fleet-footed, solid 15 with a massive boot. Both are capable of playing on the wing and at fly-half, so it will be interesting to see how Mike Blair decides to use them.





Edwill van der Merwe (Stormers to Lions)





One of the hottest prospects in South African club rugby, Van der Merwe is a winger any spectator would be lucky to watch. At 25, he is soaring to peak form, having lit up the Currie Cup and conjured dazzling highlight-reel tries.





Van der Merwe could be one of the most exciting players in the league, and given Makazole Mapimpi’s Pro14 form prior to his Springbok call-up aged 28, don’t bet against the new Lion becoming a Test player. With 32-year-old sevens rapier Rosko Specman winning his first cap this year, it is evident Jacques Neinaber is happy to wait for his wingers to blossom.





WillGriff John (Sale to Scarlets)





A signing that could have implications for Wales’ front-row pecking order. With first-choice tight-head prop Tomas Francis also returning home from England, Scarlets have taken a gamble on John, a 127kg monster.





He will vie for regional selection with Samson Lee, and could pack down with Rob Evans and Ken Owens in a potent front trio. If John can prove a dominant scrummager, Wayne Pivac will surely consider him for Test honours. John was 24 hours away from a starting debut for Wales against Scotland before the pandemic ended the 2020 Six Nations, so he will be keen to take this opportunity and live his dream.





Michael Ala’alatoa (Crusaders to Leinster)





May not seem like a flashy signing on the surface, but this is a big deal at the RDS. Ala’alatoa is Leinster’s first overseas signing since a certain Scott Fardy. Leo Cullen is clearly proud of the Irish representation in his squad, so it must take a lot to impress him.





Samoan skipper Ala’alatoa must have shown he can fit into Leinster’s system as their only foreign player. A solid scrummager and tackler, expect the prop to really kick on with the four-in-a-row champions.





Jac Morgan (Scarlets to Ospreys)





Young flanker Morgan is arguably Welsh rugby’s best uncapped player. In a move that shocked many Scarlets fans, he joined a club on the up, making astute signings on its way. Alex Cuthbert is another strong addition to Toby Booth’s squad. To take such a risk at 21, Morgan must believe the Ospreys coaches can help him develop into the fully-fledged international bruiser he could so very evidently become. 





Jac Morgan
Jac Morgan has routinely made his presence felt in the red of Scarlets, and was one of the league’s top performers last term (Getty Images)




Booth’s snapping up of Leinster academy backrow Will Hickey is another really smart piece of business – poaching one of the senior members of the best academy in world rugby surely can’t backfire. Hickey could be the next Tadhg Beirne, Sam Underhill or Robin Copeland – developing in Wales before moving back to their native country to seek international honours.





Asaeli Tuivuaka (Fiji Sevens to Zebre)





Zebre have long struggled to break into the top half of the table. What needs to change? The leadership? Maybe. The kicking strategy? Sure. The option to just chuck the ball to a Fijian Olympic gold medalist? Now we’re talking. After Edinburgh’s success in converting Rio 2016 champion Viliame Mata into a world-renowned number 8, not to mention Toulouse utilising the rampaging Semi Kunitani as a dynamic lock/flanker, this feels like a perfect signing for the Italian side.





Asaeli Tuivuaka
Asaeli Tuivuaka was a colossal member of Fiji’s all-conquering Olympic sevens side (Getty Images)




Simon Zebo (Racing 92 to Munster)





The last selection has to be Zebo, doesn’t it? Who doesn’t love the guy? A fun-loving winger who is exhilarating on the field and delightful off it, the return of the Cork man will have Munster fans drooling. The only downside is we no longer get to witness him chortling on the pitch with Finn Russell and Kurtley Beale. Instead, we will see the incisive back-three danger man cutting lines off World Cup winners Damien de Allende and RG Snyman.





Munster may be known for their direct style, and as opposing fans we’ve all sat through Thomond Park drubbings before, but with Zebo smiling to the cameras, nobody will accuse this man in red of being dull.





More stories from Will Owen







If you’ve enjoyed this article, please share it with friends or on social media. We rely solely on new subscribers to fund high-quality journalism and appreciate you sharing this so we can continue to grow, produce more quality content and support our writers.



WillGriff John (Sale to Scarlets)





A signing that could have implications for Wales’ front-row pecking order. With first-choice tight-head prop Tomas Francis also returning home from England, Scarlets have taken a gamble on John, a 127kg monster.





He will vie for regional selection with Samson Lee, and could pack down with Rob Evans and Ken Owens in a potent front trio. If John can prove a dominant scrummager, Wayne Pivac will surely consider him for Test honours. John was 24 hours away from a starting debut for Wales against Scotland before the pandemic ended the 2020 Six Nations, so he will be keen to take this opportunity and live his dream.





Michael Ala’alatoa (Crusaders to Leinster)





May not seem like a flashy signing on the surface, but this is a big deal at the RDS. Ala’alatoa is Leinster’s first overseas signing since a certain Scott Fardy. Leo Cullen is clearly proud of the Irish representation in his squad, so it must take a lot to impress him.





Samoan skipper Ala’alatoa must have shown he can fit into Leinster’s system as their only foreign player. A solid scrummager and tackler, expect the prop to really kick on with the four-in-a-row champions.





Jac Morgan (Scarlets to Ospreys)





Young flanker Morgan is arguably Welsh rugby’s best uncapped player. In a move that shocked many Scarlets fans, he joined a club on the up, making astute signings on its way. Alex Cuthbert is another strong addition to Toby Booth’s squad. To take such a risk at 21, Morgan must believe the Ospreys coaches can help him develop into the fully-fledged international bruiser he could so very evidently become. 





Jac Morgan
Jac Morgan has routinely made his presence felt in the red of Scarlets, and was one of the league’s top performers last term (Getty Images)




Booth’s snapping up of Leinster academy backrow Will Hickey is another really smart piece of business – poaching one of the senior members of the best academy in world rugby surely can’t backfire. Hickey could be the next Tadhg Beirne, Sam Underhill or Robin Copeland – developing in Wales before moving back to their native country to seek international honours.





Asaeli Tuivuaka (Fiji Sevens to Zebre)





Zebre have long struggled to break into the top half of the table. What needs to change? The leadership? Maybe. The kicking strategy? Sure. The option to just chuck the ball to a Fijian Olympic gold medalist? Now we’re talking. After Edinburgh’s success in converting Rio 2016 champion Viliame Mata into a world-renowned number 8, not to mention Toulouse utilising the rampaging Semi Kunitani as a dynamic lock/flanker, this feels like a perfect signing for the Italian side.





Asaeli Tuivuaka
Asaeli Tuivuaka was a colossal member of Fiji’s all-conquering Olympic sevens side (Getty Images)




Simon Zebo (Racing 92 to Munster)





The last selection has to be Zebo, doesn’t it? Who doesn’t love the guy? A fun-loving winger who is exhilarating on the field and delightful off it, the return of the Cork man will have Munster fans drooling. The only downside is we no longer get to witness him chortling on the pitch with Finn Russell and Kurtley Beale. Instead, we will see the incisive back-three danger man cutting lines off World Cup winners Damien de Allende and RG Snyman.





Munster may be known for their direct style, and as opposing fans we’ve all sat through Thomond Park drubbings before, but with Zebo smiling to the cameras, nobody will accuse this man in red of being dull.





More stories from Will Owen







If you’ve enjoyed this article, please share it with friends or on social media. We rely solely on new subscribers to fund high-quality journalism and appreciate you sharing this so we can continue to grow, produce more quality content and support our writers.



The roar of the crowd. The crackling anticipation of live rugby in pulsating stadia. The smell of linament wafting from changing rooms. The taste of lukewarm, hideously overpriced lager in plastic cups. The opportunity to sit down on a Friday night and watch Dragons playing Ulster. 





Yep, a new season is upon us, so what’s not to love?





With the dawn of each campaign comes acclimatisation. You ask why Benetton aren’t picking Paolo Garbisi before remembering he signed for Montpellier in the summer. You spend the first three weeks of the season deciding whether or not Domingo Miotti looks good in a Glasgow jersey. 





These are seminal months for the competition now formerly known as the Pro14. The arrival of South Africa’s heavyweight quartet, a glossy summer rebrand as the United Rugby Championship, and even a partnership with Jay-Z’s Roc Nation entertainment company.  





There have been some eye-catching signings in the off-season too, from a World Cup winner to an Olympic colossus, homecoming heroes to a gifted Welshman with a big future opting to switch regions. Here, The XV hand-picks some of the tastiest acquisitions for the championship ahead.





Duane Vermeulen (Blue Bulls to Ulster)





If you’re named after a Marvel Superhero, you must have been doing something right. In a buccaneering Test career, the bearded 6ft 4in, 18st Springbok gained the moniker Thor for his rampaging busts in midfield, soft-hands out of contact – few will forget his sweet offload to Fourie du Preez in the 2015 Rugby World Cup quarter-final – and rib-clattering hits.





At 35, he may well be in the latter stages of his career, but if Alun Wyn Jones, and Johnny Sexton, who have both turned 36 in recent months, are still influential figures in the URC, then there is nothing stopping Vermeulen being a talisman around which the Ulster pack can thrive. It is a statement signing to signify a new era for the league.





Emiliano Boffelli (Racing 92 to Edinburgh)





Together with back-three compatriot Ramiro Moyano, Boffelli has made the switch from France to the Scottish capital. Only 26, it feels like he’s been around forever, given his maturity and composure at the highest level.





Emiliano Boffelli
Emiliano Boffelli was part of the Jaguares side that reached the 2019 Super Rugby final (Getty Images)




He will likely battle for the full-back jersey with incumbent Blair Kinghorn – another fleet-footed, solid 15 with a massive boot. Both are capable of playing on the wing and at fly-half, so it will be interesting to see how Mike Blair decides to use them.





Edwill van der Merwe (Stormers to Lions)





One of the hottest prospects in South African club rugby, Van der Merwe is a winger any spectator would be lucky to watch. At 25, he is soaring to peak form, having lit up the Currie Cup and conjured dazzling highlight-reel tries.





Van der Merwe could be one of the most exciting players in the league, and given Makazole Mapimpi’s Pro14 form prior to his Springbok call-up aged 28, don’t bet against the new Lion becoming a Test player. With 32-year-old sevens rapier Rosko Specman winning his first cap this year, it is evident Jacques Neinaber is happy to wait for his wingers to blossom.





WillGriff John (Sale to Scarlets)





A signing that could have implications for Wales’ front-row pecking order. With first-choice tight-head prop Tomas Francis also returning home from England, Scarlets have taken a gamble on John, a 127kg monster.





He will vie for regional selection with Samson Lee, and could pack down with Rob Evans and Ken Owens in a potent front trio. If John can prove a dominant scrummager, Wayne Pivac will surely consider him for Test honours. John was 24 hours away from a starting debut for Wales against Scotland before the pandemic ended the 2020 Six Nations, so he will be keen to take this opportunity and live his dream.





Michael Ala’alatoa (Crusaders to Leinster)





May not seem like a flashy signing on the surface, but this is a big deal at the RDS. Ala’alatoa is Leinster’s first overseas signing since a certain Scott Fardy. Leo Cullen is clearly proud of the Irish representation in his squad, so it must take a lot to impress him.





Samoan skipper Ala’alatoa must have shown he can fit into Leinster’s system as their only foreign player. A solid scrummager and tackler, expect the prop to really kick on with the four-in-a-row champions.





Jac Morgan (Scarlets to Ospreys)





Young flanker Morgan is arguably Welsh rugby’s best uncapped player. In a move that shocked many Scarlets fans, he joined a club on the up, making astute signings on its way. Alex Cuthbert is another strong addition to Toby Booth’s squad. To take such a risk at 21, Morgan must believe the Ospreys coaches can help him develop into the fully-fledged international bruiser he could so very evidently become. 





Jac Morgan
Jac Morgan has routinely made his presence felt in the red of Scarlets, and was one of the league’s top performers last term (Getty Images)




Booth’s snapping up of Leinster academy backrow Will Hickey is another really smart piece of business – poaching one of the senior members of the best academy in world rugby surely can’t backfire. Hickey could be the next Tadhg Beirne, Sam Underhill or Robin Copeland – developing in Wales before moving back to their native country to seek international honours.





Asaeli Tuivuaka (Fiji Sevens to Zebre)





Zebre have long struggled to break into the top half of the table. What needs to change? The leadership? Maybe. The kicking strategy? Sure. The option to just chuck the ball to a Fijian Olympic gold medalist? Now we’re talking. After Edinburgh’s success in converting Rio 2016 champion Viliame Mata into a world-renowned number 8, not to mention Toulouse utilising the rampaging Semi Kunitani as a dynamic lock/flanker, this feels like a perfect signing for the Italian side.





Asaeli Tuivuaka
Asaeli Tuivuaka was a colossal member of Fiji’s all-conquering Olympic sevens side (Getty Images)




Simon Zebo (Racing 92 to Munster)





The last selection has to be Zebo, doesn’t it? Who doesn’t love the guy? A fun-loving winger who is exhilarating on the field and delightful off it, the return of the Cork man will have Munster fans drooling. The only downside is we no longer get to witness him chortling on the pitch with Finn Russell and Kurtley Beale. Instead, we will see the incisive back-three danger man cutting lines off World Cup winners Damien de Allende and RG Snyman.





Munster may be known for their direct style, and as opposing fans we’ve all sat through Thomond Park drubbings before, but with Zebo smiling to the cameras, nobody will accuse this man in red of being dull.





More stories from Will Owen







If you’ve enjoyed this article, please share it with friends or on social media. We rely solely on new subscribers to fund high-quality journalism and appreciate you sharing this so we can continue to grow, produce more quality content and support our writers.



Edwill van der Merwe (Stormers to Lions)





One of the hottest prospects in South African club rugby, Van der Merwe is a winger any spectator would be lucky to watch. At 25, he is soaring to peak form, having lit up the Currie Cup and conjured dazzling highlight-reel tries.





Van der Merwe could be one of the most exciting players in the league, and given Makazole Mapimpi’s Pro14 form prior to his Springbok call-up aged 28, don’t bet against the new Lion becoming a Test player. With 32-year-old sevens rapier Rosko Specman winning his first cap this year, it is evident Jacques Neinaber is happy to wait for his wingers to blossom.





WillGriff John (Sale to Scarlets)





A signing that could have implications for Wales’ front-row pecking order. With first-choice tight-head prop Tomas Francis also returning home from England, Scarlets have taken a gamble on John, a 127kg monster.





He will vie for regional selection with Samson Lee, and could pack down with Rob Evans and Ken Owens in a potent front trio. If John can prove a dominant scrummager, Wayne Pivac will surely consider him for Test honours. John was 24 hours away from a starting debut for Wales against Scotland before the pandemic ended the 2020 Six Nations, so he will be keen to take this opportunity and live his dream.





Michael Ala’alatoa (Crusaders to Leinster)





May not seem like a flashy signing on the surface, but this is a big deal at the RDS. Ala’alatoa is Leinster’s first overseas signing since a certain Scott Fardy. Leo Cullen is clearly proud of the Irish representation in his squad, so it must take a lot to impress him.





Samoan skipper Ala’alatoa must have shown he can fit into Leinster’s system as their only foreign player. A solid scrummager and tackler, expect the prop to really kick on with the four-in-a-row champions.





Jac Morgan (Scarlets to Ospreys)





Young flanker Morgan is arguably Welsh rugby’s best uncapped player. In a move that shocked many Scarlets fans, he joined a club on the up, making astute signings on its way. Alex Cuthbert is another strong addition to Toby Booth’s squad. To take such a risk at 21, Morgan must believe the Ospreys coaches can help him develop into the fully-fledged international bruiser he could so very evidently become. 





Jac Morgan
Jac Morgan has routinely made his presence felt in the red of Scarlets, and was one of the league’s top performers last term (Getty Images)




Booth’s snapping up of Leinster academy backrow Will Hickey is another really smart piece of business – poaching one of the senior members of the best academy in world rugby surely can’t backfire. Hickey could be the next Tadhg Beirne, Sam Underhill or Robin Copeland – developing in Wales before moving back to their native country to seek international honours.





Asaeli Tuivuaka (Fiji Sevens to Zebre)





Zebre have long struggled to break into the top half of the table. What needs to change? The leadership? Maybe. The kicking strategy? Sure. The option to just chuck the ball to a Fijian Olympic gold medalist? Now we’re talking. After Edinburgh’s success in converting Rio 2016 champion Viliame Mata into a world-renowned number 8, not to mention Toulouse utilising the rampaging Semi Kunitani as a dynamic lock/flanker, this feels like a perfect signing for the Italian side.





Asaeli Tuivuaka
Asaeli Tuivuaka was a colossal member of Fiji’s all-conquering Olympic sevens side (Getty Images)




Simon Zebo (Racing 92 to Munster)





The last selection has to be Zebo, doesn’t it? Who doesn’t love the guy? A fun-loving winger who is exhilarating on the field and delightful off it, the return of the Cork man will have Munster fans drooling. The only downside is we no longer get to witness him chortling on the pitch with Finn Russell and Kurtley Beale. Instead, we will see the incisive back-three danger man cutting lines off World Cup winners Damien de Allende and RG Snyman.





Munster may be known for their direct style, and as opposing fans we’ve all sat through Thomond Park drubbings before, but with Zebo smiling to the cameras, nobody will accuse this man in red of being dull.





More stories from Will Owen







If you’ve enjoyed this article, please share it with friends or on social media. We rely solely on new subscribers to fund high-quality journalism and appreciate you sharing this so we can continue to grow, produce more quality content and support our writers.



The roar of the crowd. The crackling anticipation of live rugby in pulsating stadia. The smell of linament wafting from changing rooms. The taste of lukewarm, hideously overpriced lager in plastic cups. The opportunity to sit down on a Friday night and watch Dragons playing Ulster. 





Yep, a new season is upon us, so what’s not to love?





With the dawn of each campaign comes acclimatisation. You ask why Benetton aren’t picking Paolo Garbisi before remembering he signed for Montpellier in the summer. You spend the first three weeks of the season deciding whether or not Domingo Miotti looks good in a Glasgow jersey. 





These are seminal months for the competition now formerly known as the Pro14. The arrival of South Africa’s heavyweight quartet, a glossy summer rebrand as the United Rugby Championship, and even a partnership with Jay-Z’s Roc Nation entertainment company.  





There have been some eye-catching signings in the off-season too, from a World Cup winner to an Olympic colossus, homecoming heroes to a gifted Welshman with a big future opting to switch regions. Here, The XV hand-picks some of the tastiest acquisitions for the championship ahead.





Duane Vermeulen (Blue Bulls to Ulster)





If you’re named after a Marvel Superhero, you must have been doing something right. In a buccaneering Test career, the bearded 6ft 4in, 18st Springbok gained the moniker Thor for his rampaging busts in midfield, soft-hands out of contact – few will forget his sweet offload to Fourie du Preez in the 2015 Rugby World Cup quarter-final – and rib-clattering hits.





At 35, he may well be in the latter stages of his career, but if Alun Wyn Jones, and Johnny Sexton, who have both turned 36 in recent months, are still influential figures in the URC, then there is nothing stopping Vermeulen being a talisman around which the Ulster pack can thrive. It is a statement signing to signify a new era for the league.





Emiliano Boffelli (Racing 92 to Edinburgh)





Together with back-three compatriot Ramiro Moyano, Boffelli has made the switch from France to the Scottish capital. Only 26, it feels like he’s been around forever, given his maturity and composure at the highest level.





Emiliano Boffelli
Emiliano Boffelli was part of the Jaguares side that reached the 2019 Super Rugby final (Getty Images)




He will likely battle for the full-back jersey with incumbent Blair Kinghorn – another fleet-footed, solid 15 with a massive boot. Both are capable of playing on the wing and at fly-half, so it will be interesting to see how Mike Blair decides to use them.





Edwill van der Merwe (Stormers to Lions)





One of the hottest prospects in South African club rugby, Van der Merwe is a winger any spectator would be lucky to watch. At 25, he is soaring to peak form, having lit up the Currie Cup and conjured dazzling highlight-reel tries.





Van der Merwe could be one of the most exciting players in the league, and given Makazole Mapimpi’s Pro14 form prior to his Springbok call-up aged 28, don’t bet against the new Lion becoming a Test player. With 32-year-old sevens rapier Rosko Specman winning his first cap this year, it is evident Jacques Neinaber is happy to wait for his wingers to blossom.





WillGriff John (Sale to Scarlets)





A signing that could have implications for Wales’ front-row pecking order. With first-choice tight-head prop Tomas Francis also returning home from England, Scarlets have taken a gamble on John, a 127kg monster.





He will vie for regional selection with Samson Lee, and could pack down with Rob Evans and Ken Owens in a potent front trio. If John can prove a dominant scrummager, Wayne Pivac will surely consider him for Test honours. John was 24 hours away from a starting debut for Wales against Scotland before the pandemic ended the 2020 Six Nations, so he will be keen to take this opportunity and live his dream.





Michael Ala’alatoa (Crusaders to Leinster)





May not seem like a flashy signing on the surface, but this is a big deal at the RDS. Ala’alatoa is Leinster’s first overseas signing since a certain Scott Fardy. Leo Cullen is clearly proud of the Irish representation in his squad, so it must take a lot to impress him.





Samoan skipper Ala’alatoa must have shown he can fit into Leinster’s system as their only foreign player. A solid scrummager and tackler, expect the prop to really kick on with the four-in-a-row champions.





Jac Morgan (Scarlets to Ospreys)





Young flanker Morgan is arguably Welsh rugby’s best uncapped player. In a move that shocked many Scarlets fans, he joined a club on the up, making astute signings on its way. Alex Cuthbert is another strong addition to Toby Booth’s squad. To take such a risk at 21, Morgan must believe the Ospreys coaches can help him develop into the fully-fledged international bruiser he could so very evidently become. 





Jac Morgan
Jac Morgan has routinely made his presence felt in the red of Scarlets, and was one of the league’s top performers last term (Getty Images)




Booth’s snapping up of Leinster academy backrow Will Hickey is another really smart piece of business – poaching one of the senior members of the best academy in world rugby surely can’t backfire. Hickey could be the next Tadhg Beirne, Sam Underhill or Robin Copeland – developing in Wales before moving back to their native country to seek international honours.





Asaeli Tuivuaka (Fiji Sevens to Zebre)





Zebre have long struggled to break into the top half of the table. What needs to change? The leadership? Maybe. The kicking strategy? Sure. The option to just chuck the ball to a Fijian Olympic gold medalist? Now we’re talking. After Edinburgh’s success in converting Rio 2016 champion Viliame Mata into a world-renowned number 8, not to mention Toulouse utilising the rampaging Semi Kunitani as a dynamic lock/flanker, this feels like a perfect signing for the Italian side.





Asaeli Tuivuaka
Asaeli Tuivuaka was a colossal member of Fiji’s all-conquering Olympic sevens side (Getty Images)




Simon Zebo (Racing 92 to Munster)





The last selection has to be Zebo, doesn’t it? Who doesn’t love the guy? A fun-loving winger who is exhilarating on the field and delightful off it, the return of the Cork man will have Munster fans drooling. The only downside is we no longer get to witness him chortling on the pitch with Finn Russell and Kurtley Beale. Instead, we will see the incisive back-three danger man cutting lines off World Cup winners Damien de Allende and RG Snyman.





Munster may be known for their direct style, and as opposing fans we’ve all sat through Thomond Park drubbings before, but with Zebo smiling to the cameras, nobody will accuse this man in red of being dull.





More stories from Will Owen







If you’ve enjoyed this article, please share it with friends or on social media. We rely solely on new subscribers to fund high-quality journalism and appreciate you sharing this so we can continue to grow, produce more quality content and support our writers.



Simon Zebo (Racing 92 to Munster)





The last selection has to be Zebo, doesn’t it? Who doesn’t love the guy? A fun-loving winger who is exhilarating on the field and delightful off it, the return of the Cork man will have Munster fans drooling. The only downside is we no longer get to witness him chortling on the pitch with Finn Russell and Kurtley Beale. Instead, we will see the incisive back-three danger man cutting lines off World Cup winners Damien de Allende and RG Snyman.





Munster may be known for their direct style, and as opposing fans we’ve all sat through Thomond Park drubbings before, but with Zebo smiling to the cameras, nobody will accuse this man in red of being dull.





More stories from Will Owen







If you’ve enjoyed this article, please share it with friends or on social media. We rely solely on new subscribers to fund high-quality journalism and appreciate you sharing this so we can continue to grow, produce more quality content and support our writers.



Duane Vermeulen (Blue Bulls to Ulster)





If you’re named after a Marvel Superhero, you must have been doing something right. In a buccaneering Test career, the bearded 6ft 4in, 18st Springbok gained the moniker Thor for his rampaging busts in midfield, soft-hands out of contact – few will forget his sweet offload to Fourie du Preez in the 2015 Rugby World Cup quarter-final – and rib-clattering hits.





At 35, he may well be in the latter stages of his career, but if Alun Wyn Jones, and Johnny Sexton, who have both turned 36 in recent months, are still influential figures in the URC, then there is nothing stopping Vermeulen being a talisman around which the Ulster pack can thrive. It is a statement signing to signify a new era for the league.





Emiliano Boffelli (Racing 92 to Edinburgh)





Together with back-three compatriot Ramiro Moyano, Boffelli has made the switch from France to the Scottish capital. Only 26, it feels like he’s been around forever, given his maturity and composure at the highest level.





Emiliano Boffelli
Emiliano Boffelli was part of the Jaguares side that reached the 2019 Super Rugby final (Getty Images)




He will likely battle for the full-back jersey with incumbent Blair Kinghorn – another fleet-footed, solid 15 with a massive boot. Both are capable of playing on the wing and at fly-half, so it will be interesting to see how Mike Blair decides to use them.





Edwill van der Merwe (Stormers to Lions)





One of the hottest prospects in South African club rugby, Van der Merwe is a winger any spectator would be lucky to watch. At 25, he is soaring to peak form, having lit up the Currie Cup and conjured dazzling highlight-reel tries.





Van der Merwe could be one of the most exciting players in the league, and given Makazole Mapimpi’s Pro14 form prior to his Springbok call-up aged 28, don’t bet against the new Lion becoming a Test player. With 32-year-old sevens rapier Rosko Specman winning his first cap this year, it is evident Jacques Neinaber is happy to wait for his wingers to blossom.





WillGriff John (Sale to Scarlets)





A signing that could have implications for Wales’ front-row pecking order. With first-choice tight-head prop Tomas Francis also returning home from England, Scarlets have taken a gamble on John, a 127kg monster.





He will vie for regional selection with Samson Lee, and could pack down with Rob Evans and Ken Owens in a potent front trio. If John can prove a dominant scrummager, Wayne Pivac will surely consider him for Test honours. John was 24 hours away from a starting debut for Wales against Scotland before the pandemic ended the 2020 Six Nations, so he will be keen to take this opportunity and live his dream.





Michael Ala’alatoa (Crusaders to Leinster)





May not seem like a flashy signing on the surface, but this is a big deal at the RDS. Ala’alatoa is Leinster’s first overseas signing since a certain Scott Fardy. Leo Cullen is clearly proud of the Irish representation in his squad, so it must take a lot to impress him.





Samoan skipper Ala’alatoa must have shown he can fit into Leinster’s system as their only foreign player. A solid scrummager and tackler, expect the prop to really kick on with the four-in-a-row champions.





Jac Morgan (Scarlets to Ospreys)





Young flanker Morgan is arguably Welsh rugby’s best uncapped player. In a move that shocked many Scarlets fans, he joined a club on the up, making astute signings on its way. Alex Cuthbert is another strong addition to Toby Booth’s squad. To take such a risk at 21, Morgan must believe the Ospreys coaches can help him develop into the fully-fledged international bruiser he could so very evidently become. 





Jac Morgan
Jac Morgan has routinely made his presence felt in the red of Scarlets, and was one of the league’s top performers last term (Getty Images)




Booth’s snapping up of Leinster academy backrow Will Hickey is another really smart piece of business – poaching one of the senior members of the best academy in world rugby surely can’t backfire. Hickey could be the next Tadhg Beirne, Sam Underhill or Robin Copeland – developing in Wales before moving back to their native country to seek international honours.





Asaeli Tuivuaka (Fiji Sevens to Zebre)





Zebre have long struggled to break into the top half of the table. What needs to change? The leadership? Maybe. The kicking strategy? Sure. The option to just chuck the ball to a Fijian Olympic gold medalist? Now we’re talking. After Edinburgh’s success in converting Rio 2016 champion Viliame Mata into a world-renowned number 8, not to mention Toulouse utilising the rampaging Semi Kunitani as a dynamic lock/flanker, this feels like a perfect signing for the Italian side.





Asaeli Tuivuaka
Asaeli Tuivuaka was a colossal member of Fiji’s all-conquering Olympic sevens side (Getty Images)




Simon Zebo (Racing 92 to Munster)





The last selection has to be Zebo, doesn’t it? Who doesn’t love the guy? A fun-loving winger who is exhilarating on the field and delightful off it, the return of the Cork man will have Munster fans drooling. The only downside is we no longer get to witness him chortling on the pitch with Finn Russell and Kurtley Beale. Instead, we will see the incisive back-three danger man cutting lines off World Cup winners Damien de Allende and RG Snyman.





Munster may be known for their direct style, and as opposing fans we’ve all sat through Thomond Park drubbings before, but with Zebo smiling to the cameras, nobody will accuse this man in red of being dull.





More stories from Will Owen







If you’ve enjoyed this article, please share it with friends or on social media. We rely solely on new subscribers to fund high-quality journalism and appreciate you sharing this so we can continue to grow, produce more quality content and support our writers.



The roar of the crowd. The crackling anticipation of live rugby in pulsating stadia. The smell of linament wafting from changing rooms. The taste of lukewarm, hideously overpriced lager in plastic cups. The opportunity to sit down on a Friday night and watch Dragons playing Ulster. 





Yep, a new season is upon us, so what’s not to love?





With the dawn of each campaign comes acclimatisation. You ask why Benetton aren’t picking Paolo Garbisi before remembering he signed for Montpellier in the summer. You spend the first three weeks of the season deciding whether or not Domingo Miotti looks good in a Glasgow jersey. 





These are seminal months for the competition now formerly known as the Pro14. The arrival of South Africa’s heavyweight quartet, a glossy summer rebrand as the United Rugby Championship, and even a partnership with Jay-Z’s Roc Nation entertainment company.  





There have been some eye-catching signings in the off-season too, from a World Cup winner to an Olympic colossus, homecoming heroes to a gifted Welshman with a big future opting to switch regions. Here, The XV hand-picks some of the tastiest acquisitions for the championship ahead.





Duane Vermeulen (Blue Bulls to Ulster)





If you’re named after a Marvel Superhero, you must have been doing something right. In a buccaneering Test career, the bearded 6ft 4in, 18st Springbok gained the moniker Thor for his rampaging busts in midfield, soft-hands out of contact – few will forget his sweet offload to Fourie du Preez in the 2015 Rugby World Cup quarter-final – and rib-clattering hits.





At 35, he may well be in the latter stages of his career, but if Alun Wyn Jones, and Johnny Sexton, who have both turned 36 in recent months, are still influential figures in the URC, then there is nothing stopping Vermeulen being a talisman around which the Ulster pack can thrive. It is a statement signing to signify a new era for the league.





Emiliano Boffelli (Racing 92 to Edinburgh)





Together with back-three compatriot Ramiro Moyano, Boffelli has made the switch from France to the Scottish capital. Only 26, it feels like he’s been around forever, given his maturity and composure at the highest level.





Emiliano Boffelli
Emiliano Boffelli was part of the Jaguares side that reached the 2019 Super Rugby final (Getty Images)




He will likely battle for the full-back jersey with incumbent Blair Kinghorn – another fleet-footed, solid 15 with a massive boot. Both are capable of playing on the wing and at fly-half, so it will be interesting to see how Mike Blair decides to use them.





Edwill van der Merwe (Stormers to Lions)





One of the hottest prospects in South African club rugby, Van der Merwe is a winger any spectator would be lucky to watch. At 25, he is soaring to peak form, having lit up the Currie Cup and conjured dazzling highlight-reel tries.





Van der Merwe could be one of the most exciting players in the league, and given Makazole Mapimpi’s Pro14 form prior to his Springbok call-up aged 28, don’t bet against the new Lion becoming a Test player. With 32-year-old sevens rapier Rosko Specman winning his first cap this year, it is evident Jacques Neinaber is happy to wait for his wingers to blossom.





WillGriff John (Sale to Scarlets)





A signing that could have implications for Wales’ front-row pecking order. With first-choice tight-head prop Tomas Francis also returning home from England, Scarlets have taken a gamble on John, a 127kg monster.





He will vie for regional selection with Samson Lee, and could pack down with Rob Evans and Ken Owens in a potent front trio. If John can prove a dominant scrummager, Wayne Pivac will surely consider him for Test honours. John was 24 hours away from a starting debut for Wales against Scotland before the pandemic ended the 2020 Six Nations, so he will be keen to take this opportunity and live his dream.





Michael Ala’alatoa (Crusaders to Leinster)





May not seem like a flashy signing on the surface, but this is a big deal at the RDS. Ala’alatoa is Leinster’s first overseas signing since a certain Scott Fardy. Leo Cullen is clearly proud of the Irish representation in his squad, so it must take a lot to impress him.





Samoan skipper Ala’alatoa must have shown he can fit into Leinster’s system as their only foreign player. A solid scrummager and tackler, expect the prop to really kick on with the four-in-a-row champions.





Jac Morgan (Scarlets to Ospreys)





Young flanker Morgan is arguably Welsh rugby’s best uncapped player. In a move that shocked many Scarlets fans, he joined a club on the up, making astute signings on its way. Alex Cuthbert is another strong addition to Toby Booth’s squad. To take such a risk at 21, Morgan must believe the Ospreys coaches can help him develop into the fully-fledged international bruiser he could so very evidently become. 





Jac Morgan
Jac Morgan has routinely made his presence felt in the red of Scarlets, and was one of the league’s top performers last term (Getty Images)




Booth’s snapping up of Leinster academy backrow Will Hickey is another really smart piece of business – poaching one of the senior members of the best academy in world rugby surely can’t backfire. Hickey could be the next Tadhg Beirne, Sam Underhill or Robin Copeland – developing in Wales before moving back to their native country to seek international honours.





Asaeli Tuivuaka (Fiji Sevens to Zebre)





Zebre have long struggled to break into the top half of the table. What needs to change? The leadership? Maybe. The kicking strategy? Sure. The option to just chuck the ball to a Fijian Olympic gold medalist? Now we’re talking. After Edinburgh’s success in converting Rio 2016 champion Viliame Mata into a world-renowned number 8, not to mention Toulouse utilising the rampaging Semi Kunitani as a dynamic lock/flanker, this feels like a perfect signing for the Italian side.





Asaeli Tuivuaka
Asaeli Tuivuaka was a colossal member of Fiji’s all-conquering Olympic sevens side (Getty Images)




Simon Zebo (Racing 92 to Munster)





The last selection has to be Zebo, doesn’t it? Who doesn’t love the guy? A fun-loving winger who is exhilarating on the field and delightful off it, the return of the Cork man will have Munster fans drooling. The only downside is we no longer get to witness him chortling on the pitch with Finn Russell and Kurtley Beale. Instead, we will see the incisive back-three danger man cutting lines off World Cup winners Damien de Allende and RG Snyman.





Munster may be known for their direct style, and as opposing fans we’ve all sat through Thomond Park drubbings before, but with Zebo smiling to the cameras, nobody will accuse this man in red of being dull.





More stories from Will Owen







If you’ve enjoyed this article, please share it with friends or on social media. We rely solely on new subscribers to fund high-quality journalism and appreciate you sharing this so we can continue to grow, produce more quality content and support our writers.



Asaeli Tuivuaka (Fiji Sevens to Zebre)





Zebre have long struggled to break into the top half of the table. What needs to change? The leadership? Maybe. The kicking strategy? Sure. The option to just chuck the ball to a Fijian Olympic gold medalist? Now we’re talking. After Edinburgh’s success in converting Rio 2016 champion Viliame Mata into a world-renowned number 8, not to mention Toulouse utilising the rampaging Semi Kunitani as a dynamic lock/flanker, this feels like a perfect signing for the Italian side.





Asaeli Tuivuaka
Asaeli Tuivuaka was a colossal member of Fiji’s all-conquering Olympic sevens side (Getty Images)




Simon Zebo (Racing 92 to Munster)





The last selection has to be Zebo, doesn’t it? Who doesn’t love the guy? A fun-loving winger who is exhilarating on the field and delightful off it, the return of the Cork man will have Munster fans drooling. The only downside is we no longer get to witness him chortling on the pitch with Finn Russell and Kurtley Beale. Instead, we will see the incisive back-three danger man cutting lines off World Cup winners Damien de Allende and RG Snyman.





Munster may be known for their direct style, and as opposing fans we’ve all sat through Thomond Park drubbings before, but with Zebo smiling to the cameras, nobody will accuse this man in red of being dull.





More stories from Will Owen







If you’ve enjoyed this article, please share it with friends or on social media. We rely solely on new subscribers to fund high-quality journalism and appreciate you sharing this so we can continue to grow, produce more quality content and support our writers.



Duane Vermeulen (Blue Bulls to Ulster)





If you’re named after a Marvel Superhero, you must have been doing something right. In a buccaneering Test career, the bearded 6ft 4in, 18st Springbok gained the moniker Thor for his rampaging busts in midfield, soft-hands out of contact – few will forget his sweet offload to Fourie du Preez in the 2015 Rugby World Cup quarter-final – and rib-clattering hits.





At 35, he may well be in the latter stages of his career, but if Alun Wyn Jones, and Johnny Sexton, who have both turned 36 in recent months, are still influential figures in the URC, then there is nothing stopping Vermeulen being a talisman around which the Ulster pack can thrive. It is a statement signing to signify a new era for the league.





Emiliano Boffelli (Racing 92 to Edinburgh)





Together with back-three compatriot Ramiro Moyano, Boffelli has made the switch from France to the Scottish capital. Only 26, it feels like he’s been around forever, given his maturity and composure at the highest level.





Emiliano Boffelli
Emiliano Boffelli was part of the Jaguares side that reached the 2019 Super Rugby final (Getty Images)




He will likely battle for the full-back jersey with incumbent Blair Kinghorn – another fleet-footed, solid 15 with a massive boot. Both are capable of playing on the wing and at fly-half, so it will be interesting to see how Mike Blair decides to use them.





Edwill van der Merwe (Stormers to Lions)





One of the hottest prospects in South African club rugby, Van der Merwe is a winger any spectator would be lucky to watch. At 25, he is soaring to peak form, having lit up the Currie Cup and conjured dazzling highlight-reel tries.





Van der Merwe could be one of the most exciting players in the league, and given Makazole Mapimpi’s Pro14 form prior to his Springbok call-up aged 28, don’t bet against the new Lion becoming a Test player. With 32-year-old sevens rapier Rosko Specman winning his first cap this year, it is evident Jacques Neinaber is happy to wait for his wingers to blossom.





WillGriff John (Sale to Scarlets)





A signing that could have implications for Wales’ front-row pecking order. With first-choice tight-head prop Tomas Francis also returning home from England, Scarlets have taken a gamble on John, a 127kg monster.





He will vie for regional selection with Samson Lee, and could pack down with Rob Evans and Ken Owens in a potent front trio. If John can prove a dominant scrummager, Wayne Pivac will surely consider him for Test honours. John was 24 hours away from a starting debut for Wales against Scotland before the pandemic ended the 2020 Six Nations, so he will be keen to take this opportunity and live his dream.





Michael Ala’alatoa (Crusaders to Leinster)





May not seem like a flashy signing on the surface, but this is a big deal at the RDS. Ala’alatoa is Leinster’s first overseas signing since a certain Scott Fardy. Leo Cullen is clearly proud of the Irish representation in his squad, so it must take a lot to impress him.





Samoan skipper Ala’alatoa must have shown he can fit into Leinster’s system as their only foreign player. A solid scrummager and tackler, expect the prop to really kick on with the four-in-a-row champions.





Jac Morgan (Scarlets to Ospreys)





Young flanker Morgan is arguably Welsh rugby’s best uncapped player. In a move that shocked many Scarlets fans, he joined a club on the up, making astute signings on its way. Alex Cuthbert is another strong addition to Toby Booth’s squad. To take such a risk at 21, Morgan must believe the Ospreys coaches can help him develop into the fully-fledged international bruiser he could so very evidently become. 





Jac Morgan
Jac Morgan has routinely made his presence felt in the red of Scarlets, and was one of the league’s top performers last term (Getty Images)




Booth’s snapping up of Leinster academy backrow Will Hickey is another really smart piece of business – poaching one of the senior members of the best academy in world rugby surely can’t backfire. Hickey could be the next Tadhg Beirne, Sam Underhill or Robin Copeland – developing in Wales before moving back to their native country to seek international honours.





Asaeli Tuivuaka (Fiji Sevens to Zebre)





Zebre have long struggled to break into the top half of the table. What needs to change? The leadership? Maybe. The kicking strategy? Sure. The option to just chuck the ball to a Fijian Olympic gold medalist? Now we’re talking. After Edinburgh’s success in converting Rio 2016 champion Viliame Mata into a world-renowned number 8, not to mention Toulouse utilising the rampaging Semi Kunitani as a dynamic lock/flanker, this feels like a perfect signing for the Italian side.





Asaeli Tuivuaka
Asaeli Tuivuaka was a colossal member of Fiji’s all-conquering Olympic sevens side (Getty Images)




Simon Zebo (Racing 92 to Munster)





The last selection has to be Zebo, doesn’t it? Who doesn’t love the guy? A fun-loving winger who is exhilarating on the field and delightful off it, the return of the Cork man will have Munster fans drooling. The only downside is we no longer get to witness him chortling on the pitch with Finn Russell and Kurtley Beale. Instead, we will see the incisive back-three danger man cutting lines off World Cup winners Damien de Allende and RG Snyman.





Munster may be known for their direct style, and as opposing fans we’ve all sat through Thomond Park drubbings before, but with Zebo smiling to the cameras, nobody will accuse this man in red of being dull.





More stories from Will Owen







If you’ve enjoyed this article, please share it with friends or on social media. We rely solely on new subscribers to fund high-quality journalism and appreciate you sharing this so we can continue to grow, produce more quality content and support our writers.



The roar of the crowd. The crackling anticipation of live rugby in pulsating stadia. The smell of linament wafting from changing rooms. The taste of lukewarm, hideously overpriced lager in plastic cups. The opportunity to sit down on a Friday night and watch Dragons playing Ulster. 





Yep, a new season is upon us, so what’s not to love?





With the dawn of each campaign comes acclimatisation. You ask why Benetton aren’t picking Paolo Garbisi before remembering he signed for Montpellier in the summer. You spend the first three weeks of the season deciding whether or not Domingo Miotti looks good in a Glasgow jersey. 





These are seminal months for the competition now formerly known as the Pro14. The arrival of South Africa’s heavyweight quartet, a glossy summer rebrand as the United Rugby Championship, and even a partnership with Jay-Z’s Roc Nation entertainment company.  





There have been some eye-catching signings in the off-season too, from a World Cup winner to an Olympic colossus, homecoming heroes to a gifted Welshman with a big future opting to switch regions. Here, The XV hand-picks some of the tastiest acquisitions for the championship ahead.





Duane Vermeulen (Blue Bulls to Ulster)





If you’re named after a Marvel Superhero, you must have been doing something right. In a buccaneering Test career, the bearded 6ft 4in, 18st Springbok gained the moniker Thor for his rampaging busts in midfield, soft-hands out of contact – few will forget his sweet offload to Fourie du Preez in the 2015 Rugby World Cup quarter-final – and rib-clattering hits.





At 35, he may well be in the latter stages of his career, but if Alun Wyn Jones, and Johnny Sexton, who have both turned 36 in recent months, are still influential figures in the URC, then there is nothing stopping Vermeulen being a talisman around which the Ulster pack can thrive. It is a statement signing to signify a new era for the league.





Emiliano Boffelli (Racing 92 to Edinburgh)





Together with back-three compatriot Ramiro Moyano, Boffelli has made the switch from France to the Scottish capital. Only 26, it feels like he’s been around forever, given his maturity and composure at the highest level.





Emiliano Boffelli
Emiliano Boffelli was part of the Jaguares side that reached the 2019 Super Rugby final (Getty Images)




He will likely battle for the full-back jersey with incumbent Blair Kinghorn – another fleet-footed, solid 15 with a massive boot. Both are capable of playing on the wing and at fly-half, so it will be interesting to see how Mike Blair decides to use them.





Edwill van der Merwe (Stormers to Lions)





One of the hottest prospects in South African club rugby, Van der Merwe is a winger any spectator would be lucky to watch. At 25, he is soaring to peak form, having lit up the Currie Cup and conjured dazzling highlight-reel tries.





Van der Merwe could be one of the most exciting players in the league, and given Makazole Mapimpi’s Pro14 form prior to his Springbok call-up aged 28, don’t bet against the new Lion becoming a Test player. With 32-year-old sevens rapier Rosko Specman winning his first cap this year, it is evident Jacques Neinaber is happy to wait for his wingers to blossom.





WillGriff John (Sale to Scarlets)





A signing that could have implications for Wales’ front-row pecking order. With first-choice tight-head prop Tomas Francis also returning home from England, Scarlets have taken a gamble on John, a 127kg monster.





He will vie for regional selection with Samson Lee, and could pack down with Rob Evans and Ken Owens in a potent front trio. If John can prove a dominant scrummager, Wayne Pivac will surely consider him for Test honours. John was 24 hours away from a starting debut for Wales against Scotland before the pandemic ended the 2020 Six Nations, so he will be keen to take this opportunity and live his dream.





Michael Ala’alatoa (Crusaders to Leinster)





May not seem like a flashy signing on the surface, but this is a big deal at the RDS. Ala’alatoa is Leinster’s first overseas signing since a certain Scott Fardy. Leo Cullen is clearly proud of the Irish representation in his squad, so it must take a lot to impress him.





Samoan skipper Ala’alatoa must have shown he can fit into Leinster’s system as their only foreign player. A solid scrummager and tackler, expect the prop to really kick on with the four-in-a-row champions.





Jac Morgan (Scarlets to Ospreys)





Young flanker Morgan is arguably Welsh rugby’s best uncapped player. In a move that shocked many Scarlets fans, he joined a club on the up, making astute signings on its way. Alex Cuthbert is another strong addition to Toby Booth’s squad. To take such a risk at 21, Morgan must believe the Ospreys coaches can help him develop into the fully-fledged international bruiser he could so very evidently become. 





Jac Morgan
Jac Morgan has routinely made his presence felt in the red of Scarlets, and was one of the league’s top performers last term (Getty Images)




Booth’s snapping up of Leinster academy backrow Will Hickey is another really smart piece of business – poaching one of the senior members of the best academy in world rugby surely can’t backfire. Hickey could be the next Tadhg Beirne, Sam Underhill or Robin Copeland – developing in Wales before moving back to their native country to seek international honours.





Asaeli Tuivuaka (Fiji Sevens to Zebre)





Zebre have long struggled to break into the top half of the table. What needs to change? The leadership? Maybe. The kicking strategy? Sure. The option to just chuck the ball to a Fijian Olympic gold medalist? Now we’re talking. After Edinburgh’s success in converting Rio 2016 champion Viliame Mata into a world-renowned number 8, not to mention Toulouse utilising the rampaging Semi Kunitani as a dynamic lock/flanker, this feels like a perfect signing for the Italian side.





Asaeli Tuivuaka
Asaeli Tuivuaka was a colossal member of Fiji’s all-conquering Olympic sevens side (Getty Images)




Simon Zebo (Racing 92 to Munster)





The last selection has to be Zebo, doesn’t it? Who doesn’t love the guy? A fun-loving winger who is exhilarating on the field and delightful off it, the return of the Cork man will have Munster fans drooling. The only downside is we no longer get to witness him chortling on the pitch with Finn Russell and Kurtley Beale. Instead, we will see the incisive back-three danger man cutting lines off World Cup winners Damien de Allende and RG Snyman.





Munster may be known for their direct style, and as opposing fans we’ve all sat through Thomond Park drubbings before, but with Zebo smiling to the cameras, nobody will accuse this man in red of being dull.





More stories from Will Owen







If you’ve enjoyed this article, please share it with friends or on social media. We rely solely on new subscribers to fund high-quality journalism and appreciate you sharing this so we can continue to grow, produce more quality content and support our writers.



Jac Morgan (Scarlets to Ospreys)





Young flanker Morgan is arguably Welsh rugby’s best uncapped player. In a move that shocked many Scarlets fans, he joined a club on the up, making astute signings on its way. Alex Cuthbert is another strong addition to Toby Booth’s squad. To take such a risk at 21, Morgan must believe the Ospreys coaches can help him develop into the fully-fledged international bruiser he could so very evidently become. 





Jac Morgan
Jac Morgan has routinely made his presence felt in the red of Scarlets, and was one of the league’s top performers last term (Getty Images)




Booth’s snapping up of Leinster academy backrow Will Hickey is another really smart piece of business – poaching one of the senior members of the best academy in world rugby surely can’t backfire. Hickey could be the next Tadhg Beirne, Sam Underhill or Robin Copeland – developing in Wales before moving back to their native country to seek international honours.





Asaeli Tuivuaka (Fiji Sevens to Zebre)





Zebre have long struggled to break into the top half of the table. What needs to change? The leadership? Maybe. The kicking strategy? Sure. The option to just chuck the ball to a Fijian Olympic gold medalist? Now we’re talking. After Edinburgh’s success in converting Rio 2016 champion Viliame Mata into a world-renowned number 8, not to mention Toulouse utilising the rampaging Semi Kunitani as a dynamic lock/flanker, this feels like a perfect signing for the Italian side.





Asaeli Tuivuaka
Asaeli Tuivuaka was a colossal member of Fiji’s all-conquering Olympic sevens side (Getty Images)




Simon Zebo (Racing 92 to Munster)





The last selection has to be Zebo, doesn’t it? Who doesn’t love the guy? A fun-loving winger who is exhilarating on the field and delightful off it, the return of the Cork man will have Munster fans drooling. The only downside is we no longer get to witness him chortling on the pitch with Finn Russell and Kurtley Beale. Instead, we will see the incisive back-three danger man cutting lines off World Cup winners Damien de Allende and RG Snyman.





Munster may be known for their direct style, and as opposing fans we’ve all sat through Thomond Park drubbings before, but with Zebo smiling to the cameras, nobody will accuse this man in red of being dull.





More stories from Will Owen







If you’ve enjoyed this article, please share it with friends or on social media. We rely solely on new subscribers to fund high-quality journalism and appreciate you sharing this so we can continue to grow, produce more quality content and support our writers.



Duane Vermeulen (Blue Bulls to Ulster)





If you’re named after a Marvel Superhero, you must have been doing something right. In a buccaneering Test career, the bearded 6ft 4in, 18st Springbok gained the moniker Thor for his rampaging busts in midfield, soft-hands out of contact – few will forget his sweet offload to Fourie du Preez in the 2015 Rugby World Cup quarter-final – and rib-clattering hits.





At 35, he may well be in the latter stages of his career, but if Alun Wyn Jones, and Johnny Sexton, who have both turned 36 in recent months, are still influential figures in the URC, then there is nothing stopping Vermeulen being a talisman around which the Ulster pack can thrive. It is a statement signing to signify a new era for the league.





Emiliano Boffelli (Racing 92 to Edinburgh)





Together with back-three compatriot Ramiro Moyano, Boffelli has made the switch from France to the Scottish capital. Only 26, it feels like he’s been around forever, given his maturity and composure at the highest level.





Emiliano Boffelli
Emiliano Boffelli was part of the Jaguares side that reached the 2019 Super Rugby final (Getty Images)




He will likely battle for the full-back jersey with incumbent Blair Kinghorn – another fleet-footed, solid 15 with a massive boot. Both are capable of playing on the wing and at fly-half, so it will be interesting to see how Mike Blair decides to use them.





Edwill van der Merwe (Stormers to Lions)





One of the hottest prospects in South African club rugby, Van der Merwe is a winger any spectator would be lucky to watch. At 25, he is soaring to peak form, having lit up the Currie Cup and conjured dazzling highlight-reel tries.





Van der Merwe could be one of the most exciting players in the league, and given Makazole Mapimpi’s Pro14 form prior to his Springbok call-up aged 28, don’t bet against the new Lion becoming a Test player. With 32-year-old sevens rapier Rosko Specman winning his first cap this year, it is evident Jacques Neinaber is happy to wait for his wingers to blossom.





WillGriff John (Sale to Scarlets)





A signing that could have implications for Wales’ front-row pecking order. With first-choice tight-head prop Tomas Francis also returning home from England, Scarlets have taken a gamble on John, a 127kg monster.





He will vie for regional selection with Samson Lee, and could pack down with Rob Evans and Ken Owens in a potent front trio. If John can prove a dominant scrummager, Wayne Pivac will surely consider him for Test honours. John was 24 hours away from a starting debut for Wales against Scotland before the pandemic ended the 2020 Six Nations, so he will be keen to take this opportunity and live his dream.





Michael Ala’alatoa (Crusaders to Leinster)





May not seem like a flashy signing on the surface, but this is a big deal at the RDS. Ala’alatoa is Leinster’s first overseas signing since a certain Scott Fardy. Leo Cullen is clearly proud of the Irish representation in his squad, so it must take a lot to impress him.





Samoan skipper Ala’alatoa must have shown he can fit into Leinster’s system as their only foreign player. A solid scrummager and tackler, expect the prop to really kick on with the four-in-a-row champions.





Jac Morgan (Scarlets to Ospreys)





Young flanker Morgan is arguably Welsh rugby’s best uncapped player. In a move that shocked many Scarlets fans, he joined a club on the up, making astute signings on its way. Alex Cuthbert is another strong addition to Toby Booth’s squad. To take such a risk at 21, Morgan must believe the Ospreys coaches can help him develop into the fully-fledged international bruiser he could so very evidently become. 





Jac Morgan
Jac Morgan has routinely made his presence felt in the red of Scarlets, and was one of the league’s top performers last term (Getty Images)




Booth’s snapping up of Leinster academy backrow Will Hickey is another really smart piece of business – poaching one of the senior members of the best academy in world rugby surely can’t backfire. Hickey could be the next Tadhg Beirne, Sam Underhill or Robin Copeland – developing in Wales before moving back to their native country to seek international honours.





Asaeli Tuivuaka (Fiji Sevens to Zebre)





Zebre have long struggled to break into the top half of the table. What needs to change? The leadership? Maybe. The kicking strategy? Sure. The option to just chuck the ball to a Fijian Olympic gold medalist? Now we’re talking. After Edinburgh’s success in converting Rio 2016 champion Viliame Mata into a world-renowned number 8, not to mention Toulouse utilising the rampaging Semi Kunitani as a dynamic lock/flanker, this feels like a perfect signing for the Italian side.





Asaeli Tuivuaka
Asaeli Tuivuaka was a colossal member of Fiji’s all-conquering Olympic sevens side (Getty Images)




Simon Zebo (Racing 92 to Munster)





The last selection has to be Zebo, doesn’t it? Who doesn’t love the guy? A fun-loving winger who is exhilarating on the field and delightful off it, the return of the Cork man will have Munster fans drooling. The only downside is we no longer get to witness him chortling on the pitch with Finn Russell and Kurtley Beale. Instead, we will see the incisive back-three danger man cutting lines off World Cup winners Damien de Allende and RG Snyman.





Munster may be known for their direct style, and as opposing fans we’ve all sat through Thomond Park drubbings before, but with Zebo smiling to the cameras, nobody will accuse this man in red of being dull.





More stories from Will Owen







If you’ve enjoyed this article, please share it with friends or on social media. We rely solely on new subscribers to fund high-quality journalism and appreciate you sharing this so we can continue to grow, produce more quality content and support our writers.



The roar of the crowd. The crackling anticipation of live rugby in pulsating stadia. The smell of linament wafting from changing rooms. The taste of lukewarm, hideously overpriced lager in plastic cups. The opportunity to sit down on a Friday night and watch Dragons playing Ulster. 





Yep, a new season is upon us, so what’s not to love?





With the dawn of each campaign comes acclimatisation. You ask why Benetton aren’t picking Paolo Garbisi before remembering he signed for Montpellier in the summer. You spend the first three weeks of the season deciding whether or not Domingo Miotti looks good in a Glasgow jersey. 





These are seminal months for the competition now formerly known as the Pro14. The arrival of South Africa’s heavyweight quartet, a glossy summer rebrand as the United Rugby Championship, and even a partnership with Jay-Z’s Roc Nation entertainment company.  





There have been some eye-catching signings in the off-season too, from a World Cup winner to an Olympic colossus, homecoming heroes to a gifted Welshman with a big future opting to switch regions. Here, The XV hand-picks some of the tastiest acquisitions for the championship ahead.





Duane Vermeulen (Blue Bulls to Ulster)





If you’re named after a Marvel Superhero, you must have been doing something right. In a buccaneering Test career, the bearded 6ft 4in, 18st Springbok gained the moniker Thor for his rampaging busts in midfield, soft-hands out of contact – few will forget his sweet offload to Fourie du Preez in the 2015 Rugby World Cup quarter-final – and rib-clattering hits.





At 35, he may well be in the latter stages of his career, but if Alun Wyn Jones, and Johnny Sexton, who have both turned 36 in recent months, are still influential figures in the URC, then there is nothing stopping Vermeulen being a talisman around which the Ulster pack can thrive. It is a statement signing to signify a new era for the league.





Emiliano Boffelli (Racing 92 to Edinburgh)





Together with back-three compatriot Ramiro Moyano, Boffelli has made the switch from France to the Scottish capital. Only 26, it feels like he’s been around forever, given his maturity and composure at the highest level.





Emiliano Boffelli
Emiliano Boffelli was part of the Jaguares side that reached the 2019 Super Rugby final (Getty Images)




He will likely battle for the full-back jersey with incumbent Blair Kinghorn – another fleet-footed, solid 15 with a massive boot. Both are capable of playing on the wing and at fly-half, so it will be interesting to see how Mike Blair decides to use them.





Edwill van der Merwe (Stormers to Lions)





One of the hottest prospects in South African club rugby, Van der Merwe is a winger any spectator would be lucky to watch. At 25, he is soaring to peak form, having lit up the Currie Cup and conjured dazzling highlight-reel tries.





Van der Merwe could be one of the most exciting players in the league, and given Makazole Mapimpi’s Pro14 form prior to his Springbok call-up aged 28, don’t bet against the new Lion becoming a Test player. With 32-year-old sevens rapier Rosko Specman winning his first cap this year, it is evident Jacques Neinaber is happy to wait for his wingers to blossom.





WillGriff John (Sale to Scarlets)





A signing that could have implications for Wales’ front-row pecking order. With first-choice tight-head prop Tomas Francis also returning home from England, Scarlets have taken a gamble on John, a 127kg monster.





He will vie for regional selection with Samson Lee, and could pack down with Rob Evans and Ken Owens in a potent front trio. If John can prove a dominant scrummager, Wayne Pivac will surely consider him for Test honours. John was 24 hours away from a starting debut for Wales against Scotland before the pandemic ended the 2020 Six Nations, so he will be keen to take this opportunity and live his dream.





Michael Ala’alatoa (Crusaders to Leinster)





May not seem like a flashy signing on the surface, but this is a big deal at the RDS. Ala’alatoa is Leinster’s first overseas signing since a certain Scott Fardy. Leo Cullen is clearly proud of the Irish representation in his squad, so it must take a lot to impress him.





Samoan skipper Ala’alatoa must have shown he can fit into Leinster’s system as their only foreign player. A solid scrummager and tackler, expect the prop to really kick on with the four-in-a-row champions.





Jac Morgan (Scarlets to Ospreys)





Young flanker Morgan is arguably Welsh rugby’s best uncapped player. In a move that shocked many Scarlets fans, he joined a club on the up, making astute signings on its way. Alex Cuthbert is another strong addition to Toby Booth’s squad. To take such a risk at 21, Morgan must believe the Ospreys coaches can help him develop into the fully-fledged international bruiser he could so very evidently become. 





Jac Morgan
Jac Morgan has routinely made his presence felt in the red of Scarlets, and was one of the league’s top performers last term (Getty Images)




Booth’s snapping up of Leinster academy backrow Will Hickey is another really smart piece of business – poaching one of the senior members of the best academy in world rugby surely can’t backfire. Hickey could be the next Tadhg Beirne, Sam Underhill or Robin Copeland – developing in Wales before moving back to their native country to seek international honours.





Asaeli Tuivuaka (Fiji Sevens to Zebre)





Zebre have long struggled to break into the top half of the table. What needs to change? The leadership? Maybe. The kicking strategy? Sure. The option to just chuck the ball to a Fijian Olympic gold medalist? Now we’re talking. After Edinburgh’s success in converting Rio 2016 champion Viliame Mata into a world-renowned number 8, not to mention Toulouse utilising the rampaging Semi Kunitani as a dynamic lock/flanker, this feels like a perfect signing for the Italian side.





Asaeli Tuivuaka
Asaeli Tuivuaka was a colossal member of Fiji’s all-conquering Olympic sevens side (Getty Images)




Simon Zebo (Racing 92 to Munster)





The last selection has to be Zebo, doesn’t it? Who doesn’t love the guy? A fun-loving winger who is exhilarating on the field and delightful off it, the return of the Cork man will have Munster fans drooling. The only downside is we no longer get to witness him chortling on the pitch with Finn Russell and Kurtley Beale. Instead, we will see the incisive back-three danger man cutting lines off World Cup winners Damien de Allende and RG Snyman.





Munster may be known for their direct style, and as opposing fans we’ve all sat through Thomond Park drubbings before, but with Zebo smiling to the cameras, nobody will accuse this man in red of being dull.





More stories from Will Owen







If you’ve enjoyed this article, please share it with friends or on social media. We rely solely on new subscribers to fund high-quality journalism and appreciate you sharing this so we can continue to grow, produce more quality content and support our writers.



Michael Ala’alatoa (Crusaders to Leinster)





May not seem like a flashy signing on the surface, but this is a big deal at the RDS. Ala’alatoa is Leinster’s first overseas signing since a certain Scott Fardy. Leo Cullen is clearly proud of the Irish representation in his squad, so it must take a lot to impress him.





Samoan skipper Ala’alatoa must have shown he can fit into Leinster’s system as their only foreign player. A solid scrummager and tackler, expect the prop to really kick on with the four-in-a-row champions.





Jac Morgan (Scarlets to Ospreys)





Young flanker Morgan is arguably Welsh rugby’s best uncapped player. In a move that shocked many Scarlets fans, he joined a club on the up, making astute signings on its way. Alex Cuthbert is another strong addition to Toby Booth’s squad. To take such a risk at 21, Morgan must believe the Ospreys coaches can help him develop into the fully-fledged international bruiser he could so very evidently become. 





Jac Morgan
Jac Morgan has routinely made his presence felt in the red of Scarlets, and was one of the league’s top performers last term (Getty Images)




Booth’s snapping up of Leinster academy backrow Will Hickey is another really smart piece of business – poaching one of the senior members of the best academy in world rugby surely can’t backfire. Hickey could be the next Tadhg Beirne, Sam Underhill or Robin Copeland – developing in Wales before moving back to their native country to seek international honours.





Asaeli Tuivuaka (Fiji Sevens to Zebre)





Zebre have long struggled to break into the top half of the table. What needs to change? The leadership? Maybe. The kicking strategy? Sure. The option to just chuck the ball to a Fijian Olympic gold medalist? Now we’re talking. After Edinburgh’s success in converting Rio 2016 champion Viliame Mata into a world-renowned number 8, not to mention Toulouse utilising the rampaging Semi Kunitani as a dynamic lock/flanker, this feels like a perfect signing for the Italian side.





Asaeli Tuivuaka
Asaeli Tuivuaka was a colossal member of Fiji’s all-conquering Olympic sevens side (Getty Images)




Simon Zebo (Racing 92 to Munster)





The last selection has to be Zebo, doesn’t it? Who doesn’t love the guy? A fun-loving winger who is exhilarating on the field and delightful off it, the return of the Cork man will have Munster fans drooling. The only downside is we no longer get to witness him chortling on the pitch with Finn Russell and Kurtley Beale. Instead, we will see the incisive back-three danger man cutting lines off World Cup winners Damien de Allende and RG Snyman.





Munster may be known for their direct style, and as opposing fans we’ve all sat through Thomond Park drubbings before, but with Zebo smiling to the cameras, nobody will accuse this man in red of being dull.





More stories from Will Owen







If you’ve enjoyed this article, please share it with friends or on social media. We rely solely on new subscribers to fund high-quality journalism and appreciate you sharing this so we can continue to grow, produce more quality content and support our writers.



Duane Vermeulen (Blue Bulls to Ulster)





If you’re named after a Marvel Superhero, you must have been doing something right. In a buccaneering Test career, the bearded 6ft 4in, 18st Springbok gained the moniker Thor for his rampaging busts in midfield, soft-hands out of contact – few will forget his sweet offload to Fourie du Preez in the 2015 Rugby World Cup quarter-final – and rib-clattering hits.





At 35, he may well be in the latter stages of his career, but if Alun Wyn Jones, and Johnny Sexton, who have both turned 36 in recent months, are still influential figures in the URC, then there is nothing stopping Vermeulen being a talisman around which the Ulster pack can thrive. It is a statement signing to signify a new era for the league.





Emiliano Boffelli (Racing 92 to Edinburgh)





Together with back-three compatriot Ramiro Moyano, Boffelli has made the switch from France to the Scottish capital. Only 26, it feels like he’s been around forever, given his maturity and composure at the highest level.





Emiliano Boffelli
Emiliano Boffelli was part of the Jaguares side that reached the 2019 Super Rugby final (Getty Images)




He will likely battle for the full-back jersey with incumbent Blair Kinghorn – another fleet-footed, solid 15 with a massive boot. Both are capable of playing on the wing and at fly-half, so it will be interesting to see how Mike Blair decides to use them.





Edwill van der Merwe (Stormers to Lions)





One of the hottest prospects in South African club rugby, Van der Merwe is a winger any spectator would be lucky to watch. At 25, he is soaring to peak form, having lit up the Currie Cup and conjured dazzling highlight-reel tries.





Van der Merwe could be one of the most exciting players in the league, and given Makazole Mapimpi’s Pro14 form prior to his Springbok call-up aged 28, don’t bet against the new Lion becoming a Test player. With 32-year-old sevens rapier Rosko Specman winning his first cap this year, it is evident Jacques Neinaber is happy to wait for his wingers to blossom.





WillGriff John (Sale to Scarlets)





A signing that could have implications for Wales’ front-row pecking order. With first-choice tight-head prop Tomas Francis also returning home from England, Scarlets have taken a gamble on John, a 127kg monster.





He will vie for regional selection with Samson Lee, and could pack down with Rob Evans and Ken Owens in a potent front trio. If John can prove a dominant scrummager, Wayne Pivac will surely consider him for Test honours. John was 24 hours away from a starting debut for Wales against Scotland before the pandemic ended the 2020 Six Nations, so he will be keen to take this opportunity and live his dream.





Michael Ala’alatoa (Crusaders to Leinster)





May not seem like a flashy signing on the surface, but this is a big deal at the RDS. Ala’alatoa is Leinster’s first overseas signing since a certain Scott Fardy. Leo Cullen is clearly proud of the Irish representation in his squad, so it must take a lot to impress him.





Samoan skipper Ala’alatoa must have shown he can fit into Leinster’s system as their only foreign player. A solid scrummager and tackler, expect the prop to really kick on with the four-in-a-row champions.





Jac Morgan (Scarlets to Ospreys)





Young flanker Morgan is arguably Welsh rugby’s best uncapped player. In a move that shocked many Scarlets fans, he joined a club on the up, making astute signings on its way. Alex Cuthbert is another strong addition to Toby Booth’s squad. To take such a risk at 21, Morgan must believe the Ospreys coaches can help him develop into the fully-fledged international bruiser he could so very evidently become. 





Jac Morgan
Jac Morgan has routinely made his presence felt in the red of Scarlets, and was one of the league’s top performers last term (Getty Images)




Booth’s snapping up of Leinster academy backrow Will Hickey is another really smart piece of business – poaching one of the senior members of the best academy in world rugby surely can’t backfire. Hickey could be the next Tadhg Beirne, Sam Underhill or Robin Copeland – developing in Wales before moving back to their native country to seek international honours.





Asaeli Tuivuaka (Fiji Sevens to Zebre)





Zebre have long struggled to break into the top half of the table. What needs to change? The leadership? Maybe. The kicking strategy? Sure. The option to just chuck the ball to a Fijian Olympic gold medalist? Now we’re talking. After Edinburgh’s success in converting Rio 2016 champion Viliame Mata into a world-renowned number 8, not to mention Toulouse utilising the rampaging Semi Kunitani as a dynamic lock/flanker, this feels like a perfect signing for the Italian side.





Asaeli Tuivuaka
Asaeli Tuivuaka was a colossal member of Fiji’s all-conquering Olympic sevens side (Getty Images)




Simon Zebo (Racing 92 to Munster)





The last selection has to be Zebo, doesn’t it? Who doesn’t love the guy? A fun-loving winger who is exhilarating on the field and delightful off it, the return of the Cork man will have Munster fans drooling. The only downside is we no longer get to witness him chortling on the pitch with Finn Russell and Kurtley Beale. Instead, we will see the incisive back-three danger man cutting lines off World Cup winners Damien de Allende and RG Snyman.





Munster may be known for their direct style, and as opposing fans we’ve all sat through Thomond Park drubbings before, but with Zebo smiling to the cameras, nobody will accuse this man in red of being dull.





More stories from Will Owen







If you’ve enjoyed this article, please share it with friends or on social media. We rely solely on new subscribers to fund high-quality journalism and appreciate you sharing this so we can continue to grow, produce more quality content and support our writers.



The roar of the crowd. The crackling anticipation of live rugby in pulsating stadia. The smell of linament wafting from changing rooms. The taste of lukewarm, hideously overpriced lager in plastic cups. The opportunity to sit down on a Friday night and watch Dragons playing Ulster. 





Yep, a new season is upon us, so what’s not to love?





With the dawn of each campaign comes acclimatisation. You ask why Benetton aren’t picking Paolo Garbisi before remembering he signed for Montpellier in the summer. You spend the first three weeks of the season deciding whether or not Domingo Miotti looks good in a Glasgow jersey. 





These are seminal months for the competition now formerly known as the Pro14. The arrival of South Africa’s heavyweight quartet, a glossy summer rebrand as the United Rugby Championship, and even a partnership with Jay-Z’s Roc Nation entertainment company.  





There have been some eye-catching signings in the off-season too, from a World Cup winner to an Olympic colossus, homecoming heroes to a gifted Welshman with a big future opting to switch regions. Here, The XV hand-picks some of the tastiest acquisitions for the championship ahead.





Duane Vermeulen (Blue Bulls to Ulster)





If you’re named after a Marvel Superhero, you must have been doing something right. In a buccaneering Test career, the bearded 6ft 4in, 18st Springbok gained the moniker Thor for his rampaging busts in midfield, soft-hands out of contact – few will forget his sweet offload to Fourie du Preez in the 2015 Rugby World Cup quarter-final – and rib-clattering hits.





At 35, he may well be in the latter stages of his career, but if Alun Wyn Jones, and Johnny Sexton, who have both turned 36 in recent months, are still influential figures in the URC, then there is nothing stopping Vermeulen being a talisman around which the Ulster pack can thrive. It is a statement signing to signify a new era for the league.





Emiliano Boffelli (Racing 92 to Edinburgh)





Together with back-three compatriot Ramiro Moyano, Boffelli has made the switch from France to the Scottish capital. Only 26, it feels like he’s been around forever, given his maturity and composure at the highest level.





Emiliano Boffelli
Emiliano Boffelli was part of the Jaguares side that reached the 2019 Super Rugby final (Getty Images)




He will likely battle for the full-back jersey with incumbent Blair Kinghorn – another fleet-footed, solid 15 with a massive boot. Both are capable of playing on the wing and at fly-half, so it will be interesting to see how Mike Blair decides to use them.





Edwill van der Merwe (Stormers to Lions)





One of the hottest prospects in South African club rugby, Van der Merwe is a winger any spectator would be lucky to watch. At 25, he is soaring to peak form, having lit up the Currie Cup and conjured dazzling highlight-reel tries.





Van der Merwe could be one of the most exciting players in the league, and given Makazole Mapimpi’s Pro14 form prior to his Springbok call-up aged 28, don’t bet against the new Lion becoming a Test player. With 32-year-old sevens rapier Rosko Specman winning his first cap this year, it is evident Jacques Neinaber is happy to wait for his wingers to blossom.





WillGriff John (Sale to Scarlets)





A signing that could have implications for Wales’ front-row pecking order. With first-choice tight-head prop Tomas Francis also returning home from England, Scarlets have taken a gamble on John, a 127kg monster.





He will vie for regional selection with Samson Lee, and could pack down with Rob Evans and Ken Owens in a potent front trio. If John can prove a dominant scrummager, Wayne Pivac will surely consider him for Test honours. John was 24 hours away from a starting debut for Wales against Scotland before the pandemic ended the 2020 Six Nations, so he will be keen to take this opportunity and live his dream.





Michael Ala’alatoa (Crusaders to Leinster)





May not seem like a flashy signing on the surface, but this is a big deal at the RDS. Ala’alatoa is Leinster’s first overseas signing since a certain Scott Fardy. Leo Cullen is clearly proud of the Irish representation in his squad, so it must take a lot to impress him.





Samoan skipper Ala’alatoa must have shown he can fit into Leinster’s system as their only foreign player. A solid scrummager and tackler, expect the prop to really kick on with the four-in-a-row champions.





Jac Morgan (Scarlets to Ospreys)





Young flanker Morgan is arguably Welsh rugby’s best uncapped player. In a move that shocked many Scarlets fans, he joined a club on the up, making astute signings on its way. Alex Cuthbert is another strong addition to Toby Booth’s squad. To take such a risk at 21, Morgan must believe the Ospreys coaches can help him develop into the fully-fledged international bruiser he could so very evidently become. 





Jac Morgan
Jac Morgan has routinely made his presence felt in the red of Scarlets, and was one of the league’s top performers last term (Getty Images)




Booth’s snapping up of Leinster academy backrow Will Hickey is another really smart piece of business – poaching one of the senior members of the best academy in world rugby surely can’t backfire. Hickey could be the next Tadhg Beirne, Sam Underhill or Robin Copeland – developing in Wales before moving back to their native country to seek international honours.





Asaeli Tuivuaka (Fiji Sevens to Zebre)





Zebre have long struggled to break into the top half of the table. What needs to change? The leadership? Maybe. The kicking strategy? Sure. The option to just chuck the ball to a Fijian Olympic gold medalist? Now we’re talking. After Edinburgh’s success in converting Rio 2016 champion Viliame Mata into a world-renowned number 8, not to mention Toulouse utilising the rampaging Semi Kunitani as a dynamic lock/flanker, this feels like a perfect signing for the Italian side.





Asaeli Tuivuaka
Asaeli Tuivuaka was a colossal member of Fiji’s all-conquering Olympic sevens side (Getty Images)




Simon Zebo (Racing 92 to Munster)





The last selection has to be Zebo, doesn’t it? Who doesn’t love the guy? A fun-loving winger who is exhilarating on the field and delightful off it, the return of the Cork man will have Munster fans drooling. The only downside is we no longer get to witness him chortling on the pitch with Finn Russell and Kurtley Beale. Instead, we will see the incisive back-three danger man cutting lines off World Cup winners Damien de Allende and RG Snyman.





Munster may be known for their direct style, and as opposing fans we’ve all sat through Thomond Park drubbings before, but with Zebo smiling to the cameras, nobody will accuse this man in red of being dull.





More stories from Will Owen







If you’ve enjoyed this article, please share it with friends or on social media. We rely solely on new subscribers to fund high-quality journalism and appreciate you sharing this so we can continue to grow, produce more quality content and support our writers.



WillGriff John (Sale to Scarlets)





A signing that could have implications for Wales’ front-row pecking order. With first-choice tight-head prop Tomas Francis also returning home from England, Scarlets have taken a gamble on John, a 127kg monster.





He will vie for regional selection with Samson Lee, and could pack down with Rob Evans and Ken Owens in a potent front trio. If John can prove a dominant scrummager, Wayne Pivac will surely consider him for Test honours. John was 24 hours away from a starting debut for Wales against Scotland before the pandemic ended the 2020 Six Nations, so he will be keen to take this opportunity and live his dream.





Michael Ala’alatoa (Crusaders to Leinster)





May not seem like a flashy signing on the surface, but this is a big deal at the RDS. Ala’alatoa is Leinster’s first overseas signing since a certain Scott Fardy. Leo Cullen is clearly proud of the Irish representation in his squad, so it must take a lot to impress him.





Samoan skipper Ala’alatoa must have shown he can fit into Leinster’s system as their only foreign player. A solid scrummager and tackler, expect the prop to really kick on with the four-in-a-row champions.





Jac Morgan (Scarlets to Ospreys)





Young flanker Morgan is arguably Welsh rugby’s best uncapped player. In a move that shocked many Scarlets fans, he joined a club on the up, making astute signings on its way. Alex Cuthbert is another strong addition to Toby Booth’s squad. To take such a risk at 21, Morgan must believe the Ospreys coaches can help him develop into the fully-fledged international bruiser he could so very evidently become. 





Jac Morgan
Jac Morgan has routinely made his presence felt in the red of Scarlets, and was one of the league’s top performers last term (Getty Images)




Booth’s snapping up of Leinster academy backrow Will Hickey is another really smart piece of business – poaching one of the senior members of the best academy in world rugby surely can’t backfire. Hickey could be the next Tadhg Beirne, Sam Underhill or Robin Copeland – developing in Wales before moving back to their native country to seek international honours.





Asaeli Tuivuaka (Fiji Sevens to Zebre)





Zebre have long struggled to break into the top half of the table. What needs to change? The leadership? Maybe. The kicking strategy? Sure. The option to just chuck the ball to a Fijian Olympic gold medalist? Now we’re talking. After Edinburgh’s success in converting Rio 2016 champion Viliame Mata into a world-renowned number 8, not to mention Toulouse utilising the rampaging Semi Kunitani as a dynamic lock/flanker, this feels like a perfect signing for the Italian side.





Asaeli Tuivuaka
Asaeli Tuivuaka was a colossal member of Fiji’s all-conquering Olympic sevens side (Getty Images)




Simon Zebo (Racing 92 to Munster)





The last selection has to be Zebo, doesn’t it? Who doesn’t love the guy? A fun-loving winger who is exhilarating on the field and delightful off it, the return of the Cork man will have Munster fans drooling. The only downside is we no longer get to witness him chortling on the pitch with Finn Russell and Kurtley Beale. Instead, we will see the incisive back-three danger man cutting lines off World Cup winners Damien de Allende and RG Snyman.





Munster may be known for their direct style, and as opposing fans we’ve all sat through Thomond Park drubbings before, but with Zebo smiling to the cameras, nobody will accuse this man in red of being dull.





More stories from Will Owen







If you’ve enjoyed this article, please share it with friends or on social media. We rely solely on new subscribers to fund high-quality journalism and appreciate you sharing this so we can continue to grow, produce more quality content and support our writers.



Duane Vermeulen (Blue Bulls to Ulster)





If you’re named after a Marvel Superhero, you must have been doing something right. In a buccaneering Test career, the bearded 6ft 4in, 18st Springbok gained the moniker Thor for his rampaging busts in midfield, soft-hands out of contact – few will forget his sweet offload to Fourie du Preez in the 2015 Rugby World Cup quarter-final – and rib-clattering hits.





At 35, he may well be in the latter stages of his career, but if Alun Wyn Jones, and Johnny Sexton, who have both turned 36 in recent months, are still influential figures in the URC, then there is nothing stopping Vermeulen being a talisman around which the Ulster pack can thrive. It is a statement signing to signify a new era for the league.





Emiliano Boffelli (Racing 92 to Edinburgh)





Together with back-three compatriot Ramiro Moyano, Boffelli has made the switch from France to the Scottish capital. Only 26, it feels like he’s been around forever, given his maturity and composure at the highest level.





Emiliano Boffelli
Emiliano Boffelli was part of the Jaguares side that reached the 2019 Super Rugby final (Getty Images)




He will likely battle for the full-back jersey with incumbent Blair Kinghorn – another fleet-footed, solid 15 with a massive boot. Both are capable of playing on the wing and at fly-half, so it will be interesting to see how Mike Blair decides to use them.





Edwill van der Merwe (Stormers to Lions)





One of the hottest prospects in South African club rugby, Van der Merwe is a winger any spectator would be lucky to watch. At 25, he is soaring to peak form, having lit up the Currie Cup and conjured dazzling highlight-reel tries.





Van der Merwe could be one of the most exciting players in the league, and given Makazole Mapimpi’s Pro14 form prior to his Springbok call-up aged 28, don’t bet against the new Lion becoming a Test player. With 32-year-old sevens rapier Rosko Specman winning his first cap this year, it is evident Jacques Neinaber is happy to wait for his wingers to blossom.





WillGriff John (Sale to Scarlets)





A signing that could have implications for Wales’ front-row pecking order. With first-choice tight-head prop Tomas Francis also returning home from England, Scarlets have taken a gamble on John, a 127kg monster.





He will vie for regional selection with Samson Lee, and could pack down with Rob Evans and Ken Owens in a potent front trio. If John can prove a dominant scrummager, Wayne Pivac will surely consider him for Test honours. John was 24 hours away from a starting debut for Wales against Scotland before the pandemic ended the 2020 Six Nations, so he will be keen to take this opportunity and live his dream.





Michael Ala’alatoa (Crusaders to Leinster)





May not seem like a flashy signing on the surface, but this is a big deal at the RDS. Ala’alatoa is Leinster’s first overseas signing since a certain Scott Fardy. Leo Cullen is clearly proud of the Irish representation in his squad, so it must take a lot to impress him.





Samoan skipper Ala’alatoa must have shown he can fit into Leinster’s system as their only foreign player. A solid scrummager and tackler, expect the prop to really kick on with the four-in-a-row champions.





Jac Morgan (Scarlets to Ospreys)





Young flanker Morgan is arguably Welsh rugby’s best uncapped player. In a move that shocked many Scarlets fans, he joined a club on the up, making astute signings on its way. Alex Cuthbert is another strong addition to Toby Booth’s squad. To take such a risk at 21, Morgan must believe the Ospreys coaches can help him develop into the fully-fledged international bruiser he could so very evidently become. 





Jac Morgan
Jac Morgan has routinely made his presence felt in the red of Scarlets, and was one of the league’s top performers last term (Getty Images)




Booth’s snapping up of Leinster academy backrow Will Hickey is another really smart piece of business – poaching one of the senior members of the best academy in world rugby surely can’t backfire. Hickey could be the next Tadhg Beirne, Sam Underhill or Robin Copeland – developing in Wales before moving back to their native country to seek international honours.





Asaeli Tuivuaka (Fiji Sevens to Zebre)





Zebre have long struggled to break into the top half of the table. What needs to change? The leadership? Maybe. The kicking strategy? Sure. The option to just chuck the ball to a Fijian Olympic gold medalist? Now we’re talking. After Edinburgh’s success in converting Rio 2016 champion Viliame Mata into a world-renowned number 8, not to mention Toulouse utilising the rampaging Semi Kunitani as a dynamic lock/flanker, this feels like a perfect signing for the Italian side.





Asaeli Tuivuaka
Asaeli Tuivuaka was a colossal member of Fiji’s all-conquering Olympic sevens side (Getty Images)




Simon Zebo (Racing 92 to Munster)





The last selection has to be Zebo, doesn’t it? Who doesn’t love the guy? A fun-loving winger who is exhilarating on the field and delightful off it, the return of the Cork man will have Munster fans drooling. The only downside is we no longer get to witness him chortling on the pitch with Finn Russell and Kurtley Beale. Instead, we will see the incisive back-three danger man cutting lines off World Cup winners Damien de Allende and RG Snyman.





Munster may be known for their direct style, and as opposing fans we’ve all sat through Thomond Park drubbings before, but with Zebo smiling to the cameras, nobody will accuse this man in red of being dull.





More stories from Will Owen







If you’ve enjoyed this article, please share it with friends or on social media. We rely solely on new subscribers to fund high-quality journalism and appreciate you sharing this so we can continue to grow, produce more quality content and support our writers.



The roar of the crowd. The crackling anticipation of live rugby in pulsating stadia. The smell of linament wafting from changing rooms. The taste of lukewarm, hideously overpriced lager in plastic cups. The opportunity to sit down on a Friday night and watch Dragons playing Ulster. 





Yep, a new season is upon us, so what’s not to love?





With the dawn of each campaign comes acclimatisation. You ask why Benetton aren’t picking Paolo Garbisi before remembering he signed for Montpellier in the summer. You spend the first three weeks of the season deciding whether or not Domingo Miotti looks good in a Glasgow jersey. 





These are seminal months for the competition now formerly known as the Pro14. The arrival of South Africa’s heavyweight quartet, a glossy summer rebrand as the United Rugby Championship, and even a partnership with Jay-Z’s Roc Nation entertainment company.  





There have been some eye-catching signings in the off-season too, from a World Cup winner to an Olympic colossus, homecoming heroes to a gifted Welshman with a big future opting to switch regions. Here, The XV hand-picks some of the tastiest acquisitions for the championship ahead.





Duane Vermeulen (Blue Bulls to Ulster)





If you’re named after a Marvel Superhero, you must have been doing something right. In a buccaneering Test career, the bearded 6ft 4in, 18st Springbok gained the moniker Thor for his rampaging busts in midfield, soft-hands out of contact – few will forget his sweet offload to Fourie du Preez in the 2015 Rugby World Cup quarter-final – and rib-clattering hits.





At 35, he may well be in the latter stages of his career, but if Alun Wyn Jones, and Johnny Sexton, who have both turned 36 in recent months, are still influential figures in the URC, then there is nothing stopping Vermeulen being a talisman around which the Ulster pack can thrive. It is a statement signing to signify a new era for the league.





Emiliano Boffelli (Racing 92 to Edinburgh)





Together with back-three compatriot Ramiro Moyano, Boffelli has made the switch from France to the Scottish capital. Only 26, it feels like he’s been around forever, given his maturity and composure at the highest level.





Emiliano Boffelli
Emiliano Boffelli was part of the Jaguares side that reached the 2019 Super Rugby final (Getty Images)




He will likely battle for the full-back jersey with incumbent Blair Kinghorn – another fleet-footed, solid 15 with a massive boot. Both are capable of playing on the wing and at fly-half, so it will be interesting to see how Mike Blair decides to use them.





Edwill van der Merwe (Stormers to Lions)





One of the hottest prospects in South African club rugby, Van der Merwe is a winger any spectator would be lucky to watch. At 25, he is soaring to peak form, having lit up the Currie Cup and conjured dazzling highlight-reel tries.





Van der Merwe could be one of the most exciting players in the league, and given Makazole Mapimpi’s Pro14 form prior to his Springbok call-up aged 28, don’t bet against the new Lion becoming a Test player. With 32-year-old sevens rapier Rosko Specman winning his first cap this year, it is evident Jacques Neinaber is happy to wait for his wingers to blossom.





WillGriff John (Sale to Scarlets)





A signing that could have implications for Wales’ front-row pecking order. With first-choice tight-head prop Tomas Francis also returning home from England, Scarlets have taken a gamble on John, a 127kg monster.





He will vie for regional selection with Samson Lee, and could pack down with Rob Evans and Ken Owens in a potent front trio. If John can prove a dominant scrummager, Wayne Pivac will surely consider him for Test honours. John was 24 hours away from a starting debut for Wales against Scotland before the pandemic ended the 2020 Six Nations, so he will be keen to take this opportunity and live his dream.





Michael Ala’alatoa (Crusaders to Leinster)





May not seem like a flashy signing on the surface, but this is a big deal at the RDS. Ala’alatoa is Leinster’s first overseas signing since a certain Scott Fardy. Leo Cullen is clearly proud of the Irish representation in his squad, so it must take a lot to impress him.





Samoan skipper Ala’alatoa must have shown he can fit into Leinster’s system as their only foreign player. A solid scrummager and tackler, expect the prop to really kick on with the four-in-a-row champions.





Jac Morgan (Scarlets to Ospreys)





Young flanker Morgan is arguably Welsh rugby’s best uncapped player. In a move that shocked many Scarlets fans, he joined a club on the up, making astute signings on its way. Alex Cuthbert is another strong addition to Toby Booth’s squad. To take such a risk at 21, Morgan must believe the Ospreys coaches can help him develop into the fully-fledged international bruiser he could so very evidently become. 





Jac Morgan
Jac Morgan has routinely made his presence felt in the red of Scarlets, and was one of the league’s top performers last term (Getty Images)




Booth’s snapping up of Leinster academy backrow Will Hickey is another really smart piece of business – poaching one of the senior members of the best academy in world rugby surely can’t backfire. Hickey could be the next Tadhg Beirne, Sam Underhill or Robin Copeland – developing in Wales before moving back to their native country to seek international honours.





Asaeli Tuivuaka (Fiji Sevens to Zebre)





Zebre have long struggled to break into the top half of the table. What needs to change? The leadership? Maybe. The kicking strategy? Sure. The option to just chuck the ball to a Fijian Olympic gold medalist? Now we’re talking. After Edinburgh’s success in converting Rio 2016 champion Viliame Mata into a world-renowned number 8, not to mention Toulouse utilising the rampaging Semi Kunitani as a dynamic lock/flanker, this feels like a perfect signing for the Italian side.





Asaeli Tuivuaka
Asaeli Tuivuaka was a colossal member of Fiji’s all-conquering Olympic sevens side (Getty Images)




Simon Zebo (Racing 92 to Munster)





The last selection has to be Zebo, doesn’t it? Who doesn’t love the guy? A fun-loving winger who is exhilarating on the field and delightful off it, the return of the Cork man will have Munster fans drooling. The only downside is we no longer get to witness him chortling on the pitch with Finn Russell and Kurtley Beale. Instead, we will see the incisive back-three danger man cutting lines off World Cup winners Damien de Allende and RG Snyman.





Munster may be known for their direct style, and as opposing fans we’ve all sat through Thomond Park drubbings before, but with Zebo smiling to the cameras, nobody will accuse this man in red of being dull.





More stories from Will Owen







If you’ve enjoyed this article, please share it with friends or on social media. We rely solely on new subscribers to fund high-quality journalism and appreciate you sharing this so we can continue to grow, produce more quality content and support our writers.



Simon Zebo (Racing 92 to Munster)





The last selection has to be Zebo, doesn’t it? Who doesn’t love the guy? A fun-loving winger who is exhilarating on the field and delightful off it, the return of the Cork man will have Munster fans drooling. The only downside is we no longer get to witness him chortling on the pitch with Finn Russell and Kurtley Beale. Instead, we will see the incisive back-three danger man cutting lines off World Cup winners Damien de Allende and RG Snyman.





Munster may be known for their direct style, and as opposing fans we’ve all sat through Thomond Park drubbings before, but with Zebo smiling to the cameras, nobody will accuse this man in red of being dull.





More stories from Will Owen







If you’ve enjoyed this article, please share it with friends or on social media. We rely solely on new subscribers to fund high-quality journalism and appreciate you sharing this so we can continue to grow, produce more quality content and support our writers.



Emiliano Boffelli (Racing 92 to Edinburgh)





Together with back-three compatriot Ramiro Moyano, Boffelli has made the switch from France to the Scottish capital. Only 26, it feels like he’s been around forever, given his maturity and composure at the highest level.





Emiliano Boffelli
Emiliano Boffelli was part of the Jaguares side that reached the 2019 Super Rugby final (Getty Images)




He will likely battle for the full-back jersey with incumbent Blair Kinghorn – another fleet-footed, solid 15 with a massive boot. Both are capable of playing on the wing and at fly-half, so it will be interesting to see how Mike Blair decides to use them.





Edwill van der Merwe (Stormers to Lions)





One of the hottest prospects in South African club rugby, Van der Merwe is a winger any spectator would be lucky to watch. At 25, he is soaring to peak form, having lit up the Currie Cup and conjured dazzling highlight-reel tries.





Van der Merwe could be one of the most exciting players in the league, and given Makazole Mapimpi’s Pro14 form prior to his Springbok call-up aged 28, don’t bet against the new Lion becoming a Test player. With 32-year-old sevens rapier Rosko Specman winning his first cap this year, it is evident Jacques Neinaber is happy to wait for his wingers to blossom.





WillGriff John (Sale to Scarlets)





A signing that could have implications for Wales’ front-row pecking order. With first-choice tight-head prop Tomas Francis also returning home from England, Scarlets have taken a gamble on John, a 127kg monster.





He will vie for regional selection with Samson Lee, and could pack down with Rob Evans and Ken Owens in a potent front trio. If John can prove a dominant scrummager, Wayne Pivac will surely consider him for Test honours. John was 24 hours away from a starting debut for Wales against Scotland before the pandemic ended the 2020 Six Nations, so he will be keen to take this opportunity and live his dream.





Michael Ala’alatoa (Crusaders to Leinster)





May not seem like a flashy signing on the surface, but this is a big deal at the RDS. Ala’alatoa is Leinster’s first overseas signing since a certain Scott Fardy. Leo Cullen is clearly proud of the Irish representation in his squad, so it must take a lot to impress him.





Samoan skipper Ala’alatoa must have shown he can fit into Leinster’s system as their only foreign player. A solid scrummager and tackler, expect the prop to really kick on with the four-in-a-row champions.





Jac Morgan (Scarlets to Ospreys)





Young flanker Morgan is arguably Welsh rugby’s best uncapped player. In a move that shocked many Scarlets fans, he joined a club on the up, making astute signings on its way. Alex Cuthbert is another strong addition to Toby Booth’s squad. To take such a risk at 21, Morgan must believe the Ospreys coaches can help him develop into the fully-fledged international bruiser he could so very evidently become. 





Jac Morgan
Jac Morgan has routinely made his presence felt in the red of Scarlets, and was one of the league’s top performers last term (Getty Images)




Booth’s snapping up of Leinster academy backrow Will Hickey is another really smart piece of business – poaching one of the senior members of the best academy in world rugby surely can’t backfire. Hickey could be the next Tadhg Beirne, Sam Underhill or Robin Copeland – developing in Wales before moving back to their native country to seek international honours.





Asaeli Tuivuaka (Fiji Sevens to Zebre)





Zebre have long struggled to break into the top half of the table. What needs to change? The leadership? Maybe. The kicking strategy? Sure. The option to just chuck the ball to a Fijian Olympic gold medalist? Now we’re talking. After Edinburgh’s success in converting Rio 2016 champion Viliame Mata into a world-renowned number 8, not to mention Toulouse utilising the rampaging Semi Kunitani as a dynamic lock/flanker, this feels like a perfect signing for the Italian side.





Asaeli Tuivuaka
Asaeli Tuivuaka was a colossal member of Fiji’s all-conquering Olympic sevens side (Getty Images)




Simon Zebo (Racing 92 to Munster)





The last selection has to be Zebo, doesn’t it? Who doesn’t love the guy? A fun-loving winger who is exhilarating on the field and delightful off it, the return of the Cork man will have Munster fans drooling. The only downside is we no longer get to witness him chortling on the pitch with Finn Russell and Kurtley Beale. Instead, we will see the incisive back-three danger man cutting lines off World Cup winners Damien de Allende and RG Snyman.





Munster may be known for their direct style, and as opposing fans we’ve all sat through Thomond Park drubbings before, but with Zebo smiling to the cameras, nobody will accuse this man in red of being dull.





More stories from Will Owen







If you’ve enjoyed this article, please share it with friends or on social media. We rely solely on new subscribers to fund high-quality journalism and appreciate you sharing this so we can continue to grow, produce more quality content and support our writers.



Duane Vermeulen (Blue Bulls to Ulster)





If you’re named after a Marvel Superhero, you must have been doing something right. In a buccaneering Test career, the bearded 6ft 4in, 18st Springbok gained the moniker Thor for his rampaging busts in midfield, soft-hands out of contact – few will forget his sweet offload to Fourie du Preez in the 2015 Rugby World Cup quarter-final – and rib-clattering hits.





At 35, he may well be in the latter stages of his career, but if Alun Wyn Jones, and Johnny Sexton, who have both turned 36 in recent months, are still influential figures in the URC, then there is nothing stopping Vermeulen being a talisman around which the Ulster pack can thrive. It is a statement signing to signify a new era for the league.





Emiliano Boffelli (Racing 92 to Edinburgh)





Together with back-three compatriot Ramiro Moyano, Boffelli has made the switch from France to the Scottish capital. Only 26, it feels like he’s been around forever, given his maturity and composure at the highest level.





Emiliano Boffelli
Emiliano Boffelli was part of the Jaguares side that reached the 2019 Super Rugby final (Getty Images)




He will likely battle for the full-back jersey with incumbent Blair Kinghorn – another fleet-footed, solid 15 with a massive boot. Both are capable of playing on the wing and at fly-half, so it will be interesting to see how Mike Blair decides to use them.





Edwill van der Merwe (Stormers to Lions)





One of the hottest prospects in South African club rugby, Van der Merwe is a winger any spectator would be lucky to watch. At 25, he is soaring to peak form, having lit up the Currie Cup and conjured dazzling highlight-reel tries.





Van der Merwe could be one of the most exciting players in the league, and given Makazole Mapimpi’s Pro14 form prior to his Springbok call-up aged 28, don’t bet against the new Lion becoming a Test player. With 32-year-old sevens rapier Rosko Specman winning his first cap this year, it is evident Jacques Neinaber is happy to wait for his wingers to blossom.





WillGriff John (Sale to Scarlets)





A signing that could have implications for Wales’ front-row pecking order. With first-choice tight-head prop Tomas Francis also returning home from England, Scarlets have taken a gamble on John, a 127kg monster.





He will vie for regional selection with Samson Lee, and could pack down with Rob Evans and Ken Owens in a potent front trio. If John can prove a dominant scrummager, Wayne Pivac will surely consider him for Test honours. John was 24 hours away from a starting debut for Wales against Scotland before the pandemic ended the 2020 Six Nations, so he will be keen to take this opportunity and live his dream.





Michael Ala’alatoa (Crusaders to Leinster)





May not seem like a flashy signing on the surface, but this is a big deal at the RDS. Ala’alatoa is Leinster’s first overseas signing since a certain Scott Fardy. Leo Cullen is clearly proud of the Irish representation in his squad, so it must take a lot to impress him.





Samoan skipper Ala’alatoa must have shown he can fit into Leinster’s system as their only foreign player. A solid scrummager and tackler, expect the prop to really kick on with the four-in-a-row champions.





Jac Morgan (Scarlets to Ospreys)





Young flanker Morgan is arguably Welsh rugby’s best uncapped player. In a move that shocked many Scarlets fans, he joined a club on the up, making astute signings on its way. Alex Cuthbert is another strong addition to Toby Booth’s squad. To take such a risk at 21, Morgan must believe the Ospreys coaches can help him develop into the fully-fledged international bruiser he could so very evidently become. 





Jac Morgan
Jac Morgan has routinely made his presence felt in the red of Scarlets, and was one of the league’s top performers last term (Getty Images)




Booth’s snapping up of Leinster academy backrow Will Hickey is another really smart piece of business – poaching one of the senior members of the best academy in world rugby surely can’t backfire. Hickey could be the next Tadhg Beirne, Sam Underhill or Robin Copeland – developing in Wales before moving back to their native country to seek international honours.





Asaeli Tuivuaka (Fiji Sevens to Zebre)





Zebre have long struggled to break into the top half of the table. What needs to change? The leadership? Maybe. The kicking strategy? Sure. The option to just chuck the ball to a Fijian Olympic gold medalist? Now we’re talking. After Edinburgh’s success in converting Rio 2016 champion Viliame Mata into a world-renowned number 8, not to mention Toulouse utilising the rampaging Semi Kunitani as a dynamic lock/flanker, this feels like a perfect signing for the Italian side.





Asaeli Tuivuaka
Asaeli Tuivuaka was a colossal member of Fiji’s all-conquering Olympic sevens side (Getty Images)




Simon Zebo (Racing 92 to Munster)





The last selection has to be Zebo, doesn’t it? Who doesn’t love the guy? A fun-loving winger who is exhilarating on the field and delightful off it, the return of the Cork man will have Munster fans drooling. The only downside is we no longer get to witness him chortling on the pitch with Finn Russell and Kurtley Beale. Instead, we will see the incisive back-three danger man cutting lines off World Cup winners Damien de Allende and RG Snyman.





Munster may be known for their direct style, and as opposing fans we’ve all sat through Thomond Park drubbings before, but with Zebo smiling to the cameras, nobody will accuse this man in red of being dull.





More stories from Will Owen







If you’ve enjoyed this article, please share it with friends or on social media. We rely solely on new subscribers to fund high-quality journalism and appreciate you sharing this so we can continue to grow, produce more quality content and support our writers.



The roar of the crowd. The crackling anticipation of live rugby in pulsating stadia. The smell of linament wafting from changing rooms. The taste of lukewarm, hideously overpriced lager in plastic cups. The opportunity to sit down on a Friday night and watch Dragons playing Ulster. 





Yep, a new season is upon us, so what’s not to love?





With the dawn of each campaign comes acclimatisation. You ask why Benetton aren’t picking Paolo Garbisi before remembering he signed for Montpellier in the summer. You spend the first three weeks of the season deciding whether or not Domingo Miotti looks good in a Glasgow jersey. 





These are seminal months for the competition now formerly known as the Pro14. The arrival of South Africa’s heavyweight quartet, a glossy summer rebrand as the United Rugby Championship, and even a partnership with Jay-Z’s Roc Nation entertainment company.  





There have been some eye-catching signings in the off-season too, from a World Cup winner to an Olympic colossus, homecoming heroes to a gifted Welshman with a big future opting to switch regions. Here, The XV hand-picks some of the tastiest acquisitions for the championship ahead.





Duane Vermeulen (Blue Bulls to Ulster)





If you’re named after a Marvel Superhero, you must have been doing something right. In a buccaneering Test career, the bearded 6ft 4in, 18st Springbok gained the moniker Thor for his rampaging busts in midfield, soft-hands out of contact – few will forget his sweet offload to Fourie du Preez in the 2015 Rugby World Cup quarter-final – and rib-clattering hits.





At 35, he may well be in the latter stages of his career, but if Alun Wyn Jones, and Johnny Sexton, who have both turned 36 in recent months, are still influential figures in the URC, then there is nothing stopping Vermeulen being a talisman around which the Ulster pack can thrive. It is a statement signing to signify a new era for the league.





Emiliano Boffelli (Racing 92 to Edinburgh)





Together with back-three compatriot Ramiro Moyano, Boffelli has made the switch from France to the Scottish capital. Only 26, it feels like he’s been around forever, given his maturity and composure at the highest level.





Emiliano Boffelli
Emiliano Boffelli was part of the Jaguares side that reached the 2019 Super Rugby final (Getty Images)




He will likely battle for the full-back jersey with incumbent Blair Kinghorn – another fleet-footed, solid 15 with a massive boot. Both are capable of playing on the wing and at fly-half, so it will be interesting to see how Mike Blair decides to use them.





Edwill van der Merwe (Stormers to Lions)





One of the hottest prospects in South African club rugby, Van der Merwe is a winger any spectator would be lucky to watch. At 25, he is soaring to peak form, having lit up the Currie Cup and conjured dazzling highlight-reel tries.





Van der Merwe could be one of the most exciting players in the league, and given Makazole Mapimpi’s Pro14 form prior to his Springbok call-up aged 28, don’t bet against the new Lion becoming a Test player. With 32-year-old sevens rapier Rosko Specman winning his first cap this year, it is evident Jacques Neinaber is happy to wait for his wingers to blossom.





WillGriff John (Sale to Scarlets)





A signing that could have implications for Wales’ front-row pecking order. With first-choice tight-head prop Tomas Francis also returning home from England, Scarlets have taken a gamble on John, a 127kg monster.





He will vie for regional selection with Samson Lee, and could pack down with Rob Evans and Ken Owens in a potent front trio. If John can prove a dominant scrummager, Wayne Pivac will surely consider him for Test honours. John was 24 hours away from a starting debut for Wales against Scotland before the pandemic ended the 2020 Six Nations, so he will be keen to take this opportunity and live his dream.





Michael Ala’alatoa (Crusaders to Leinster)





May not seem like a flashy signing on the surface, but this is a big deal at the RDS. Ala’alatoa is Leinster’s first overseas signing since a certain Scott Fardy. Leo Cullen is clearly proud of the Irish representation in his squad, so it must take a lot to impress him.





Samoan skipper Ala’alatoa must have shown he can fit into Leinster’s system as their only foreign player. A solid scrummager and tackler, expect the prop to really kick on with the four-in-a-row champions.





Jac Morgan (Scarlets to Ospreys)





Young flanker Morgan is arguably Welsh rugby’s best uncapped player. In a move that shocked many Scarlets fans, he joined a club on the up, making astute signings on its way. Alex Cuthbert is another strong addition to Toby Booth’s squad. To take such a risk at 21, Morgan must believe the Ospreys coaches can help him develop into the fully-fledged international bruiser he could so very evidently become. 





Jac Morgan
Jac Morgan has routinely made his presence felt in the red of Scarlets, and was one of the league’s top performers last term (Getty Images)




Booth’s snapping up of Leinster academy backrow Will Hickey is another really smart piece of business – poaching one of the senior members of the best academy in world rugby surely can’t backfire. Hickey could be the next Tadhg Beirne, Sam Underhill or Robin Copeland – developing in Wales before moving back to their native country to seek international honours.





Asaeli Tuivuaka (Fiji Sevens to Zebre)





Zebre have long struggled to break into the top half of the table. What needs to change? The leadership? Maybe. The kicking strategy? Sure. The option to just chuck the ball to a Fijian Olympic gold medalist? Now we’re talking. After Edinburgh’s success in converting Rio 2016 champion Viliame Mata into a world-renowned number 8, not to mention Toulouse utilising the rampaging Semi Kunitani as a dynamic lock/flanker, this feels like a perfect signing for the Italian side.





Asaeli Tuivuaka
Asaeli Tuivuaka was a colossal member of Fiji’s all-conquering Olympic sevens side (Getty Images)




Simon Zebo (Racing 92 to Munster)





The last selection has to be Zebo, doesn’t it? Who doesn’t love the guy? A fun-loving winger who is exhilarating on the field and delightful off it, the return of the Cork man will have Munster fans drooling. The only downside is we no longer get to witness him chortling on the pitch with Finn Russell and Kurtley Beale. Instead, we will see the incisive back-three danger man cutting lines off World Cup winners Damien de Allende and RG Snyman.





Munster may be known for their direct style, and as opposing fans we’ve all sat through Thomond Park drubbings before, but with Zebo smiling to the cameras, nobody will accuse this man in red of being dull.





More stories from Will Owen







If you’ve enjoyed this article, please share it with friends or on social media. We rely solely on new subscribers to fund high-quality journalism and appreciate you sharing this so we can continue to grow, produce more quality content and support our writers.



Asaeli Tuivuaka (Fiji Sevens to Zebre)





Zebre have long struggled to break into the top half of the table. What needs to change? The leadership? Maybe. The kicking strategy? Sure. The option to just chuck the ball to a Fijian Olympic gold medalist? Now we’re talking. After Edinburgh’s success in converting Rio 2016 champion Viliame Mata into a world-renowned number 8, not to mention Toulouse utilising the rampaging Semi Kunitani as a dynamic lock/flanker, this feels like a perfect signing for the Italian side.





Asaeli Tuivuaka
Asaeli Tuivuaka was a colossal member of Fiji’s all-conquering Olympic sevens side (Getty Images)




Simon Zebo (Racing 92 to Munster)





The last selection has to be Zebo, doesn’t it? Who doesn’t love the guy? A fun-loving winger who is exhilarating on the field and delightful off it, the return of the Cork man will have Munster fans drooling. The only downside is we no longer get to witness him chortling on the pitch with Finn Russell and Kurtley Beale. Instead, we will see the incisive back-three danger man cutting lines off World Cup winners Damien de Allende and RG Snyman.





Munster may be known for their direct style, and as opposing fans we’ve all sat through Thomond Park drubbings before, but with Zebo smiling to the cameras, nobody will accuse this man in red of being dull.





More stories from Will Owen







If you’ve enjoyed this article, please share it with friends or on social media. We rely solely on new subscribers to fund high-quality journalism and appreciate you sharing this so we can continue to grow, produce more quality content and support our writers.



Emiliano Boffelli (Racing 92 to Edinburgh)





Together with back-three compatriot Ramiro Moyano, Boffelli has made the switch from France to the Scottish capital. Only 26, it feels like he’s been around forever, given his maturity and composure at the highest level.





Emiliano Boffelli
Emiliano Boffelli was part of the Jaguares side that reached the 2019 Super Rugby final (Getty Images)




He will likely battle for the full-back jersey with incumbent Blair Kinghorn – another fleet-footed, solid 15 with a massive boot. Both are capable of playing on the wing and at fly-half, so it will be interesting to see how Mike Blair decides to use them.





Edwill van der Merwe (Stormers to Lions)





One of the hottest prospects in South African club rugby, Van der Merwe is a winger any spectator would be lucky to watch. At 25, he is soaring to peak form, having lit up the Currie Cup and conjured dazzling highlight-reel tries.





Van der Merwe could be one of the most exciting players in the league, and given Makazole Mapimpi’s Pro14 form prior to his Springbok call-up aged 28, don’t bet against the new Lion becoming a Test player. With 32-year-old sevens rapier Rosko Specman winning his first cap this year, it is evident Jacques Neinaber is happy to wait for his wingers to blossom.





WillGriff John (Sale to Scarlets)





A signing that could have implications for Wales’ front-row pecking order. With first-choice tight-head prop Tomas Francis also returning home from England, Scarlets have taken a gamble on John, a 127kg monster.





He will vie for regional selection with Samson Lee, and could pack down with Rob Evans and Ken Owens in a potent front trio. If John can prove a dominant scrummager, Wayne Pivac will surely consider him for Test honours. John was 24 hours away from a starting debut for Wales against Scotland before the pandemic ended the 2020 Six Nations, so he will be keen to take this opportunity and live his dream.





Michael Ala’alatoa (Crusaders to Leinster)





May not seem like a flashy signing on the surface, but this is a big deal at the RDS. Ala’alatoa is Leinster’s first overseas signing since a certain Scott Fardy. Leo Cullen is clearly proud of the Irish representation in his squad, so it must take a lot to impress him.





Samoan skipper Ala’alatoa must have shown he can fit into Leinster’s system as their only foreign player. A solid scrummager and tackler, expect the prop to really kick on with the four-in-a-row champions.





Jac Morgan (Scarlets to Ospreys)





Young flanker Morgan is arguably Welsh rugby’s best uncapped player. In a move that shocked many Scarlets fans, he joined a club on the up, making astute signings on its way. Alex Cuthbert is another strong addition to Toby Booth’s squad. To take such a risk at 21, Morgan must believe the Ospreys coaches can help him develop into the fully-fledged international bruiser he could so very evidently become. 





Jac Morgan
Jac Morgan has routinely made his presence felt in the red of Scarlets, and was one of the league’s top performers last term (Getty Images)




Booth’s snapping up of Leinster academy backrow Will Hickey is another really smart piece of business – poaching one of the senior members of the best academy in world rugby surely can’t backfire. Hickey could be the next Tadhg Beirne, Sam Underhill or Robin Copeland – developing in Wales before moving back to their native country to seek international honours.





Asaeli Tuivuaka (Fiji Sevens to Zebre)





Zebre have long struggled to break into the top half of the table. What needs to change? The leadership? Maybe. The kicking strategy? Sure. The option to just chuck the ball to a Fijian Olympic gold medalist? Now we’re talking. After Edinburgh’s success in converting Rio 2016 champion Viliame Mata into a world-renowned number 8, not to mention Toulouse utilising the rampaging Semi Kunitani as a dynamic lock/flanker, this feels like a perfect signing for the Italian side.





Asaeli Tuivuaka
Asaeli Tuivuaka was a colossal member of Fiji’s all-conquering Olympic sevens side (Getty Images)




Simon Zebo (Racing 92 to Munster)





The last selection has to be Zebo, doesn’t it? Who doesn’t love the guy? A fun-loving winger who is exhilarating on the field and delightful off it, the return of the Cork man will have Munster fans drooling. The only downside is we no longer get to witness him chortling on the pitch with Finn Russell and Kurtley Beale. Instead, we will see the incisive back-three danger man cutting lines off World Cup winners Damien de Allende and RG Snyman.





Munster may be known for their direct style, and as opposing fans we’ve all sat through Thomond Park drubbings before, but with Zebo smiling to the cameras, nobody will accuse this man in red of being dull.





More stories from Will Owen







If you’ve enjoyed this article, please share it with friends or on social media. We rely solely on new subscribers to fund high-quality journalism and appreciate you sharing this so we can continue to grow, produce more quality content and support our writers.



Duane Vermeulen (Blue Bulls to Ulster)





If you’re named after a Marvel Superhero, you must have been doing something right. In a buccaneering Test career, the bearded 6ft 4in, 18st Springbok gained the moniker Thor for his rampaging busts in midfield, soft-hands out of contact – few will forget his sweet offload to Fourie du Preez in the 2015 Rugby World Cup quarter-final – and rib-clattering hits.





At 35, he may well be in the latter stages of his career, but if Alun Wyn Jones, and Johnny Sexton, who have both turned 36 in recent months, are still influential figures in the URC, then there is nothing stopping Vermeulen being a talisman around which the Ulster pack can thrive. It is a statement signing to signify a new era for the league.





Emiliano Boffelli (Racing 92 to Edinburgh)





Together with back-three compatriot Ramiro Moyano, Boffelli has made the switch from France to the Scottish capital. Only 26, it feels like he’s been around forever, given his maturity and composure at the highest level.





Emiliano Boffelli
Emiliano Boffelli was part of the Jaguares side that reached the 2019 Super Rugby final (Getty Images)




He will likely battle for the full-back jersey with incumbent Blair Kinghorn – another fleet-footed, solid 15 with a massive boot. Both are capable of playing on the wing and at fly-half, so it will be interesting to see how Mike Blair decides to use them.





Edwill van der Merwe (Stormers to Lions)





One of the hottest prospects in South African club rugby, Van der Merwe is a winger any spectator would be lucky to watch. At 25, he is soaring to peak form, having lit up the Currie Cup and conjured dazzling highlight-reel tries.





Van der Merwe could be one of the most exciting players in the league, and given Makazole Mapimpi’s Pro14 form prior to his Springbok call-up aged 28, don’t bet against the new Lion becoming a Test player. With 32-year-old sevens rapier Rosko Specman winning his first cap this year, it is evident Jacques Neinaber is happy to wait for his wingers to blossom.





WillGriff John (Sale to Scarlets)





A signing that could have implications for Wales’ front-row pecking order. With first-choice tight-head prop Tomas Francis also returning home from England, Scarlets have taken a gamble on John, a 127kg monster.





He will vie for regional selection with Samson Lee, and could pack down with Rob Evans and Ken Owens in a potent front trio. If John can prove a dominant scrummager, Wayne Pivac will surely consider him for Test honours. John was 24 hours away from a starting debut for Wales against Scotland before the pandemic ended the 2020 Six Nations, so he will be keen to take this opportunity and live his dream.





Michael Ala’alatoa (Crusaders to Leinster)





May not seem like a flashy signing on the surface, but this is a big deal at the RDS. Ala’alatoa is Leinster’s first overseas signing since a certain Scott Fardy. Leo Cullen is clearly proud of the Irish representation in his squad, so it must take a lot to impress him.





Samoan skipper Ala’alatoa must have shown he can fit into Leinster’s system as their only foreign player. A solid scrummager and tackler, expect the prop to really kick on with the four-in-a-row champions.





Jac Morgan (Scarlets to Ospreys)





Young flanker Morgan is arguably Welsh rugby’s best uncapped player. In a move that shocked many Scarlets fans, he joined a club on the up, making astute signings on its way. Alex Cuthbert is another strong addition to Toby Booth’s squad. To take such a risk at 21, Morgan must believe the Ospreys coaches can help him develop into the fully-fledged international bruiser he could so very evidently become. 





Jac Morgan
Jac Morgan has routinely made his presence felt in the red of Scarlets, and was one of the league’s top performers last term (Getty Images)




Booth’s snapping up of Leinster academy backrow Will Hickey is another really smart piece of business – poaching one of the senior members of the best academy in world rugby surely can’t backfire. Hickey could be the next Tadhg Beirne, Sam Underhill or Robin Copeland – developing in Wales before moving back to their native country to seek international honours.





Asaeli Tuivuaka (Fiji Sevens to Zebre)





Zebre have long struggled to break into the top half of the table. What needs to change? The leadership? Maybe. The kicking strategy? Sure. The option to just chuck the ball to a Fijian Olympic gold medalist? Now we’re talking. After Edinburgh’s success in converting Rio 2016 champion Viliame Mata into a world-renowned number 8, not to mention Toulouse utilising the rampaging Semi Kunitani as a dynamic lock/flanker, this feels like a perfect signing for the Italian side.





Asaeli Tuivuaka
Asaeli Tuivuaka was a colossal member of Fiji’s all-conquering Olympic sevens side (Getty Images)




Simon Zebo (Racing 92 to Munster)





The last selection has to be Zebo, doesn’t it? Who doesn’t love the guy? A fun-loving winger who is exhilarating on the field and delightful off it, the return of the Cork man will have Munster fans drooling. The only downside is we no longer get to witness him chortling on the pitch with Finn Russell and Kurtley Beale. Instead, we will see the incisive back-three danger man cutting lines off World Cup winners Damien de Allende and RG Snyman.





Munster may be known for their direct style, and as opposing fans we’ve all sat through Thomond Park drubbings before, but with Zebo smiling to the cameras, nobody will accuse this man in red of being dull.





More stories from Will Owen







If you’ve enjoyed this article, please share it with friends or on social media. We rely solely on new subscribers to fund high-quality journalism and appreciate you sharing this so we can continue to grow, produce more quality content and support our writers.



The roar of the crowd. The crackling anticipation of live rugby in pulsating stadia. The smell of linament wafting from changing rooms. The taste of lukewarm, hideously overpriced lager in plastic cups. The opportunity to sit down on a Friday night and watch Dragons playing Ulster. 





Yep, a new season is upon us, so what’s not to love?





With the dawn of each campaign comes acclimatisation. You ask why Benetton aren’t picking Paolo Garbisi before remembering he signed for Montpellier in the summer. You spend the first three weeks of the season deciding whether or not Domingo Miotti looks good in a Glasgow jersey. 





These are seminal months for the competition now formerly known as the Pro14. The arrival of South Africa’s heavyweight quartet, a glossy summer rebrand as the United Rugby Championship, and even a partnership with Jay-Z’s Roc Nation entertainment company.  





There have been some eye-catching signings in the off-season too, from a World Cup winner to an Olympic colossus, homecoming heroes to a gifted Welshman with a big future opting to switch regions. Here, The XV hand-picks some of the tastiest acquisitions for the championship ahead.





Duane Vermeulen (Blue Bulls to Ulster)





If you’re named after a Marvel Superhero, you must have been doing something right. In a buccaneering Test career, the bearded 6ft 4in, 18st Springbok gained the moniker Thor for his rampaging busts in midfield, soft-hands out of contact – few will forget his sweet offload to Fourie du Preez in the 2015 Rugby World Cup quarter-final – and rib-clattering hits.





At 35, he may well be in the latter stages of his career, but if Alun Wyn Jones, and Johnny Sexton, who have both turned 36 in recent months, are still influential figures in the URC, then there is nothing stopping Vermeulen being a talisman around which the Ulster pack can thrive. It is a statement signing to signify a new era for the league.





Emiliano Boffelli (Racing 92 to Edinburgh)





Together with back-three compatriot Ramiro Moyano, Boffelli has made the switch from France to the Scottish capital. Only 26, it feels like he’s been around forever, given his maturity and composure at the highest level.





Emiliano Boffelli
Emiliano Boffelli was part of the Jaguares side that reached the 2019 Super Rugby final (Getty Images)




He will likely battle for the full-back jersey with incumbent Blair Kinghorn – another fleet-footed, solid 15 with a massive boot. Both are capable of playing on the wing and at fly-half, so it will be interesting to see how Mike Blair decides to use them.





Edwill van der Merwe (Stormers to Lions)





One of the hottest prospects in South African club rugby, Van der Merwe is a winger any spectator would be lucky to watch. At 25, he is soaring to peak form, having lit up the Currie Cup and conjured dazzling highlight-reel tries.





Van der Merwe could be one of the most exciting players in the league, and given Makazole Mapimpi’s Pro14 form prior to his Springbok call-up aged 28, don’t bet against the new Lion becoming a Test player. With 32-year-old sevens rapier Rosko Specman winning his first cap this year, it is evident Jacques Neinaber is happy to wait for his wingers to blossom.





WillGriff John (Sale to Scarlets)





A signing that could have implications for Wales’ front-row pecking order. With first-choice tight-head prop Tomas Francis also returning home from England, Scarlets have taken a gamble on John, a 127kg monster.





He will vie for regional selection with Samson Lee, and could pack down with Rob Evans and Ken Owens in a potent front trio. If John can prove a dominant scrummager, Wayne Pivac will surely consider him for Test honours. John was 24 hours away from a starting debut for Wales against Scotland before the pandemic ended the 2020 Six Nations, so he will be keen to take this opportunity and live his dream.





Michael Ala’alatoa (Crusaders to Leinster)





May not seem like a flashy signing on the surface, but this is a big deal at the RDS. Ala’alatoa is Leinster’s first overseas signing since a certain Scott Fardy. Leo Cullen is clearly proud of the Irish representation in his squad, so it must take a lot to impress him.





Samoan skipper Ala’alatoa must have shown he can fit into Leinster’s system as their only foreign player. A solid scrummager and tackler, expect the prop to really kick on with the four-in-a-row champions.





Jac Morgan (Scarlets to Ospreys)





Young flanker Morgan is arguably Welsh rugby’s best uncapped player. In a move that shocked many Scarlets fans, he joined a club on the up, making astute signings on its way. Alex Cuthbert is another strong addition to Toby Booth’s squad. To take such a risk at 21, Morgan must believe the Ospreys coaches can help him develop into the fully-fledged international bruiser he could so very evidently become. 





Jac Morgan
Jac Morgan has routinely made his presence felt in the red of Scarlets, and was one of the league’s top performers last term (Getty Images)




Booth’s snapping up of Leinster academy backrow Will Hickey is another really smart piece of business – poaching one of the senior members of the best academy in world rugby surely can’t backfire. Hickey could be the next Tadhg Beirne, Sam Underhill or Robin Copeland – developing in Wales before moving back to their native country to seek international honours.





Asaeli Tuivuaka (Fiji Sevens to Zebre)





Zebre have long struggled to break into the top half of the table. What needs to change? The leadership? Maybe. The kicking strategy? Sure. The option to just chuck the ball to a Fijian Olympic gold medalist? Now we’re talking. After Edinburgh’s success in converting Rio 2016 champion Viliame Mata into a world-renowned number 8, not to mention Toulouse utilising the rampaging Semi Kunitani as a dynamic lock/flanker, this feels like a perfect signing for the Italian side.





Asaeli Tuivuaka
Asaeli Tuivuaka was a colossal member of Fiji’s all-conquering Olympic sevens side (Getty Images)




Simon Zebo (Racing 92 to Munster)





The last selection has to be Zebo, doesn’t it? Who doesn’t love the guy? A fun-loving winger who is exhilarating on the field and delightful off it, the return of the Cork man will have Munster fans drooling. The only downside is we no longer get to witness him chortling on the pitch with Finn Russell and Kurtley Beale. Instead, we will see the incisive back-three danger man cutting lines off World Cup winners Damien de Allende and RG Snyman.





Munster may be known for their direct style, and as opposing fans we’ve all sat through Thomond Park drubbings before, but with Zebo smiling to the cameras, nobody will accuse this man in red of being dull.





More stories from Will Owen







If you’ve enjoyed this article, please share it with friends or on social media. We rely solely on new subscribers to fund high-quality journalism and appreciate you sharing this so we can continue to grow, produce more quality content and support our writers.



Jac Morgan (Scarlets to Ospreys)





Young flanker Morgan is arguably Welsh rugby’s best uncapped player. In a move that shocked many Scarlets fans, he joined a club on the up, making astute signings on its way. Alex Cuthbert is another strong addition to Toby Booth’s squad. To take such a risk at 21, Morgan must believe the Ospreys coaches can help him develop into the fully-fledged international bruiser he could so very evidently become. 





Jac Morgan
Jac Morgan has routinely made his presence felt in the red of Scarlets, and was one of the league’s top performers last term (Getty Images)




Booth’s snapping up of Leinster academy backrow Will Hickey is another really smart piece of business – poaching one of the senior members of the best academy in world rugby surely can’t backfire. Hickey could be the next Tadhg Beirne, Sam Underhill or Robin Copeland – developing in Wales before moving back to their native country to seek international honours.





Asaeli Tuivuaka (Fiji Sevens to Zebre)





Zebre have long struggled to break into the top half of the table. What needs to change? The leadership? Maybe. The kicking strategy? Sure. The option to just chuck the ball to a Fijian Olympic gold medalist? Now we’re talking. After Edinburgh’s success in converting Rio 2016 champion Viliame Mata into a world-renowned number 8, not to mention Toulouse utilising the rampaging Semi Kunitani as a dynamic lock/flanker, this feels like a perfect signing for the Italian side.





Asaeli Tuivuaka
Asaeli Tuivuaka was a colossal member of Fiji’s all-conquering Olympic sevens side (Getty Images)




Simon Zebo (Racing 92 to Munster)





The last selection has to be Zebo, doesn’t it? Who doesn’t love the guy? A fun-loving winger who is exhilarating on the field and delightful off it, the return of the Cork man will have Munster fans drooling. The only downside is we no longer get to witness him chortling on the pitch with Finn Russell and Kurtley Beale. Instead, we will see the incisive back-three danger man cutting lines off World Cup winners Damien de Allende and RG Snyman.





Munster may be known for their direct style, and as opposing fans we’ve all sat through Thomond Park drubbings before, but with Zebo smiling to the cameras, nobody will accuse this man in red of being dull.





More stories from Will Owen







If you’ve enjoyed this article, please share it with friends or on social media. We rely solely on new subscribers to fund high-quality journalism and appreciate you sharing this so we can continue to grow, produce more quality content and support our writers.



Emiliano Boffelli (Racing 92 to Edinburgh)





Together with back-three compatriot Ramiro Moyano, Boffelli has made the switch from France to the Scottish capital. Only 26, it feels like he’s been around forever, given his maturity and composure at the highest level.





Emiliano Boffelli
Emiliano Boffelli was part of the Jaguares side that reached the 2019 Super Rugby final (Getty Images)




He will likely battle for the full-back jersey with incumbent Blair Kinghorn – another fleet-footed, solid 15 with a massive boot. Both are capable of playing on the wing and at fly-half, so it will be interesting to see how Mike Blair decides to use them.





Edwill van der Merwe (Stormers to Lions)





One of the hottest prospects in South African club rugby, Van der Merwe is a winger any spectator would be lucky to watch. At 25, he is soaring to peak form, having lit up the Currie Cup and conjured dazzling highlight-reel tries.





Van der Merwe could be one of the most exciting players in the league, and given Makazole Mapimpi’s Pro14 form prior to his Springbok call-up aged 28, don’t bet against the new Lion becoming a Test player. With 32-year-old sevens rapier Rosko Specman winning his first cap this year, it is evident Jacques Neinaber is happy to wait for his wingers to blossom.





WillGriff John (Sale to Scarlets)





A signing that could have implications for Wales’ front-row pecking order. With first-choice tight-head prop Tomas Francis also returning home from England, Scarlets have taken a gamble on John, a 127kg monster.





He will vie for regional selection with Samson Lee, and could pack down with Rob Evans and Ken Owens in a potent front trio. If John can prove a dominant scrummager, Wayne Pivac will surely consider him for Test honours. John was 24 hours away from a starting debut for Wales against Scotland before the pandemic ended the 2020 Six Nations, so he will be keen to take this opportunity and live his dream.





Michael Ala’alatoa (Crusaders to Leinster)





May not seem like a flashy signing on the surface, but this is a big deal at the RDS. Ala’alatoa is Leinster’s first overseas signing since a certain Scott Fardy. Leo Cullen is clearly proud of the Irish representation in his squad, so it must take a lot to impress him.





Samoan skipper Ala’alatoa must have shown he can fit into Leinster’s system as their only foreign player. A solid scrummager and tackler, expect the prop to really kick on with the four-in-a-row champions.





Jac Morgan (Scarlets to Ospreys)





Young flanker Morgan is arguably Welsh rugby’s best uncapped player. In a move that shocked many Scarlets fans, he joined a club on the up, making astute signings on its way. Alex Cuthbert is another strong addition to Toby Booth’s squad. To take such a risk at 21, Morgan must believe the Ospreys coaches can help him develop into the fully-fledged international bruiser he could so very evidently become. 





Jac Morgan
Jac Morgan has routinely made his presence felt in the red of Scarlets, and was one of the league’s top performers last term (Getty Images)




Booth’s snapping up of Leinster academy backrow Will Hickey is another really smart piece of business – poaching one of the senior members of the best academy in world rugby surely can’t backfire. Hickey could be the next Tadhg Beirne, Sam Underhill or Robin Copeland – developing in Wales before moving back to their native country to seek international honours.





Asaeli Tuivuaka (Fiji Sevens to Zebre)





Zebre have long struggled to break into the top half of the table. What needs to change? The leadership? Maybe. The kicking strategy? Sure. The option to just chuck the ball to a Fijian Olympic gold medalist? Now we’re talking. After Edinburgh’s success in converting Rio 2016 champion Viliame Mata into a world-renowned number 8, not to mention Toulouse utilising the rampaging Semi Kunitani as a dynamic lock/flanker, this feels like a perfect signing for the Italian side.





Asaeli Tuivuaka
Asaeli Tuivuaka was a colossal member of Fiji’s all-conquering Olympic sevens side (Getty Images)




Simon Zebo (Racing 92 to Munster)





The last selection has to be Zebo, doesn’t it? Who doesn’t love the guy? A fun-loving winger who is exhilarating on the field and delightful off it, the return of the Cork man will have Munster fans drooling. The only downside is we no longer get to witness him chortling on the pitch with Finn Russell and Kurtley Beale. Instead, we will see the incisive back-three danger man cutting lines off World Cup winners Damien de Allende and RG Snyman.





Munster may be known for their direct style, and as opposing fans we’ve all sat through Thomond Park drubbings before, but with Zebo smiling to the cameras, nobody will accuse this man in red of being dull.





More stories from Will Owen







If you’ve enjoyed this article, please share it with friends or on social media. We rely solely on new subscribers to fund high-quality journalism and appreciate you sharing this so we can continue to grow, produce more quality content and support our writers.



Duane Vermeulen (Blue Bulls to Ulster)





If you’re named after a Marvel Superhero, you must have been doing something right. In a buccaneering Test career, the bearded 6ft 4in, 18st Springbok gained the moniker Thor for his rampaging busts in midfield, soft-hands out of contact – few will forget his sweet offload to Fourie du Preez in the 2015 Rugby World Cup quarter-final – and rib-clattering hits.





At 35, he may well be in the latter stages of his career, but if Alun Wyn Jones, and Johnny Sexton, who have both turned 36 in recent months, are still influential figures in the URC, then there is nothing stopping Vermeulen being a talisman around which the Ulster pack can thrive. It is a statement signing to signify a new era for the league.





Emiliano Boffelli (Racing 92 to Edinburgh)





Together with back-three compatriot Ramiro Moyano, Boffelli has made the switch from France to the Scottish capital. Only 26, it feels like he’s been around forever, given his maturity and composure at the highest level.





Emiliano Boffelli
Emiliano Boffelli was part of the Jaguares side that reached the 2019 Super Rugby final (Getty Images)




He will likely battle for the full-back jersey with incumbent Blair Kinghorn – another fleet-footed, solid 15 with a massive boot. Both are capable of playing on the wing and at fly-half, so it will be interesting to see how Mike Blair decides to use them.





Edwill van der Merwe (Stormers to Lions)





One of the hottest prospects in South African club rugby, Van der Merwe is a winger any spectator would be lucky to watch. At 25, he is soaring to peak form, having lit up the Currie Cup and conjured dazzling highlight-reel tries.





Van der Merwe could be one of the most exciting players in the league, and given Makazole Mapimpi’s Pro14 form prior to his Springbok call-up aged 28, don’t bet against the new Lion becoming a Test player. With 32-year-old sevens rapier Rosko Specman winning his first cap this year, it is evident Jacques Neinaber is happy to wait for his wingers to blossom.





WillGriff John (Sale to Scarlets)





A signing that could have implications for Wales’ front-row pecking order. With first-choice tight-head prop Tomas Francis also returning home from England, Scarlets have taken a gamble on John, a 127kg monster.





He will vie for regional selection with Samson Lee, and could pack down with Rob Evans and Ken Owens in a potent front trio. If John can prove a dominant scrummager, Wayne Pivac will surely consider him for Test honours. John was 24 hours away from a starting debut for Wales against Scotland before the pandemic ended the 2020 Six Nations, so he will be keen to take this opportunity and live his dream.





Michael Ala’alatoa (Crusaders to Leinster)





May not seem like a flashy signing on the surface, but this is a big deal at the RDS. Ala’alatoa is Leinster’s first overseas signing since a certain Scott Fardy. Leo Cullen is clearly proud of the Irish representation in his squad, so it must take a lot to impress him.





Samoan skipper Ala’alatoa must have shown he can fit into Leinster’s system as their only foreign player. A solid scrummager and tackler, expect the prop to really kick on with the four-in-a-row champions.





Jac Morgan (Scarlets to Ospreys)





Young flanker Morgan is arguably Welsh rugby’s best uncapped player. In a move that shocked many Scarlets fans, he joined a club on the up, making astute signings on its way. Alex Cuthbert is another strong addition to Toby Booth’s squad. To take such a risk at 21, Morgan must believe the Ospreys coaches can help him develop into the fully-fledged international bruiser he could so very evidently become. 





Jac Morgan
Jac Morgan has routinely made his presence felt in the red of Scarlets, and was one of the league’s top performers last term (Getty Images)




Booth’s snapping up of Leinster academy backrow Will Hickey is another really smart piece of business – poaching one of the senior members of the best academy in world rugby surely can’t backfire. Hickey could be the next Tadhg Beirne, Sam Underhill or Robin Copeland – developing in Wales before moving back to their native country to seek international honours.





Asaeli Tuivuaka (Fiji Sevens to Zebre)





Zebre have long struggled to break into the top half of the table. What needs to change? The leadership? Maybe. The kicking strategy? Sure. The option to just chuck the ball to a Fijian Olympic gold medalist? Now we’re talking. After Edinburgh’s success in converting Rio 2016 champion Viliame Mata into a world-renowned number 8, not to mention Toulouse utilising the rampaging Semi Kunitani as a dynamic lock/flanker, this feels like a perfect signing for the Italian side.





Asaeli Tuivuaka
Asaeli Tuivuaka was a colossal member of Fiji’s all-conquering Olympic sevens side (Getty Images)




Simon Zebo (Racing 92 to Munster)





The last selection has to be Zebo, doesn’t it? Who doesn’t love the guy? A fun-loving winger who is exhilarating on the field and delightful off it, the return of the Cork man will have Munster fans drooling. The only downside is we no longer get to witness him chortling on the pitch with Finn Russell and Kurtley Beale. Instead, we will see the incisive back-three danger man cutting lines off World Cup winners Damien de Allende and RG Snyman.





Munster may be known for their direct style, and as opposing fans we’ve all sat through Thomond Park drubbings before, but with Zebo smiling to the cameras, nobody will accuse this man in red of being dull.





More stories from Will Owen







If you’ve enjoyed this article, please share it with friends or on social media. We rely solely on new subscribers to fund high-quality journalism and appreciate you sharing this so we can continue to grow, produce more quality content and support our writers.



The roar of the crowd. The crackling anticipation of live rugby in pulsating stadia. The smell of linament wafting from changing rooms. The taste of lukewarm, hideously overpriced lager in plastic cups. The opportunity to sit down on a Friday night and watch Dragons playing Ulster. 





Yep, a new season is upon us, so what’s not to love?





With the dawn of each campaign comes acclimatisation. You ask why Benetton aren’t picking Paolo Garbisi before remembering he signed for Montpellier in the summer. You spend the first three weeks of the season deciding whether or not Domingo Miotti looks good in a Glasgow jersey. 





These are seminal months for the competition now formerly known as the Pro14. The arrival of South Africa’s heavyweight quartet, a glossy summer rebrand as the United Rugby Championship, and even a partnership with Jay-Z’s Roc Nation entertainment company.  





There have been some eye-catching signings in the off-season too, from a World Cup winner to an Olympic colossus, homecoming heroes to a gifted Welshman with a big future opting to switch regions. Here, The XV hand-picks some of the tastiest acquisitions for the championship ahead.





Duane Vermeulen (Blue Bulls to Ulster)





If you’re named after a Marvel Superhero, you must have been doing something right. In a buccaneering Test career, the bearded 6ft 4in, 18st Springbok gained the moniker Thor for his rampaging busts in midfield, soft-hands out of contact – few will forget his sweet offload to Fourie du Preez in the 2015 Rugby World Cup quarter-final – and rib-clattering hits.





At 35, he may well be in the latter stages of his career, but if Alun Wyn Jones, and Johnny Sexton, who have both turned 36 in recent months, are still influential figures in the URC, then there is nothing stopping Vermeulen being a talisman around which the Ulster pack can thrive. It is a statement signing to signify a new era for the league.





Emiliano Boffelli (Racing 92 to Edinburgh)





Together with back-three compatriot Ramiro Moyano, Boffelli has made the switch from France to the Scottish capital. Only 26, it feels like he’s been around forever, given his maturity and composure at the highest level.





Emiliano Boffelli
Emiliano Boffelli was part of the Jaguares side that reached the 2019 Super Rugby final (Getty Images)




He will likely battle for the full-back jersey with incumbent Blair Kinghorn – another fleet-footed, solid 15 with a massive boot. Both are capable of playing on the wing and at fly-half, so it will be interesting to see how Mike Blair decides to use them.





Edwill van der Merwe (Stormers to Lions)





One of the hottest prospects in South African club rugby, Van der Merwe is a winger any spectator would be lucky to watch. At 25, he is soaring to peak form, having lit up the Currie Cup and conjured dazzling highlight-reel tries.





Van der Merwe could be one of the most exciting players in the league, and given Makazole Mapimpi’s Pro14 form prior to his Springbok call-up aged 28, don’t bet against the new Lion becoming a Test player. With 32-year-old sevens rapier Rosko Specman winning his first cap this year, it is evident Jacques Neinaber is happy to wait for his wingers to blossom.





WillGriff John (Sale to Scarlets)





A signing that could have implications for Wales’ front-row pecking order. With first-choice tight-head prop Tomas Francis also returning home from England, Scarlets have taken a gamble on John, a 127kg monster.





He will vie for regional selection with Samson Lee, and could pack down with Rob Evans and Ken Owens in a potent front trio. If John can prove a dominant scrummager, Wayne Pivac will surely consider him for Test honours. John was 24 hours away from a starting debut for Wales against Scotland before the pandemic ended the 2020 Six Nations, so he will be keen to take this opportunity and live his dream.





Michael Ala’alatoa (Crusaders to Leinster)





May not seem like a flashy signing on the surface, but this is a big deal at the RDS. Ala’alatoa is Leinster’s first overseas signing since a certain Scott Fardy. Leo Cullen is clearly proud of the Irish representation in his squad, so it must take a lot to impress him.





Samoan skipper Ala’alatoa must have shown he can fit into Leinster’s system as their only foreign player. A solid scrummager and tackler, expect the prop to really kick on with the four-in-a-row champions.





Jac Morgan (Scarlets to Ospreys)





Young flanker Morgan is arguably Welsh rugby’s best uncapped player. In a move that shocked many Scarlets fans, he joined a club on the up, making astute signings on its way. Alex Cuthbert is another strong addition to Toby Booth’s squad. To take such a risk at 21, Morgan must believe the Ospreys coaches can help him develop into the fully-fledged international bruiser he could so very evidently become. 





Jac Morgan
Jac Morgan has routinely made his presence felt in the red of Scarlets, and was one of the league’s top performers last term (Getty Images)




Booth’s snapping up of Leinster academy backrow Will Hickey is another really smart piece of business – poaching one of the senior members of the best academy in world rugby surely can’t backfire. Hickey could be the next Tadhg Beirne, Sam Underhill or Robin Copeland – developing in Wales before moving back to their native country to seek international honours.





Asaeli Tuivuaka (Fiji Sevens to Zebre)





Zebre have long struggled to break into the top half of the table. What needs to change? The leadership? Maybe. The kicking strategy? Sure. The option to just chuck the ball to a Fijian Olympic gold medalist? Now we’re talking. After Edinburgh’s success in converting Rio 2016 champion Viliame Mata into a world-renowned number 8, not to mention Toulouse utilising the rampaging Semi Kunitani as a dynamic lock/flanker, this feels like a perfect signing for the Italian side.





Asaeli Tuivuaka
Asaeli Tuivuaka was a colossal member of Fiji’s all-conquering Olympic sevens side (Getty Images)




Simon Zebo (Racing 92 to Munster)





The last selection has to be Zebo, doesn’t it? Who doesn’t love the guy? A fun-loving winger who is exhilarating on the field and delightful off it, the return of the Cork man will have Munster fans drooling. The only downside is we no longer get to witness him chortling on the pitch with Finn Russell and Kurtley Beale. Instead, we will see the incisive back-three danger man cutting lines off World Cup winners Damien de Allende and RG Snyman.





Munster may be known for their direct style, and as opposing fans we’ve all sat through Thomond Park drubbings before, but with Zebo smiling to the cameras, nobody will accuse this man in red of being dull.





More stories from Will Owen







If you’ve enjoyed this article, please share it with friends or on social media. We rely solely on new subscribers to fund high-quality journalism and appreciate you sharing this so we can continue to grow, produce more quality content and support our writers.



Michael Ala’alatoa (Crusaders to Leinster)





May not seem like a flashy signing on the surface, but this is a big deal at the RDS. Ala’alatoa is Leinster’s first overseas signing since a certain Scott Fardy. Leo Cullen is clearly proud of the Irish representation in his squad, so it must take a lot to impress him.





Samoan skipper Ala’alatoa must have shown he can fit into Leinster’s system as their only foreign player. A solid scrummager and tackler, expect the prop to really kick on with the four-in-a-row champions.





Jac Morgan (Scarlets to Ospreys)





Young flanker Morgan is arguably Welsh rugby’s best uncapped player. In a move that shocked many Scarlets fans, he joined a club on the up, making astute signings on its way. Alex Cuthbert is another strong addition to Toby Booth’s squad. To take such a risk at 21, Morgan must believe the Ospreys coaches can help him develop into the fully-fledged international bruiser he could so very evidently become. 





Jac Morgan
Jac Morgan has routinely made his presence felt in the red of Scarlets, and was one of the league’s top performers last term (Getty Images)




Booth’s snapping up of Leinster academy backrow Will Hickey is another really smart piece of business – poaching one of the senior members of the best academy in world rugby surely can’t backfire. Hickey could be the next Tadhg Beirne, Sam Underhill or Robin Copeland – developing in Wales before moving back to their native country to seek international honours.





Asaeli Tuivuaka (Fiji Sevens to Zebre)





Zebre have long struggled to break into the top half of the table. What needs to change? The leadership? Maybe. The kicking strategy? Sure. The option to just chuck the ball to a Fijian Olympic gold medalist? Now we’re talking. After Edinburgh’s success in converting Rio 2016 champion Viliame Mata into a world-renowned number 8, not to mention Toulouse utilising the rampaging Semi Kunitani as a dynamic lock/flanker, this feels like a perfect signing for the Italian side.





Asaeli Tuivuaka
Asaeli Tuivuaka was a colossal member of Fiji’s all-conquering Olympic sevens side (Getty Images)




Simon Zebo (Racing 92 to Munster)





The last selection has to be Zebo, doesn’t it? Who doesn’t love the guy? A fun-loving winger who is exhilarating on the field and delightful off it, the return of the Cork man will have Munster fans drooling. The only downside is we no longer get to witness him chortling on the pitch with Finn Russell and Kurtley Beale. Instead, we will see the incisive back-three danger man cutting lines off World Cup winners Damien de Allende and RG Snyman.





Munster may be known for their direct style, and as opposing fans we’ve all sat through Thomond Park drubbings before, but with Zebo smiling to the cameras, nobody will accuse this man in red of being dull.





More stories from Will Owen







If you’ve enjoyed this article, please share it with friends or on social media. We rely solely on new subscribers to fund high-quality journalism and appreciate you sharing this so we can continue to grow, produce more quality content and support our writers.



Emiliano Boffelli (Racing 92 to Edinburgh)





Together with back-three compatriot Ramiro Moyano, Boffelli has made the switch from France to the Scottish capital. Only 26, it feels like he’s been around forever, given his maturity and composure at the highest level.





Emiliano Boffelli
Emiliano Boffelli was part of the Jaguares side that reached the 2019 Super Rugby final (Getty Images)




He will likely battle for the full-back jersey with incumbent Blair Kinghorn – another fleet-footed, solid 15 with a massive boot. Both are capable of playing on the wing and at fly-half, so it will be interesting to see how Mike Blair decides to use them.





Edwill van der Merwe (Stormers to Lions)





One of the hottest prospects in South African club rugby, Van der Merwe is a winger any spectator would be lucky to watch. At 25, he is soaring to peak form, having lit up the Currie Cup and conjured dazzling highlight-reel tries.





Van der Merwe could be one of the most exciting players in the league, and given Makazole Mapimpi’s Pro14 form prior to his Springbok call-up aged 28, don’t bet against the new Lion becoming a Test player. With 32-year-old sevens rapier Rosko Specman winning his first cap this year, it is evident Jacques Neinaber is happy to wait for his wingers to blossom.





WillGriff John (Sale to Scarlets)





A signing that could have implications for Wales’ front-row pecking order. With first-choice tight-head prop Tomas Francis also returning home from England, Scarlets have taken a gamble on John, a 127kg monster.





He will vie for regional selection with Samson Lee, and could pack down with Rob Evans and Ken Owens in a potent front trio. If John can prove a dominant scrummager, Wayne Pivac will surely consider him for Test honours. John was 24 hours away from a starting debut for Wales against Scotland before the pandemic ended the 2020 Six Nations, so he will be keen to take this opportunity and live his dream.





Michael Ala’alatoa (Crusaders to Leinster)





May not seem like a flashy signing on the surface, but this is a big deal at the RDS. Ala’alatoa is Leinster’s first overseas signing since a certain Scott Fardy. Leo Cullen is clearly proud of the Irish representation in his squad, so it must take a lot to impress him.





Samoan skipper Ala’alatoa must have shown he can fit into Leinster’s system as their only foreign player. A solid scrummager and tackler, expect the prop to really kick on with the four-in-a-row champions.





Jac Morgan (Scarlets to Ospreys)





Young flanker Morgan is arguably Welsh rugby’s best uncapped player. In a move that shocked many Scarlets fans, he joined a club on the up, making astute signings on its way. Alex Cuthbert is another strong addition to Toby Booth’s squad. To take such a risk at 21, Morgan must believe the Ospreys coaches can help him develop into the fully-fledged international bruiser he could so very evidently become. 





Jac Morgan
Jac Morgan has routinely made his presence felt in the red of Scarlets, and was one of the league’s top performers last term (Getty Images)




Booth’s snapping up of Leinster academy backrow Will Hickey is another really smart piece of business – poaching one of the senior members of the best academy in world rugby surely can’t backfire. Hickey could be the next Tadhg Beirne, Sam Underhill or Robin Copeland – developing in Wales before moving back to their native country to seek international honours.





Asaeli Tuivuaka (Fiji Sevens to Zebre)





Zebre have long struggled to break into the top half of the table. What needs to change? The leadership? Maybe. The kicking strategy? Sure. The option to just chuck the ball to a Fijian Olympic gold medalist? Now we’re talking. After Edinburgh’s success in converting Rio 2016 champion Viliame Mata into a world-renowned number 8, not to mention Toulouse utilising the rampaging Semi Kunitani as a dynamic lock/flanker, this feels like a perfect signing for the Italian side.





Asaeli Tuivuaka
Asaeli Tuivuaka was a colossal member of Fiji’s all-conquering Olympic sevens side (Getty Images)




Simon Zebo (Racing 92 to Munster)





The last selection has to be Zebo, doesn’t it? Who doesn’t love the guy? A fun-loving winger who is exhilarating on the field and delightful off it, the return of the Cork man will have Munster fans drooling. The only downside is we no longer get to witness him chortling on the pitch with Finn Russell and Kurtley Beale. Instead, we will see the incisive back-three danger man cutting lines off World Cup winners Damien de Allende and RG Snyman.





Munster may be known for their direct style, and as opposing fans we’ve all sat through Thomond Park drubbings before, but with Zebo smiling to the cameras, nobody will accuse this man in red of being dull.





More stories from Will Owen







If you’ve enjoyed this article, please share it with friends or on social media. We rely solely on new subscribers to fund high-quality journalism and appreciate you sharing this so we can continue to grow, produce more quality content and support our writers.



Duane Vermeulen (Blue Bulls to Ulster)





If you’re named after a Marvel Superhero, you must have been doing something right. In a buccaneering Test career, the bearded 6ft 4in, 18st Springbok gained the moniker Thor for his rampaging busts in midfield, soft-hands out of contact – few will forget his sweet offload to Fourie du Preez in the 2015 Rugby World Cup quarter-final – and rib-clattering hits.





At 35, he may well be in the latter stages of his career, but if Alun Wyn Jones, and Johnny Sexton, who have both turned 36 in recent months, are still influential figures in the URC, then there is nothing stopping Vermeulen being a talisman around which the Ulster pack can thrive. It is a statement signing to signify a new era for the league.





Emiliano Boffelli (Racing 92 to Edinburgh)





Together with back-three compatriot Ramiro Moyano, Boffelli has made the switch from France to the Scottish capital. Only 26, it feels like he’s been around forever, given his maturity and composure at the highest level.





Emiliano Boffelli
Emiliano Boffelli was part of the Jaguares side that reached the 2019 Super Rugby final (Getty Images)




He will likely battle for the full-back jersey with incumbent Blair Kinghorn – another fleet-footed, solid 15 with a massive boot. Both are capable of playing on the wing and at fly-half, so it will be interesting to see how Mike Blair decides to use them.





Edwill van der Merwe (Stormers to Lions)





One of the hottest prospects in South African club rugby, Van der Merwe is a winger any spectator would be lucky to watch. At 25, he is soaring to peak form, having lit up the Currie Cup and conjured dazzling highlight-reel tries.





Van der Merwe could be one of the most exciting players in the league, and given Makazole Mapimpi’s Pro14 form prior to his Springbok call-up aged 28, don’t bet against the new Lion becoming a Test player. With 32-year-old sevens rapier Rosko Specman winning his first cap this year, it is evident Jacques Neinaber is happy to wait for his wingers to blossom.





WillGriff John (Sale to Scarlets)





A signing that could have implications for Wales’ front-row pecking order. With first-choice tight-head prop Tomas Francis also returning home from England, Scarlets have taken a gamble on John, a 127kg monster.





He will vie for regional selection with Samson Lee, and could pack down with Rob Evans and Ken Owens in a potent front trio. If John can prove a dominant scrummager, Wayne Pivac will surely consider him for Test honours. John was 24 hours away from a starting debut for Wales against Scotland before the pandemic ended the 2020 Six Nations, so he will be keen to take this opportunity and live his dream.





Michael Ala’alatoa (Crusaders to Leinster)





May not seem like a flashy signing on the surface, but this is a big deal at the RDS. Ala’alatoa is Leinster’s first overseas signing since a certain Scott Fardy. Leo Cullen is clearly proud of the Irish representation in his squad, so it must take a lot to impress him.





Samoan skipper Ala’alatoa must have shown he can fit into Leinster’s system as their only foreign player. A solid scrummager and tackler, expect the prop to really kick on with the four-in-a-row champions.





Jac Morgan (Scarlets to Ospreys)





Young flanker Morgan is arguably Welsh rugby’s best uncapped player. In a move that shocked many Scarlets fans, he joined a club on the up, making astute signings on its way. Alex Cuthbert is another strong addition to Toby Booth’s squad. To take such a risk at 21, Morgan must believe the Ospreys coaches can help him develop into the fully-fledged international bruiser he could so very evidently become. 





Jac Morgan
Jac Morgan has routinely made his presence felt in the red of Scarlets, and was one of the league’s top performers last term (Getty Images)




Booth’s snapping up of Leinster academy backrow Will Hickey is another really smart piece of business – poaching one of the senior members of the best academy in world rugby surely can’t backfire. Hickey could be the next Tadhg Beirne, Sam Underhill or Robin Copeland – developing in Wales before moving back to their native country to seek international honours.





Asaeli Tuivuaka (Fiji Sevens to Zebre)





Zebre have long struggled to break into the top half of the table. What needs to change? The leadership? Maybe. The kicking strategy? Sure. The option to just chuck the ball to a Fijian Olympic gold medalist? Now we’re talking. After Edinburgh’s success in converting Rio 2016 champion Viliame Mata into a world-renowned number 8, not to mention Toulouse utilising the rampaging Semi Kunitani as a dynamic lock/flanker, this feels like a perfect signing for the Italian side.





Asaeli Tuivuaka
Asaeli Tuivuaka was a colossal member of Fiji’s all-conquering Olympic sevens side (Getty Images)




Simon Zebo (Racing 92 to Munster)





The last selection has to be Zebo, doesn’t it? Who doesn’t love the guy? A fun-loving winger who is exhilarating on the field and delightful off it, the return of the Cork man will have Munster fans drooling. The only downside is we no longer get to witness him chortling on the pitch with Finn Russell and Kurtley Beale. Instead, we will see the incisive back-three danger man cutting lines off World Cup winners Damien de Allende and RG Snyman.





Munster may be known for their direct style, and as opposing fans we’ve all sat through Thomond Park drubbings before, but with Zebo smiling to the cameras, nobody will accuse this man in red of being dull.





More stories from Will Owen







If you’ve enjoyed this article, please share it with friends or on social media. We rely solely on new subscribers to fund high-quality journalism and appreciate you sharing this so we can continue to grow, produce more quality content and support our writers.



The roar of the crowd. The crackling anticipation of live rugby in pulsating stadia. The smell of linament wafting from changing rooms. The taste of lukewarm, hideously overpriced lager in plastic cups. The opportunity to sit down on a Friday night and watch Dragons playing Ulster. 





Yep, a new season is upon us, so what’s not to love?





With the dawn of each campaign comes acclimatisation. You ask why Benetton aren’t picking Paolo Garbisi before remembering he signed for Montpellier in the summer. You spend the first three weeks of the season deciding whether or not Domingo Miotti looks good in a Glasgow jersey. 





These are seminal months for the competition now formerly known as the Pro14. The arrival of South Africa’s heavyweight quartet, a glossy summer rebrand as the United Rugby Championship, and even a partnership with Jay-Z’s Roc Nation entertainment company.  





There have been some eye-catching signings in the off-season too, from a World Cup winner to an Olympic colossus, homecoming heroes to a gifted Welshman with a big future opting to switch regions. Here, The XV hand-picks some of the tastiest acquisitions for the championship ahead.





Duane Vermeulen (Blue Bulls to Ulster)





If you’re named after a Marvel Superhero, you must have been doing something right. In a buccaneering Test career, the bearded 6ft 4in, 18st Springbok gained the moniker Thor for his rampaging busts in midfield, soft-hands out of contact – few will forget his sweet offload to Fourie du Preez in the 2015 Rugby World Cup quarter-final – and rib-clattering hits.





At 35, he may well be in the latter stages of his career, but if Alun Wyn Jones, and Johnny Sexton, who have both turned 36 in recent months, are still influential figures in the URC, then there is nothing stopping Vermeulen being a talisman around which the Ulster pack can thrive. It is a statement signing to signify a new era for the league.





Emiliano Boffelli (Racing 92 to Edinburgh)





Together with back-three compatriot Ramiro Moyano, Boffelli has made the switch from France to the Scottish capital. Only 26, it feels like he’s been around forever, given his maturity and composure at the highest level.





Emiliano Boffelli
Emiliano Boffelli was part of the Jaguares side that reached the 2019 Super Rugby final (Getty Images)




He will likely battle for the full-back jersey with incumbent Blair Kinghorn – another fleet-footed, solid 15 with a massive boot. Both are capable of playing on the wing and at fly-half, so it will be interesting to see how Mike Blair decides to use them.





Edwill van der Merwe (Stormers to Lions)





One of the hottest prospects in South African club rugby, Van der Merwe is a winger any spectator would be lucky to watch. At 25, he is soaring to peak form, having lit up the Currie Cup and conjured dazzling highlight-reel tries.





Van der Merwe could be one of the most exciting players in the league, and given Makazole Mapimpi’s Pro14 form prior to his Springbok call-up aged 28, don’t bet against the new Lion becoming a Test player. With 32-year-old sevens rapier Rosko Specman winning his first cap this year, it is evident Jacques Neinaber is happy to wait for his wingers to blossom.





WillGriff John (Sale to Scarlets)





A signing that could have implications for Wales’ front-row pecking order. With first-choice tight-head prop Tomas Francis also returning home from England, Scarlets have taken a gamble on John, a 127kg monster.





He will vie for regional selection with Samson Lee, and could pack down with Rob Evans and Ken Owens in a potent front trio. If John can prove a dominant scrummager, Wayne Pivac will surely consider him for Test honours. John was 24 hours away from a starting debut for Wales against Scotland before the pandemic ended the 2020 Six Nations, so he will be keen to take this opportunity and live his dream.





Michael Ala’alatoa (Crusaders to Leinster)





May not seem like a flashy signing on the surface, but this is a big deal at the RDS. Ala’alatoa is Leinster’s first overseas signing since a certain Scott Fardy. Leo Cullen is clearly proud of the Irish representation in his squad, so it must take a lot to impress him.





Samoan skipper Ala’alatoa must have shown he can fit into Leinster’s system as their only foreign player. A solid scrummager and tackler, expect the prop to really kick on with the four-in-a-row champions.





Jac Morgan (Scarlets to Ospreys)





Young flanker Morgan is arguably Welsh rugby’s best uncapped player. In a move that shocked many Scarlets fans, he joined a club on the up, making astute signings on its way. Alex Cuthbert is another strong addition to Toby Booth’s squad. To take such a risk at 21, Morgan must believe the Ospreys coaches can help him develop into the fully-fledged international bruiser he could so very evidently become. 





Jac Morgan
Jac Morgan has routinely made his presence felt in the red of Scarlets, and was one of the league’s top performers last term (Getty Images)




Booth’s snapping up of Leinster academy backrow Will Hickey is another really smart piece of business – poaching one of the senior members of the best academy in world rugby surely can’t backfire. Hickey could be the next Tadhg Beirne, Sam Underhill or Robin Copeland – developing in Wales before moving back to their native country to seek international honours.





Asaeli Tuivuaka (Fiji Sevens to Zebre)





Zebre have long struggled to break into the top half of the table. What needs to change? The leadership? Maybe. The kicking strategy? Sure. The option to just chuck the ball to a Fijian Olympic gold medalist? Now we’re talking. After Edinburgh’s success in converting Rio 2016 champion Viliame Mata into a world-renowned number 8, not to mention Toulouse utilising the rampaging Semi Kunitani as a dynamic lock/flanker, this feels like a perfect signing for the Italian side.





Asaeli Tuivuaka
Asaeli Tuivuaka was a colossal member of Fiji’s all-conquering Olympic sevens side (Getty Images)




Simon Zebo (Racing 92 to Munster)





The last selection has to be Zebo, doesn’t it? Who doesn’t love the guy? A fun-loving winger who is exhilarating on the field and delightful off it, the return of the Cork man will have Munster fans drooling. The only downside is we no longer get to witness him chortling on the pitch with Finn Russell and Kurtley Beale. Instead, we will see the incisive back-three danger man cutting lines off World Cup winners Damien de Allende and RG Snyman.





Munster may be known for their direct style, and as opposing fans we’ve all sat through Thomond Park drubbings before, but with Zebo smiling to the cameras, nobody will accuse this man in red of being dull.





More stories from Will Owen







If you’ve enjoyed this article, please share it with friends or on social media. We rely solely on new subscribers to fund high-quality journalism and appreciate you sharing this so we can continue to grow, produce more quality content and support our writers.



Simon Zebo (Racing 92 to Munster)





The last selection has to be Zebo, doesn’t it? Who doesn’t love the guy? A fun-loving winger who is exhilarating on the field and delightful off it, the return of the Cork man will have Munster fans drooling. The only downside is we no longer get to witness him chortling on the pitch with Finn Russell and Kurtley Beale. Instead, we will see the incisive back-three danger man cutting lines off World Cup winners Damien de Allende and RG Snyman.





Munster may be known for their direct style, and as opposing fans we’ve all sat through Thomond Park drubbings before, but with Zebo smiling to the cameras, nobody will accuse this man in red of being dull.





More stories from Will Owen







If you’ve enjoyed this article, please share it with friends or on social media. We rely solely on new subscribers to fund high-quality journalism and appreciate you sharing this so we can continue to grow, produce more quality content and support our writers.



Edwill van der Merwe (Stormers to Lions)





One of the hottest prospects in South African club rugby, Van der Merwe is a winger any spectator would be lucky to watch. At 25, he is soaring to peak form, having lit up the Currie Cup and conjured dazzling highlight-reel tries.





Van der Merwe could be one of the most exciting players in the league, and given Makazole Mapimpi’s Pro14 form prior to his Springbok call-up aged 28, don’t bet against the new Lion becoming a Test player. With 32-year-old sevens rapier Rosko Specman winning his first cap this year, it is evident Jacques Neinaber is happy to wait for his wingers to blossom.





WillGriff John (Sale to Scarlets)





A signing that could have implications for Wales’ front-row pecking order. With first-choice tight-head prop Tomas Francis also returning home from England, Scarlets have taken a gamble on John, a 127kg monster.





He will vie for regional selection with Samson Lee, and could pack down with Rob Evans and Ken Owens in a potent front trio. If John can prove a dominant scrummager, Wayne Pivac will surely consider him for Test honours. John was 24 hours away from a starting debut for Wales against Scotland before the pandemic ended the 2020 Six Nations, so he will be keen to take this opportunity and live his dream.





Michael Ala’alatoa (Crusaders to Leinster)





May not seem like a flashy signing on the surface, but this is a big deal at the RDS. Ala’alatoa is Leinster’s first overseas signing since a certain Scott Fardy. Leo Cullen is clearly proud of the Irish representation in his squad, so it must take a lot to impress him.





Samoan skipper Ala’alatoa must have shown he can fit into Leinster’s system as their only foreign player. A solid scrummager and tackler, expect the prop to really kick on with the four-in-a-row champions.





Jac Morgan (Scarlets to Ospreys)





Young flanker Morgan is arguably Welsh rugby’s best uncapped player. In a move that shocked many Scarlets fans, he joined a club on the up, making astute signings on its way. Alex Cuthbert is another strong addition to Toby Booth’s squad. To take such a risk at 21, Morgan must believe the Ospreys coaches can help him develop into the fully-fledged international bruiser he could so very evidently become. 





Jac Morgan
Jac Morgan has routinely made his presence felt in the red of Scarlets, and was one of the league’s top performers last term (Getty Images)




Booth’s snapping up of Leinster academy backrow Will Hickey is another really smart piece of business – poaching one of the senior members of the best academy in world rugby surely can’t backfire. Hickey could be the next Tadhg Beirne, Sam Underhill or Robin Copeland – developing in Wales before moving back to their native country to seek international honours.





Asaeli Tuivuaka (Fiji Sevens to Zebre)





Zebre have long struggled to break into the top half of the table. What needs to change? The leadership? Maybe. The kicking strategy? Sure. The option to just chuck the ball to a Fijian Olympic gold medalist? Now we’re talking. After Edinburgh’s success in converting Rio 2016 champion Viliame Mata into a world-renowned number 8, not to mention Toulouse utilising the rampaging Semi Kunitani as a dynamic lock/flanker, this feels like a perfect signing for the Italian side.





Asaeli Tuivuaka
Asaeli Tuivuaka was a colossal member of Fiji’s all-conquering Olympic sevens side (Getty Images)




Simon Zebo (Racing 92 to Munster)





The last selection has to be Zebo, doesn’t it? Who doesn’t love the guy? A fun-loving winger who is exhilarating on the field and delightful off it, the return of the Cork man will have Munster fans drooling. The only downside is we no longer get to witness him chortling on the pitch with Finn Russell and Kurtley Beale. Instead, we will see the incisive back-three danger man cutting lines off World Cup winners Damien de Allende and RG Snyman.





Munster may be known for their direct style, and as opposing fans we’ve all sat through Thomond Park drubbings before, but with Zebo smiling to the cameras, nobody will accuse this man in red of being dull.





More stories from Will Owen







If you’ve enjoyed this article, please share it with friends or on social media. We rely solely on new subscribers to fund high-quality journalism and appreciate you sharing this so we can continue to grow, produce more quality content and support our writers.



Emiliano Boffelli (Racing 92 to Edinburgh)





Together with back-three compatriot Ramiro Moyano, Boffelli has made the switch from France to the Scottish capital. Only 26, it feels like he’s been around forever, given his maturity and composure at the highest level.





Emiliano Boffelli
Emiliano Boffelli was part of the Jaguares side that reached the 2019 Super Rugby final (Getty Images)




He will likely battle for the full-back jersey with incumbent Blair Kinghorn – another fleet-footed, solid 15 with a massive boot. Both are capable of playing on the wing and at fly-half, so it will be interesting to see how Mike Blair decides to use them.





Edwill van der Merwe (Stormers to Lions)





One of the hottest prospects in South African club rugby, Van der Merwe is a winger any spectator would be lucky to watch. At 25, he is soaring to peak form, having lit up the Currie Cup and conjured dazzling highlight-reel tries.





Van der Merwe could be one of the most exciting players in the league, and given Makazole Mapimpi’s Pro14 form prior to his Springbok call-up aged 28, don’t bet against the new Lion becoming a Test player. With 32-year-old sevens rapier Rosko Specman winning his first cap this year, it is evident Jacques Neinaber is happy to wait for his wingers to blossom.





WillGriff John (Sale to Scarlets)





A signing that could have implications for Wales’ front-row pecking order. With first-choice tight-head prop Tomas Francis also returning home from England, Scarlets have taken a gamble on John, a 127kg monster.





He will vie for regional selection with Samson Lee, and could pack down with Rob Evans and Ken Owens in a potent front trio. If John can prove a dominant scrummager, Wayne Pivac will surely consider him for Test honours. John was 24 hours away from a starting debut for Wales against Scotland before the pandemic ended the 2020 Six Nations, so he will be keen to take this opportunity and live his dream.





Michael Ala’alatoa (Crusaders to Leinster)





May not seem like a flashy signing on the surface, but this is a big deal at the RDS. Ala’alatoa is Leinster’s first overseas signing since a certain Scott Fardy. Leo Cullen is clearly proud of the Irish representation in his squad, so it must take a lot to impress him.





Samoan skipper Ala’alatoa must have shown he can fit into Leinster’s system as their only foreign player. A solid scrummager and tackler, expect the prop to really kick on with the four-in-a-row champions.





Jac Morgan (Scarlets to Ospreys)





Young flanker Morgan is arguably Welsh rugby’s best uncapped player. In a move that shocked many Scarlets fans, he joined a club on the up, making astute signings on its way. Alex Cuthbert is another strong addition to Toby Booth’s squad. To take such a risk at 21, Morgan must believe the Ospreys coaches can help him develop into the fully-fledged international bruiser he could so very evidently become. 





Jac Morgan
Jac Morgan has routinely made his presence felt in the red of Scarlets, and was one of the league’s top performers last term (Getty Images)




Booth’s snapping up of Leinster academy backrow Will Hickey is another really smart piece of business – poaching one of the senior members of the best academy in world rugby surely can’t backfire. Hickey could be the next Tadhg Beirne, Sam Underhill or Robin Copeland – developing in Wales before moving back to their native country to seek international honours.





Asaeli Tuivuaka (Fiji Sevens to Zebre)





Zebre have long struggled to break into the top half of the table. What needs to change? The leadership? Maybe. The kicking strategy? Sure. The option to just chuck the ball to a Fijian Olympic gold medalist? Now we’re talking. After Edinburgh’s success in converting Rio 2016 champion Viliame Mata into a world-renowned number 8, not to mention Toulouse utilising the rampaging Semi Kunitani as a dynamic lock/flanker, this feels like a perfect signing for the Italian side.





Asaeli Tuivuaka
Asaeli Tuivuaka was a colossal member of Fiji’s all-conquering Olympic sevens side (Getty Images)




Simon Zebo (Racing 92 to Munster)





The last selection has to be Zebo, doesn’t it? Who doesn’t love the guy? A fun-loving winger who is exhilarating on the field and delightful off it, the return of the Cork man will have Munster fans drooling. The only downside is we no longer get to witness him chortling on the pitch with Finn Russell and Kurtley Beale. Instead, we will see the incisive back-three danger man cutting lines off World Cup winners Damien de Allende and RG Snyman.





Munster may be known for their direct style, and as opposing fans we’ve all sat through Thomond Park drubbings before, but with Zebo smiling to the cameras, nobody will accuse this man in red of being dull.





More stories from Will Owen







If you’ve enjoyed this article, please share it with friends or on social media. We rely solely on new subscribers to fund high-quality journalism and appreciate you sharing this so we can continue to grow, produce more quality content and support our writers.



Duane Vermeulen (Blue Bulls to Ulster)





If you’re named after a Marvel Superhero, you must have been doing something right. In a buccaneering Test career, the bearded 6ft 4in, 18st Springbok gained the moniker Thor for his rampaging busts in midfield, soft-hands out of contact – few will forget his sweet offload to Fourie du Preez in the 2015 Rugby World Cup quarter-final – and rib-clattering hits.





At 35, he may well be in the latter stages of his career, but if Alun Wyn Jones, and Johnny Sexton, who have both turned 36 in recent months, are still influential figures in the URC, then there is nothing stopping Vermeulen being a talisman around which the Ulster pack can thrive. It is a statement signing to signify a new era for the league.





Emiliano Boffelli (Racing 92 to Edinburgh)





Together with back-three compatriot Ramiro Moyano, Boffelli has made the switch from France to the Scottish capital. Only 26, it feels like he’s been around forever, given his maturity and composure at the highest level.





Emiliano Boffelli
Emiliano Boffelli was part of the Jaguares side that reached the 2019 Super Rugby final (Getty Images)




He will likely battle for the full-back jersey with incumbent Blair Kinghorn – another fleet-footed, solid 15 with a massive boot. Both are capable of playing on the wing and at fly-half, so it will be interesting to see how Mike Blair decides to use them.





Edwill van der Merwe (Stormers to Lions)





One of the hottest prospects in South African club rugby, Van der Merwe is a winger any spectator would be lucky to watch. At 25, he is soaring to peak form, having lit up the Currie Cup and conjured dazzling highlight-reel tries.





Van der Merwe could be one of the most exciting players in the league, and given Makazole Mapimpi’s Pro14 form prior to his Springbok call-up aged 28, don’t bet against the new Lion becoming a Test player. With 32-year-old sevens rapier Rosko Specman winning his first cap this year, it is evident Jacques Neinaber is happy to wait for his wingers to blossom.





WillGriff John (Sale to Scarlets)





A signing that could have implications for Wales’ front-row pecking order. With first-choice tight-head prop Tomas Francis also returning home from England, Scarlets have taken a gamble on John, a 127kg monster.





He will vie for regional selection with Samson Lee, and could pack down with Rob Evans and Ken Owens in a potent front trio. If John can prove a dominant scrummager, Wayne Pivac will surely consider him for Test honours. John was 24 hours away from a starting debut for Wales against Scotland before the pandemic ended the 2020 Six Nations, so he will be keen to take this opportunity and live his dream.





Michael Ala’alatoa (Crusaders to Leinster)





May not seem like a flashy signing on the surface, but this is a big deal at the RDS. Ala’alatoa is Leinster’s first overseas signing since a certain Scott Fardy. Leo Cullen is clearly proud of the Irish representation in his squad, so it must take a lot to impress him.





Samoan skipper Ala’alatoa must have shown he can fit into Leinster’s system as their only foreign player. A solid scrummager and tackler, expect the prop to really kick on with the four-in-a-row champions.





Jac Morgan (Scarlets to Ospreys)





Young flanker Morgan is arguably Welsh rugby’s best uncapped player. In a move that shocked many Scarlets fans, he joined a club on the up, making astute signings on its way. Alex Cuthbert is another strong addition to Toby Booth’s squad. To take such a risk at 21, Morgan must believe the Ospreys coaches can help him develop into the fully-fledged international bruiser he could so very evidently become. 





Jac Morgan
Jac Morgan has routinely made his presence felt in the red of Scarlets, and was one of the league’s top performers last term (Getty Images)




Booth’s snapping up of Leinster academy backrow Will Hickey is another really smart piece of business – poaching one of the senior members of the best academy in world rugby surely can’t backfire. Hickey could be the next Tadhg Beirne, Sam Underhill or Robin Copeland – developing in Wales before moving back to their native country to seek international honours.





Asaeli Tuivuaka (Fiji Sevens to Zebre)





Zebre have long struggled to break into the top half of the table. What needs to change? The leadership? Maybe. The kicking strategy? Sure. The option to just chuck the ball to a Fijian Olympic gold medalist? Now we’re talking. After Edinburgh’s success in converting Rio 2016 champion Viliame Mata into a world-renowned number 8, not to mention Toulouse utilising the rampaging Semi Kunitani as a dynamic lock/flanker, this feels like a perfect signing for the Italian side.





Asaeli Tuivuaka
Asaeli Tuivuaka was a colossal member of Fiji’s all-conquering Olympic sevens side (Getty Images)




Simon Zebo (Racing 92 to Munster)





The last selection has to be Zebo, doesn’t it? Who doesn’t love the guy? A fun-loving winger who is exhilarating on the field and delightful off it, the return of the Cork man will have Munster fans drooling. The only downside is we no longer get to witness him chortling on the pitch with Finn Russell and Kurtley Beale. Instead, we will see the incisive back-three danger man cutting lines off World Cup winners Damien de Allende and RG Snyman.





Munster may be known for their direct style, and as opposing fans we’ve all sat through Thomond Park drubbings before, but with Zebo smiling to the cameras, nobody will accuse this man in red of being dull.





More stories from Will Owen







If you’ve enjoyed this article, please share it with friends or on social media. We rely solely on new subscribers to fund high-quality journalism and appreciate you sharing this so we can continue to grow, produce more quality content and support our writers.



The roar of the crowd. The crackling anticipation of live rugby in pulsating stadia. The smell of linament wafting from changing rooms. The taste of lukewarm, hideously overpriced lager in plastic cups. The opportunity to sit down on a Friday night and watch Dragons playing Ulster. 





Yep, a new season is upon us, so what’s not to love?





With the dawn of each campaign comes acclimatisation. You ask why Benetton aren’t picking Paolo Garbisi before remembering he signed for Montpellier in the summer. You spend the first three weeks of the season deciding whether or not Domingo Miotti looks good in a Glasgow jersey. 





These are seminal months for the competition now formerly known as the Pro14. The arrival of South Africa’s heavyweight quartet, a glossy summer rebrand as the United Rugby Championship, and even a partnership with Jay-Z’s Roc Nation entertainment company.  





There have been some eye-catching signings in the off-season too, from a World Cup winner to an Olympic colossus, homecoming heroes to a gifted Welshman with a big future opting to switch regions. Here, The XV hand-picks some of the tastiest acquisitions for the championship ahead.





Duane Vermeulen (Blue Bulls to Ulster)





If you’re named after a Marvel Superhero, you must have been doing something right. In a buccaneering Test career, the bearded 6ft 4in, 18st Springbok gained the moniker Thor for his rampaging busts in midfield, soft-hands out of contact – few will forget his sweet offload to Fourie du Preez in the 2015 Rugby World Cup quarter-final – and rib-clattering hits.





At 35, he may well be in the latter stages of his career, but if Alun Wyn Jones, and Johnny Sexton, who have both turned 36 in recent months, are still influential figures in the URC, then there is nothing stopping Vermeulen being a talisman around which the Ulster pack can thrive. It is a statement signing to signify a new era for the league.





Emiliano Boffelli (Racing 92 to Edinburgh)





Together with back-three compatriot Ramiro Moyano, Boffelli has made the switch from France to the Scottish capital. Only 26, it feels like he’s been around forever, given his maturity and composure at the highest level.





Emiliano Boffelli
Emiliano Boffelli was part of the Jaguares side that reached the 2019 Super Rugby final (Getty Images)




He will likely battle for the full-back jersey with incumbent Blair Kinghorn – another fleet-footed, solid 15 with a massive boot. Both are capable of playing on the wing and at fly-half, so it will be interesting to see how Mike Blair decides to use them.





Edwill van der Merwe (Stormers to Lions)





One of the hottest prospects in South African club rugby, Van der Merwe is a winger any spectator would be lucky to watch. At 25, he is soaring to peak form, having lit up the Currie Cup and conjured dazzling highlight-reel tries.





Van der Merwe could be one of the most exciting players in the league, and given Makazole Mapimpi’s Pro14 form prior to his Springbok call-up aged 28, don’t bet against the new Lion becoming a Test player. With 32-year-old sevens rapier Rosko Specman winning his first cap this year, it is evident Jacques Neinaber is happy to wait for his wingers to blossom.





WillGriff John (Sale to Scarlets)





A signing that could have implications for Wales’ front-row pecking order. With first-choice tight-head prop Tomas Francis also returning home from England, Scarlets have taken a gamble on John, a 127kg monster.





He will vie for regional selection with Samson Lee, and could pack down with Rob Evans and Ken Owens in a potent front trio. If John can prove a dominant scrummager, Wayne Pivac will surely consider him for Test honours. John was 24 hours away from a starting debut for Wales against Scotland before the pandemic ended the 2020 Six Nations, so he will be keen to take this opportunity and live his dream.





Michael Ala’alatoa (Crusaders to Leinster)





May not seem like a flashy signing on the surface, but this is a big deal at the RDS. Ala’alatoa is Leinster’s first overseas signing since a certain Scott Fardy. Leo Cullen is clearly proud of the Irish representation in his squad, so it must take a lot to impress him.





Samoan skipper Ala’alatoa must have shown he can fit into Leinster’s system as their only foreign player. A solid scrummager and tackler, expect the prop to really kick on with the four-in-a-row champions.





Jac Morgan (Scarlets to Ospreys)





Young flanker Morgan is arguably Welsh rugby’s best uncapped player. In a move that shocked many Scarlets fans, he joined a club on the up, making astute signings on its way. Alex Cuthbert is another strong addition to Toby Booth’s squad. To take such a risk at 21, Morgan must believe the Ospreys coaches can help him develop into the fully-fledged international bruiser he could so very evidently become. 





Jac Morgan
Jac Morgan has routinely made his presence felt in the red of Scarlets, and was one of the league’s top performers last term (Getty Images)




Booth’s snapping up of Leinster academy backrow Will Hickey is another really smart piece of business – poaching one of the senior members of the best academy in world rugby surely can’t backfire. Hickey could be the next Tadhg Beirne, Sam Underhill or Robin Copeland – developing in Wales before moving back to their native country to seek international honours.





Asaeli Tuivuaka (Fiji Sevens to Zebre)





Zebre have long struggled to break into the top half of the table. What needs to change? The leadership? Maybe. The kicking strategy? Sure. The option to just chuck the ball to a Fijian Olympic gold medalist? Now we’re talking. After Edinburgh’s success in converting Rio 2016 champion Viliame Mata into a world-renowned number 8, not to mention Toulouse utilising the rampaging Semi Kunitani as a dynamic lock/flanker, this feels like a perfect signing for the Italian side.





Asaeli Tuivuaka
Asaeli Tuivuaka was a colossal member of Fiji’s all-conquering Olympic sevens side (Getty Images)




Simon Zebo (Racing 92 to Munster)





The last selection has to be Zebo, doesn’t it? Who doesn’t love the guy? A fun-loving winger who is exhilarating on the field and delightful off it, the return of the Cork man will have Munster fans drooling. The only downside is we no longer get to witness him chortling on the pitch with Finn Russell and Kurtley Beale. Instead, we will see the incisive back-three danger man cutting lines off World Cup winners Damien de Allende and RG Snyman.





Munster may be known for their direct style, and as opposing fans we’ve all sat through Thomond Park drubbings before, but with Zebo smiling to the cameras, nobody will accuse this man in red of being dull.





More stories from Will Owen







If you’ve enjoyed this article, please share it with friends or on social media. We rely solely on new subscribers to fund high-quality journalism and appreciate you sharing this so we can continue to grow, produce more quality content and support our writers.



Asaeli Tuivuaka (Fiji Sevens to Zebre)





Zebre have long struggled to break into the top half of the table. What needs to change? The leadership? Maybe. The kicking strategy? Sure. The option to just chuck the ball to a Fijian Olympic gold medalist? Now we’re talking. After Edinburgh’s success in converting Rio 2016 champion Viliame Mata into a world-renowned number 8, not to mention Toulouse utilising the rampaging Semi Kunitani as a dynamic lock/flanker, this feels like a perfect signing for the Italian side.





Asaeli Tuivuaka
Asaeli Tuivuaka was a colossal member of Fiji’s all-conquering Olympic sevens side (Getty Images)




Simon Zebo (Racing 92 to Munster)





The last selection has to be Zebo, doesn’t it? Who doesn’t love the guy? A fun-loving winger who is exhilarating on the field and delightful off it, the return of the Cork man will have Munster fans drooling. The only downside is we no longer get to witness him chortling on the pitch with Finn Russell and Kurtley Beale. Instead, we will see the incisive back-three danger man cutting lines off World Cup winners Damien de Allende and RG Snyman.





Munster may be known for their direct style, and as opposing fans we’ve all sat through Thomond Park drubbings before, but with Zebo smiling to the cameras, nobody will accuse this man in red of being dull.





More stories from Will Owen







If you’ve enjoyed this article, please share it with friends or on social media. We rely solely on new subscribers to fund high-quality journalism and appreciate you sharing this so we can continue to grow, produce more quality content and support our writers.



Edwill van der Merwe (Stormers to Lions)





One of the hottest prospects in South African club rugby, Van der Merwe is a winger any spectator would be lucky to watch. At 25, he is soaring to peak form, having lit up the Currie Cup and conjured dazzling highlight-reel tries.





Van der Merwe could be one of the most exciting players in the league, and given Makazole Mapimpi’s Pro14 form prior to his Springbok call-up aged 28, don’t bet against the new Lion becoming a Test player. With 32-year-old sevens rapier Rosko Specman winning his first cap this year, it is evident Jacques Neinaber is happy to wait for his wingers to blossom.





WillGriff John (Sale to Scarlets)





A signing that could have implications for Wales’ front-row pecking order. With first-choice tight-head prop Tomas Francis also returning home from England, Scarlets have taken a gamble on John, a 127kg monster.





He will vie for regional selection with Samson Lee, and could pack down with Rob Evans and Ken Owens in a potent front trio. If John can prove a dominant scrummager, Wayne Pivac will surely consider him for Test honours. John was 24 hours away from a starting debut for Wales against Scotland before the pandemic ended the 2020 Six Nations, so he will be keen to take this opportunity and live his dream.





Michael Ala’alatoa (Crusaders to Leinster)





May not seem like a flashy signing on the surface, but this is a big deal at the RDS. Ala’alatoa is Leinster’s first overseas signing since a certain Scott Fardy. Leo Cullen is clearly proud of the Irish representation in his squad, so it must take a lot to impress him.





Samoan skipper Ala’alatoa must have shown he can fit into Leinster’s system as their only foreign player. A solid scrummager and tackler, expect the prop to really kick on with the four-in-a-row champions.





Jac Morgan (Scarlets to Ospreys)





Young flanker Morgan is arguably Welsh rugby’s best uncapped player. In a move that shocked many Scarlets fans, he joined a club on the up, making astute signings on its way. Alex Cuthbert is another strong addition to Toby Booth’s squad. To take such a risk at 21, Morgan must believe the Ospreys coaches can help him develop into the fully-fledged international bruiser he could so very evidently become. 





Jac Morgan
Jac Morgan has routinely made his presence felt in the red of Scarlets, and was one of the league’s top performers last term (Getty Images)




Booth’s snapping up of Leinster academy backrow Will Hickey is another really smart piece of business – poaching one of the senior members of the best academy in world rugby surely can’t backfire. Hickey could be the next Tadhg Beirne, Sam Underhill or Robin Copeland – developing in Wales before moving back to their native country to seek international honours.





Asaeli Tuivuaka (Fiji Sevens to Zebre)





Zebre have long struggled to break into the top half of the table. What needs to change? The leadership? Maybe. The kicking strategy? Sure. The option to just chuck the ball to a Fijian Olympic gold medalist? Now we’re talking. After Edinburgh’s success in converting Rio 2016 champion Viliame Mata into a world-renowned number 8, not to mention Toulouse utilising the rampaging Semi Kunitani as a dynamic lock/flanker, this feels like a perfect signing for the Italian side.





Asaeli Tuivuaka
Asaeli Tuivuaka was a colossal member of Fiji’s all-conquering Olympic sevens side (Getty Images)




Simon Zebo (Racing 92 to Munster)





The last selection has to be Zebo, doesn’t it? Who doesn’t love the guy? A fun-loving winger who is exhilarating on the field and delightful off it, the return of the Cork man will have Munster fans drooling. The only downside is we no longer get to witness him chortling on the pitch with Finn Russell and Kurtley Beale. Instead, we will see the incisive back-three danger man cutting lines off World Cup winners Damien de Allende and RG Snyman.





Munster may be known for their direct style, and as opposing fans we’ve all sat through Thomond Park drubbings before, but with Zebo smiling to the cameras, nobody will accuse this man in red of being dull.





More stories from Will Owen







If you’ve enjoyed this article, please share it with friends or on social media. We rely solely on new subscribers to fund high-quality journalism and appreciate you sharing this so we can continue to grow, produce more quality content and support our writers.



Emiliano Boffelli (Racing 92 to Edinburgh)





Together with back-three compatriot Ramiro Moyano, Boffelli has made the switch from France to the Scottish capital. Only 26, it feels like he’s been around forever, given his maturity and composure at the highest level.





Emiliano Boffelli
Emiliano Boffelli was part of the Jaguares side that reached the 2019 Super Rugby final (Getty Images)




He will likely battle for the full-back jersey with incumbent Blair Kinghorn – another fleet-footed, solid 15 with a massive boot. Both are capable of playing on the wing and at fly-half, so it will be interesting to see how Mike Blair decides to use them.





Edwill van der Merwe (Stormers to Lions)





One of the hottest prospects in South African club rugby, Van der Merwe is a winger any spectator would be lucky to watch. At 25, he is soaring to peak form, having lit up the Currie Cup and conjured dazzling highlight-reel tries.





Van der Merwe could be one of the most exciting players in the league, and given Makazole Mapimpi’s Pro14 form prior to his Springbok call-up aged 28, don’t bet against the new Lion becoming a Test player. With 32-year-old sevens rapier Rosko Specman winning his first cap this year, it is evident Jacques Neinaber is happy to wait for his wingers to blossom.





WillGriff John (Sale to Scarlets)





A signing that could have implications for Wales’ front-row pecking order. With first-choice tight-head prop Tomas Francis also returning home from England, Scarlets have taken a gamble on John, a 127kg monster.





He will vie for regional selection with Samson Lee, and could pack down with Rob Evans and Ken Owens in a potent front trio. If John can prove a dominant scrummager, Wayne Pivac will surely consider him for Test honours. John was 24 hours away from a starting debut for Wales against Scotland before the pandemic ended the 2020 Six Nations, so he will be keen to take this opportunity and live his dream.





Michael Ala’alatoa (Crusaders to Leinster)





May not seem like a flashy signing on the surface, but this is a big deal at the RDS. Ala’alatoa is Leinster’s first overseas signing since a certain Scott Fardy. Leo Cullen is clearly proud of the Irish representation in his squad, so it must take a lot to impress him.





Samoan skipper Ala’alatoa must have shown he can fit into Leinster’s system as their only foreign player. A solid scrummager and tackler, expect the prop to really kick on with the four-in-a-row champions.





Jac Morgan (Scarlets to Ospreys)





Young flanker Morgan is arguably Welsh rugby’s best uncapped player. In a move that shocked many Scarlets fans, he joined a club on the up, making astute signings on its way. Alex Cuthbert is another strong addition to Toby Booth’s squad. To take such a risk at 21, Morgan must believe the Ospreys coaches can help him develop into the fully-fledged international bruiser he could so very evidently become. 





Jac Morgan
Jac Morgan has routinely made his presence felt in the red of Scarlets, and was one of the league’s top performers last term (Getty Images)




Booth’s snapping up of Leinster academy backrow Will Hickey is another really smart piece of business – poaching one of the senior members of the best academy in world rugby surely can’t backfire. Hickey could be the next Tadhg Beirne, Sam Underhill or Robin Copeland – developing in Wales before moving back to their native country to seek international honours.





Asaeli Tuivuaka (Fiji Sevens to Zebre)





Zebre have long struggled to break into the top half of the table. What needs to change? The leadership? Maybe. The kicking strategy? Sure. The option to just chuck the ball to a Fijian Olympic gold medalist? Now we’re talking. After Edinburgh’s success in converting Rio 2016 champion Viliame Mata into a world-renowned number 8, not to mention Toulouse utilising the rampaging Semi Kunitani as a dynamic lock/flanker, this feels like a perfect signing for the Italian side.





Asaeli Tuivuaka
Asaeli Tuivuaka was a colossal member of Fiji’s all-conquering Olympic sevens side (Getty Images)




Simon Zebo (Racing 92 to Munster)





The last selection has to be Zebo, doesn’t it? Who doesn’t love the guy? A fun-loving winger who is exhilarating on the field and delightful off it, the return of the Cork man will have Munster fans drooling. The only downside is we no longer get to witness him chortling on the pitch with Finn Russell and Kurtley Beale. Instead, we will see the incisive back-three danger man cutting lines off World Cup winners Damien de Allende and RG Snyman.





Munster may be known for their direct style, and as opposing fans we’ve all sat through Thomond Park drubbings before, but with Zebo smiling to the cameras, nobody will accuse this man in red of being dull.





More stories from Will Owen







If you’ve enjoyed this article, please share it with friends or on social media. We rely solely on new subscribers to fund high-quality journalism and appreciate you sharing this so we can continue to grow, produce more quality content and support our writers.



Duane Vermeulen (Blue Bulls to Ulster)





If you’re named after a Marvel Superhero, you must have been doing something right. In a buccaneering Test career, the bearded 6ft 4in, 18st Springbok gained the moniker Thor for his rampaging busts in midfield, soft-hands out of contact – few will forget his sweet offload to Fourie du Preez in the 2015 Rugby World Cup quarter-final – and rib-clattering hits.





At 35, he may well be in the latter stages of his career, but if Alun Wyn Jones, and Johnny Sexton, who have both turned 36 in recent months, are still influential figures in the URC, then there is nothing stopping Vermeulen being a talisman around which the Ulster pack can thrive. It is a statement signing to signify a new era for the league.





Emiliano Boffelli (Racing 92 to Edinburgh)





Together with back-three compatriot Ramiro Moyano, Boffelli has made the switch from France to the Scottish capital. Only 26, it feels like he’s been around forever, given his maturity and composure at the highest level.





Emiliano Boffelli
Emiliano Boffelli was part of the Jaguares side that reached the 2019 Super Rugby final (Getty Images)




He will likely battle for the full-back jersey with incumbent Blair Kinghorn – another fleet-footed, solid 15 with a massive boot. Both are capable of playing on the wing and at fly-half, so it will be interesting to see how Mike Blair decides to use them.





Edwill van der Merwe (Stormers to Lions)





One of the hottest prospects in South African club rugby, Van der Merwe is a winger any spectator would be lucky to watch. At 25, he is soaring to peak form, having lit up the Currie Cup and conjured dazzling highlight-reel tries.





Van der Merwe could be one of the most exciting players in the league, and given Makazole Mapimpi’s Pro14 form prior to his Springbok call-up aged 28, don’t bet against the new Lion becoming a Test player. With 32-year-old sevens rapier Rosko Specman winning his first cap this year, it is evident Jacques Neinaber is happy to wait for his wingers to blossom.





WillGriff John (Sale to Scarlets)





A signing that could have implications for Wales’ front-row pecking order. With first-choice tight-head prop Tomas Francis also returning home from England, Scarlets have taken a gamble on John, a 127kg monster.





He will vie for regional selection with Samson Lee, and could pack down with Rob Evans and Ken Owens in a potent front trio. If John can prove a dominant scrummager, Wayne Pivac will surely consider him for Test honours. John was 24 hours away from a starting debut for Wales against Scotland before the pandemic ended the 2020 Six Nations, so he will be keen to take this opportunity and live his dream.





Michael Ala’alatoa (Crusaders to Leinster)





May not seem like a flashy signing on the surface, but this is a big deal at the RDS. Ala’alatoa is Leinster’s first overseas signing since a certain Scott Fardy. Leo Cullen is clearly proud of the Irish representation in his squad, so it must take a lot to impress him.





Samoan skipper Ala’alatoa must have shown he can fit into Leinster’s system as their only foreign player. A solid scrummager and tackler, expect the prop to really kick on with the four-in-a-row champions.





Jac Morgan (Scarlets to Ospreys)





Young flanker Morgan is arguably Welsh rugby’s best uncapped player. In a move that shocked many Scarlets fans, he joined a club on the up, making astute signings on its way. Alex Cuthbert is another strong addition to Toby Booth’s squad. To take such a risk at 21, Morgan must believe the Ospreys coaches can help him develop into the fully-fledged international bruiser he could so very evidently become. 





Jac Morgan
Jac Morgan has routinely made his presence felt in the red of Scarlets, and was one of the league’s top performers last term (Getty Images)




Booth’s snapping up of Leinster academy backrow Will Hickey is another really smart piece of business – poaching one of the senior members of the best academy in world rugby surely can’t backfire. Hickey could be the next Tadhg Beirne, Sam Underhill or Robin Copeland – developing in Wales before moving back to their native country to seek international honours.





Asaeli Tuivuaka (Fiji Sevens to Zebre)





Zebre have long struggled to break into the top half of the table. What needs to change? The leadership? Maybe. The kicking strategy? Sure. The option to just chuck the ball to a Fijian Olympic gold medalist? Now we’re talking. After Edinburgh’s success in converting Rio 2016 champion Viliame Mata into a world-renowned number 8, not to mention Toulouse utilising the rampaging Semi Kunitani as a dynamic lock/flanker, this feels like a perfect signing for the Italian side.





Asaeli Tuivuaka
Asaeli Tuivuaka was a colossal member of Fiji’s all-conquering Olympic sevens side (Getty Images)




Simon Zebo (Racing 92 to Munster)





The last selection has to be Zebo, doesn’t it? Who doesn’t love the guy? A fun-loving winger who is exhilarating on the field and delightful off it, the return of the Cork man will have Munster fans drooling. The only downside is we no longer get to witness him chortling on the pitch with Finn Russell and Kurtley Beale. Instead, we will see the incisive back-three danger man cutting lines off World Cup winners Damien de Allende and RG Snyman.





Munster may be known for their direct style, and as opposing fans we’ve all sat through Thomond Park drubbings before, but with Zebo smiling to the cameras, nobody will accuse this man in red of being dull.





More stories from Will Owen







If you’ve enjoyed this article, please share it with friends or on social media. We rely solely on new subscribers to fund high-quality journalism and appreciate you sharing this so we can continue to grow, produce more quality content and support our writers.



The roar of the crowd. The crackling anticipation of live rugby in pulsating stadia. The smell of linament wafting from changing rooms. The taste of lukewarm, hideously overpriced lager in plastic cups. The opportunity to sit down on a Friday night and watch Dragons playing Ulster. 





Yep, a new season is upon us, so what’s not to love?





With the dawn of each campaign comes acclimatisation. You ask why Benetton aren’t picking Paolo Garbisi before remembering he signed for Montpellier in the summer. You spend the first three weeks of the season deciding whether or not Domingo Miotti looks good in a Glasgow jersey. 





These are seminal months for the competition now formerly known as the Pro14. The arrival of South Africa’s heavyweight quartet, a glossy summer rebrand as the United Rugby Championship, and even a partnership with Jay-Z’s Roc Nation entertainment company.  





There have been some eye-catching signings in the off-season too, from a World Cup winner to an Olympic colossus, homecoming heroes to a gifted Welshman with a big future opting to switch regions. Here, The XV hand-picks some of the tastiest acquisitions for the championship ahead.





Duane Vermeulen (Blue Bulls to Ulster)





If you’re named after a Marvel Superhero, you must have been doing something right. In a buccaneering Test career, the bearded 6ft 4in, 18st Springbok gained the moniker Thor for his rampaging busts in midfield, soft-hands out of contact – few will forget his sweet offload to Fourie du Preez in the 2015 Rugby World Cup quarter-final – and rib-clattering hits.





At 35, he may well be in the latter stages of his career, but if Alun Wyn Jones, and Johnny Sexton, who have both turned 36 in recent months, are still influential figures in the URC, then there is nothing stopping Vermeulen being a talisman around which the Ulster pack can thrive. It is a statement signing to signify a new era for the league.





Emiliano Boffelli (Racing 92 to Edinburgh)





Together with back-three compatriot Ramiro Moyano, Boffelli has made the switch from France to the Scottish capital. Only 26, it feels like he’s been around forever, given his maturity and composure at the highest level.





Emiliano Boffelli
Emiliano Boffelli was part of the Jaguares side that reached the 2019 Super Rugby final (Getty Images)




He will likely battle for the full-back jersey with incumbent Blair Kinghorn – another fleet-footed, solid 15 with a massive boot. Both are capable of playing on the wing and at fly-half, so it will be interesting to see how Mike Blair decides to use them.





Edwill van der Merwe (Stormers to Lions)





One of the hottest prospects in South African club rugby, Van der Merwe is a winger any spectator would be lucky to watch. At 25, he is soaring to peak form, having lit up the Currie Cup and conjured dazzling highlight-reel tries.





Van der Merwe could be one of the most exciting players in the league, and given Makazole Mapimpi’s Pro14 form prior to his Springbok call-up aged 28, don’t bet against the new Lion becoming a Test player. With 32-year-old sevens rapier Rosko Specman winning his first cap this year, it is evident Jacques Neinaber is happy to wait for his wingers to blossom.





WillGriff John (Sale to Scarlets)





A signing that could have implications for Wales’ front-row pecking order. With first-choice tight-head prop Tomas Francis also returning home from England, Scarlets have taken a gamble on John, a 127kg monster.





He will vie for regional selection with Samson Lee, and could pack down with Rob Evans and Ken Owens in a potent front trio. If John can prove a dominant scrummager, Wayne Pivac will surely consider him for Test honours. John was 24 hours away from a starting debut for Wales against Scotland before the pandemic ended the 2020 Six Nations, so he will be keen to take this opportunity and live his dream.





Michael Ala’alatoa (Crusaders to Leinster)





May not seem like a flashy signing on the surface, but this is a big deal at the RDS. Ala’alatoa is Leinster’s first overseas signing since a certain Scott Fardy. Leo Cullen is clearly proud of the Irish representation in his squad, so it must take a lot to impress him.





Samoan skipper Ala’alatoa must have shown he can fit into Leinster’s system as their only foreign player. A solid scrummager and tackler, expect the prop to really kick on with the four-in-a-row champions.





Jac Morgan (Scarlets to Ospreys)





Young flanker Morgan is arguably Welsh rugby’s best uncapped player. In a move that shocked many Scarlets fans, he joined a club on the up, making astute signings on its way. Alex Cuthbert is another strong addition to Toby Booth’s squad. To take such a risk at 21, Morgan must believe the Ospreys coaches can help him develop into the fully-fledged international bruiser he could so very evidently become. 





Jac Morgan
Jac Morgan has routinely made his presence felt in the red of Scarlets, and was one of the league’s top performers last term (Getty Images)




Booth’s snapping up of Leinster academy backrow Will Hickey is another really smart piece of business – poaching one of the senior members of the best academy in world rugby surely can’t backfire. Hickey could be the next Tadhg Beirne, Sam Underhill or Robin Copeland – developing in Wales before moving back to their native country to seek international honours.





Asaeli Tuivuaka (Fiji Sevens to Zebre)





Zebre have long struggled to break into the top half of the table. What needs to change? The leadership? Maybe. The kicking strategy? Sure. The option to just chuck the ball to a Fijian Olympic gold medalist? Now we’re talking. After Edinburgh’s success in converting Rio 2016 champion Viliame Mata into a world-renowned number 8, not to mention Toulouse utilising the rampaging Semi Kunitani as a dynamic lock/flanker, this feels like a perfect signing for the Italian side.





Asaeli Tuivuaka
Asaeli Tuivuaka was a colossal member of Fiji’s all-conquering Olympic sevens side (Getty Images)




Simon Zebo (Racing 92 to Munster)





The last selection has to be Zebo, doesn’t it? Who doesn’t love the guy? A fun-loving winger who is exhilarating on the field and delightful off it, the return of the Cork man will have Munster fans drooling. The only downside is we no longer get to witness him chortling on the pitch with Finn Russell and Kurtley Beale. Instead, we will see the incisive back-three danger man cutting lines off World Cup winners Damien de Allende and RG Snyman.





Munster may be known for their direct style, and as opposing fans we’ve all sat through Thomond Park drubbings before, but with Zebo smiling to the cameras, nobody will accuse this man in red of being dull.





More stories from Will Owen







If you’ve enjoyed this article, please share it with friends or on social media. We rely solely on new subscribers to fund high-quality journalism and appreciate you sharing this so we can continue to grow, produce more quality content and support our writers.



Jac Morgan (Scarlets to Ospreys)





Young flanker Morgan is arguably Welsh rugby’s best uncapped player. In a move that shocked many Scarlets fans, he joined a club on the up, making astute signings on its way. Alex Cuthbert is another strong addition to Toby Booth’s squad. To take such a risk at 21, Morgan must believe the Ospreys coaches can help him develop into the fully-fledged international bruiser he could so very evidently become. 





Jac Morgan
Jac Morgan has routinely made his presence felt in the red of Scarlets, and was one of the league’s top performers last term (Getty Images)




Booth’s snapping up of Leinster academy backrow Will Hickey is another really smart piece of business – poaching one of the senior members of the best academy in world rugby surely can’t backfire. Hickey could be the next Tadhg Beirne, Sam Underhill or Robin Copeland – developing in Wales before moving back to their native country to seek international honours.





Asaeli Tuivuaka (Fiji Sevens to Zebre)





Zebre have long struggled to break into the top half of the table. What needs to change? The leadership? Maybe. The kicking strategy? Sure. The option to just chuck the ball to a Fijian Olympic gold medalist? Now we’re talking. After Edinburgh’s success in converting Rio 2016 champion Viliame Mata into a world-renowned number 8, not to mention Toulouse utilising the rampaging Semi Kunitani as a dynamic lock/flanker, this feels like a perfect signing for the Italian side.





Asaeli Tuivuaka
Asaeli Tuivuaka was a colossal member of Fiji’s all-conquering Olympic sevens side (Getty Images)




Simon Zebo (Racing 92 to Munster)





The last selection has to be Zebo, doesn’t it? Who doesn’t love the guy? A fun-loving winger who is exhilarating on the field and delightful off it, the return of the Cork man will have Munster fans drooling. The only downside is we no longer get to witness him chortling on the pitch with Finn Russell and Kurtley Beale. Instead, we will see the incisive back-three danger man cutting lines off World Cup winners Damien de Allende and RG Snyman.





Munster may be known for their direct style, and as opposing fans we’ve all sat through Thomond Park drubbings before, but with Zebo smiling to the cameras, nobody will accuse this man in red of being dull.





More stories from Will Owen







If you’ve enjoyed this article, please share it with friends or on social media. We rely solely on new subscribers to fund high-quality journalism and appreciate you sharing this so we can continue to grow, produce more quality content and support our writers.



Edwill van der Merwe (Stormers to Lions)





One of the hottest prospects in South African club rugby, Van der Merwe is a winger any spectator would be lucky to watch. At 25, he is soaring to peak form, having lit up the Currie Cup and conjured dazzling highlight-reel tries.





Van der Merwe could be one of the most exciting players in the league, and given Makazole Mapimpi’s Pro14 form prior to his Springbok call-up aged 28, don’t bet against the new Lion becoming a Test player. With 32-year-old sevens rapier Rosko Specman winning his first cap this year, it is evident Jacques Neinaber is happy to wait for his wingers to blossom.





WillGriff John (Sale to Scarlets)





A signing that could have implications for Wales’ front-row pecking order. With first-choice tight-head prop Tomas Francis also returning home from England, Scarlets have taken a gamble on John, a 127kg monster.





He will vie for regional selection with Samson Lee, and could pack down with Rob Evans and Ken Owens in a potent front trio. If John can prove a dominant scrummager, Wayne Pivac will surely consider him for Test honours. John was 24 hours away from a starting debut for Wales against Scotland before the pandemic ended the 2020 Six Nations, so he will be keen to take this opportunity and live his dream.





Michael Ala’alatoa (Crusaders to Leinster)





May not seem like a flashy signing on the surface, but this is a big deal at the RDS. Ala’alatoa is Leinster’s first overseas signing since a certain Scott Fardy. Leo Cullen is clearly proud of the Irish representation in his squad, so it must take a lot to impress him.





Samoan skipper Ala’alatoa must have shown he can fit into Leinster’s system as their only foreign player. A solid scrummager and tackler, expect the prop to really kick on with the four-in-a-row champions.





Jac Morgan (Scarlets to Ospreys)





Young flanker Morgan is arguably Welsh rugby’s best uncapped player. In a move that shocked many Scarlets fans, he joined a club on the up, making astute signings on its way. Alex Cuthbert is another strong addition to Toby Booth’s squad. To take such a risk at 21, Morgan must believe the Ospreys coaches can help him develop into the fully-fledged international bruiser he could so very evidently become. 





Jac Morgan
Jac Morgan has routinely made his presence felt in the red of Scarlets, and was one of the league’s top performers last term (Getty Images)




Booth’s snapping up of Leinster academy backrow Will Hickey is another really smart piece of business – poaching one of the senior members of the best academy in world rugby surely can’t backfire. Hickey could be the next Tadhg Beirne, Sam Underhill or Robin Copeland – developing in Wales before moving back to their native country to seek international honours.





Asaeli Tuivuaka (Fiji Sevens to Zebre)





Zebre have long struggled to break into the top half of the table. What needs to change? The leadership? Maybe. The kicking strategy? Sure. The option to just chuck the ball to a Fijian Olympic gold medalist? Now we’re talking. After Edinburgh’s success in converting Rio 2016 champion Viliame Mata into a world-renowned number 8, not to mention Toulouse utilising the rampaging Semi Kunitani as a dynamic lock/flanker, this feels like a perfect signing for the Italian side.





Asaeli Tuivuaka
Asaeli Tuivuaka was a colossal member of Fiji’s all-conquering Olympic sevens side (Getty Images)




Simon Zebo (Racing 92 to Munster)





The last selection has to be Zebo, doesn’t it? Who doesn’t love the guy? A fun-loving winger who is exhilarating on the field and delightful off it, the return of the Cork man will have Munster fans drooling. The only downside is we no longer get to witness him chortling on the pitch with Finn Russell and Kurtley Beale. Instead, we will see the incisive back-three danger man cutting lines off World Cup winners Damien de Allende and RG Snyman.





Munster may be known for their direct style, and as opposing fans we’ve all sat through Thomond Park drubbings before, but with Zebo smiling to the cameras, nobody will accuse this man in red of being dull.





More stories from Will Owen







If you’ve enjoyed this article, please share it with friends or on social media. We rely solely on new subscribers to fund high-quality journalism and appreciate you sharing this so we can continue to grow, produce more quality content and support our writers.



Emiliano Boffelli (Racing 92 to Edinburgh)





Together with back-three compatriot Ramiro Moyano, Boffelli has made the switch from France to the Scottish capital. Only 26, it feels like he’s been around forever, given his maturity and composure at the highest level.





Emiliano Boffelli
Emiliano Boffelli was part of the Jaguares side that reached the 2019 Super Rugby final (Getty Images)




He will likely battle for the full-back jersey with incumbent Blair Kinghorn – another fleet-footed, solid 15 with a massive boot. Both are capable of playing on the wing and at fly-half, so it will be interesting to see how Mike Blair decides to use them.





Edwill van der Merwe (Stormers to Lions)





One of the hottest prospects in South African club rugby, Van der Merwe is a winger any spectator would be lucky to watch. At 25, he is soaring to peak form, having lit up the Currie Cup and conjured dazzling highlight-reel tries.





Van der Merwe could be one of the most exciting players in the league, and given Makazole Mapimpi’s Pro14 form prior to his Springbok call-up aged 28, don’t bet against the new Lion becoming a Test player. With 32-year-old sevens rapier Rosko Specman winning his first cap this year, it is evident Jacques Neinaber is happy to wait for his wingers to blossom.





WillGriff John (Sale to Scarlets)





A signing that could have implications for Wales’ front-row pecking order. With first-choice tight-head prop Tomas Francis also returning home from England, Scarlets have taken a gamble on John, a 127kg monster.





He will vie for regional selection with Samson Lee, and could pack down with Rob Evans and Ken Owens in a potent front trio. If John can prove a dominant scrummager, Wayne Pivac will surely consider him for Test honours. John was 24 hours away from a starting debut for Wales against Scotland before the pandemic ended the 2020 Six Nations, so he will be keen to take this opportunity and live his dream.





Michael Ala’alatoa (Crusaders to Leinster)





May not seem like a flashy signing on the surface, but this is a big deal at the RDS. Ala’alatoa is Leinster’s first overseas signing since a certain Scott Fardy. Leo Cullen is clearly proud of the Irish representation in his squad, so it must take a lot to impress him.





Samoan skipper Ala’alatoa must have shown he can fit into Leinster’s system as their only foreign player. A solid scrummager and tackler, expect the prop to really kick on with the four-in-a-row champions.





Jac Morgan (Scarlets to Ospreys)





Young flanker Morgan is arguably Welsh rugby’s best uncapped player. In a move that shocked many Scarlets fans, he joined a club on the up, making astute signings on its way. Alex Cuthbert is another strong addition to Toby Booth’s squad. To take such a risk at 21, Morgan must believe the Ospreys coaches can help him develop into the fully-fledged international bruiser he could so very evidently become. 





Jac Morgan
Jac Morgan has routinely made his presence felt in the red of Scarlets, and was one of the league’s top performers last term (Getty Images)




Booth’s snapping up of Leinster academy backrow Will Hickey is another really smart piece of business – poaching one of the senior members of the best academy in world rugby surely can’t backfire. Hickey could be the next Tadhg Beirne, Sam Underhill or Robin Copeland – developing in Wales before moving back to their native country to seek international honours.





Asaeli Tuivuaka (Fiji Sevens to Zebre)





Zebre have long struggled to break into the top half of the table. What needs to change? The leadership? Maybe. The kicking strategy? Sure. The option to just chuck the ball to a Fijian Olympic gold medalist? Now we’re talking. After Edinburgh’s success in converting Rio 2016 champion Viliame Mata into a world-renowned number 8, not to mention Toulouse utilising the rampaging Semi Kunitani as a dynamic lock/flanker, this feels like a perfect signing for the Italian side.





Asaeli Tuivuaka
Asaeli Tuivuaka was a colossal member of Fiji’s all-conquering Olympic sevens side (Getty Images)




Simon Zebo (Racing 92 to Munster)





The last selection has to be Zebo, doesn’t it? Who doesn’t love the guy? A fun-loving winger who is exhilarating on the field and delightful off it, the return of the Cork man will have Munster fans drooling. The only downside is we no longer get to witness him chortling on the pitch with Finn Russell and Kurtley Beale. Instead, we will see the incisive back-three danger man cutting lines off World Cup winners Damien de Allende and RG Snyman.





Munster may be known for their direct style, and as opposing fans we’ve all sat through Thomond Park drubbings before, but with Zebo smiling to the cameras, nobody will accuse this man in red of being dull.





More stories from Will Owen







If you’ve enjoyed this article, please share it with friends or on social media. We rely solely on new subscribers to fund high-quality journalism and appreciate you sharing this so we can continue to grow, produce more quality content and support our writers.



Duane Vermeulen (Blue Bulls to Ulster)





If you’re named after a Marvel Superhero, you must have been doing something right. In a buccaneering Test career, the bearded 6ft 4in, 18st Springbok gained the moniker Thor for his rampaging busts in midfield, soft-hands out of contact – few will forget his sweet offload to Fourie du Preez in the 2015 Rugby World Cup quarter-final – and rib-clattering hits.





At 35, he may well be in the latter stages of his career, but if Alun Wyn Jones, and Johnny Sexton, who have both turned 36 in recent months, are still influential figures in the URC, then there is nothing stopping Vermeulen being a talisman around which the Ulster pack can thrive. It is a statement signing to signify a new era for the league.





Emiliano Boffelli (Racing 92 to Edinburgh)





Together with back-three compatriot Ramiro Moyano, Boffelli has made the switch from France to the Scottish capital. Only 26, it feels like he’s been around forever, given his maturity and composure at the highest level.





Emiliano Boffelli
Emiliano Boffelli was part of the Jaguares side that reached the 2019 Super Rugby final (Getty Images)




He will likely battle for the full-back jersey with incumbent Blair Kinghorn – another fleet-footed, solid 15 with a massive boot. Both are capable of playing on the wing and at fly-half, so it will be interesting to see how Mike Blair decides to use them.





Edwill van der Merwe (Stormers to Lions)





One of the hottest prospects in South African club rugby, Van der Merwe is a winger any spectator would be lucky to watch. At 25, he is soaring to peak form, having lit up the Currie Cup and conjured dazzling highlight-reel tries.





Van der Merwe could be one of the most exciting players in the league, and given Makazole Mapimpi’s Pro14 form prior to his Springbok call-up aged 28, don’t bet against the new Lion becoming a Test player. With 32-year-old sevens rapier Rosko Specman winning his first cap this year, it is evident Jacques Neinaber is happy to wait for his wingers to blossom.





WillGriff John (Sale to Scarlets)





A signing that could have implications for Wales’ front-row pecking order. With first-choice tight-head prop Tomas Francis also returning home from England, Scarlets have taken a gamble on John, a 127kg monster.





He will vie for regional selection with Samson Lee, and could pack down with Rob Evans and Ken Owens in a potent front trio. If John can prove a dominant scrummager, Wayne Pivac will surely consider him for Test honours. John was 24 hours away from a starting debut for Wales against Scotland before the pandemic ended the 2020 Six Nations, so he will be keen to take this opportunity and live his dream.





Michael Ala’alatoa (Crusaders to Leinster)





May not seem like a flashy signing on the surface, but this is a big deal at the RDS. Ala’alatoa is Leinster’s first overseas signing since a certain Scott Fardy. Leo Cullen is clearly proud of the Irish representation in his squad, so it must take a lot to impress him.





Samoan skipper Ala’alatoa must have shown he can fit into Leinster’s system as their only foreign player. A solid scrummager and tackler, expect the prop to really kick on with the four-in-a-row champions.





Jac Morgan (Scarlets to Ospreys)





Young flanker Morgan is arguably Welsh rugby’s best uncapped player. In a move that shocked many Scarlets fans, he joined a club on the up, making astute signings on its way. Alex Cuthbert is another strong addition to Toby Booth’s squad. To take such a risk at 21, Morgan must believe the Ospreys coaches can help him develop into the fully-fledged international bruiser he could so very evidently become. 





Jac Morgan
Jac Morgan has routinely made his presence felt in the red of Scarlets, and was one of the league’s top performers last term (Getty Images)




Booth’s snapping up of Leinster academy backrow Will Hickey is another really smart piece of business – poaching one of the senior members of the best academy in world rugby surely can’t backfire. Hickey could be the next Tadhg Beirne, Sam Underhill or Robin Copeland – developing in Wales before moving back to their native country to seek international honours.





Asaeli Tuivuaka (Fiji Sevens to Zebre)





Zebre have long struggled to break into the top half of the table. What needs to change? The leadership? Maybe. The kicking strategy? Sure. The option to just chuck the ball to a Fijian Olympic gold medalist? Now we’re talking. After Edinburgh’s success in converting Rio 2016 champion Viliame Mata into a world-renowned number 8, not to mention Toulouse utilising the rampaging Semi Kunitani as a dynamic lock/flanker, this feels like a perfect signing for the Italian side.





Asaeli Tuivuaka
Asaeli Tuivuaka was a colossal member of Fiji’s all-conquering Olympic sevens side (Getty Images)




Simon Zebo (Racing 92 to Munster)





The last selection has to be Zebo, doesn’t it? Who doesn’t love the guy? A fun-loving winger who is exhilarating on the field and delightful off it, the return of the Cork man will have Munster fans drooling. The only downside is we no longer get to witness him chortling on the pitch with Finn Russell and Kurtley Beale. Instead, we will see the incisive back-three danger man cutting lines off World Cup winners Damien de Allende and RG Snyman.





Munster may be known for their direct style, and as opposing fans we’ve all sat through Thomond Park drubbings before, but with Zebo smiling to the cameras, nobody will accuse this man in red of being dull.





More stories from Will Owen







If you’ve enjoyed this article, please share it with friends or on social media. We rely solely on new subscribers to fund high-quality journalism and appreciate you sharing this so we can continue to grow, produce more quality content and support our writers.



The roar of the crowd. The crackling anticipation of live rugby in pulsating stadia. The smell of linament wafting from changing rooms. The taste of lukewarm, hideously overpriced lager in plastic cups. The opportunity to sit down on a Friday night and watch Dragons playing Ulster. 





Yep, a new season is upon us, so what’s not to love?





With the dawn of each campaign comes acclimatisation. You ask why Benetton aren’t picking Paolo Garbisi before remembering he signed for Montpellier in the summer. You spend the first three weeks of the season deciding whether or not Domingo Miotti looks good in a Glasgow jersey. 





These are seminal months for the competition now formerly known as the Pro14. The arrival of South Africa’s heavyweight quartet, a glossy summer rebrand as the United Rugby Championship, and even a partnership with Jay-Z’s Roc Nation entertainment company.  





There have been some eye-catching signings in the off-season too, from a World Cup winner to an Olympic colossus, homecoming heroes to a gifted Welshman with a big future opting to switch regions. Here, The XV hand-picks some of the tastiest acquisitions for the championship ahead.





Duane Vermeulen (Blue Bulls to Ulster)





If you’re named after a Marvel Superhero, you must have been doing something right. In a buccaneering Test career, the bearded 6ft 4in, 18st Springbok gained the moniker Thor for his rampaging busts in midfield, soft-hands out of contact – few will forget his sweet offload to Fourie du Preez in the 2015 Rugby World Cup quarter-final – and rib-clattering hits.





At 35, he may well be in the latter stages of his career, but if Alun Wyn Jones, and Johnny Sexton, who have both turned 36 in recent months, are still influential figures in the URC, then there is nothing stopping Vermeulen being a talisman around which the Ulster pack can thrive. It is a statement signing to signify a new era for the league.





Emiliano Boffelli (Racing 92 to Edinburgh)





Together with back-three compatriot Ramiro Moyano, Boffelli has made the switch from France to the Scottish capital. Only 26, it feels like he’s been around forever, given his maturity and composure at the highest level.





Emiliano Boffelli
Emiliano Boffelli was part of the Jaguares side that reached the 2019 Super Rugby final (Getty Images)




He will likely battle for the full-back jersey with incumbent Blair Kinghorn – another fleet-footed, solid 15 with a massive boot. Both are capable of playing on the wing and at fly-half, so it will be interesting to see how Mike Blair decides to use them.





Edwill van der Merwe (Stormers to Lions)





One of the hottest prospects in South African club rugby, Van der Merwe is a winger any spectator would be lucky to watch. At 25, he is soaring to peak form, having lit up the Currie Cup and conjured dazzling highlight-reel tries.





Van der Merwe could be one of the most exciting players in the league, and given Makazole Mapimpi’s Pro14 form prior to his Springbok call-up aged 28, don’t bet against the new Lion becoming a Test player. With 32-year-old sevens rapier Rosko Specman winning his first cap this year, it is evident Jacques Neinaber is happy to wait for his wingers to blossom.





WillGriff John (Sale to Scarlets)





A signing that could have implications for Wales’ front-row pecking order. With first-choice tight-head prop Tomas Francis also returning home from England, Scarlets have taken a gamble on John, a 127kg monster.





He will vie for regional selection with Samson Lee, and could pack down with Rob Evans and Ken Owens in a potent front trio. If John can prove a dominant scrummager, Wayne Pivac will surely consider him for Test honours. John was 24 hours away from a starting debut for Wales against Scotland before the pandemic ended the 2020 Six Nations, so he will be keen to take this opportunity and live his dream.





Michael Ala’alatoa (Crusaders to Leinster)





May not seem like a flashy signing on the surface, but this is a big deal at the RDS. Ala’alatoa is Leinster’s first overseas signing since a certain Scott Fardy. Leo Cullen is clearly proud of the Irish representation in his squad, so it must take a lot to impress him.





Samoan skipper Ala’alatoa must have shown he can fit into Leinster’s system as their only foreign player. A solid scrummager and tackler, expect the prop to really kick on with the four-in-a-row champions.





Jac Morgan (Scarlets to Ospreys)





Young flanker Morgan is arguably Welsh rugby’s best uncapped player. In a move that shocked many Scarlets fans, he joined a club on the up, making astute signings on its way. Alex Cuthbert is another strong addition to Toby Booth’s squad. To take such a risk at 21, Morgan must believe the Ospreys coaches can help him develop into the fully-fledged international bruiser he could so very evidently become. 





Jac Morgan
Jac Morgan has routinely made his presence felt in the red of Scarlets, and was one of the league’s top performers last term (Getty Images)




Booth’s snapping up of Leinster academy backrow Will Hickey is another really smart piece of business – poaching one of the senior members of the best academy in world rugby surely can’t backfire. Hickey could be the next Tadhg Beirne, Sam Underhill or Robin Copeland – developing in Wales before moving back to their native country to seek international honours.





Asaeli Tuivuaka (Fiji Sevens to Zebre)





Zebre have long struggled to break into the top half of the table. What needs to change? The leadership? Maybe. The kicking strategy? Sure. The option to just chuck the ball to a Fijian Olympic gold medalist? Now we’re talking. After Edinburgh’s success in converting Rio 2016 champion Viliame Mata into a world-renowned number 8, not to mention Toulouse utilising the rampaging Semi Kunitani as a dynamic lock/flanker, this feels like a perfect signing for the Italian side.





Asaeli Tuivuaka
Asaeli Tuivuaka was a colossal member of Fiji’s all-conquering Olympic sevens side (Getty Images)




Simon Zebo (Racing 92 to Munster)





The last selection has to be Zebo, doesn’t it? Who doesn’t love the guy? A fun-loving winger who is exhilarating on the field and delightful off it, the return of the Cork man will have Munster fans drooling. The only downside is we no longer get to witness him chortling on the pitch with Finn Russell and Kurtley Beale. Instead, we will see the incisive back-three danger man cutting lines off World Cup winners Damien de Allende and RG Snyman.





Munster may be known for their direct style, and as opposing fans we’ve all sat through Thomond Park drubbings before, but with Zebo smiling to the cameras, nobody will accuse this man in red of being dull.





More stories from Will Owen







If you’ve enjoyed this article, please share it with friends or on social media. We rely solely on new subscribers to fund high-quality journalism and appreciate you sharing this so we can continue to grow, produce more quality content and support our writers.



Simon Zebo (Racing 92 to Munster)





The last selection has to be Zebo, doesn’t it? Who doesn’t love the guy? A fun-loving winger who is exhilarating on the field and delightful off it, the return of the Cork man will have Munster fans drooling. The only downside is we no longer get to witness him chortling on the pitch with Finn Russell and Kurtley Beale. Instead, we will see the incisive back-three danger man cutting lines off World Cup winners Damien de Allende and RG Snyman.





Munster may be known for their direct style, and as opposing fans we’ve all sat through Thomond Park drubbings before, but with Zebo smiling to the cameras, nobody will accuse this man in red of being dull.





More stories from Will Owen







If you’ve enjoyed this article, please share it with friends or on social media. We rely solely on new subscribers to fund high-quality journalism and appreciate you sharing this so we can continue to grow, produce more quality content and support our writers.



WillGriff John (Sale to Scarlets)





A signing that could have implications for Wales’ front-row pecking order. With first-choice tight-head prop Tomas Francis also returning home from England, Scarlets have taken a gamble on John, a 127kg monster.





He will vie for regional selection with Samson Lee, and could pack down with Rob Evans and Ken Owens in a potent front trio. If John can prove a dominant scrummager, Wayne Pivac will surely consider him for Test honours. John was 24 hours away from a starting debut for Wales against Scotland before the pandemic ended the 2020 Six Nations, so he will be keen to take this opportunity and live his dream.





Michael Ala’alatoa (Crusaders to Leinster)





May not seem like a flashy signing on the surface, but this is a big deal at the RDS. Ala’alatoa is Leinster’s first overseas signing since a certain Scott Fardy. Leo Cullen is clearly proud of the Irish representation in his squad, so it must take a lot to impress him.





Samoan skipper Ala’alatoa must have shown he can fit into Leinster’s system as their only foreign player. A solid scrummager and tackler, expect the prop to really kick on with the four-in-a-row champions.





Jac Morgan (Scarlets to Ospreys)





Young flanker Morgan is arguably Welsh rugby’s best uncapped player. In a move that shocked many Scarlets fans, he joined a club on the up, making astute signings on its way. Alex Cuthbert is another strong addition to Toby Booth’s squad. To take such a risk at 21, Morgan must believe the Ospreys coaches can help him develop into the fully-fledged international bruiser he could so very evidently become. 





Jac Morgan
Jac Morgan has routinely made his presence felt in the red of Scarlets, and was one of the league’s top performers last term (Getty Images)




Booth’s snapping up of Leinster academy backrow Will Hickey is another really smart piece of business – poaching one of the senior members of the best academy in world rugby surely can’t backfire. Hickey could be the next Tadhg Beirne, Sam Underhill or Robin Copeland – developing in Wales before moving back to their native country to seek international honours.





Asaeli Tuivuaka (Fiji Sevens to Zebre)





Zebre have long struggled to break into the top half of the table. What needs to change? The leadership? Maybe. The kicking strategy? Sure. The option to just chuck the ball to a Fijian Olympic gold medalist? Now we’re talking. After Edinburgh’s success in converting Rio 2016 champion Viliame Mata into a world-renowned number 8, not to mention Toulouse utilising the rampaging Semi Kunitani as a dynamic lock/flanker, this feels like a perfect signing for the Italian side.





Asaeli Tuivuaka
Asaeli Tuivuaka was a colossal member of Fiji’s all-conquering Olympic sevens side (Getty Images)




Simon Zebo (Racing 92 to Munster)





The last selection has to be Zebo, doesn’t it? Who doesn’t love the guy? A fun-loving winger who is exhilarating on the field and delightful off it, the return of the Cork man will have Munster fans drooling. The only downside is we no longer get to witness him chortling on the pitch with Finn Russell and Kurtley Beale. Instead, we will see the incisive back-three danger man cutting lines off World Cup winners Damien de Allende and RG Snyman.





Munster may be known for their direct style, and as opposing fans we’ve all sat through Thomond Park drubbings before, but with Zebo smiling to the cameras, nobody will accuse this man in red of being dull.





More stories from Will Owen







If you’ve enjoyed this article, please share it with friends or on social media. We rely solely on new subscribers to fund high-quality journalism and appreciate you sharing this so we can continue to grow, produce more quality content and support our writers.



Edwill van der Merwe (Stormers to Lions)





One of the hottest prospects in South African club rugby, Van der Merwe is a winger any spectator would be lucky to watch. At 25, he is soaring to peak form, having lit up the Currie Cup and conjured dazzling highlight-reel tries.





Van der Merwe could be one of the most exciting players in the league, and given Makazole Mapimpi’s Pro14 form prior to his Springbok call-up aged 28, don’t bet against the new Lion becoming a Test player. With 32-year-old sevens rapier Rosko Specman winning his first cap this year, it is evident Jacques Neinaber is happy to wait for his wingers to blossom.





WillGriff John (Sale to Scarlets)





A signing that could have implications for Wales’ front-row pecking order. With first-choice tight-head prop Tomas Francis also returning home from England, Scarlets have taken a gamble on John, a 127kg monster.





He will vie for regional selection with Samson Lee, and could pack down with Rob Evans and Ken Owens in a potent front trio. If John can prove a dominant scrummager, Wayne Pivac will surely consider him for Test honours. John was 24 hours away from a starting debut for Wales against Scotland before the pandemic ended the 2020 Six Nations, so he will be keen to take this opportunity and live his dream.





Michael Ala’alatoa (Crusaders to Leinster)





May not seem like a flashy signing on the surface, but this is a big deal at the RDS. Ala’alatoa is Leinster’s first overseas signing since a certain Scott Fardy. Leo Cullen is clearly proud of the Irish representation in his squad, so it must take a lot to impress him.





Samoan skipper Ala’alatoa must have shown he can fit into Leinster’s system as their only foreign player. A solid scrummager and tackler, expect the prop to really kick on with the four-in-a-row champions.





Jac Morgan (Scarlets to Ospreys)





Young flanker Morgan is arguably Welsh rugby’s best uncapped player. In a move that shocked many Scarlets fans, he joined a club on the up, making astute signings on its way. Alex Cuthbert is another strong addition to Toby Booth’s squad. To take such a risk at 21, Morgan must believe the Ospreys coaches can help him develop into the fully-fledged international bruiser he could so very evidently become. 





Jac Morgan
Jac Morgan has routinely made his presence felt in the red of Scarlets, and was one of the league’s top performers last term (Getty Images)




Booth’s snapping up of Leinster academy backrow Will Hickey is another really smart piece of business – poaching one of the senior members of the best academy in world rugby surely can’t backfire. Hickey could be the next Tadhg Beirne, Sam Underhill or Robin Copeland – developing in Wales before moving back to their native country to seek international honours.





Asaeli Tuivuaka (Fiji Sevens to Zebre)





Zebre have long struggled to break into the top half of the table. What needs to change? The leadership? Maybe. The kicking strategy? Sure. The option to just chuck the ball to a Fijian Olympic gold medalist? Now we’re talking. After Edinburgh’s success in converting Rio 2016 champion Viliame Mata into a world-renowned number 8, not to mention Toulouse utilising the rampaging Semi Kunitani as a dynamic lock/flanker, this feels like a perfect signing for the Italian side.





Asaeli Tuivuaka
Asaeli Tuivuaka was a colossal member of Fiji’s all-conquering Olympic sevens side (Getty Images)




Simon Zebo (Racing 92 to Munster)





The last selection has to be Zebo, doesn’t it? Who doesn’t love the guy? A fun-loving winger who is exhilarating on the field and delightful off it, the return of the Cork man will have Munster fans drooling. The only downside is we no longer get to witness him chortling on the pitch with Finn Russell and Kurtley Beale. Instead, we will see the incisive back-three danger man cutting lines off World Cup winners Damien de Allende and RG Snyman.





Munster may be known for their direct style, and as opposing fans we’ve all sat through Thomond Park drubbings before, but with Zebo smiling to the cameras, nobody will accuse this man in red of being dull.





More stories from Will Owen







If you’ve enjoyed this article, please share it with friends or on social media. We rely solely on new subscribers to fund high-quality journalism and appreciate you sharing this so we can continue to grow, produce more quality content and support our writers.



Emiliano Boffelli (Racing 92 to Edinburgh)





Together with back-three compatriot Ramiro Moyano, Boffelli has made the switch from France to the Scottish capital. Only 26, it feels like he’s been around forever, given his maturity and composure at the highest level.





Emiliano Boffelli
Emiliano Boffelli was part of the Jaguares side that reached the 2019 Super Rugby final (Getty Images)




He will likely battle for the full-back jersey with incumbent Blair Kinghorn – another fleet-footed, solid 15 with a massive boot. Both are capable of playing on the wing and at fly-half, so it will be interesting to see how Mike Blair decides to use them.





Edwill van der Merwe (Stormers to Lions)





One of the hottest prospects in South African club rugby, Van der Merwe is a winger any spectator would be lucky to watch. At 25, he is soaring to peak form, having lit up the Currie Cup and conjured dazzling highlight-reel tries.





Van der Merwe could be one of the most exciting players in the league, and given Makazole Mapimpi’s Pro14 form prior to his Springbok call-up aged 28, don’t bet against the new Lion becoming a Test player. With 32-year-old sevens rapier Rosko Specman winning his first cap this year, it is evident Jacques Neinaber is happy to wait for his wingers to blossom.





WillGriff John (Sale to Scarlets)





A signing that could have implications for Wales’ front-row pecking order. With first-choice tight-head prop Tomas Francis also returning home from England, Scarlets have taken a gamble on John, a 127kg monster.





He will vie for regional selection with Samson Lee, and could pack down with Rob Evans and Ken Owens in a potent front trio. If John can prove a dominant scrummager, Wayne Pivac will surely consider him for Test honours. John was 24 hours away from a starting debut for Wales against Scotland before the pandemic ended the 2020 Six Nations, so he will be keen to take this opportunity and live his dream.





Michael Ala’alatoa (Crusaders to Leinster)





May not seem like a flashy signing on the surface, but this is a big deal at the RDS. Ala’alatoa is Leinster’s first overseas signing since a certain Scott Fardy. Leo Cullen is clearly proud of the Irish representation in his squad, so it must take a lot to impress him.





Samoan skipper Ala’alatoa must have shown he can fit into Leinster’s system as their only foreign player. A solid scrummager and tackler, expect the prop to really kick on with the four-in-a-row champions.





Jac Morgan (Scarlets to Ospreys)





Young flanker Morgan is arguably Welsh rugby’s best uncapped player. In a move that shocked many Scarlets fans, he joined a club on the up, making astute signings on its way. Alex Cuthbert is another strong addition to Toby Booth’s squad. To take such a risk at 21, Morgan must believe the Ospreys coaches can help him develop into the fully-fledged international bruiser he could so very evidently become. 





Jac Morgan
Jac Morgan has routinely made his presence felt in the red of Scarlets, and was one of the league’s top performers last term (Getty Images)




Booth’s snapping up of Leinster academy backrow Will Hickey is another really smart piece of business – poaching one of the senior members of the best academy in world rugby surely can’t backfire. Hickey could be the next Tadhg Beirne, Sam Underhill or Robin Copeland – developing in Wales before moving back to their native country to seek international honours.





Asaeli Tuivuaka (Fiji Sevens to Zebre)





Zebre have long struggled to break into the top half of the table. What needs to change? The leadership? Maybe. The kicking strategy? Sure. The option to just chuck the ball to a Fijian Olympic gold medalist? Now we’re talking. After Edinburgh’s success in converting Rio 2016 champion Viliame Mata into a world-renowned number 8, not to mention Toulouse utilising the rampaging Semi Kunitani as a dynamic lock/flanker, this feels like a perfect signing for the Italian side.





Asaeli Tuivuaka
Asaeli Tuivuaka was a colossal member of Fiji’s all-conquering Olympic sevens side (Getty Images)




Simon Zebo (Racing 92 to Munster)





The last selection has to be Zebo, doesn’t it? Who doesn’t love the guy? A fun-loving winger who is exhilarating on the field and delightful off it, the return of the Cork man will have Munster fans drooling. The only downside is we no longer get to witness him chortling on the pitch with Finn Russell and Kurtley Beale. Instead, we will see the incisive back-three danger man cutting lines off World Cup winners Damien de Allende and RG Snyman.





Munster may be known for their direct style, and as opposing fans we’ve all sat through Thomond Park drubbings before, but with Zebo smiling to the cameras, nobody will accuse this man in red of being dull.





More stories from Will Owen







If you’ve enjoyed this article, please share it with friends or on social media. We rely solely on new subscribers to fund high-quality journalism and appreciate you sharing this so we can continue to grow, produce more quality content and support our writers.



Duane Vermeulen (Blue Bulls to Ulster)





If you’re named after a Marvel Superhero, you must have been doing something right. In a buccaneering Test career, the bearded 6ft 4in, 18st Springbok gained the moniker Thor for his rampaging busts in midfield, soft-hands out of contact – few will forget his sweet offload to Fourie du Preez in the 2015 Rugby World Cup quarter-final – and rib-clattering hits.





At 35, he may well be in the latter stages of his career, but if Alun Wyn Jones, and Johnny Sexton, who have both turned 36 in recent months, are still influential figures in the URC, then there is nothing stopping Vermeulen being a talisman around which the Ulster pack can thrive. It is a statement signing to signify a new era for the league.





Emiliano Boffelli (Racing 92 to Edinburgh)





Together with back-three compatriot Ramiro Moyano, Boffelli has made the switch from France to the Scottish capital. Only 26, it feels like he’s been around forever, given his maturity and composure at the highest level.





Emiliano Boffelli
Emiliano Boffelli was part of the Jaguares side that reached the 2019 Super Rugby final (Getty Images)




He will likely battle for the full-back jersey with incumbent Blair Kinghorn – another fleet-footed, solid 15 with a massive boot. Both are capable of playing on the wing and at fly-half, so it will be interesting to see how Mike Blair decides to use them.





Edwill van der Merwe (Stormers to Lions)





One of the hottest prospects in South African club rugby, Van der Merwe is a winger any spectator would be lucky to watch. At 25, he is soaring to peak form, having lit up the Currie Cup and conjured dazzling highlight-reel tries.





Van der Merwe could be one of the most exciting players in the league, and given Makazole Mapimpi’s Pro14 form prior to his Springbok call-up aged 28, don’t bet against the new Lion becoming a Test player. With 32-year-old sevens rapier Rosko Specman winning his first cap this year, it is evident Jacques Neinaber is happy to wait for his wingers to blossom.





WillGriff John (Sale to Scarlets)





A signing that could have implications for Wales’ front-row pecking order. With first-choice tight-head prop Tomas Francis also returning home from England, Scarlets have taken a gamble on John, a 127kg monster.





He will vie for regional selection with Samson Lee, and could pack down with Rob Evans and Ken Owens in a potent front trio. If John can prove a dominant scrummager, Wayne Pivac will surely consider him for Test honours. John was 24 hours away from a starting debut for Wales against Scotland before the pandemic ended the 2020 Six Nations, so he will be keen to take this opportunity and live his dream.





Michael Ala’alatoa (Crusaders to Leinster)





May not seem like a flashy signing on the surface, but this is a big deal at the RDS. Ala’alatoa is Leinster’s first overseas signing since a certain Scott Fardy. Leo Cullen is clearly proud of the Irish representation in his squad, so it must take a lot to impress him.





Samoan skipper Ala’alatoa must have shown he can fit into Leinster’s system as their only foreign player. A solid scrummager and tackler, expect the prop to really kick on with the four-in-a-row champions.





Jac Morgan (Scarlets to Ospreys)





Young flanker Morgan is arguably Welsh rugby’s best uncapped player. In a move that shocked many Scarlets fans, he joined a club on the up, making astute signings on its way. Alex Cuthbert is another strong addition to Toby Booth’s squad. To take such a risk at 21, Morgan must believe the Ospreys coaches can help him develop into the fully-fledged international bruiser he could so very evidently become. 





Jac Morgan
Jac Morgan has routinely made his presence felt in the red of Scarlets, and was one of the league’s top performers last term (Getty Images)




Booth’s snapping up of Leinster academy backrow Will Hickey is another really smart piece of business – poaching one of the senior members of the best academy in world rugby surely can’t backfire. Hickey could be the next Tadhg Beirne, Sam Underhill or Robin Copeland – developing in Wales before moving back to their native country to seek international honours.





Asaeli Tuivuaka (Fiji Sevens to Zebre)





Zebre have long struggled to break into the top half of the table. What needs to change? The leadership? Maybe. The kicking strategy? Sure. The option to just chuck the ball to a Fijian Olympic gold medalist? Now we’re talking. After Edinburgh’s success in converting Rio 2016 champion Viliame Mata into a world-renowned number 8, not to mention Toulouse utilising the rampaging Semi Kunitani as a dynamic lock/flanker, this feels like a perfect signing for the Italian side.





Asaeli Tuivuaka
Asaeli Tuivuaka was a colossal member of Fiji’s all-conquering Olympic sevens side (Getty Images)




Simon Zebo (Racing 92 to Munster)





The last selection has to be Zebo, doesn’t it? Who doesn’t love the guy? A fun-loving winger who is exhilarating on the field and delightful off it, the return of the Cork man will have Munster fans drooling. The only downside is we no longer get to witness him chortling on the pitch with Finn Russell and Kurtley Beale. Instead, we will see the incisive back-three danger man cutting lines off World Cup winners Damien de Allende and RG Snyman.





Munster may be known for their direct style, and as opposing fans we’ve all sat through Thomond Park drubbings before, but with Zebo smiling to the cameras, nobody will accuse this man in red of being dull.





More stories from Will Owen







If you’ve enjoyed this article, please share it with friends or on social media. We rely solely on new subscribers to fund high-quality journalism and appreciate you sharing this so we can continue to grow, produce more quality content and support our writers.



The roar of the crowd. The crackling anticipation of live rugby in pulsating stadia. The smell of linament wafting from changing rooms. The taste of lukewarm, hideously overpriced lager in plastic cups. The opportunity to sit down on a Friday night and watch Dragons playing Ulster. 





Yep, a new season is upon us, so what’s not to love?





With the dawn of each campaign comes acclimatisation. You ask why Benetton aren’t picking Paolo Garbisi before remembering he signed for Montpellier in the summer. You spend the first three weeks of the season deciding whether or not Domingo Miotti looks good in a Glasgow jersey. 





These are seminal months for the competition now formerly known as the Pro14. The arrival of South Africa’s heavyweight quartet, a glossy summer rebrand as the United Rugby Championship, and even a partnership with Jay-Z’s Roc Nation entertainment company.  





There have been some eye-catching signings in the off-season too, from a World Cup winner to an Olympic colossus, homecoming heroes to a gifted Welshman with a big future opting to switch regions. Here, The XV hand-picks some of the tastiest acquisitions for the championship ahead.





Duane Vermeulen (Blue Bulls to Ulster)





If you’re named after a Marvel Superhero, you must have been doing something right. In a buccaneering Test career, the bearded 6ft 4in, 18st Springbok gained the moniker Thor for his rampaging busts in midfield, soft-hands out of contact – few will forget his sweet offload to Fourie du Preez in the 2015 Rugby World Cup quarter-final – and rib-clattering hits.





At 35, he may well be in the latter stages of his career, but if Alun Wyn Jones, and Johnny Sexton, who have both turned 36 in recent months, are still influential figures in the URC, then there is nothing stopping Vermeulen being a talisman around which the Ulster pack can thrive. It is a statement signing to signify a new era for the league.





Emiliano Boffelli (Racing 92 to Edinburgh)





Together with back-three compatriot Ramiro Moyano, Boffelli has made the switch from France to the Scottish capital. Only 26, it feels like he’s been around forever, given his maturity and composure at the highest level.





Emiliano Boffelli
Emiliano Boffelli was part of the Jaguares side that reached the 2019 Super Rugby final (Getty Images)




He will likely battle for the full-back jersey with incumbent Blair Kinghorn – another fleet-footed, solid 15 with a massive boot. Both are capable of playing on the wing and at fly-half, so it will be interesting to see how Mike Blair decides to use them.





Edwill van der Merwe (Stormers to Lions)





One of the hottest prospects in South African club rugby, Van der Merwe is a winger any spectator would be lucky to watch. At 25, he is soaring to peak form, having lit up the Currie Cup and conjured dazzling highlight-reel tries.





Van der Merwe could be one of the most exciting players in the league, and given Makazole Mapimpi’s Pro14 form prior to his Springbok call-up aged 28, don’t bet against the new Lion becoming a Test player. With 32-year-old sevens rapier Rosko Specman winning his first cap this year, it is evident Jacques Neinaber is happy to wait for his wingers to blossom.





WillGriff John (Sale to Scarlets)





A signing that could have implications for Wales’ front-row pecking order. With first-choice tight-head prop Tomas Francis also returning home from England, Scarlets have taken a gamble on John, a 127kg monster.





He will vie for regional selection with Samson Lee, and could pack down with Rob Evans and Ken Owens in a potent front trio. If John can prove a dominant scrummager, Wayne Pivac will surely consider him for Test honours. John was 24 hours away from a starting debut for Wales against Scotland before the pandemic ended the 2020 Six Nations, so he will be keen to take this opportunity and live his dream.





Michael Ala’alatoa (Crusaders to Leinster)





May not seem like a flashy signing on the surface, but this is a big deal at the RDS. Ala’alatoa is Leinster’s first overseas signing since a certain Scott Fardy. Leo Cullen is clearly proud of the Irish representation in his squad, so it must take a lot to impress him.





Samoan skipper Ala’alatoa must have shown he can fit into Leinster’s system as their only foreign player. A solid scrummager and tackler, expect the prop to really kick on with the four-in-a-row champions.





Jac Morgan (Scarlets to Ospreys)





Young flanker Morgan is arguably Welsh rugby’s best uncapped player. In a move that shocked many Scarlets fans, he joined a club on the up, making astute signings on its way. Alex Cuthbert is another strong addition to Toby Booth’s squad. To take such a risk at 21, Morgan must believe the Ospreys coaches can help him develop into the fully-fledged international bruiser he could so very evidently become. 





Jac Morgan
Jac Morgan has routinely made his presence felt in the red of Scarlets, and was one of the league’s top performers last term (Getty Images)




Booth’s snapping up of Leinster academy backrow Will Hickey is another really smart piece of business – poaching one of the senior members of the best academy in world rugby surely can’t backfire. Hickey could be the next Tadhg Beirne, Sam Underhill or Robin Copeland – developing in Wales before moving back to their native country to seek international honours.





Asaeli Tuivuaka (Fiji Sevens to Zebre)





Zebre have long struggled to break into the top half of the table. What needs to change? The leadership? Maybe. The kicking strategy? Sure. The option to just chuck the ball to a Fijian Olympic gold medalist? Now we’re talking. After Edinburgh’s success in converting Rio 2016 champion Viliame Mata into a world-renowned number 8, not to mention Toulouse utilising the rampaging Semi Kunitani as a dynamic lock/flanker, this feels like a perfect signing for the Italian side.





Asaeli Tuivuaka
Asaeli Tuivuaka was a colossal member of Fiji’s all-conquering Olympic sevens side (Getty Images)




Simon Zebo (Racing 92 to Munster)





The last selection has to be Zebo, doesn’t it? Who doesn’t love the guy? A fun-loving winger who is exhilarating on the field and delightful off it, the return of the Cork man will have Munster fans drooling. The only downside is we no longer get to witness him chortling on the pitch with Finn Russell and Kurtley Beale. Instead, we will see the incisive back-three danger man cutting lines off World Cup winners Damien de Allende and RG Snyman.





Munster may be known for their direct style, and as opposing fans we’ve all sat through Thomond Park drubbings before, but with Zebo smiling to the cameras, nobody will accuse this man in red of being dull.





More stories from Will Owen







If you’ve enjoyed this article, please share it with friends or on social media. We rely solely on new subscribers to fund high-quality journalism and appreciate you sharing this so we can continue to grow, produce more quality content and support our writers.



Asaeli Tuivuaka (Fiji Sevens to Zebre)





Zebre have long struggled to break into the top half of the table. What needs to change? The leadership? Maybe. The kicking strategy? Sure. The option to just chuck the ball to a Fijian Olympic gold medalist? Now we’re talking. After Edinburgh’s success in converting Rio 2016 champion Viliame Mata into a world-renowned number 8, not to mention Toulouse utilising the rampaging Semi Kunitani as a dynamic lock/flanker, this feels like a perfect signing for the Italian side.





Asaeli Tuivuaka
Asaeli Tuivuaka was a colossal member of Fiji’s all-conquering Olympic sevens side (Getty Images)




Simon Zebo (Racing 92 to Munster)





The last selection has to be Zebo, doesn’t it? Who doesn’t love the guy? A fun-loving winger who is exhilarating on the field and delightful off it, the return of the Cork man will have Munster fans drooling. The only downside is we no longer get to witness him chortling on the pitch with Finn Russell and Kurtley Beale. Instead, we will see the incisive back-three danger man cutting lines off World Cup winners Damien de Allende and RG Snyman.





Munster may be known for their direct style, and as opposing fans we’ve all sat through Thomond Park drubbings before, but with Zebo smiling to the cameras, nobody will accuse this man in red of being dull.





More stories from Will Owen







If you’ve enjoyed this article, please share it with friends or on social media. We rely solely on new subscribers to fund high-quality journalism and appreciate you sharing this so we can continue to grow, produce more quality content and support our writers.



WillGriff John (Sale to Scarlets)





A signing that could have implications for Wales’ front-row pecking order. With first-choice tight-head prop Tomas Francis also returning home from England, Scarlets have taken a gamble on John, a 127kg monster.





He will vie for regional selection with Samson Lee, and could pack down with Rob Evans and Ken Owens in a potent front trio. If John can prove a dominant scrummager, Wayne Pivac will surely consider him for Test honours. John was 24 hours away from a starting debut for Wales against Scotland before the pandemic ended the 2020 Six Nations, so he will be keen to take this opportunity and live his dream.





Michael Ala’alatoa (Crusaders to Leinster)





May not seem like a flashy signing on the surface, but this is a big deal at the RDS. Ala’alatoa is Leinster’s first overseas signing since a certain Scott Fardy. Leo Cullen is clearly proud of the Irish representation in his squad, so it must take a lot to impress him.





Samoan skipper Ala’alatoa must have shown he can fit into Leinster’s system as their only foreign player. A solid scrummager and tackler, expect the prop to really kick on with the four-in-a-row champions.





Jac Morgan (Scarlets to Ospreys)





Young flanker Morgan is arguably Welsh rugby’s best uncapped player. In a move that shocked many Scarlets fans, he joined a club on the up, making astute signings on its way. Alex Cuthbert is another strong addition to Toby Booth’s squad. To take such a risk at 21, Morgan must believe the Ospreys coaches can help him develop into the fully-fledged international bruiser he could so very evidently become. 





Jac Morgan
Jac Morgan has routinely made his presence felt in the red of Scarlets, and was one of the league’s top performers last term (Getty Images)




Booth’s snapping up of Leinster academy backrow Will Hickey is another really smart piece of business – poaching one of the senior members of the best academy in world rugby surely can’t backfire. Hickey could be the next Tadhg Beirne, Sam Underhill or Robin Copeland – developing in Wales before moving back to their native country to seek international honours.





Asaeli Tuivuaka (Fiji Sevens to Zebre)





Zebre have long struggled to break into the top half of the table. What needs to change? The leadership? Maybe. The kicking strategy? Sure. The option to just chuck the ball to a Fijian Olympic gold medalist? Now we’re talking. After Edinburgh’s success in converting Rio 2016 champion Viliame Mata into a world-renowned number 8, not to mention Toulouse utilising the rampaging Semi Kunitani as a dynamic lock/flanker, this feels like a perfect signing for the Italian side.





Asaeli Tuivuaka
Asaeli Tuivuaka was a colossal member of Fiji’s all-conquering Olympic sevens side (Getty Images)




Simon Zebo (Racing 92 to Munster)





The last selection has to be Zebo, doesn’t it? Who doesn’t love the guy? A fun-loving winger who is exhilarating on the field and delightful off it, the return of the Cork man will have Munster fans drooling. The only downside is we no longer get to witness him chortling on the pitch with Finn Russell and Kurtley Beale. Instead, we will see the incisive back-three danger man cutting lines off World Cup winners Damien de Allende and RG Snyman.





Munster may be known for their direct style, and as opposing fans we’ve all sat through Thomond Park drubbings before, but with Zebo smiling to the cameras, nobody will accuse this man in red of being dull.





More stories from Will Owen







If you’ve enjoyed this article, please share it with friends or on social media. We rely solely on new subscribers to fund high-quality journalism and appreciate you sharing this so we can continue to grow, produce more quality content and support our writers.



Edwill van der Merwe (Stormers to Lions)





One of the hottest prospects in South African club rugby, Van der Merwe is a winger any spectator would be lucky to watch. At 25, he is soaring to peak form, having lit up the Currie Cup and conjured dazzling highlight-reel tries.





Van der Merwe could be one of the most exciting players in the league, and given Makazole Mapimpi’s Pro14 form prior to his Springbok call-up aged 28, don’t bet against the new Lion becoming a Test player. With 32-year-old sevens rapier Rosko Specman winning his first cap this year, it is evident Jacques Neinaber is happy to wait for his wingers to blossom.





WillGriff John (Sale to Scarlets)





A signing that could have implications for Wales’ front-row pecking order. With first-choice tight-head prop Tomas Francis also returning home from England, Scarlets have taken a gamble on John, a 127kg monster.





He will vie for regional selection with Samson Lee, and could pack down with Rob Evans and Ken Owens in a potent front trio. If John can prove a dominant scrummager, Wayne Pivac will surely consider him for Test honours. John was 24 hours away from a starting debut for Wales against Scotland before the pandemic ended the 2020 Six Nations, so he will be keen to take this opportunity and live his dream.





Michael Ala’alatoa (Crusaders to Leinster)





May not seem like a flashy signing on the surface, but this is a big deal at the RDS. Ala’alatoa is Leinster’s first overseas signing since a certain Scott Fardy. Leo Cullen is clearly proud of the Irish representation in his squad, so it must take a lot to impress him.





Samoan skipper Ala’alatoa must have shown he can fit into Leinster’s system as their only foreign player. A solid scrummager and tackler, expect the prop to really kick on with the four-in-a-row champions.





Jac Morgan (Scarlets to Ospreys)





Young flanker Morgan is arguably Welsh rugby’s best uncapped player. In a move that shocked many Scarlets fans, he joined a club on the up, making astute signings on its way. Alex Cuthbert is another strong addition to Toby Booth’s squad. To take such a risk at 21, Morgan must believe the Ospreys coaches can help him develop into the fully-fledged international bruiser he could so very evidently become. 





Jac Morgan
Jac Morgan has routinely made his presence felt in the red of Scarlets, and was one of the league’s top performers last term (Getty Images)




Booth’s snapping up of Leinster academy backrow Will Hickey is another really smart piece of business – poaching one of the senior members of the best academy in world rugby surely can’t backfire. Hickey could be the next Tadhg Beirne, Sam Underhill or Robin Copeland – developing in Wales before moving back to their native country to seek international honours.





Asaeli Tuivuaka (Fiji Sevens to Zebre)





Zebre have long struggled to break into the top half of the table. What needs to change? The leadership? Maybe. The kicking strategy? Sure. The option to just chuck the ball to a Fijian Olympic gold medalist? Now we’re talking. After Edinburgh’s success in converting Rio 2016 champion Viliame Mata into a world-renowned number 8, not to mention Toulouse utilising the rampaging Semi Kunitani as a dynamic lock/flanker, this feels like a perfect signing for the Italian side.





Asaeli Tuivuaka
Asaeli Tuivuaka was a colossal member of Fiji’s all-conquering Olympic sevens side (Getty Images)




Simon Zebo (Racing 92 to Munster)





The last selection has to be Zebo, doesn’t it? Who doesn’t love the guy? A fun-loving winger who is exhilarating on the field and delightful off it, the return of the Cork man will have Munster fans drooling. The only downside is we no longer get to witness him chortling on the pitch with Finn Russell and Kurtley Beale. Instead, we will see the incisive back-three danger man cutting lines off World Cup winners Damien de Allende and RG Snyman.





Munster may be known for their direct style, and as opposing fans we’ve all sat through Thomond Park drubbings before, but with Zebo smiling to the cameras, nobody will accuse this man in red of being dull.





More stories from Will Owen







If you’ve enjoyed this article, please share it with friends or on social media. We rely solely on new subscribers to fund high-quality journalism and appreciate you sharing this so we can continue to grow, produce more quality content and support our writers.



Emiliano Boffelli (Racing 92 to Edinburgh)





Together with back-three compatriot Ramiro Moyano, Boffelli has made the switch from France to the Scottish capital. Only 26, it feels like he’s been around forever, given his maturity and composure at the highest level.





Emiliano Boffelli
Emiliano Boffelli was part of the Jaguares side that reached the 2019 Super Rugby final (Getty Images)




He will likely battle for the full-back jersey with incumbent Blair Kinghorn – another fleet-footed, solid 15 with a massive boot. Both are capable of playing on the wing and at fly-half, so it will be interesting to see how Mike Blair decides to use them.





Edwill van der Merwe (Stormers to Lions)





One of the hottest prospects in South African club rugby, Van der Merwe is a winger any spectator would be lucky to watch. At 25, he is soaring to peak form, having lit up the Currie Cup and conjured dazzling highlight-reel tries.





Van der Merwe could be one of the most exciting players in the league, and given Makazole Mapimpi’s Pro14 form prior to his Springbok call-up aged 28, don’t bet against the new Lion becoming a Test player. With 32-year-old sevens rapier Rosko Specman winning his first cap this year, it is evident Jacques Neinaber is happy to wait for his wingers to blossom.





WillGriff John (Sale to Scarlets)





A signing that could have implications for Wales’ front-row pecking order. With first-choice tight-head prop Tomas Francis also returning home from England, Scarlets have taken a gamble on John, a 127kg monster.





He will vie for regional selection with Samson Lee, and could pack down with Rob Evans and Ken Owens in a potent front trio. If John can prove a dominant scrummager, Wayne Pivac will surely consider him for Test honours. John was 24 hours away from a starting debut for Wales against Scotland before the pandemic ended the 2020 Six Nations, so he will be keen to take this opportunity and live his dream.





Michael Ala’alatoa (Crusaders to Leinster)





May not seem like a flashy signing on the surface, but this is a big deal at the RDS. Ala’alatoa is Leinster’s first overseas signing since a certain Scott Fardy. Leo Cullen is clearly proud of the Irish representation in his squad, so it must take a lot to impress him.





Samoan skipper Ala’alatoa must have shown he can fit into Leinster’s system as their only foreign player. A solid scrummager and tackler, expect the prop to really kick on with the four-in-a-row champions.





Jac Morgan (Scarlets to Ospreys)





Young flanker Morgan is arguably Welsh rugby’s best uncapped player. In a move that shocked many Scarlets fans, he joined a club on the up, making astute signings on its way. Alex Cuthbert is another strong addition to Toby Booth’s squad. To take such a risk at 21, Morgan must believe the Ospreys coaches can help him develop into the fully-fledged international bruiser he could so very evidently become. 





Jac Morgan
Jac Morgan has routinely made his presence felt in the red of Scarlets, and was one of the league’s top performers last term (Getty Images)




Booth’s snapping up of Leinster academy backrow Will Hickey is another really smart piece of business – poaching one of the senior members of the best academy in world rugby surely can’t backfire. Hickey could be the next Tadhg Beirne, Sam Underhill or Robin Copeland – developing in Wales before moving back to their native country to seek international honours.





Asaeli Tuivuaka (Fiji Sevens to Zebre)





Zebre have long struggled to break into the top half of the table. What needs to change? The leadership? Maybe. The kicking strategy? Sure. The option to just chuck the ball to a Fijian Olympic gold medalist? Now we’re talking. After Edinburgh’s success in converting Rio 2016 champion Viliame Mata into a world-renowned number 8, not to mention Toulouse utilising the rampaging Semi Kunitani as a dynamic lock/flanker, this feels like a perfect signing for the Italian side.





Asaeli Tuivuaka
Asaeli Tuivuaka was a colossal member of Fiji’s all-conquering Olympic sevens side (Getty Images)




Simon Zebo (Racing 92 to Munster)





The last selection has to be Zebo, doesn’t it? Who doesn’t love the guy? A fun-loving winger who is exhilarating on the field and delightful off it, the return of the Cork man will have Munster fans drooling. The only downside is we no longer get to witness him chortling on the pitch with Finn Russell and Kurtley Beale. Instead, we will see the incisive back-three danger man cutting lines off World Cup winners Damien de Allende and RG Snyman.





Munster may be known for their direct style, and as opposing fans we’ve all sat through Thomond Park drubbings before, but with Zebo smiling to the cameras, nobody will accuse this man in red of being dull.





More stories from Will Owen







If you’ve enjoyed this article, please share it with friends or on social media. We rely solely on new subscribers to fund high-quality journalism and appreciate you sharing this so we can continue to grow, produce more quality content and support our writers.



Duane Vermeulen (Blue Bulls to Ulster)





If you’re named after a Marvel Superhero, you must have been doing something right. In a buccaneering Test career, the bearded 6ft 4in, 18st Springbok gained the moniker Thor for his rampaging busts in midfield, soft-hands out of contact – few will forget his sweet offload to Fourie du Preez in the 2015 Rugby World Cup quarter-final – and rib-clattering hits.





At 35, he may well be in the latter stages of his career, but if Alun Wyn Jones, and Johnny Sexton, who have both turned 36 in recent months, are still influential figures in the URC, then there is nothing stopping Vermeulen being a talisman around which the Ulster pack can thrive. It is a statement signing to signify a new era for the league.





Emiliano Boffelli (Racing 92 to Edinburgh)





Together with back-three compatriot Ramiro Moyano, Boffelli has made the switch from France to the Scottish capital. Only 26, it feels like he’s been around forever, given his maturity and composure at the highest level.





Emiliano Boffelli
Emiliano Boffelli was part of the Jaguares side that reached the 2019 Super Rugby final (Getty Images)




He will likely battle for the full-back jersey with incumbent Blair Kinghorn – another fleet-footed, solid 15 with a massive boot. Both are capable of playing on the wing and at fly-half, so it will be interesting to see how Mike Blair decides to use them.





Edwill van der Merwe (Stormers to Lions)





One of the hottest prospects in South African club rugby, Van der Merwe is a winger any spectator would be lucky to watch. At 25, he is soaring to peak form, having lit up the Currie Cup and conjured dazzling highlight-reel tries.





Van der Merwe could be one of the most exciting players in the league, and given Makazole Mapimpi’s Pro14 form prior to his Springbok call-up aged 28, don’t bet against the new Lion becoming a Test player. With 32-year-old sevens rapier Rosko Specman winning his first cap this year, it is evident Jacques Neinaber is happy to wait for his wingers to blossom.





WillGriff John (Sale to Scarlets)





A signing that could have implications for Wales’ front-row pecking order. With first-choice tight-head prop Tomas Francis also returning home from England, Scarlets have taken a gamble on John, a 127kg monster.





He will vie for regional selection with Samson Lee, and could pack down with Rob Evans and Ken Owens in a potent front trio. If John can prove a dominant scrummager, Wayne Pivac will surely consider him for Test honours. John was 24 hours away from a starting debut for Wales against Scotland before the pandemic ended the 2020 Six Nations, so he will be keen to take this opportunity and live his dream.





Michael Ala’alatoa (Crusaders to Leinster)





May not seem like a flashy signing on the surface, but this is a big deal at the RDS. Ala’alatoa is Leinster’s first overseas signing since a certain Scott Fardy. Leo Cullen is clearly proud of the Irish representation in his squad, so it must take a lot to impress him.





Samoan skipper Ala’alatoa must have shown he can fit into Leinster’s system as their only foreign player. A solid scrummager and tackler, expect the prop to really kick on with the four-in-a-row champions.





Jac Morgan (Scarlets to Ospreys)





Young flanker Morgan is arguably Welsh rugby’s best uncapped player. In a move that shocked many Scarlets fans, he joined a club on the up, making astute signings on its way. Alex Cuthbert is another strong addition to Toby Booth’s squad. To take such a risk at 21, Morgan must believe the Ospreys coaches can help him develop into the fully-fledged international bruiser he could so very evidently become. 





Jac Morgan
Jac Morgan has routinely made his presence felt in the red of Scarlets, and was one of the league’s top performers last term (Getty Images)




Booth’s snapping up of Leinster academy backrow Will Hickey is another really smart piece of business – poaching one of the senior members of the best academy in world rugby surely can’t backfire. Hickey could be the next Tadhg Beirne, Sam Underhill or Robin Copeland – developing in Wales before moving back to their native country to seek international honours.





Asaeli Tuivuaka (Fiji Sevens to Zebre)





Zebre have long struggled to break into the top half of the table. What needs to change? The leadership? Maybe. The kicking strategy? Sure. The option to just chuck the ball to a Fijian Olympic gold medalist? Now we’re talking. After Edinburgh’s success in converting Rio 2016 champion Viliame Mata into a world-renowned number 8, not to mention Toulouse utilising the rampaging Semi Kunitani as a dynamic lock/flanker, this feels like a perfect signing for the Italian side.





Asaeli Tuivuaka
Asaeli Tuivuaka was a colossal member of Fiji’s all-conquering Olympic sevens side (Getty Images)




Simon Zebo (Racing 92 to Munster)





The last selection has to be Zebo, doesn’t it? Who doesn’t love the guy? A fun-loving winger who is exhilarating on the field and delightful off it, the return of the Cork man will have Munster fans drooling. The only downside is we no longer get to witness him chortling on the pitch with Finn Russell and Kurtley Beale. Instead, we will see the incisive back-three danger man cutting lines off World Cup winners Damien de Allende and RG Snyman.





Munster may be known for their direct style, and as opposing fans we’ve all sat through Thomond Park drubbings before, but with Zebo smiling to the cameras, nobody will accuse this man in red of being dull.





More stories from Will Owen







If you’ve enjoyed this article, please share it with friends or on social media. We rely solely on new subscribers to fund high-quality journalism and appreciate you sharing this so we can continue to grow, produce more quality content and support our writers.



The roar of the crowd. The crackling anticipation of live rugby in pulsating stadia. The smell of linament wafting from changing rooms. The taste of lukewarm, hideously overpriced lager in plastic cups. The opportunity to sit down on a Friday night and watch Dragons playing Ulster. 





Yep, a new season is upon us, so what’s not to love?





With the dawn of each campaign comes acclimatisation. You ask why Benetton aren’t picking Paolo Garbisi before remembering he signed for Montpellier in the summer. You spend the first three weeks of the season deciding whether or not Domingo Miotti looks good in a Glasgow jersey. 





These are seminal months for the competition now formerly known as the Pro14. The arrival of South Africa’s heavyweight quartet, a glossy summer rebrand as the United Rugby Championship, and even a partnership with Jay-Z’s Roc Nation entertainment company.  





There have been some eye-catching signings in the off-season too, from a World Cup winner to an Olympic colossus, homecoming heroes to a gifted Welshman with a big future opting to switch regions. Here, The XV hand-picks some of the tastiest acquisitions for the championship ahead.





Duane Vermeulen (Blue Bulls to Ulster)





If you’re named after a Marvel Superhero, you must have been doing something right. In a buccaneering Test career, the bearded 6ft 4in, 18st Springbok gained the moniker Thor for his rampaging busts in midfield, soft-hands out of contact – few will forget his sweet offload to Fourie du Preez in the 2015 Rugby World Cup quarter-final – and rib-clattering hits.





At 35, he may well be in the latter stages of his career, but if Alun Wyn Jones, and Johnny Sexton, who have both turned 36 in recent months, are still influential figures in the URC, then there is nothing stopping Vermeulen being a talisman around which the Ulster pack can thrive. It is a statement signing to signify a new era for the league.





Emiliano Boffelli (Racing 92 to Edinburgh)





Together with back-three compatriot Ramiro Moyano, Boffelli has made the switch from France to the Scottish capital. Only 26, it feels like he’s been around forever, given his maturity and composure at the highest level.





Emiliano Boffelli
Emiliano Boffelli was part of the Jaguares side that reached the 2019 Super Rugby final (Getty Images)




He will likely battle for the full-back jersey with incumbent Blair Kinghorn – another fleet-footed, solid 15 with a massive boot. Both are capable of playing on the wing and at fly-half, so it will be interesting to see how Mike Blair decides to use them.





Edwill van der Merwe (Stormers to Lions)





One of the hottest prospects in South African club rugby, Van der Merwe is a winger any spectator would be lucky to watch. At 25, he is soaring to peak form, having lit up the Currie Cup and conjured dazzling highlight-reel tries.





Van der Merwe could be one of the most exciting players in the league, and given Makazole Mapimpi’s Pro14 form prior to his Springbok call-up aged 28, don’t bet against the new Lion becoming a Test player. With 32-year-old sevens rapier Rosko Specman winning his first cap this year, it is evident Jacques Neinaber is happy to wait for his wingers to blossom.





WillGriff John (Sale to Scarlets)





A signing that could have implications for Wales’ front-row pecking order. With first-choice tight-head prop Tomas Francis also returning home from England, Scarlets have taken a gamble on John, a 127kg monster.





He will vie for regional selection with Samson Lee, and could pack down with Rob Evans and Ken Owens in a potent front trio. If John can prove a dominant scrummager, Wayne Pivac will surely consider him for Test honours. John was 24 hours away from a starting debut for Wales against Scotland before the pandemic ended the 2020 Six Nations, so he will be keen to take this opportunity and live his dream.





Michael Ala’alatoa (Crusaders to Leinster)





May not seem like a flashy signing on the surface, but this is a big deal at the RDS. Ala’alatoa is Leinster’s first overseas signing since a certain Scott Fardy. Leo Cullen is clearly proud of the Irish representation in his squad, so it must take a lot to impress him.





Samoan skipper Ala’alatoa must have shown he can fit into Leinster’s system as their only foreign player. A solid scrummager and tackler, expect the prop to really kick on with the four-in-a-row champions.





Jac Morgan (Scarlets to Ospreys)





Young flanker Morgan is arguably Welsh rugby’s best uncapped player. In a move that shocked many Scarlets fans, he joined a club on the up, making astute signings on its way. Alex Cuthbert is another strong addition to Toby Booth’s squad. To take such a risk at 21, Morgan must believe the Ospreys coaches can help him develop into the fully-fledged international bruiser he could so very evidently become. 





Jac Morgan
Jac Morgan has routinely made his presence felt in the red of Scarlets, and was one of the league’s top performers last term (Getty Images)




Booth’s snapping up of Leinster academy backrow Will Hickey is another really smart piece of business – poaching one of the senior members of the best academy in world rugby surely can’t backfire. Hickey could be the next Tadhg Beirne, Sam Underhill or Robin Copeland – developing in Wales before moving back to their native country to seek international honours.





Asaeli Tuivuaka (Fiji Sevens to Zebre)





Zebre have long struggled to break into the top half of the table. What needs to change? The leadership? Maybe. The kicking strategy? Sure. The option to just chuck the ball to a Fijian Olympic gold medalist? Now we’re talking. After Edinburgh’s success in converting Rio 2016 champion Viliame Mata into a world-renowned number 8, not to mention Toulouse utilising the rampaging Semi Kunitani as a dynamic lock/flanker, this feels like a perfect signing for the Italian side.





Asaeli Tuivuaka
Asaeli Tuivuaka was a colossal member of Fiji’s all-conquering Olympic sevens side (Getty Images)




Simon Zebo (Racing 92 to Munster)





The last selection has to be Zebo, doesn’t it? Who doesn’t love the guy? A fun-loving winger who is exhilarating on the field and delightful off it, the return of the Cork man will have Munster fans drooling. The only downside is we no longer get to witness him chortling on the pitch with Finn Russell and Kurtley Beale. Instead, we will see the incisive back-three danger man cutting lines off World Cup winners Damien de Allende and RG Snyman.





Munster may be known for their direct style, and as opposing fans we’ve all sat through Thomond Park drubbings before, but with Zebo smiling to the cameras, nobody will accuse this man in red of being dull.





More stories from Will Owen







If you’ve enjoyed this article, please share it with friends or on social media. We rely solely on new subscribers to fund high-quality journalism and appreciate you sharing this so we can continue to grow, produce more quality content and support our writers.



Simon Zebo (Racing 92 to Munster)





The last selection has to be Zebo, doesn’t it? Who doesn’t love the guy? A fun-loving winger who is exhilarating on the field and delightful off it, the return of the Cork man will have Munster fans drooling. The only downside is we no longer get to witness him chortling on the pitch with Finn Russell and Kurtley Beale. Instead, we will see the incisive back-three danger man cutting lines off World Cup winners Damien de Allende and RG Snyman.





Munster may be known for their direct style, and as opposing fans we’ve all sat through Thomond Park drubbings before, but with Zebo smiling to the cameras, nobody will accuse this man in red of being dull.





More stories from Will Owen







If you’ve enjoyed this article, please share it with friends or on social media. We rely solely on new subscribers to fund high-quality journalism and appreciate you sharing this so we can continue to grow, produce more quality content and support our writers.



Michael Ala’alatoa (Crusaders to Leinster)





May not seem like a flashy signing on the surface, but this is a big deal at the RDS. Ala’alatoa is Leinster’s first overseas signing since a certain Scott Fardy. Leo Cullen is clearly proud of the Irish representation in his squad, so it must take a lot to impress him.





Samoan skipper Ala’alatoa must have shown he can fit into Leinster’s system as their only foreign player. A solid scrummager and tackler, expect the prop to really kick on with the four-in-a-row champions.





Jac Morgan (Scarlets to Ospreys)





Young flanker Morgan is arguably Welsh rugby’s best uncapped player. In a move that shocked many Scarlets fans, he joined a club on the up, making astute signings on its way. Alex Cuthbert is another strong addition to Toby Booth’s squad. To take such a risk at 21, Morgan must believe the Ospreys coaches can help him develop into the fully-fledged international bruiser he could so very evidently become. 





Jac Morgan
Jac Morgan has routinely made his presence felt in the red of Scarlets, and was one of the league’s top performers last term (Getty Images)




Booth’s snapping up of Leinster academy backrow Will Hickey is another really smart piece of business – poaching one of the senior members of the best academy in world rugby surely can’t backfire. Hickey could be the next Tadhg Beirne, Sam Underhill or Robin Copeland – developing in Wales before moving back to their native country to seek international honours.





Asaeli Tuivuaka (Fiji Sevens to Zebre)





Zebre have long struggled to break into the top half of the table. What needs to change? The leadership? Maybe. The kicking strategy? Sure. The option to just chuck the ball to a Fijian Olympic gold medalist? Now we’re talking. After Edinburgh’s success in converting Rio 2016 champion Viliame Mata into a world-renowned number 8, not to mention Toulouse utilising the rampaging Semi Kunitani as a dynamic lock/flanker, this feels like a perfect signing for the Italian side.





Asaeli Tuivuaka
Asaeli Tuivuaka was a colossal member of Fiji’s all-conquering Olympic sevens side (Getty Images)




Simon Zebo (Racing 92 to Munster)





The last selection has to be Zebo, doesn’t it? Who doesn’t love the guy? A fun-loving winger who is exhilarating on the field and delightful off it, the return of the Cork man will have Munster fans drooling. The only downside is we no longer get to witness him chortling on the pitch with Finn Russell and Kurtley Beale. Instead, we will see the incisive back-three danger man cutting lines off World Cup winners Damien de Allende and RG Snyman.





Munster may be known for their direct style, and as opposing fans we’ve all sat through Thomond Park drubbings before, but with Zebo smiling to the cameras, nobody will accuse this man in red of being dull.





More stories from Will Owen







If you’ve enjoyed this article, please share it with friends or on social media. We rely solely on new subscribers to fund high-quality journalism and appreciate you sharing this so we can continue to grow, produce more quality content and support our writers.



WillGriff John (Sale to Scarlets)





A signing that could have implications for Wales’ front-row pecking order. With first-choice tight-head prop Tomas Francis also returning home from England, Scarlets have taken a gamble on John, a 127kg monster.





He will vie for regional selection with Samson Lee, and could pack down with Rob Evans and Ken Owens in a potent front trio. If John can prove a dominant scrummager, Wayne Pivac will surely consider him for Test honours. John was 24 hours away from a starting debut for Wales against Scotland before the pandemic ended the 2020 Six Nations, so he will be keen to take this opportunity and live his dream.





Michael Ala’alatoa (Crusaders to Leinster)





May not seem like a flashy signing on the surface, but this is a big deal at the RDS. Ala’alatoa is Leinster’s first overseas signing since a certain Scott Fardy. Leo Cullen is clearly proud of the Irish representation in his squad, so it must take a lot to impress him.





Samoan skipper Ala’alatoa must have shown he can fit into Leinster’s system as their only foreign player. A solid scrummager and tackler, expect the prop to really kick on with the four-in-a-row champions.





Jac Morgan (Scarlets to Ospreys)





Young flanker Morgan is arguably Welsh rugby’s best uncapped player. In a move that shocked many Scarlets fans, he joined a club on the up, making astute signings on its way. Alex Cuthbert is another strong addition to Toby Booth’s squad. To take such a risk at 21, Morgan must believe the Ospreys coaches can help him develop into the fully-fledged international bruiser he could so very evidently become. 





Jac Morgan
Jac Morgan has routinely made his presence felt in the red of Scarlets, and was one of the league’s top performers last term (Getty Images)




Booth’s snapping up of Leinster academy backrow Will Hickey is another really smart piece of business – poaching one of the senior members of the best academy in world rugby surely can’t backfire. Hickey could be the next Tadhg Beirne, Sam Underhill or Robin Copeland – developing in Wales before moving back to their native country to seek international honours.





Asaeli Tuivuaka (Fiji Sevens to Zebre)





Zebre have long struggled to break into the top half of the table. What needs to change? The leadership? Maybe. The kicking strategy? Sure. The option to just chuck the ball to a Fijian Olympic gold medalist? Now we’re talking. After Edinburgh’s success in converting Rio 2016 champion Viliame Mata into a world-renowned number 8, not to mention Toulouse utilising the rampaging Semi Kunitani as a dynamic lock/flanker, this feels like a perfect signing for the Italian side.





Asaeli Tuivuaka
Asaeli Tuivuaka was a colossal member of Fiji’s all-conquering Olympic sevens side (Getty Images)




Simon Zebo (Racing 92 to Munster)





The last selection has to be Zebo, doesn’t it? Who doesn’t love the guy? A fun-loving winger who is exhilarating on the field and delightful off it, the return of the Cork man will have Munster fans drooling. The only downside is we no longer get to witness him chortling on the pitch with Finn Russell and Kurtley Beale. Instead, we will see the incisive back-three danger man cutting lines off World Cup winners Damien de Allende and RG Snyman.





Munster may be known for their direct style, and as opposing fans we’ve all sat through Thomond Park drubbings before, but with Zebo smiling to the cameras, nobody will accuse this man in red of being dull.





More stories from Will Owen







If you’ve enjoyed this article, please share it with friends or on social media. We rely solely on new subscribers to fund high-quality journalism and appreciate you sharing this so we can continue to grow, produce more quality content and support our writers.



Edwill van der Merwe (Stormers to Lions)





One of the hottest prospects in South African club rugby, Van der Merwe is a winger any spectator would be lucky to watch. At 25, he is soaring to peak form, having lit up the Currie Cup and conjured dazzling highlight-reel tries.





Van der Merwe could be one of the most exciting players in the league, and given Makazole Mapimpi’s Pro14 form prior to his Springbok call-up aged 28, don’t bet against the new Lion becoming a Test player. With 32-year-old sevens rapier Rosko Specman winning his first cap this year, it is evident Jacques Neinaber is happy to wait for his wingers to blossom.





WillGriff John (Sale to Scarlets)





A signing that could have implications for Wales’ front-row pecking order. With first-choice tight-head prop Tomas Francis also returning home from England, Scarlets have taken a gamble on John, a 127kg monster.





He will vie for regional selection with Samson Lee, and could pack down with Rob Evans and Ken Owens in a potent front trio. If John can prove a dominant scrummager, Wayne Pivac will surely consider him for Test honours. John was 24 hours away from a starting debut for Wales against Scotland before the pandemic ended the 2020 Six Nations, so he will be keen to take this opportunity and live his dream.





Michael Ala’alatoa (Crusaders to Leinster)





May not seem like a flashy signing on the surface, but this is a big deal at the RDS. Ala’alatoa is Leinster’s first overseas signing since a certain Scott Fardy. Leo Cullen is clearly proud of the Irish representation in his squad, so it must take a lot to impress him.





Samoan skipper Ala’alatoa must have shown he can fit into Leinster’s system as their only foreign player. A solid scrummager and tackler, expect the prop to really kick on with the four-in-a-row champions.





Jac Morgan (Scarlets to Ospreys)





Young flanker Morgan is arguably Welsh rugby’s best uncapped player. In a move that shocked many Scarlets fans, he joined a club on the up, making astute signings on its way. Alex Cuthbert is another strong addition to Toby Booth’s squad. To take such a risk at 21, Morgan must believe the Ospreys coaches can help him develop into the fully-fledged international bruiser he could so very evidently become. 





Jac Morgan
Jac Morgan has routinely made his presence felt in the red of Scarlets, and was one of the league’s top performers last term (Getty Images)




Booth’s snapping up of Leinster academy backrow Will Hickey is another really smart piece of business – poaching one of the senior members of the best academy in world rugby surely can’t backfire. Hickey could be the next Tadhg Beirne, Sam Underhill or Robin Copeland – developing in Wales before moving back to their native country to seek international honours.





Asaeli Tuivuaka (Fiji Sevens to Zebre)





Zebre have long struggled to break into the top half of the table. What needs to change? The leadership? Maybe. The kicking strategy? Sure. The option to just chuck the ball to a Fijian Olympic gold medalist? Now we’re talking. After Edinburgh’s success in converting Rio 2016 champion Viliame Mata into a world-renowned number 8, not to mention Toulouse utilising the rampaging Semi Kunitani as a dynamic lock/flanker, this feels like a perfect signing for the Italian side.





Asaeli Tuivuaka
Asaeli Tuivuaka was a colossal member of Fiji’s all-conquering Olympic sevens side (Getty Images)




Simon Zebo (Racing 92 to Munster)





The last selection has to be Zebo, doesn’t it? Who doesn’t love the guy? A fun-loving winger who is exhilarating on the field and delightful off it, the return of the Cork man will have Munster fans drooling. The only downside is we no longer get to witness him chortling on the pitch with Finn Russell and Kurtley Beale. Instead, we will see the incisive back-three danger man cutting lines off World Cup winners Damien de Allende and RG Snyman.





Munster may be known for their direct style, and as opposing fans we’ve all sat through Thomond Park drubbings before, but with Zebo smiling to the cameras, nobody will accuse this man in red of being dull.





More stories from Will Owen







If you’ve enjoyed this article, please share it with friends or on social media. We rely solely on new subscribers to fund high-quality journalism and appreciate you sharing this so we can continue to grow, produce more quality content and support our writers.



Emiliano Boffelli (Racing 92 to Edinburgh)





Together with back-three compatriot Ramiro Moyano, Boffelli has made the switch from France to the Scottish capital. Only 26, it feels like he’s been around forever, given his maturity and composure at the highest level.





Emiliano Boffelli
Emiliano Boffelli was part of the Jaguares side that reached the 2019 Super Rugby final (Getty Images)




He will likely battle for the full-back jersey with incumbent Blair Kinghorn – another fleet-footed, solid 15 with a massive boot. Both are capable of playing on the wing and at fly-half, so it will be interesting to see how Mike Blair decides to use them.





Edwill van der Merwe (Stormers to Lions)





One of the hottest prospects in South African club rugby, Van der Merwe is a winger any spectator would be lucky to watch. At 25, he is soaring to peak form, having lit up the Currie Cup and conjured dazzling highlight-reel tries.





Van der Merwe could be one of the most exciting players in the league, and given Makazole Mapimpi’s Pro14 form prior to his Springbok call-up aged 28, don’t bet against the new Lion becoming a Test player. With 32-year-old sevens rapier Rosko Specman winning his first cap this year, it is evident Jacques Neinaber is happy to wait for his wingers to blossom.





WillGriff John (Sale to Scarlets)





A signing that could have implications for Wales’ front-row pecking order. With first-choice tight-head prop Tomas Francis also returning home from England, Scarlets have taken a gamble on John, a 127kg monster.





He will vie for regional selection with Samson Lee, and could pack down with Rob Evans and Ken Owens in a potent front trio. If John can prove a dominant scrummager, Wayne Pivac will surely consider him for Test honours. John was 24 hours away from a starting debut for Wales against Scotland before the pandemic ended the 2020 Six Nations, so he will be keen to take this opportunity and live his dream.





Michael Ala’alatoa (Crusaders to Leinster)





May not seem like a flashy signing on the surface, but this is a big deal at the RDS. Ala’alatoa is Leinster’s first overseas signing since a certain Scott Fardy. Leo Cullen is clearly proud of the Irish representation in his squad, so it must take a lot to impress him.





Samoan skipper Ala’alatoa must have shown he can fit into Leinster’s system as their only foreign player. A solid scrummager and tackler, expect the prop to really kick on with the four-in-a-row champions.





Jac Morgan (Scarlets to Ospreys)





Young flanker Morgan is arguably Welsh rugby’s best uncapped player. In a move that shocked many Scarlets fans, he joined a club on the up, making astute signings on its way. Alex Cuthbert is another strong addition to Toby Booth’s squad. To take such a risk at 21, Morgan must believe the Ospreys coaches can help him develop into the fully-fledged international bruiser he could so very evidently become. 





Jac Morgan
Jac Morgan has routinely made his presence felt in the red of Scarlets, and was one of the league’s top performers last term (Getty Images)




Booth’s snapping up of Leinster academy backrow Will Hickey is another really smart piece of business – poaching one of the senior members of the best academy in world rugby surely can’t backfire. Hickey could be the next Tadhg Beirne, Sam Underhill or Robin Copeland – developing in Wales before moving back to their native country to seek international honours.





Asaeli Tuivuaka (Fiji Sevens to Zebre)





Zebre have long struggled to break into the top half of the table. What needs to change? The leadership? Maybe. The kicking strategy? Sure. The option to just chuck the ball to a Fijian Olympic gold medalist? Now we’re talking. After Edinburgh’s success in converting Rio 2016 champion Viliame Mata into a world-renowned number 8, not to mention Toulouse utilising the rampaging Semi Kunitani as a dynamic lock/flanker, this feels like a perfect signing for the Italian side.





Asaeli Tuivuaka
Asaeli Tuivuaka was a colossal member of Fiji’s all-conquering Olympic sevens side (Getty Images)




Simon Zebo (Racing 92 to Munster)





The last selection has to be Zebo, doesn’t it? Who doesn’t love the guy? A fun-loving winger who is exhilarating on the field and delightful off it, the return of the Cork man will have Munster fans drooling. The only downside is we no longer get to witness him chortling on the pitch with Finn Russell and Kurtley Beale. Instead, we will see the incisive back-three danger man cutting lines off World Cup winners Damien de Allende and RG Snyman.





Munster may be known for their direct style, and as opposing fans we’ve all sat through Thomond Park drubbings before, but with Zebo smiling to the cameras, nobody will accuse this man in red of being dull.





More stories from Will Owen







If you’ve enjoyed this article, please share it with friends or on social media. We rely solely on new subscribers to fund high-quality journalism and appreciate you sharing this so we can continue to grow, produce more quality content and support our writers.



Duane Vermeulen (Blue Bulls to Ulster)





If you’re named after a Marvel Superhero, you must have been doing something right. In a buccaneering Test career, the bearded 6ft 4in, 18st Springbok gained the moniker Thor for his rampaging busts in midfield, soft-hands out of contact – few will forget his sweet offload to Fourie du Preez in the 2015 Rugby World Cup quarter-final – and rib-clattering hits.





At 35, he may well be in the latter stages of his career, but if Alun Wyn Jones, and Johnny Sexton, who have both turned 36 in recent months, are still influential figures in the URC, then there is nothing stopping Vermeulen being a talisman around which the Ulster pack can thrive. It is a statement signing to signify a new era for the league.





Emiliano Boffelli (Racing 92 to Edinburgh)





Together with back-three compatriot Ramiro Moyano, Boffelli has made the switch from France to the Scottish capital. Only 26, it feels like he’s been around forever, given his maturity and composure at the highest level.





Emiliano Boffelli
Emiliano Boffelli was part of the Jaguares side that reached the 2019 Super Rugby final (Getty Images)




He will likely battle for the full-back jersey with incumbent Blair Kinghorn – another fleet-footed, solid 15 with a massive boot. Both are capable of playing on the wing and at fly-half, so it will be interesting to see how Mike Blair decides to use them.





Edwill van der Merwe (Stormers to Lions)





One of the hottest prospects in South African club rugby, Van der Merwe is a winger any spectator would be lucky to watch. At 25, he is soaring to peak form, having lit up the Currie Cup and conjured dazzling highlight-reel tries.





Van der Merwe could be one of the most exciting players in the league, and given Makazole Mapimpi’s Pro14 form prior to his Springbok call-up aged 28, don’t bet against the new Lion becoming a Test player. With 32-year-old sevens rapier Rosko Specman winning his first cap this year, it is evident Jacques Neinaber is happy to wait for his wingers to blossom.





WillGriff John (Sale to Scarlets)





A signing that could have implications for Wales’ front-row pecking order. With first-choice tight-head prop Tomas Francis also returning home from England, Scarlets have taken a gamble on John, a 127kg monster.





He will vie for regional selection with Samson Lee, and could pack down with Rob Evans and Ken Owens in a potent front trio. If John can prove a dominant scrummager, Wayne Pivac will surely consider him for Test honours. John was 24 hours away from a starting debut for Wales against Scotland before the pandemic ended the 2020 Six Nations, so he will be keen to take this opportunity and live his dream.





Michael Ala’alatoa (Crusaders to Leinster)





May not seem like a flashy signing on the surface, but this is a big deal at the RDS. Ala’alatoa is Leinster’s first overseas signing since a certain Scott Fardy. Leo Cullen is clearly proud of the Irish representation in his squad, so it must take a lot to impress him.





Samoan skipper Ala’alatoa must have shown he can fit into Leinster’s system as their only foreign player. A solid scrummager and tackler, expect the prop to really kick on with the four-in-a-row champions.





Jac Morgan (Scarlets to Ospreys)





Young flanker Morgan is arguably Welsh rugby’s best uncapped player. In a move that shocked many Scarlets fans, he joined a club on the up, making astute signings on its way. Alex Cuthbert is another strong addition to Toby Booth’s squad. To take such a risk at 21, Morgan must believe the Ospreys coaches can help him develop into the fully-fledged international bruiser he could so very evidently become. 





Jac Morgan
Jac Morgan has routinely made his presence felt in the red of Scarlets, and was one of the league’s top performers last term (Getty Images)




Booth’s snapping up of Leinster academy backrow Will Hickey is another really smart piece of business – poaching one of the senior members of the best academy in world rugby surely can’t backfire. Hickey could be the next Tadhg Beirne, Sam Underhill or Robin Copeland – developing in Wales before moving back to their native country to seek international honours.





Asaeli Tuivuaka (Fiji Sevens to Zebre)





Zebre have long struggled to break into the top half of the table. What needs to change? The leadership? Maybe. The kicking strategy? Sure. The option to just chuck the ball to a Fijian Olympic gold medalist? Now we’re talking. After Edinburgh’s success in converting Rio 2016 champion Viliame Mata into a world-renowned number 8, not to mention Toulouse utilising the rampaging Semi Kunitani as a dynamic lock/flanker, this feels like a perfect signing for the Italian side.





Asaeli Tuivuaka
Asaeli Tuivuaka was a colossal member of Fiji’s all-conquering Olympic sevens side (Getty Images)




Simon Zebo (Racing 92 to Munster)





The last selection has to be Zebo, doesn’t it? Who doesn’t love the guy? A fun-loving winger who is exhilarating on the field and delightful off it, the return of the Cork man will have Munster fans drooling. The only downside is we no longer get to witness him chortling on the pitch with Finn Russell and Kurtley Beale. Instead, we will see the incisive back-three danger man cutting lines off World Cup winners Damien de Allende and RG Snyman.





Munster may be known for their direct style, and as opposing fans we’ve all sat through Thomond Park drubbings before, but with Zebo smiling to the cameras, nobody will accuse this man in red of being dull.





More stories from Will Owen







If you’ve enjoyed this article, please share it with friends or on social media. We rely solely on new subscribers to fund high-quality journalism and appreciate you sharing this so we can continue to grow, produce more quality content and support our writers.



The roar of the crowd. The crackling anticipation of live rugby in pulsating stadia. The smell of linament wafting from changing rooms. The taste of lukewarm, hideously overpriced lager in plastic cups. The opportunity to sit down on a Friday night and watch Dragons playing Ulster. 





Yep, a new season is upon us, so what’s not to love?





With the dawn of each campaign comes acclimatisation. You ask why Benetton aren’t picking Paolo Garbisi before remembering he signed for Montpellier in the summer. You spend the first three weeks of the season deciding whether or not Domingo Miotti looks good in a Glasgow jersey. 





These are seminal months for the competition now formerly known as the Pro14. The arrival of South Africa’s heavyweight quartet, a glossy summer rebrand as the United Rugby Championship, and even a partnership with Jay-Z’s Roc Nation entertainment company.  





There have been some eye-catching signings in the off-season too, from a World Cup winner to an Olympic colossus, homecoming heroes to a gifted Welshman with a big future opting to switch regions. Here, The XV hand-picks some of the tastiest acquisitions for the championship ahead.





Duane Vermeulen (Blue Bulls to Ulster)





If you’re named after a Marvel Superhero, you must have been doing something right. In a buccaneering Test career, the bearded 6ft 4in, 18st Springbok gained the moniker Thor for his rampaging busts in midfield, soft-hands out of contact – few will forget his sweet offload to Fourie du Preez in the 2015 Rugby World Cup quarter-final – and rib-clattering hits.





At 35, he may well be in the latter stages of his career, but if Alun Wyn Jones, and Johnny Sexton, who have both turned 36 in recent months, are still influential figures in the URC, then there is nothing stopping Vermeulen being a talisman around which the Ulster pack can thrive. It is a statement signing to signify a new era for the league.





Emiliano Boffelli (Racing 92 to Edinburgh)





Together with back-three compatriot Ramiro Moyano, Boffelli has made the switch from France to the Scottish capital. Only 26, it feels like he’s been around forever, given his maturity and composure at the highest level.





Emiliano Boffelli
Emiliano Boffelli was part of the Jaguares side that reached the 2019 Super Rugby final (Getty Images)




He will likely battle for the full-back jersey with incumbent Blair Kinghorn – another fleet-footed, solid 15 with a massive boot. Both are capable of playing on the wing and at fly-half, so it will be interesting to see how Mike Blair decides to use them.





Edwill van der Merwe (Stormers to Lions)





One of the hottest prospects in South African club rugby, Van der Merwe is a winger any spectator would be lucky to watch. At 25, he is soaring to peak form, having lit up the Currie Cup and conjured dazzling highlight-reel tries.





Van der Merwe could be one of the most exciting players in the league, and given Makazole Mapimpi’s Pro14 form prior to his Springbok call-up aged 28, don’t bet against the new Lion becoming a Test player. With 32-year-old sevens rapier Rosko Specman winning his first cap this year, it is evident Jacques Neinaber is happy to wait for his wingers to blossom.





WillGriff John (Sale to Scarlets)





A signing that could have implications for Wales’ front-row pecking order. With first-choice tight-head prop Tomas Francis also returning home from England, Scarlets have taken a gamble on John, a 127kg monster.





He will vie for regional selection with Samson Lee, and could pack down with Rob Evans and Ken Owens in a potent front trio. If John can prove a dominant scrummager, Wayne Pivac will surely consider him for Test honours. John was 24 hours away from a starting debut for Wales against Scotland before the pandemic ended the 2020 Six Nations, so he will be keen to take this opportunity and live his dream.





Michael Ala’alatoa (Crusaders to Leinster)





May not seem like a flashy signing on the surface, but this is a big deal at the RDS. Ala’alatoa is Leinster’s first overseas signing since a certain Scott Fardy. Leo Cullen is clearly proud of the Irish representation in his squad, so it must take a lot to impress him.





Samoan skipper Ala’alatoa must have shown he can fit into Leinster’s system as their only foreign player. A solid scrummager and tackler, expect the prop to really kick on with the four-in-a-row champions.





Jac Morgan (Scarlets to Ospreys)





Young flanker Morgan is arguably Welsh rugby’s best uncapped player. In a move that shocked many Scarlets fans, he joined a club on the up, making astute signings on its way. Alex Cuthbert is another strong addition to Toby Booth’s squad. To take such a risk at 21, Morgan must believe the Ospreys coaches can help him develop into the fully-fledged international bruiser he could so very evidently become. 





Jac Morgan
Jac Morgan has routinely made his presence felt in the red of Scarlets, and was one of the league’s top performers last term (Getty Images)




Booth’s snapping up of Leinster academy backrow Will Hickey is another really smart piece of business – poaching one of the senior members of the best academy in world rugby surely can’t backfire. Hickey could be the next Tadhg Beirne, Sam Underhill or Robin Copeland – developing in Wales before moving back to their native country to seek international honours.





Asaeli Tuivuaka (Fiji Sevens to Zebre)





Zebre have long struggled to break into the top half of the table. What needs to change? The leadership? Maybe. The kicking strategy? Sure. The option to just chuck the ball to a Fijian Olympic gold medalist? Now we’re talking. After Edinburgh’s success in converting Rio 2016 champion Viliame Mata into a world-renowned number 8, not to mention Toulouse utilising the rampaging Semi Kunitani as a dynamic lock/flanker, this feels like a perfect signing for the Italian side.





Asaeli Tuivuaka
Asaeli Tuivuaka was a colossal member of Fiji’s all-conquering Olympic sevens side (Getty Images)




Simon Zebo (Racing 92 to Munster)





The last selection has to be Zebo, doesn’t it? Who doesn’t love the guy? A fun-loving winger who is exhilarating on the field and delightful off it, the return of the Cork man will have Munster fans drooling. The only downside is we no longer get to witness him chortling on the pitch with Finn Russell and Kurtley Beale. Instead, we will see the incisive back-three danger man cutting lines off World Cup winners Damien de Allende and RG Snyman.





Munster may be known for their direct style, and as opposing fans we’ve all sat through Thomond Park drubbings before, but with Zebo smiling to the cameras, nobody will accuse this man in red of being dull.





More stories from Will Owen







If you’ve enjoyed this article, please share it with friends or on social media. We rely solely on new subscribers to fund high-quality journalism and appreciate you sharing this so we can continue to grow, produce more quality content and support our writers.



Asaeli Tuivuaka (Fiji Sevens to Zebre)





Zebre have long struggled to break into the top half of the table. What needs to change? The leadership? Maybe. The kicking strategy? Sure. The option to just chuck the ball to a Fijian Olympic gold medalist? Now we’re talking. After Edinburgh’s success in converting Rio 2016 champion Viliame Mata into a world-renowned number 8, not to mention Toulouse utilising the rampaging Semi Kunitani as a dynamic lock/flanker, this feels like a perfect signing for the Italian side.





Asaeli Tuivuaka
Asaeli Tuivuaka was a colossal member of Fiji’s all-conquering Olympic sevens side (Getty Images)




Simon Zebo (Racing 92 to Munster)





The last selection has to be Zebo, doesn’t it? Who doesn’t love the guy? A fun-loving winger who is exhilarating on the field and delightful off it, the return of the Cork man will have Munster fans drooling. The only downside is we no longer get to witness him chortling on the pitch with Finn Russell and Kurtley Beale. Instead, we will see the incisive back-three danger man cutting lines off World Cup winners Damien de Allende and RG Snyman.





Munster may be known for their direct style, and as opposing fans we’ve all sat through Thomond Park drubbings before, but with Zebo smiling to the cameras, nobody will accuse this man in red of being dull.





More stories from Will Owen







If you’ve enjoyed this article, please share it with friends or on social media. We rely solely on new subscribers to fund high-quality journalism and appreciate you sharing this so we can continue to grow, produce more quality content and support our writers.



Jac Morgan (Scarlets to Ospreys)





Young flanker Morgan is arguably Welsh rugby’s best uncapped player. In a move that shocked many Scarlets fans, he joined a club on the up, making astute signings on its way. Alex Cuthbert is another strong addition to Toby Booth’s squad. To take such a risk at 21, Morgan must believe the Ospreys coaches can help him develop into the fully-fledged international bruiser he could so very evidently become. 





Jac Morgan
Jac Morgan has routinely made his presence felt in the red of Scarlets, and was one of the league’s top performers last term (Getty Images)




Booth’s snapping up of Leinster academy backrow Will Hickey is another really smart piece of business – poaching one of the senior members of the best academy in world rugby surely can’t backfire. Hickey could be the next Tadhg Beirne, Sam Underhill or Robin Copeland – developing in Wales before moving back to their native country to seek international honours.





Asaeli Tuivuaka (Fiji Sevens to Zebre)





Zebre have long struggled to break into the top half of the table. What needs to change? The leadership? Maybe. The kicking strategy? Sure. The option to just chuck the ball to a Fijian Olympic gold medalist? Now we’re talking. After Edinburgh’s success in converting Rio 2016 champion Viliame Mata into a world-renowned number 8, not to mention Toulouse utilising the rampaging Semi Kunitani as a dynamic lock/flanker, this feels like a perfect signing for the Italian side.





Asaeli Tuivuaka
Asaeli Tuivuaka was a colossal member of Fiji’s all-conquering Olympic sevens side (Getty Images)




Simon Zebo (Racing 92 to Munster)





The last selection has to be Zebo, doesn’t it? Who doesn’t love the guy? A fun-loving winger who is exhilarating on the field and delightful off it, the return of the Cork man will have Munster fans drooling. The only downside is we no longer get to witness him chortling on the pitch with Finn Russell and Kurtley Beale. Instead, we will see the incisive back-three danger man cutting lines off World Cup winners Damien de Allende and RG Snyman.





Munster may be known for their direct style, and as opposing fans we’ve all sat through Thomond Park drubbings before, but with Zebo smiling to the cameras, nobody will accuse this man in red of being dull.





More stories from Will Owen







If you’ve enjoyed this article, please share it with friends or on social media. We rely solely on new subscribers to fund high-quality journalism and appreciate you sharing this so we can continue to grow, produce more quality content and support our writers.



Michael Ala’alatoa (Crusaders to Leinster)





May not seem like a flashy signing on the surface, but this is a big deal at the RDS. Ala’alatoa is Leinster’s first overseas signing since a certain Scott Fardy. Leo Cullen is clearly proud of the Irish representation in his squad, so it must take a lot to impress him.





Samoan skipper Ala’alatoa must have shown he can fit into Leinster’s system as their only foreign player. A solid scrummager and tackler, expect the prop to really kick on with the four-in-a-row champions.





Jac Morgan (Scarlets to Ospreys)





Young flanker Morgan is arguably Welsh rugby’s best uncapped player. In a move that shocked many Scarlets fans, he joined a club on the up, making astute signings on its way. Alex Cuthbert is another strong addition to Toby Booth’s squad. To take such a risk at 21, Morgan must believe the Ospreys coaches can help him develop into the fully-fledged international bruiser he could so very evidently become. 





Jac Morgan
Jac Morgan has routinely made his presence felt in the red of Scarlets, and was one of the league’s top performers last term (Getty Images)




Booth’s snapping up of Leinster academy backrow Will Hickey is another really smart piece of business – poaching one of the senior members of the best academy in world rugby surely can’t backfire. Hickey could be the next Tadhg Beirne, Sam Underhill or Robin Copeland – developing in Wales before moving back to their native country to seek international honours.





Asaeli Tuivuaka (Fiji Sevens to Zebre)





Zebre have long struggled to break into the top half of the table. What needs to change? The leadership? Maybe. The kicking strategy? Sure. The option to just chuck the ball to a Fijian Olympic gold medalist? Now we’re talking. After Edinburgh’s success in converting Rio 2016 champion Viliame Mata into a world-renowned number 8, not to mention Toulouse utilising the rampaging Semi Kunitani as a dynamic lock/flanker, this feels like a perfect signing for the Italian side.





Asaeli Tuivuaka
Asaeli Tuivuaka was a colossal member of Fiji’s all-conquering Olympic sevens side (Getty Images)




Simon Zebo (Racing 92 to Munster)





The last selection has to be Zebo, doesn’t it? Who doesn’t love the guy? A fun-loving winger who is exhilarating on the field and delightful off it, the return of the Cork man will have Munster fans drooling. The only downside is we no longer get to witness him chortling on the pitch with Finn Russell and Kurtley Beale. Instead, we will see the incisive back-three danger man cutting lines off World Cup winners Damien de Allende and RG Snyman.





Munster may be known for their direct style, and as opposing fans we’ve all sat through Thomond Park drubbings before, but with Zebo smiling to the cameras, nobody will accuse this man in red of being dull.





More stories from Will Owen







If you’ve enjoyed this article, please share it with friends or on social media. We rely solely on new subscribers to fund high-quality journalism and appreciate you sharing this so we can continue to grow, produce more quality content and support our writers.



WillGriff John (Sale to Scarlets)





A signing that could have implications for Wales’ front-row pecking order. With first-choice tight-head prop Tomas Francis also returning home from England, Scarlets have taken a gamble on John, a 127kg monster.





He will vie for regional selection with Samson Lee, and could pack down with Rob Evans and Ken Owens in a potent front trio. If John can prove a dominant scrummager, Wayne Pivac will surely consider him for Test honours. John was 24 hours away from a starting debut for Wales against Scotland before the pandemic ended the 2020 Six Nations, so he will be keen to take this opportunity and live his dream.





Michael Ala’alatoa (Crusaders to Leinster)





May not seem like a flashy signing on the surface, but this is a big deal at the RDS. Ala’alatoa is Leinster’s first overseas signing since a certain Scott Fardy. Leo Cullen is clearly proud of the Irish representation in his squad, so it must take a lot to impress him.





Samoan skipper Ala’alatoa must have shown he can fit into Leinster’s system as their only foreign player. A solid scrummager and tackler, expect the prop to really kick on with the four-in-a-row champions.





Jac Morgan (Scarlets to Ospreys)





Young flanker Morgan is arguably Welsh rugby’s best uncapped player. In a move that shocked many Scarlets fans, he joined a club on the up, making astute signings on its way. Alex Cuthbert is another strong addition to Toby Booth’s squad. To take such a risk at 21, Morgan must believe the Ospreys coaches can help him develop into the fully-fledged international bruiser he could so very evidently become. 





Jac Morgan
Jac Morgan has routinely made his presence felt in the red of Scarlets, and was one of the league’s top performers last term (Getty Images)




Booth’s snapping up of Leinster academy backrow Will Hickey is another really smart piece of business – poaching one of the senior members of the best academy in world rugby surely can’t backfire. Hickey could be the next Tadhg Beirne, Sam Underhill or Robin Copeland – developing in Wales before moving back to their native country to seek international honours.





Asaeli Tuivuaka (Fiji Sevens to Zebre)





Zebre have long struggled to break into the top half of the table. What needs to change? The leadership? Maybe. The kicking strategy? Sure. The option to just chuck the ball to a Fijian Olympic gold medalist? Now we’re talking. After Edinburgh’s success in converting Rio 2016 champion Viliame Mata into a world-renowned number 8, not to mention Toulouse utilising the rampaging Semi Kunitani as a dynamic lock/flanker, this feels like a perfect signing for the Italian side.





Asaeli Tuivuaka
Asaeli Tuivuaka was a colossal member of Fiji’s all-conquering Olympic sevens side (Getty Images)




Simon Zebo (Racing 92 to Munster)





The last selection has to be Zebo, doesn’t it? Who doesn’t love the guy? A fun-loving winger who is exhilarating on the field and delightful off it, the return of the Cork man will have Munster fans drooling. The only downside is we no longer get to witness him chortling on the pitch with Finn Russell and Kurtley Beale. Instead, we will see the incisive back-three danger man cutting lines off World Cup winners Damien de Allende and RG Snyman.





Munster may be known for their direct style, and as opposing fans we’ve all sat through Thomond Park drubbings before, but with Zebo smiling to the cameras, nobody will accuse this man in red of being dull.





More stories from Will Owen







If you’ve enjoyed this article, please share it with friends or on social media. We rely solely on new subscribers to fund high-quality journalism and appreciate you sharing this so we can continue to grow, produce more quality content and support our writers.



Edwill van der Merwe (Stormers to Lions)





One of the hottest prospects in South African club rugby, Van der Merwe is a winger any spectator would be lucky to watch. At 25, he is soaring to peak form, having lit up the Currie Cup and conjured dazzling highlight-reel tries.





Van der Merwe could be one of the most exciting players in the league, and given Makazole Mapimpi’s Pro14 form prior to his Springbok call-up aged 28, don’t bet against the new Lion becoming a Test player. With 32-year-old sevens rapier Rosko Specman winning his first cap this year, it is evident Jacques Neinaber is happy to wait for his wingers to blossom.





WillGriff John (Sale to Scarlets)





A signing that could have implications for Wales’ front-row pecking order. With first-choice tight-head prop Tomas Francis also returning home from England, Scarlets have taken a gamble on John, a 127kg monster.





He will vie for regional selection with Samson Lee, and could pack down with Rob Evans and Ken Owens in a potent front trio. If John can prove a dominant scrummager, Wayne Pivac will surely consider him for Test honours. John was 24 hours away from a starting debut for Wales against Scotland before the pandemic ended the 2020 Six Nations, so he will be keen to take this opportunity and live his dream.





Michael Ala’alatoa (Crusaders to Leinster)





May not seem like a flashy signing on the surface, but this is a big deal at the RDS. Ala’alatoa is Leinster’s first overseas signing since a certain Scott Fardy. Leo Cullen is clearly proud of the Irish representation in his squad, so it must take a lot to impress him.





Samoan skipper Ala’alatoa must have shown he can fit into Leinster’s system as their only foreign player. A solid scrummager and tackler, expect the prop to really kick on with the four-in-a-row champions.





Jac Morgan (Scarlets to Ospreys)





Young flanker Morgan is arguably Welsh rugby’s best uncapped player. In a move that shocked many Scarlets fans, he joined a club on the up, making astute signings on its way. Alex Cuthbert is another strong addition to Toby Booth’s squad. To take such a risk at 21, Morgan must believe the Ospreys coaches can help him develop into the fully-fledged international bruiser he could so very evidently become. 





Jac Morgan
Jac Morgan has routinely made his presence felt in the red of Scarlets, and was one of the league’s top performers last term (Getty Images)




Booth’s snapping up of Leinster academy backrow Will Hickey is another really smart piece of business – poaching one of the senior members of the best academy in world rugby surely can’t backfire. Hickey could be the next Tadhg Beirne, Sam Underhill or Robin Copeland – developing in Wales before moving back to their native country to seek international honours.





Asaeli Tuivuaka (Fiji Sevens to Zebre)





Zebre have long struggled to break into the top half of the table. What needs to change? The leadership? Maybe. The kicking strategy? Sure. The option to just chuck the ball to a Fijian Olympic gold medalist? Now we’re talking. After Edinburgh’s success in converting Rio 2016 champion Viliame Mata into a world-renowned number 8, not to mention Toulouse utilising the rampaging Semi Kunitani as a dynamic lock/flanker, this feels like a perfect signing for the Italian side.





Asaeli Tuivuaka
Asaeli Tuivuaka was a colossal member of Fiji’s all-conquering Olympic sevens side (Getty Images)




Simon Zebo (Racing 92 to Munster)





The last selection has to be Zebo, doesn’t it? Who doesn’t love the guy? A fun-loving winger who is exhilarating on the field and delightful off it, the return of the Cork man will have Munster fans drooling. The only downside is we no longer get to witness him chortling on the pitch with Finn Russell and Kurtley Beale. Instead, we will see the incisive back-three danger man cutting lines off World Cup winners Damien de Allende and RG Snyman.





Munster may be known for their direct style, and as opposing fans we’ve all sat through Thomond Park drubbings before, but with Zebo smiling to the cameras, nobody will accuse this man in red of being dull.





More stories from Will Owen







If you’ve enjoyed this article, please share it with friends or on social media. We rely solely on new subscribers to fund high-quality journalism and appreciate you sharing this so we can continue to grow, produce more quality content and support our writers.



Emiliano Boffelli (Racing 92 to Edinburgh)





Together with back-three compatriot Ramiro Moyano, Boffelli has made the switch from France to the Scottish capital. Only 26, it feels like he’s been around forever, given his maturity and composure at the highest level.





Emiliano Boffelli
Emiliano Boffelli was part of the Jaguares side that reached the 2019 Super Rugby final (Getty Images)




He will likely battle for the full-back jersey with incumbent Blair Kinghorn – another fleet-footed, solid 15 with a massive boot. Both are capable of playing on the wing and at fly-half, so it will be interesting to see how Mike Blair decides to use them.





Edwill van der Merwe (Stormers to Lions)





One of the hottest prospects in South African club rugby, Van der Merwe is a winger any spectator would be lucky to watch. At 25, he is soaring to peak form, having lit up the Currie Cup and conjured dazzling highlight-reel tries.





Van der Merwe could be one of the most exciting players in the league, and given Makazole Mapimpi’s Pro14 form prior to his Springbok call-up aged 28, don’t bet against the new Lion becoming a Test player. With 32-year-old sevens rapier Rosko Specman winning his first cap this year, it is evident Jacques Neinaber is happy to wait for his wingers to blossom.





WillGriff John (Sale to Scarlets)





A signing that could have implications for Wales’ front-row pecking order. With first-choice tight-head prop Tomas Francis also returning home from England, Scarlets have taken a gamble on John, a 127kg monster.





He will vie for regional selection with Samson Lee, and could pack down with Rob Evans and Ken Owens in a potent front trio. If John can prove a dominant scrummager, Wayne Pivac will surely consider him for Test honours. John was 24 hours away from a starting debut for Wales against Scotland before the pandemic ended the 2020 Six Nations, so he will be keen to take this opportunity and live his dream.





Michael Ala’alatoa (Crusaders to Leinster)





May not seem like a flashy signing on the surface, but this is a big deal at the RDS. Ala’alatoa is Leinster’s first overseas signing since a certain Scott Fardy. Leo Cullen is clearly proud of the Irish representation in his squad, so it must take a lot to impress him.





Samoan skipper Ala’alatoa must have shown he can fit into Leinster’s system as their only foreign player. A solid scrummager and tackler, expect the prop to really kick on with the four-in-a-row champions.





Jac Morgan (Scarlets to Ospreys)





Young flanker Morgan is arguably Welsh rugby’s best uncapped player. In a move that shocked many Scarlets fans, he joined a club on the up, making astute signings on its way. Alex Cuthbert is another strong addition to Toby Booth’s squad. To take such a risk at 21, Morgan must believe the Ospreys coaches can help him develop into the fully-fledged international bruiser he could so very evidently become. 





Jac Morgan
Jac Morgan has routinely made his presence felt in the red of Scarlets, and was one of the league’s top performers last term (Getty Images)




Booth’s snapping up of Leinster academy backrow Will Hickey is another really smart piece of business – poaching one of the senior members of the best academy in world rugby surely can’t backfire. Hickey could be the next Tadhg Beirne, Sam Underhill or Robin Copeland – developing in Wales before moving back to their native country to seek international honours.





Asaeli Tuivuaka (Fiji Sevens to Zebre)





Zebre have long struggled to break into the top half of the table. What needs to change? The leadership? Maybe. The kicking strategy? Sure. The option to just chuck the ball to a Fijian Olympic gold medalist? Now we’re talking. After Edinburgh’s success in converting Rio 2016 champion Viliame Mata into a world-renowned number 8, not to mention Toulouse utilising the rampaging Semi Kunitani as a dynamic lock/flanker, this feels like a perfect signing for the Italian side.





Asaeli Tuivuaka
Asaeli Tuivuaka was a colossal member of Fiji’s all-conquering Olympic sevens side (Getty Images)




Simon Zebo (Racing 92 to Munster)





The last selection has to be Zebo, doesn’t it? Who doesn’t love the guy? A fun-loving winger who is exhilarating on the field and delightful off it, the return of the Cork man will have Munster fans drooling. The only downside is we no longer get to witness him chortling on the pitch with Finn Russell and Kurtley Beale. Instead, we will see the incisive back-three danger man cutting lines off World Cup winners Damien de Allende and RG Snyman.





Munster may be known for their direct style, and as opposing fans we’ve all sat through Thomond Park drubbings before, but with Zebo smiling to the cameras, nobody will accuse this man in red of being dull.





More stories from Will Owen







If you’ve enjoyed this article, please share it with friends or on social media. We rely solely on new subscribers to fund high-quality journalism and appreciate you sharing this so we can continue to grow, produce more quality content and support our writers.



Duane Vermeulen (Blue Bulls to Ulster)





If you’re named after a Marvel Superhero, you must have been doing something right. In a buccaneering Test career, the bearded 6ft 4in, 18st Springbok gained the moniker Thor for his rampaging busts in midfield, soft-hands out of contact – few will forget his sweet offload to Fourie du Preez in the 2015 Rugby World Cup quarter-final – and rib-clattering hits.





At 35, he may well be in the latter stages of his career, but if Alun Wyn Jones, and Johnny Sexton, who have both turned 36 in recent months, are still influential figures in the URC, then there is nothing stopping Vermeulen being a talisman around which the Ulster pack can thrive. It is a statement signing to signify a new era for the league.





Emiliano Boffelli (Racing 92 to Edinburgh)





Together with back-three compatriot Ramiro Moyano, Boffelli has made the switch from France to the Scottish capital. Only 26, it feels like he’s been around forever, given his maturity and composure at the highest level.





Emiliano Boffelli
Emiliano Boffelli was part of the Jaguares side that reached the 2019 Super Rugby final (Getty Images)




He will likely battle for the full-back jersey with incumbent Blair Kinghorn – another fleet-footed, solid 15 with a massive boot. Both are capable of playing on the wing and at fly-half, so it will be interesting to see how Mike Blair decides to use them.





Edwill van der Merwe (Stormers to Lions)





One of the hottest prospects in South African club rugby, Van der Merwe is a winger any spectator would be lucky to watch. At 25, he is soaring to peak form, having lit up the Currie Cup and conjured dazzling highlight-reel tries.





Van der Merwe could be one of the most exciting players in the league, and given Makazole Mapimpi’s Pro14 form prior to his Springbok call-up aged 28, don’t bet against the new Lion becoming a Test player. With 32-year-old sevens rapier Rosko Specman winning his first cap this year, it is evident Jacques Neinaber is happy to wait for his wingers to blossom.





WillGriff John (Sale to Scarlets)





A signing that could have implications for Wales’ front-row pecking order. With first-choice tight-head prop Tomas Francis also returning home from England, Scarlets have taken a gamble on John, a 127kg monster.





He will vie for regional selection with Samson Lee, and could pack down with Rob Evans and Ken Owens in a potent front trio. If John can prove a dominant scrummager, Wayne Pivac will surely consider him for Test honours. John was 24 hours away from a starting debut for Wales against Scotland before the pandemic ended the 2020 Six Nations, so he will be keen to take this opportunity and live his dream.





Michael Ala’alatoa (Crusaders to Leinster)





May not seem like a flashy signing on the surface, but this is a big deal at the RDS. Ala’alatoa is Leinster’s first overseas signing since a certain Scott Fardy. Leo Cullen is clearly proud of the Irish representation in his squad, so it must take a lot to impress him.





Samoan skipper Ala’alatoa must have shown he can fit into Leinster’s system as their only foreign player. A solid scrummager and tackler, expect the prop to really kick on with the four-in-a-row champions.





Jac Morgan (Scarlets to Ospreys)





Young flanker Morgan is arguably Welsh rugby’s best uncapped player. In a move that shocked many Scarlets fans, he joined a club on the up, making astute signings on its way. Alex Cuthbert is another strong addition to Toby Booth’s squad. To take such a risk at 21, Morgan must believe the Ospreys coaches can help him develop into the fully-fledged international bruiser he could so very evidently become. 





Jac Morgan
Jac Morgan has routinely made his presence felt in the red of Scarlets, and was one of the league’s top performers last term (Getty Images)




Booth’s snapping up of Leinster academy backrow Will Hickey is another really smart piece of business – poaching one of the senior members of the best academy in world rugby surely can’t backfire. Hickey could be the next Tadhg Beirne, Sam Underhill or Robin Copeland – developing in Wales before moving back to their native country to seek international honours.





Asaeli Tuivuaka (Fiji Sevens to Zebre)





Zebre have long struggled to break into the top half of the table. What needs to change? The leadership? Maybe. The kicking strategy? Sure. The option to just chuck the ball to a Fijian Olympic gold medalist? Now we’re talking. After Edinburgh’s success in converting Rio 2016 champion Viliame Mata into a world-renowned number 8, not to mention Toulouse utilising the rampaging Semi Kunitani as a dynamic lock/flanker, this feels like a perfect signing for the Italian side.





Asaeli Tuivuaka
Asaeli Tuivuaka was a colossal member of Fiji’s all-conquering Olympic sevens side (Getty Images)




Simon Zebo (Racing 92 to Munster)





The last selection has to be Zebo, doesn’t it? Who doesn’t love the guy? A fun-loving winger who is exhilarating on the field and delightful off it, the return of the Cork man will have Munster fans drooling. The only downside is we no longer get to witness him chortling on the pitch with Finn Russell and Kurtley Beale. Instead, we will see the incisive back-three danger man cutting lines off World Cup winners Damien de Allende and RG Snyman.





Munster may be known for their direct style, and as opposing fans we’ve all sat through Thomond Park drubbings before, but with Zebo smiling to the cameras, nobody will accuse this man in red of being dull.





More stories from Will Owen







If you’ve enjoyed this article, please share it with friends or on social media. We rely solely on new subscribers to fund high-quality journalism and appreciate you sharing this so we can continue to grow, produce more quality content and support our writers.



The roar of the crowd. The crackling anticipation of live rugby in pulsating stadia. The smell of linament wafting from changing rooms. The taste of lukewarm, hideously overpriced lager in plastic cups. The opportunity to sit down on a Friday night and watch Dragons playing Ulster. 





Yep, a new season is upon us, so what’s not to love?





With the dawn of each campaign comes acclimatisation. You ask why Benetton aren’t picking Paolo Garbisi before remembering he signed for Montpellier in the summer. You spend the first three weeks of the season deciding whether or not Domingo Miotti looks good in a Glasgow jersey. 





These are seminal months for the competition now formerly known as the Pro14. The arrival of South Africa’s heavyweight quartet, a glossy summer rebrand as the United Rugby Championship, and even a partnership with Jay-Z’s Roc Nation entertainment company.  





There have been some eye-catching signings in the off-season too, from a World Cup winner to an Olympic colossus, homecoming heroes to a gifted Welshman with a big future opting to switch regions. Here, The XV hand-picks some of the tastiest acquisitions for the championship ahead.





Duane Vermeulen (Blue Bulls to Ulster)





If you’re named after a Marvel Superhero, you must have been doing something right. In a buccaneering Test career, the bearded 6ft 4in, 18st Springbok gained the moniker Thor for his rampaging busts in midfield, soft-hands out of contact – few will forget his sweet offload to Fourie du Preez in the 2015 Rugby World Cup quarter-final – and rib-clattering hits.





At 35, he may well be in the latter stages of his career, but if Alun Wyn Jones, and Johnny Sexton, who have both turned 36 in recent months, are still influential figures in the URC, then there is nothing stopping Vermeulen being a talisman around which the Ulster pack can thrive. It is a statement signing to signify a new era for the league.





Emiliano Boffelli (Racing 92 to Edinburgh)





Together with back-three compatriot Ramiro Moyano, Boffelli has made the switch from France to the Scottish capital. Only 26, it feels like he’s been around forever, given his maturity and composure at the highest level.





Emiliano Boffelli
Emiliano Boffelli was part of the Jaguares side that reached the 2019 Super Rugby final (Getty Images)




He will likely battle for the full-back jersey with incumbent Blair Kinghorn – another fleet-footed, solid 15 with a massive boot. Both are capable of playing on the wing and at fly-half, so it will be interesting to see how Mike Blair decides to use them.





Edwill van der Merwe (Stormers to Lions)





One of the hottest prospects in South African club rugby, Van der Merwe is a winger any spectator would be lucky to watch. At 25, he is soaring to peak form, having lit up the Currie Cup and conjured dazzling highlight-reel tries.





Van der Merwe could be one of the most exciting players in the league, and given Makazole Mapimpi’s Pro14 form prior to his Springbok call-up aged 28, don’t bet against the new Lion becoming a Test player. With 32-year-old sevens rapier Rosko Specman winning his first cap this year, it is evident Jacques Neinaber is happy to wait for his wingers to blossom.





WillGriff John (Sale to Scarlets)





A signing that could have implications for Wales’ front-row pecking order. With first-choice tight-head prop Tomas Francis also returning home from England, Scarlets have taken a gamble on John, a 127kg monster.





He will vie for regional selection with Samson Lee, and could pack down with Rob Evans and Ken Owens in a potent front trio. If John can prove a dominant scrummager, Wayne Pivac will surely consider him for Test honours. John was 24 hours away from a starting debut for Wales against Scotland before the pandemic ended the 2020 Six Nations, so he will be keen to take this opportunity and live his dream.





Michael Ala’alatoa (Crusaders to Leinster)





May not seem like a flashy signing on the surface, but this is a big deal at the RDS. Ala’alatoa is Leinster’s first overseas signing since a certain Scott Fardy. Leo Cullen is clearly proud of the Irish representation in his squad, so it must take a lot to impress him.





Samoan skipper Ala’alatoa must have shown he can fit into Leinster’s system as their only foreign player. A solid scrummager and tackler, expect the prop to really kick on with the four-in-a-row champions.





Jac Morgan (Scarlets to Ospreys)





Young flanker Morgan is arguably Welsh rugby’s best uncapped player. In a move that shocked many Scarlets fans, he joined a club on the up, making astute signings on its way. Alex Cuthbert is another strong addition to Toby Booth’s squad. To take such a risk at 21, Morgan must believe the Ospreys coaches can help him develop into the fully-fledged international bruiser he could so very evidently become. 





Jac Morgan
Jac Morgan has routinely made his presence felt in the red of Scarlets, and was one of the league’s top performers last term (Getty Images)




Booth’s snapping up of Leinster academy backrow Will Hickey is another really smart piece of business – poaching one of the senior members of the best academy in world rugby surely can’t backfire. Hickey could be the next Tadhg Beirne, Sam Underhill or Robin Copeland – developing in Wales before moving back to their native country to seek international honours.





Asaeli Tuivuaka (Fiji Sevens to Zebre)





Zebre have long struggled to break into the top half of the table. What needs to change? The leadership? Maybe. The kicking strategy? Sure. The option to just chuck the ball to a Fijian Olympic gold medalist? Now we’re talking. After Edinburgh’s success in converting Rio 2016 champion Viliame Mata into a world-renowned number 8, not to mention Toulouse utilising the rampaging Semi Kunitani as a dynamic lock/flanker, this feels like a perfect signing for the Italian side.





Asaeli Tuivuaka
Asaeli Tuivuaka was a colossal member of Fiji’s all-conquering Olympic sevens side (Getty Images)




Simon Zebo (Racing 92 to Munster)





The last selection has to be Zebo, doesn’t it? Who doesn’t love the guy? A fun-loving winger who is exhilarating on the field and delightful off it, the return of the Cork man will have Munster fans drooling. The only downside is we no longer get to witness him chortling on the pitch with Finn Russell and Kurtley Beale. Instead, we will see the incisive back-three danger man cutting lines off World Cup winners Damien de Allende and RG Snyman.





Munster may be known for their direct style, and as opposing fans we’ve all sat through Thomond Park drubbings before, but with Zebo smiling to the cameras, nobody will accuse this man in red of being dull.





More stories from Will Owen







If you’ve enjoyed this article, please share it with friends or on social media. We rely solely on new subscribers to fund high-quality journalism and appreciate you sharing this so we can continue to grow, produce more quality content and support our writers.



Jac Morgan (Scarlets to Ospreys)





Young flanker Morgan is arguably Welsh rugby’s best uncapped player. In a move that shocked many Scarlets fans, he joined a club on the up, making astute signings on its way. Alex Cuthbert is another strong addition to Toby Booth’s squad. To take such a risk at 21, Morgan must believe the Ospreys coaches can help him develop into the fully-fledged international bruiser he could so very evidently become. 





Jac Morgan
Jac Morgan has routinely made his presence felt in the red of Scarlets, and was one of the league’s top performers last term (Getty Images)




Booth’s snapping up of Leinster academy backrow Will Hickey is another really smart piece of business – poaching one of the senior members of the best academy in world rugby surely can’t backfire. Hickey could be the next Tadhg Beirne, Sam Underhill or Robin Copeland – developing in Wales before moving back to their native country to seek international honours.





Asaeli Tuivuaka (Fiji Sevens to Zebre)





Zebre have long struggled to break into the top half of the table. What needs to change? The leadership? Maybe. The kicking strategy? Sure. The option to just chuck the ball to a Fijian Olympic gold medalist? Now we’re talking. After Edinburgh’s success in converting Rio 2016 champion Viliame Mata into a world-renowned number 8, not to mention Toulouse utilising the rampaging Semi Kunitani as a dynamic lock/flanker, this feels like a perfect signing for the Italian side.





Asaeli Tuivuaka
Asaeli Tuivuaka was a colossal member of Fiji’s all-conquering Olympic sevens side (Getty Images)




Simon Zebo (Racing 92 to Munster)





The last selection has to be Zebo, doesn’t it? Who doesn’t love the guy? A fun-loving winger who is exhilarating on the field and delightful off it, the return of the Cork man will have Munster fans drooling. The only downside is we no longer get to witness him chortling on the pitch with Finn Russell and Kurtley Beale. Instead, we will see the incisive back-three danger man cutting lines off World Cup winners Damien de Allende and RG Snyman.





Munster may be known for their direct style, and as opposing fans we’ve all sat through Thomond Park drubbings before, but with Zebo smiling to the cameras, nobody will accuse this man in red of being dull.





More stories from Will Owen







If you’ve enjoyed this article, please share it with friends or on social media. We rely solely on new subscribers to fund high-quality journalism and appreciate you sharing this so we can continue to grow, produce more quality content and support our writers.



Asaeli Tuivuaka (Fiji Sevens to Zebre)





Zebre have long struggled to break into the top half of the table. What needs to change? The leadership? Maybe. The kicking strategy? Sure. The option to just chuck the ball to a Fijian Olympic gold medalist? Now we’re talking. After Edinburgh’s success in converting Rio 2016 champion Viliame Mata into a world-renowned number 8, not to mention Toulouse utilising the rampaging Semi Kunitani as a dynamic lock/flanker, this feels like a perfect signing for the Italian side.





Asaeli Tuivuaka
Asaeli Tuivuaka was a colossal member of Fiji’s all-conquering Olympic sevens side (Getty Images)




Simon Zebo (Racing 92 to Munster)





The last selection has to be Zebo, doesn’t it? Who doesn’t love the guy? A fun-loving winger who is exhilarating on the field and delightful off it, the return of the Cork man will have Munster fans drooling. The only downside is we no longer get to witness him chortling on the pitch with Finn Russell and Kurtley Beale. Instead, we will see the incisive back-three danger man cutting lines off World Cup winners Damien de Allende and RG Snyman.





Munster may be known for their direct style, and as opposing fans we’ve all sat through Thomond Park drubbings before, but with Zebo smiling to the cameras, nobody will accuse this man in red of being dull.





More stories from Will Owen







If you’ve enjoyed this article, please share it with friends or on social media. We rely solely on new subscribers to fund high-quality journalism and appreciate you sharing this so we can continue to grow, produce more quality content and support our writers.



Jac Morgan (Scarlets to Ospreys)





Young flanker Morgan is arguably Welsh rugby’s best uncapped player. In a move that shocked many Scarlets fans, he joined a club on the up, making astute signings on its way. Alex Cuthbert is another strong addition to Toby Booth’s squad. To take such a risk at 21, Morgan must believe the Ospreys coaches can help him develop into the fully-fledged international bruiser he could so very evidently become. 





Jac Morgan
Jac Morgan has routinely made his presence felt in the red of Scarlets, and was one of the league’s top performers last term (Getty Images)




Booth’s snapping up of Leinster academy backrow Will Hickey is another really smart piece of business – poaching one of the senior members of the best academy in world rugby surely can’t backfire. Hickey could be the next Tadhg Beirne, Sam Underhill or Robin Copeland – developing in Wales before moving back to their native country to seek international honours.





Asaeli Tuivuaka (Fiji Sevens to Zebre)





Zebre have long struggled to break into the top half of the table. What needs to change? The leadership? Maybe. The kicking strategy? Sure. The option to just chuck the ball to a Fijian Olympic gold medalist? Now we’re talking. After Edinburgh’s success in converting Rio 2016 champion Viliame Mata into a world-renowned number 8, not to mention Toulouse utilising the rampaging Semi Kunitani as a dynamic lock/flanker, this feels like a perfect signing for the Italian side.





Asaeli Tuivuaka
Asaeli Tuivuaka was a colossal member of Fiji’s all-conquering Olympic sevens side (Getty Images)




Simon Zebo (Racing 92 to Munster)





The last selection has to be Zebo, doesn’t it? Who doesn’t love the guy? A fun-loving winger who is exhilarating on the field and delightful off it, the return of the Cork man will have Munster fans drooling. The only downside is we no longer get to witness him chortling on the pitch with Finn Russell and Kurtley Beale. Instead, we will see the incisive back-three danger man cutting lines off World Cup winners Damien de Allende and RG Snyman.





Munster may be known for their direct style, and as opposing fans we’ve all sat through Thomond Park drubbings before, but with Zebo smiling to the cameras, nobody will accuse this man in red of being dull.





More stories from Will Owen







If you’ve enjoyed this article, please share it with friends or on social media. We rely solely on new subscribers to fund high-quality journalism and appreciate you sharing this so we can continue to grow, produce more quality content and support our writers.



Michael Ala’alatoa (Crusaders to Leinster)





May not seem like a flashy signing on the surface, but this is a big deal at the RDS. Ala’alatoa is Leinster’s first overseas signing since a certain Scott Fardy. Leo Cullen is clearly proud of the Irish representation in his squad, so it must take a lot to impress him.





Samoan skipper Ala’alatoa must have shown he can fit into Leinster’s system as their only foreign player. A solid scrummager and tackler, expect the prop to really kick on with the four-in-a-row champions.





Jac Morgan (Scarlets to Ospreys)





Young flanker Morgan is arguably Welsh rugby’s best uncapped player. In a move that shocked many Scarlets fans, he joined a club on the up, making astute signings on its way. Alex Cuthbert is another strong addition to Toby Booth’s squad. To take such a risk at 21, Morgan must believe the Ospreys coaches can help him develop into the fully-fledged international bruiser he could so very evidently become. 





Jac Morgan
Jac Morgan has routinely made his presence felt in the red of Scarlets, and was one of the league’s top performers last term (Getty Images)




Booth’s snapping up of Leinster academy backrow Will Hickey is another really smart piece of business – poaching one of the senior members of the best academy in world rugby surely can’t backfire. Hickey could be the next Tadhg Beirne, Sam Underhill or Robin Copeland – developing in Wales before moving back to their native country to seek international honours.





Asaeli Tuivuaka (Fiji Sevens to Zebre)





Zebre have long struggled to break into the top half of the table. What needs to change? The leadership? Maybe. The kicking strategy? Sure. The option to just chuck the ball to a Fijian Olympic gold medalist? Now we’re talking. After Edinburgh’s success in converting Rio 2016 champion Viliame Mata into a world-renowned number 8, not to mention Toulouse utilising the rampaging Semi Kunitani as a dynamic lock/flanker, this feels like a perfect signing for the Italian side.





Asaeli Tuivuaka
Asaeli Tuivuaka was a colossal member of Fiji’s all-conquering Olympic sevens side (Getty Images)




Simon Zebo (Racing 92 to Munster)





The last selection has to be Zebo, doesn’t it? Who doesn’t love the guy? A fun-loving winger who is exhilarating on the field and delightful off it, the return of the Cork man will have Munster fans drooling. The only downside is we no longer get to witness him chortling on the pitch with Finn Russell and Kurtley Beale. Instead, we will see the incisive back-three danger man cutting lines off World Cup winners Damien de Allende and RG Snyman.





Munster may be known for their direct style, and as opposing fans we’ve all sat through Thomond Park drubbings before, but with Zebo smiling to the cameras, nobody will accuse this man in red of being dull.





More stories from Will Owen







If you’ve enjoyed this article, please share it with friends or on social media. We rely solely on new subscribers to fund high-quality journalism and appreciate you sharing this so we can continue to grow, produce more quality content and support our writers.



WillGriff John (Sale to Scarlets)





A signing that could have implications for Wales’ front-row pecking order. With first-choice tight-head prop Tomas Francis also returning home from England, Scarlets have taken a gamble on John, a 127kg monster.





He will vie for regional selection with Samson Lee, and could pack down with Rob Evans and Ken Owens in a potent front trio. If John can prove a dominant scrummager, Wayne Pivac will surely consider him for Test honours. John was 24 hours away from a starting debut for Wales against Scotland before the pandemic ended the 2020 Six Nations, so he will be keen to take this opportunity and live his dream.





Michael Ala’alatoa (Crusaders to Leinster)





May not seem like a flashy signing on the surface, but this is a big deal at the RDS. Ala’alatoa is Leinster’s first overseas signing since a certain Scott Fardy. Leo Cullen is clearly proud of the Irish representation in his squad, so it must take a lot to impress him.





Samoan skipper Ala’alatoa must have shown he can fit into Leinster’s system as their only foreign player. A solid scrummager and tackler, expect the prop to really kick on with the four-in-a-row champions.





Jac Morgan (Scarlets to Ospreys)





Young flanker Morgan is arguably Welsh rugby’s best uncapped player. In a move that shocked many Scarlets fans, he joined a club on the up, making astute signings on its way. Alex Cuthbert is another strong addition to Toby Booth’s squad. To take such a risk at 21, Morgan must believe the Ospreys coaches can help him develop into the fully-fledged international bruiser he could so very evidently become. 





Jac Morgan
Jac Morgan has routinely made his presence felt in the red of Scarlets, and was one of the league’s top performers last term (Getty Images)




Booth’s snapping up of Leinster academy backrow Will Hickey is another really smart piece of business – poaching one of the senior members of the best academy in world rugby surely can’t backfire. Hickey could be the next Tadhg Beirne, Sam Underhill or Robin Copeland – developing in Wales before moving back to their native country to seek international honours.





Asaeli Tuivuaka (Fiji Sevens to Zebre)





Zebre have long struggled to break into the top half of the table. What needs to change? The leadership? Maybe. The kicking strategy? Sure. The option to just chuck the ball to a Fijian Olympic gold medalist? Now we’re talking. After Edinburgh’s success in converting Rio 2016 champion Viliame Mata into a world-renowned number 8, not to mention Toulouse utilising the rampaging Semi Kunitani as a dynamic lock/flanker, this feels like a perfect signing for the Italian side.





Asaeli Tuivuaka
Asaeli Tuivuaka was a colossal member of Fiji’s all-conquering Olympic sevens side (Getty Images)




Simon Zebo (Racing 92 to Munster)





The last selection has to be Zebo, doesn’t it? Who doesn’t love the guy? A fun-loving winger who is exhilarating on the field and delightful off it, the return of the Cork man will have Munster fans drooling. The only downside is we no longer get to witness him chortling on the pitch with Finn Russell and Kurtley Beale. Instead, we will see the incisive back-three danger man cutting lines off World Cup winners Damien de Allende and RG Snyman.





Munster may be known for their direct style, and as opposing fans we’ve all sat through Thomond Park drubbings before, but with Zebo smiling to the cameras, nobody will accuse this man in red of being dull.





More stories from Will Owen







If you’ve enjoyed this article, please share it with friends or on social media. We rely solely on new subscribers to fund high-quality journalism and appreciate you sharing this so we can continue to grow, produce more quality content and support our writers.



Edwill van der Merwe (Stormers to Lions)





One of the hottest prospects in South African club rugby, Van der Merwe is a winger any spectator would be lucky to watch. At 25, he is soaring to peak form, having lit up the Currie Cup and conjured dazzling highlight-reel tries.





Van der Merwe could be one of the most exciting players in the league, and given Makazole Mapimpi’s Pro14 form prior to his Springbok call-up aged 28, don’t bet against the new Lion becoming a Test player. With 32-year-old sevens rapier Rosko Specman winning his first cap this year, it is evident Jacques Neinaber is happy to wait for his wingers to blossom.





WillGriff John (Sale to Scarlets)





A signing that could have implications for Wales’ front-row pecking order. With first-choice tight-head prop Tomas Francis also returning home from England, Scarlets have taken a gamble on John, a 127kg monster.





He will vie for regional selection with Samson Lee, and could pack down with Rob Evans and Ken Owens in a potent front trio. If John can prove a dominant scrummager, Wayne Pivac will surely consider him for Test honours. John was 24 hours away from a starting debut for Wales against Scotland before the pandemic ended the 2020 Six Nations, so he will be keen to take this opportunity and live his dream.





Michael Ala’alatoa (Crusaders to Leinster)





May not seem like a flashy signing on the surface, but this is a big deal at the RDS. Ala’alatoa is Leinster’s first overseas signing since a certain Scott Fardy. Leo Cullen is clearly proud of the Irish representation in his squad, so it must take a lot to impress him.





Samoan skipper Ala’alatoa must have shown he can fit into Leinster’s system as their only foreign player. A solid scrummager and tackler, expect the prop to really kick on with the four-in-a-row champions.





Jac Morgan (Scarlets to Ospreys)





Young flanker Morgan is arguably Welsh rugby’s best uncapped player. In a move that shocked many Scarlets fans, he joined a club on the up, making astute signings on its way. Alex Cuthbert is another strong addition to Toby Booth’s squad. To take such a risk at 21, Morgan must believe the Ospreys coaches can help him develop into the fully-fledged international bruiser he could so very evidently become. 





Jac Morgan
Jac Morgan has routinely made his presence felt in the red of Scarlets, and was one of the league’s top performers last term (Getty Images)




Booth’s snapping up of Leinster academy backrow Will Hickey is another really smart piece of business – poaching one of the senior members of the best academy in world rugby surely can’t backfire. Hickey could be the next Tadhg Beirne, Sam Underhill or Robin Copeland – developing in Wales before moving back to their native country to seek international honours.





Asaeli Tuivuaka (Fiji Sevens to Zebre)





Zebre have long struggled to break into the top half of the table. What needs to change? The leadership? Maybe. The kicking strategy? Sure. The option to just chuck the ball to a Fijian Olympic gold medalist? Now we’re talking. After Edinburgh’s success in converting Rio 2016 champion Viliame Mata into a world-renowned number 8, not to mention Toulouse utilising the rampaging Semi Kunitani as a dynamic lock/flanker, this feels like a perfect signing for the Italian side.





Asaeli Tuivuaka
Asaeli Tuivuaka was a colossal member of Fiji’s all-conquering Olympic sevens side (Getty Images)




Simon Zebo (Racing 92 to Munster)





The last selection has to be Zebo, doesn’t it? Who doesn’t love the guy? A fun-loving winger who is exhilarating on the field and delightful off it, the return of the Cork man will have Munster fans drooling. The only downside is we no longer get to witness him chortling on the pitch with Finn Russell and Kurtley Beale. Instead, we will see the incisive back-three danger man cutting lines off World Cup winners Damien de Allende and RG Snyman.





Munster may be known for their direct style, and as opposing fans we’ve all sat through Thomond Park drubbings before, but with Zebo smiling to the cameras, nobody will accuse this man in red of being dull.





More stories from Will Owen







If you’ve enjoyed this article, please share it with friends or on social media. We rely solely on new subscribers to fund high-quality journalism and appreciate you sharing this so we can continue to grow, produce more quality content and support our writers.



Emiliano Boffelli (Racing 92 to Edinburgh)





Together with back-three compatriot Ramiro Moyano, Boffelli has made the switch from France to the Scottish capital. Only 26, it feels like he’s been around forever, given his maturity and composure at the highest level.





Emiliano Boffelli
Emiliano Boffelli was part of the Jaguares side that reached the 2019 Super Rugby final (Getty Images)




He will likely battle for the full-back jersey with incumbent Blair Kinghorn – another fleet-footed, solid 15 with a massive boot. Both are capable of playing on the wing and at fly-half, so it will be interesting to see how Mike Blair decides to use them.





Edwill van der Merwe (Stormers to Lions)





One of the hottest prospects in South African club rugby, Van der Merwe is a winger any spectator would be lucky to watch. At 25, he is soaring to peak form, having lit up the Currie Cup and conjured dazzling highlight-reel tries.





Van der Merwe could be one of the most exciting players in the league, and given Makazole Mapimpi’s Pro14 form prior to his Springbok call-up aged 28, don’t bet against the new Lion becoming a Test player. With 32-year-old sevens rapier Rosko Specman winning his first cap this year, it is evident Jacques Neinaber is happy to wait for his wingers to blossom.





WillGriff John (Sale to Scarlets)





A signing that could have implications for Wales’ front-row pecking order. With first-choice tight-head prop Tomas Francis also returning home from England, Scarlets have taken a gamble on John, a 127kg monster.





He will vie for regional selection with Samson Lee, and could pack down with Rob Evans and Ken Owens in a potent front trio. If John can prove a dominant scrummager, Wayne Pivac will surely consider him for Test honours. John was 24 hours away from a starting debut for Wales against Scotland before the pandemic ended the 2020 Six Nations, so he will be keen to take this opportunity and live his dream.





Michael Ala’alatoa (Crusaders to Leinster)





May not seem like a flashy signing on the surface, but this is a big deal at the RDS. Ala’alatoa is Leinster’s first overseas signing since a certain Scott Fardy. Leo Cullen is clearly proud of the Irish representation in his squad, so it must take a lot to impress him.





Samoan skipper Ala’alatoa must have shown he can fit into Leinster’s system as their only foreign player. A solid scrummager and tackler, expect the prop to really kick on with the four-in-a-row champions.





Jac Morgan (Scarlets to Ospreys)





Young flanker Morgan is arguably Welsh rugby’s best uncapped player. In a move that shocked many Scarlets fans, he joined a club on the up, making astute signings on its way. Alex Cuthbert is another strong addition to Toby Booth’s squad. To take such a risk at 21, Morgan must believe the Ospreys coaches can help him develop into the fully-fledged international bruiser he could so very evidently become. 





Jac Morgan
Jac Morgan has routinely made his presence felt in the red of Scarlets, and was one of the league’s top performers last term (Getty Images)




Booth’s snapping up of Leinster academy backrow Will Hickey is another really smart piece of business – poaching one of the senior members of the best academy in world rugby surely can’t backfire. Hickey could be the next Tadhg Beirne, Sam Underhill or Robin Copeland – developing in Wales before moving back to their native country to seek international honours.





Asaeli Tuivuaka (Fiji Sevens to Zebre)





Zebre have long struggled to break into the top half of the table. What needs to change? The leadership? Maybe. The kicking strategy? Sure. The option to just chuck the ball to a Fijian Olympic gold medalist? Now we’re talking. After Edinburgh’s success in converting Rio 2016 champion Viliame Mata into a world-renowned number 8, not to mention Toulouse utilising the rampaging Semi Kunitani as a dynamic lock/flanker, this feels like a perfect signing for the Italian side.





Asaeli Tuivuaka
Asaeli Tuivuaka was a colossal member of Fiji’s all-conquering Olympic sevens side (Getty Images)




Simon Zebo (Racing 92 to Munster)





The last selection has to be Zebo, doesn’t it? Who doesn’t love the guy? A fun-loving winger who is exhilarating on the field and delightful off it, the return of the Cork man will have Munster fans drooling. The only downside is we no longer get to witness him chortling on the pitch with Finn Russell and Kurtley Beale. Instead, we will see the incisive back-three danger man cutting lines off World Cup winners Damien de Allende and RG Snyman.





Munster may be known for their direct style, and as opposing fans we’ve all sat through Thomond Park drubbings before, but with Zebo smiling to the cameras, nobody will accuse this man in red of being dull.





More stories from Will Owen







If you’ve enjoyed this article, please share it with friends or on social media. We rely solely on new subscribers to fund high-quality journalism and appreciate you sharing this so we can continue to grow, produce more quality content and support our writers.



Duane Vermeulen (Blue Bulls to Ulster)





If you’re named after a Marvel Superhero, you must have been doing something right. In a buccaneering Test career, the bearded 6ft 4in, 18st Springbok gained the moniker Thor for his rampaging busts in midfield, soft-hands out of contact – few will forget his sweet offload to Fourie du Preez in the 2015 Rugby World Cup quarter-final – and rib-clattering hits.





At 35, he may well be in the latter stages of his career, but if Alun Wyn Jones, and Johnny Sexton, who have both turned 36 in recent months, are still influential figures in the URC, then there is nothing stopping Vermeulen being a talisman around which the Ulster pack can thrive. It is a statement signing to signify a new era for the league.





Emiliano Boffelli (Racing 92 to Edinburgh)





Together with back-three compatriot Ramiro Moyano, Boffelli has made the switch from France to the Scottish capital. Only 26, it feels like he’s been around forever, given his maturity and composure at the highest level.





Emiliano Boffelli
Emiliano Boffelli was part of the Jaguares side that reached the 2019 Super Rugby final (Getty Images)




He will likely battle for the full-back jersey with incumbent Blair Kinghorn – another fleet-footed, solid 15 with a massive boot. Both are capable of playing on the wing and at fly-half, so it will be interesting to see how Mike Blair decides to use them.





Edwill van der Merwe (Stormers to Lions)





One of the hottest prospects in South African club rugby, Van der Merwe is a winger any spectator would be lucky to watch. At 25, he is soaring to peak form, having lit up the Currie Cup and conjured dazzling highlight-reel tries.





Van der Merwe could be one of the most exciting players in the league, and given Makazole Mapimpi’s Pro14 form prior to his Springbok call-up aged 28, don’t bet against the new Lion becoming a Test player. With 32-year-old sevens rapier Rosko Specman winning his first cap this year, it is evident Jacques Neinaber is happy to wait for his wingers to blossom.





WillGriff John (Sale to Scarlets)





A signing that could have implications for Wales’ front-row pecking order. With first-choice tight-head prop Tomas Francis also returning home from England, Scarlets have taken a gamble on John, a 127kg monster.





He will vie for regional selection with Samson Lee, and could pack down with Rob Evans and Ken Owens in a potent front trio. If John can prove a dominant scrummager, Wayne Pivac will surely consider him for Test honours. John was 24 hours away from a starting debut for Wales against Scotland before the pandemic ended the 2020 Six Nations, so he will be keen to take this opportunity and live his dream.





Michael Ala’alatoa (Crusaders to Leinster)





May not seem like a flashy signing on the surface, but this is a big deal at the RDS. Ala’alatoa is Leinster’s first overseas signing since a certain Scott Fardy. Leo Cullen is clearly proud of the Irish representation in his squad, so it must take a lot to impress him.





Samoan skipper Ala’alatoa must have shown he can fit into Leinster’s system as their only foreign player. A solid scrummager and tackler, expect the prop to really kick on with the four-in-a-row champions.





Jac Morgan (Scarlets to Ospreys)





Young flanker Morgan is arguably Welsh rugby’s best uncapped player. In a move that shocked many Scarlets fans, he joined a club on the up, making astute signings on its way. Alex Cuthbert is another strong addition to Toby Booth’s squad. To take such a risk at 21, Morgan must believe the Ospreys coaches can help him develop into the fully-fledged international bruiser he could so very evidently become. 





Jac Morgan
Jac Morgan has routinely made his presence felt in the red of Scarlets, and was one of the league’s top performers last term (Getty Images)




Booth’s snapping up of Leinster academy backrow Will Hickey is another really smart piece of business – poaching one of the senior members of the best academy in world rugby surely can’t backfire. Hickey could be the next Tadhg Beirne, Sam Underhill or Robin Copeland – developing in Wales before moving back to their native country to seek international honours.





Asaeli Tuivuaka (Fiji Sevens to Zebre)





Zebre have long struggled to break into the top half of the table. What needs to change? The leadership? Maybe. The kicking strategy? Sure. The option to just chuck the ball to a Fijian Olympic gold medalist? Now we’re talking. After Edinburgh’s success in converting Rio 2016 champion Viliame Mata into a world-renowned number 8, not to mention Toulouse utilising the rampaging Semi Kunitani as a dynamic lock/flanker, this feels like a perfect signing for the Italian side.





Asaeli Tuivuaka
Asaeli Tuivuaka was a colossal member of Fiji’s all-conquering Olympic sevens side (Getty Images)




Simon Zebo (Racing 92 to Munster)





The last selection has to be Zebo, doesn’t it? Who doesn’t love the guy? A fun-loving winger who is exhilarating on the field and delightful off it, the return of the Cork man will have Munster fans drooling. The only downside is we no longer get to witness him chortling on the pitch with Finn Russell and Kurtley Beale. Instead, we will see the incisive back-three danger man cutting lines off World Cup winners Damien de Allende and RG Snyman.





Munster may be known for their direct style, and as opposing fans we’ve all sat through Thomond Park drubbings before, but with Zebo smiling to the cameras, nobody will accuse this man in red of being dull.





More stories from Will Owen







If you’ve enjoyed this article, please share it with friends or on social media. We rely solely on new subscribers to fund high-quality journalism and appreciate you sharing this so we can continue to grow, produce more quality content and support our writers.



The roar of the crowd. The crackling anticipation of live rugby in pulsating stadia. The smell of linament wafting from changing rooms. The taste of lukewarm, hideously overpriced lager in plastic cups. The opportunity to sit down on a Friday night and watch Dragons playing Ulster. 





Yep, a new season is upon us, so what’s not to love?





With the dawn of each campaign comes acclimatisation. You ask why Benetton aren’t picking Paolo Garbisi before remembering he signed for Montpellier in the summer. You spend the first three weeks of the season deciding whether or not Domingo Miotti looks good in a Glasgow jersey. 





These are seminal months for the competition now formerly known as the Pro14. The arrival of South Africa’s heavyweight quartet, a glossy summer rebrand as the United Rugby Championship, and even a partnership with Jay-Z’s Roc Nation entertainment company.  





There have been some eye-catching signings in the off-season too, from a World Cup winner to an Olympic colossus, homecoming heroes to a gifted Welshman with a big future opting to switch regions. Here, The XV hand-picks some of the tastiest acquisitions for the championship ahead.





Duane Vermeulen (Blue Bulls to Ulster)





If you’re named after a Marvel Superhero, you must have been doing something right. In a buccaneering Test career, the bearded 6ft 4in, 18st Springbok gained the moniker Thor for his rampaging busts in midfield, soft-hands out of contact – few will forget his sweet offload to Fourie du Preez in the 2015 Rugby World Cup quarter-final – and rib-clattering hits.





At 35, he may well be in the latter stages of his career, but if Alun Wyn Jones, and Johnny Sexton, who have both turned 36 in recent months, are still influential figures in the URC, then there is nothing stopping Vermeulen being a talisman around which the Ulster pack can thrive. It is a statement signing to signify a new era for the league.





Emiliano Boffelli (Racing 92 to Edinburgh)





Together with back-three compatriot Ramiro Moyano, Boffelli has made the switch from France to the Scottish capital. Only 26, it feels like he’s been around forever, given his maturity and composure at the highest level.





Emiliano Boffelli
Emiliano Boffelli was part of the Jaguares side that reached the 2019 Super Rugby final (Getty Images)




He will likely battle for the full-back jersey with incumbent Blair Kinghorn – another fleet-footed, solid 15 with a massive boot. Both are capable of playing on the wing and at fly-half, so it will be interesting to see how Mike Blair decides to use them.





Edwill van der Merwe (Stormers to Lions)





One of the hottest prospects in South African club rugby, Van der Merwe is a winger any spectator would be lucky to watch. At 25, he is soaring to peak form, having lit up the Currie Cup and conjured dazzling highlight-reel tries.





Van der Merwe could be one of the most exciting players in the league, and given Makazole Mapimpi’s Pro14 form prior to his Springbok call-up aged 28, don’t bet against the new Lion becoming a Test player. With 32-year-old sevens rapier Rosko Specman winning his first cap this year, it is evident Jacques Neinaber is happy to wait for his wingers to blossom.





WillGriff John (Sale to Scarlets)





A signing that could have implications for Wales’ front-row pecking order. With first-choice tight-head prop Tomas Francis also returning home from England, Scarlets have taken a gamble on John, a 127kg monster.





He will vie for regional selection with Samson Lee, and could pack down with Rob Evans and Ken Owens in a potent front trio. If John can prove a dominant scrummager, Wayne Pivac will surely consider him for Test honours. John was 24 hours away from a starting debut for Wales against Scotland before the pandemic ended the 2020 Six Nations, so he will be keen to take this opportunity and live his dream.





Michael Ala’alatoa (Crusaders to Leinster)





May not seem like a flashy signing on the surface, but this is a big deal at the RDS. Ala’alatoa is Leinster’s first overseas signing since a certain Scott Fardy. Leo Cullen is clearly proud of the Irish representation in his squad, so it must take a lot to impress him.





Samoan skipper Ala’alatoa must have shown he can fit into Leinster’s system as their only foreign player. A solid scrummager and tackler, expect the prop to really kick on with the four-in-a-row champions.





Jac Morgan (Scarlets to Ospreys)





Young flanker Morgan is arguably Welsh rugby’s best uncapped player. In a move that shocked many Scarlets fans, he joined a club on the up, making astute signings on its way. Alex Cuthbert is another strong addition to Toby Booth’s squad. To take such a risk at 21, Morgan must believe the Ospreys coaches can help him develop into the fully-fledged international bruiser he could so very evidently become. 





Jac Morgan
Jac Morgan has routinely made his presence felt in the red of Scarlets, and was one of the league’s top performers last term (Getty Images)




Booth’s snapping up of Leinster academy backrow Will Hickey is another really smart piece of business – poaching one of the senior members of the best academy in world rugby surely can’t backfire. Hickey could be the next Tadhg Beirne, Sam Underhill or Robin Copeland – developing in Wales before moving back to their native country to seek international honours.





Asaeli Tuivuaka (Fiji Sevens to Zebre)





Zebre have long struggled to break into the top half of the table. What needs to change? The leadership? Maybe. The kicking strategy? Sure. The option to just chuck the ball to a Fijian Olympic gold medalist? Now we’re talking. After Edinburgh’s success in converting Rio 2016 champion Viliame Mata into a world-renowned number 8, not to mention Toulouse utilising the rampaging Semi Kunitani as a dynamic lock/flanker, this feels like a perfect signing for the Italian side.





Asaeli Tuivuaka
Asaeli Tuivuaka was a colossal member of Fiji’s all-conquering Olympic sevens side (Getty Images)




Simon Zebo (Racing 92 to Munster)





The last selection has to be Zebo, doesn’t it? Who doesn’t love the guy? A fun-loving winger who is exhilarating on the field and delightful off it, the return of the Cork man will have Munster fans drooling. The only downside is we no longer get to witness him chortling on the pitch with Finn Russell and Kurtley Beale. Instead, we will see the incisive back-three danger man cutting lines off World Cup winners Damien de Allende and RG Snyman.





Munster may be known for their direct style, and as opposing fans we’ve all sat through Thomond Park drubbings before, but with Zebo smiling to the cameras, nobody will accuse this man in red of being dull.





More stories from Will Owen







If you’ve enjoyed this article, please share it with friends or on social media. We rely solely on new subscribers to fund high-quality journalism and appreciate you sharing this so we can continue to grow, produce more quality content and support our writers.



Michael Ala’alatoa (Crusaders to Leinster)





May not seem like a flashy signing on the surface, but this is a big deal at the RDS. Ala’alatoa is Leinster’s first overseas signing since a certain Scott Fardy. Leo Cullen is clearly proud of the Irish representation in his squad, so it must take a lot to impress him.





Samoan skipper Ala’alatoa must have shown he can fit into Leinster’s system as their only foreign player. A solid scrummager and tackler, expect the prop to really kick on with the four-in-a-row champions.





Jac Morgan (Scarlets to Ospreys)





Young flanker Morgan is arguably Welsh rugby’s best uncapped player. In a move that shocked many Scarlets fans, he joined a club on the up, making astute signings on its way. Alex Cuthbert is another strong addition to Toby Booth’s squad. To take such a risk at 21, Morgan must believe the Ospreys coaches can help him develop into the fully-fledged international bruiser he could so very evidently become. 





Jac Morgan
Jac Morgan has routinely made his presence felt in the red of Scarlets, and was one of the league’s top performers last term (Getty Images)




Booth’s snapping up of Leinster academy backrow Will Hickey is another really smart piece of business – poaching one of the senior members of the best academy in world rugby surely can’t backfire. Hickey could be the next Tadhg Beirne, Sam Underhill or Robin Copeland – developing in Wales before moving back to their native country to seek international honours.





Asaeli Tuivuaka (Fiji Sevens to Zebre)





Zebre have long struggled to break into the top half of the table. What needs to change? The leadership? Maybe. The kicking strategy? Sure. The option to just chuck the ball to a Fijian Olympic gold medalist? Now we’re talking. After Edinburgh’s success in converting Rio 2016 champion Viliame Mata into a world-renowned number 8, not to mention Toulouse utilising the rampaging Semi Kunitani as a dynamic lock/flanker, this feels like a perfect signing for the Italian side.





Asaeli Tuivuaka
Asaeli Tuivuaka was a colossal member of Fiji’s all-conquering Olympic sevens side (Getty Images)




Simon Zebo (Racing 92 to Munster)





The last selection has to be Zebo, doesn’t it? Who doesn’t love the guy? A fun-loving winger who is exhilarating on the field and delightful off it, the return of the Cork man will have Munster fans drooling. The only downside is we no longer get to witness him chortling on the pitch with Finn Russell and Kurtley Beale. Instead, we will see the incisive back-three danger man cutting lines off World Cup winners Damien de Allende and RG Snyman.





Munster may be known for their direct style, and as opposing fans we’ve all sat through Thomond Park drubbings before, but with Zebo smiling to the cameras, nobody will accuse this man in red of being dull.





More stories from Will Owen







If you’ve enjoyed this article, please share it with friends or on social media. We rely solely on new subscribers to fund high-quality journalism and appreciate you sharing this so we can continue to grow, produce more quality content and support our writers.



Asaeli Tuivuaka (Fiji Sevens to Zebre)





Zebre have long struggled to break into the top half of the table. What needs to change? The leadership? Maybe. The kicking strategy? Sure. The option to just chuck the ball to a Fijian Olympic gold medalist? Now we’re talking. After Edinburgh’s success in converting Rio 2016 champion Viliame Mata into a world-renowned number 8, not to mention Toulouse utilising the rampaging Semi Kunitani as a dynamic lock/flanker, this feels like a perfect signing for the Italian side.





Asaeli Tuivuaka
Asaeli Tuivuaka was a colossal member of Fiji’s all-conquering Olympic sevens side (Getty Images)




Simon Zebo (Racing 92 to Munster)





The last selection has to be Zebo, doesn’t it? Who doesn’t love the guy? A fun-loving winger who is exhilarating on the field and delightful off it, the return of the Cork man will have Munster fans drooling. The only downside is we no longer get to witness him chortling on the pitch with Finn Russell and Kurtley Beale. Instead, we will see the incisive back-three danger man cutting lines off World Cup winners Damien de Allende and RG Snyman.





Munster may be known for their direct style, and as opposing fans we’ve all sat through Thomond Park drubbings before, but with Zebo smiling to the cameras, nobody will accuse this man in red of being dull.





More stories from Will Owen







If you’ve enjoyed this article, please share it with friends or on social media. We rely solely on new subscribers to fund high-quality journalism and appreciate you sharing this so we can continue to grow, produce more quality content and support our writers.



Jac Morgan (Scarlets to Ospreys)





Young flanker Morgan is arguably Welsh rugby’s best uncapped player. In a move that shocked many Scarlets fans, he joined a club on the up, making astute signings on its way. Alex Cuthbert is another strong addition to Toby Booth’s squad. To take such a risk at 21, Morgan must believe the Ospreys coaches can help him develop into the fully-fledged international bruiser he could so very evidently become. 





Jac Morgan
Jac Morgan has routinely made his presence felt in the red of Scarlets, and was one of the league’s top performers last term (Getty Images)




Booth’s snapping up of Leinster academy backrow Will Hickey is another really smart piece of business – poaching one of the senior members of the best academy in world rugby surely can’t backfire. Hickey could be the next Tadhg Beirne, Sam Underhill or Robin Copeland – developing in Wales before moving back to their native country to seek international honours.





Asaeli Tuivuaka (Fiji Sevens to Zebre)





Zebre have long struggled to break into the top half of the table. What needs to change? The leadership? Maybe. The kicking strategy? Sure. The option to just chuck the ball to a Fijian Olympic gold medalist? Now we’re talking. After Edinburgh’s success in converting Rio 2016 champion Viliame Mata into a world-renowned number 8, not to mention Toulouse utilising the rampaging Semi Kunitani as a dynamic lock/flanker, this feels like a perfect signing for the Italian side.





Asaeli Tuivuaka
Asaeli Tuivuaka was a colossal member of Fiji’s all-conquering Olympic sevens side (Getty Images)




Simon Zebo (Racing 92 to Munster)





The last selection has to be Zebo, doesn’t it? Who doesn’t love the guy? A fun-loving winger who is exhilarating on the field and delightful off it, the return of the Cork man will have Munster fans drooling. The only downside is we no longer get to witness him chortling on the pitch with Finn Russell and Kurtley Beale. Instead, we will see the incisive back-three danger man cutting lines off World Cup winners Damien de Allende and RG Snyman.





Munster may be known for their direct style, and as opposing fans we’ve all sat through Thomond Park drubbings before, but with Zebo smiling to the cameras, nobody will accuse this man in red of being dull.





More stories from Will Owen







If you’ve enjoyed this article, please share it with friends or on social media. We rely solely on new subscribers to fund high-quality journalism and appreciate you sharing this so we can continue to grow, produce more quality content and support our writers.



Michael Ala’alatoa (Crusaders to Leinster)





May not seem like a flashy signing on the surface, but this is a big deal at the RDS. Ala’alatoa is Leinster’s first overseas signing since a certain Scott Fardy. Leo Cullen is clearly proud of the Irish representation in his squad, so it must take a lot to impress him.





Samoan skipper Ala’alatoa must have shown he can fit into Leinster’s system as their only foreign player. A solid scrummager and tackler, expect the prop to really kick on with the four-in-a-row champions.





Jac Morgan (Scarlets to Ospreys)





Young flanker Morgan is arguably Welsh rugby’s best uncapped player. In a move that shocked many Scarlets fans, he joined a club on the up, making astute signings on its way. Alex Cuthbert is another strong addition to Toby Booth’s squad. To take such a risk at 21, Morgan must believe the Ospreys coaches can help him develop into the fully-fledged international bruiser he could so very evidently become. 





Jac Morgan
Jac Morgan has routinely made his presence felt in the red of Scarlets, and was one of the league’s top performers last term (Getty Images)




Booth’s snapping up of Leinster academy backrow Will Hickey is another really smart piece of business – poaching one of the senior members of the best academy in world rugby surely can’t backfire. Hickey could be the next Tadhg Beirne, Sam Underhill or Robin Copeland – developing in Wales before moving back to their native country to seek international honours.





Asaeli Tuivuaka (Fiji Sevens to Zebre)





Zebre have long struggled to break into the top half of the table. What needs to change? The leadership? Maybe. The kicking strategy? Sure. The option to just chuck the ball to a Fijian Olympic gold medalist? Now we’re talking. After Edinburgh’s success in converting Rio 2016 champion Viliame Mata into a world-renowned number 8, not to mention Toulouse utilising the rampaging Semi Kunitani as a dynamic lock/flanker, this feels like a perfect signing for the Italian side.





Asaeli Tuivuaka
Asaeli Tuivuaka was a colossal member of Fiji’s all-conquering Olympic sevens side (Getty Images)




Simon Zebo (Racing 92 to Munster)





The last selection has to be Zebo, doesn’t it? Who doesn’t love the guy? A fun-loving winger who is exhilarating on the field and delightful off it, the return of the Cork man will have Munster fans drooling. The only downside is we no longer get to witness him chortling on the pitch with Finn Russell and Kurtley Beale. Instead, we will see the incisive back-three danger man cutting lines off World Cup winners Damien de Allende and RG Snyman.





Munster may be known for their direct style, and as opposing fans we’ve all sat through Thomond Park drubbings before, but with Zebo smiling to the cameras, nobody will accuse this man in red of being dull.





More stories from Will Owen







If you’ve enjoyed this article, please share it with friends or on social media. We rely solely on new subscribers to fund high-quality journalism and appreciate you sharing this so we can continue to grow, produce more quality content and support our writers.



WillGriff John (Sale to Scarlets)





A signing that could have implications for Wales’ front-row pecking order. With first-choice tight-head prop Tomas Francis also returning home from England, Scarlets have taken a gamble on John, a 127kg monster.





He will vie for regional selection with Samson Lee, and could pack down with Rob Evans and Ken Owens in a potent front trio. If John can prove a dominant scrummager, Wayne Pivac will surely consider him for Test honours. John was 24 hours away from a starting debut for Wales against Scotland before the pandemic ended the 2020 Six Nations, so he will be keen to take this opportunity and live his dream.





Michael Ala’alatoa (Crusaders to Leinster)





May not seem like a flashy signing on the surface, but this is a big deal at the RDS. Ala’alatoa is Leinster’s first overseas signing since a certain Scott Fardy. Leo Cullen is clearly proud of the Irish representation in his squad, so it must take a lot to impress him.





Samoan skipper Ala’alatoa must have shown he can fit into Leinster’s system as their only foreign player. A solid scrummager and tackler, expect the prop to really kick on with the four-in-a-row champions.





Jac Morgan (Scarlets to Ospreys)





Young flanker Morgan is arguably Welsh rugby’s best uncapped player. In a move that shocked many Scarlets fans, he joined a club on the up, making astute signings on its way. Alex Cuthbert is another strong addition to Toby Booth’s squad. To take such a risk at 21, Morgan must believe the Ospreys coaches can help him develop into the fully-fledged international bruiser he could so very evidently become. 





Jac Morgan
Jac Morgan has routinely made his presence felt in the red of Scarlets, and was one of the league’s top performers last term (Getty Images)




Booth’s snapping up of Leinster academy backrow Will Hickey is another really smart piece of business – poaching one of the senior members of the best academy in world rugby surely can’t backfire. Hickey could be the next Tadhg Beirne, Sam Underhill or Robin Copeland – developing in Wales before moving back to their native country to seek international honours.





Asaeli Tuivuaka (Fiji Sevens to Zebre)





Zebre have long struggled to break into the top half of the table. What needs to change? The leadership? Maybe. The kicking strategy? Sure. The option to just chuck the ball to a Fijian Olympic gold medalist? Now we’re talking. After Edinburgh’s success in converting Rio 2016 champion Viliame Mata into a world-renowned number 8, not to mention Toulouse utilising the rampaging Semi Kunitani as a dynamic lock/flanker, this feels like a perfect signing for the Italian side.





Asaeli Tuivuaka
Asaeli Tuivuaka was a colossal member of Fiji’s all-conquering Olympic sevens side (Getty Images)




Simon Zebo (Racing 92 to Munster)





The last selection has to be Zebo, doesn’t it? Who doesn’t love the guy? A fun-loving winger who is exhilarating on the field and delightful off it, the return of the Cork man will have Munster fans drooling. The only downside is we no longer get to witness him chortling on the pitch with Finn Russell and Kurtley Beale. Instead, we will see the incisive back-three danger man cutting lines off World Cup winners Damien de Allende and RG Snyman.





Munster may be known for their direct style, and as opposing fans we’ve all sat through Thomond Park drubbings before, but with Zebo smiling to the cameras, nobody will accuse this man in red of being dull.





More stories from Will Owen







If you’ve enjoyed this article, please share it with friends or on social media. We rely solely on new subscribers to fund high-quality journalism and appreciate you sharing this so we can continue to grow, produce more quality content and support our writers.



Edwill van der Merwe (Stormers to Lions)





One of the hottest prospects in South African club rugby, Van der Merwe is a winger any spectator would be lucky to watch. At 25, he is soaring to peak form, having lit up the Currie Cup and conjured dazzling highlight-reel tries.





Van der Merwe could be one of the most exciting players in the league, and given Makazole Mapimpi’s Pro14 form prior to his Springbok call-up aged 28, don’t bet against the new Lion becoming a Test player. With 32-year-old sevens rapier Rosko Specman winning his first cap this year, it is evident Jacques Neinaber is happy to wait for his wingers to blossom.





WillGriff John (Sale to Scarlets)





A signing that could have implications for Wales’ front-row pecking order. With first-choice tight-head prop Tomas Francis also returning home from England, Scarlets have taken a gamble on John, a 127kg monster.





He will vie for regional selection with Samson Lee, and could pack down with Rob Evans and Ken Owens in a potent front trio. If John can prove a dominant scrummager, Wayne Pivac will surely consider him for Test honours. John was 24 hours away from a starting debut for Wales against Scotland before the pandemic ended the 2020 Six Nations, so he will be keen to take this opportunity and live his dream.





Michael Ala’alatoa (Crusaders to Leinster)





May not seem like a flashy signing on the surface, but this is a big deal at the RDS. Ala’alatoa is Leinster’s first overseas signing since a certain Scott Fardy. Leo Cullen is clearly proud of the Irish representation in his squad, so it must take a lot to impress him.





Samoan skipper Ala’alatoa must have shown he can fit into Leinster’s system as their only foreign player. A solid scrummager and tackler, expect the prop to really kick on with the four-in-a-row champions.





Jac Morgan (Scarlets to Ospreys)





Young flanker Morgan is arguably Welsh rugby’s best uncapped player. In a move that shocked many Scarlets fans, he joined a club on the up, making astute signings on its way. Alex Cuthbert is another strong addition to Toby Booth’s squad. To take such a risk at 21, Morgan must believe the Ospreys coaches can help him develop into the fully-fledged international bruiser he could so very evidently become. 





Jac Morgan
Jac Morgan has routinely made his presence felt in the red of Scarlets, and was one of the league’s top performers last term (Getty Images)




Booth’s snapping up of Leinster academy backrow Will Hickey is another really smart piece of business – poaching one of the senior members of the best academy in world rugby surely can’t backfire. Hickey could be the next Tadhg Beirne, Sam Underhill or Robin Copeland – developing in Wales before moving back to their native country to seek international honours.





Asaeli Tuivuaka (Fiji Sevens to Zebre)





Zebre have long struggled to break into the top half of the table. What needs to change? The leadership? Maybe. The kicking strategy? Sure. The option to just chuck the ball to a Fijian Olympic gold medalist? Now we’re talking. After Edinburgh’s success in converting Rio 2016 champion Viliame Mata into a world-renowned number 8, not to mention Toulouse utilising the rampaging Semi Kunitani as a dynamic lock/flanker, this feels like a perfect signing for the Italian side.





Asaeli Tuivuaka
Asaeli Tuivuaka was a colossal member of Fiji’s all-conquering Olympic sevens side (Getty Images)




Simon Zebo (Racing 92 to Munster)





The last selection has to be Zebo, doesn’t it? Who doesn’t love the guy? A fun-loving winger who is exhilarating on the field and delightful off it, the return of the Cork man will have Munster fans drooling. The only downside is we no longer get to witness him chortling on the pitch with Finn Russell and Kurtley Beale. Instead, we will see the incisive back-three danger man cutting lines off World Cup winners Damien de Allende and RG Snyman.





Munster may be known for their direct style, and as opposing fans we’ve all sat through Thomond Park drubbings before, but with Zebo smiling to the cameras, nobody will accuse this man in red of being dull.





More stories from Will Owen







If you’ve enjoyed this article, please share it with friends or on social media. We rely solely on new subscribers to fund high-quality journalism and appreciate you sharing this so we can continue to grow, produce more quality content and support our writers.



Emiliano Boffelli (Racing 92 to Edinburgh)





Together with back-three compatriot Ramiro Moyano, Boffelli has made the switch from France to the Scottish capital. Only 26, it feels like he’s been around forever, given his maturity and composure at the highest level.





Emiliano Boffelli
Emiliano Boffelli was part of the Jaguares side that reached the 2019 Super Rugby final (Getty Images)




He will likely battle for the full-back jersey with incumbent Blair Kinghorn – another fleet-footed, solid 15 with a massive boot. Both are capable of playing on the wing and at fly-half, so it will be interesting to see how Mike Blair decides to use them.





Edwill van der Merwe (Stormers to Lions)





One of the hottest prospects in South African club rugby, Van der Merwe is a winger any spectator would be lucky to watch. At 25, he is soaring to peak form, having lit up the Currie Cup and conjured dazzling highlight-reel tries.





Van der Merwe could be one of the most exciting players in the league, and given Makazole Mapimpi’s Pro14 form prior to his Springbok call-up aged 28, don’t bet against the new Lion becoming a Test player. With 32-year-old sevens rapier Rosko Specman winning his first cap this year, it is evident Jacques Neinaber is happy to wait for his wingers to blossom.





WillGriff John (Sale to Scarlets)





A signing that could have implications for Wales’ front-row pecking order. With first-choice tight-head prop Tomas Francis also returning home from England, Scarlets have taken a gamble on John, a 127kg monster.





He will vie for regional selection with Samson Lee, and could pack down with Rob Evans and Ken Owens in a potent front trio. If John can prove a dominant scrummager, Wayne Pivac will surely consider him for Test honours. John was 24 hours away from a starting debut for Wales against Scotland before the pandemic ended the 2020 Six Nations, so he will be keen to take this opportunity and live his dream.





Michael Ala’alatoa (Crusaders to Leinster)





May not seem like a flashy signing on the surface, but this is a big deal at the RDS. Ala’alatoa is Leinster’s first overseas signing since a certain Scott Fardy. Leo Cullen is clearly proud of the Irish representation in his squad, so it must take a lot to impress him.





Samoan skipper Ala’alatoa must have shown he can fit into Leinster’s system as their only foreign player. A solid scrummager and tackler, expect the prop to really kick on with the four-in-a-row champions.





Jac Morgan (Scarlets to Ospreys)





Young flanker Morgan is arguably Welsh rugby’s best uncapped player. In a move that shocked many Scarlets fans, he joined a club on the up, making astute signings on its way. Alex Cuthbert is another strong addition to Toby Booth’s squad. To take such a risk at 21, Morgan must believe the Ospreys coaches can help him develop into the fully-fledged international bruiser he could so very evidently become. 





Jac Morgan
Jac Morgan has routinely made his presence felt in the red of Scarlets, and was one of the league’s top performers last term (Getty Images)




Booth’s snapping up of Leinster academy backrow Will Hickey is another really smart piece of business – poaching one of the senior members of the best academy in world rugby surely can’t backfire. Hickey could be the next Tadhg Beirne, Sam Underhill or Robin Copeland – developing in Wales before moving back to their native country to seek international honours.





Asaeli Tuivuaka (Fiji Sevens to Zebre)





Zebre have long struggled to break into the top half of the table. What needs to change? The leadership? Maybe. The kicking strategy? Sure. The option to just chuck the ball to a Fijian Olympic gold medalist? Now we’re talking. After Edinburgh’s success in converting Rio 2016 champion Viliame Mata into a world-renowned number 8, not to mention Toulouse utilising the rampaging Semi Kunitani as a dynamic lock/flanker, this feels like a perfect signing for the Italian side.





Asaeli Tuivuaka
Asaeli Tuivuaka was a colossal member of Fiji’s all-conquering Olympic sevens side (Getty Images)




Simon Zebo (Racing 92 to Munster)





The last selection has to be Zebo, doesn’t it? Who doesn’t love the guy? A fun-loving winger who is exhilarating on the field and delightful off it, the return of the Cork man will have Munster fans drooling. The only downside is we no longer get to witness him chortling on the pitch with Finn Russell and Kurtley Beale. Instead, we will see the incisive back-three danger man cutting lines off World Cup winners Damien de Allende and RG Snyman.





Munster may be known for their direct style, and as opposing fans we’ve all sat through Thomond Park drubbings before, but with Zebo smiling to the cameras, nobody will accuse this man in red of being dull.





More stories from Will Owen







If you’ve enjoyed this article, please share it with friends or on social media. We rely solely on new subscribers to fund high-quality journalism and appreciate you sharing this so we can continue to grow, produce more quality content and support our writers.



Duane Vermeulen (Blue Bulls to Ulster)





If you’re named after a Marvel Superhero, you must have been doing something right. In a buccaneering Test career, the bearded 6ft 4in, 18st Springbok gained the moniker Thor for his rampaging busts in midfield, soft-hands out of contact – few will forget his sweet offload to Fourie du Preez in the 2015 Rugby World Cup quarter-final – and rib-clattering hits.





At 35, he may well be in the latter stages of his career, but if Alun Wyn Jones, and Johnny Sexton, who have both turned 36 in recent months, are still influential figures in the URC, then there is nothing stopping Vermeulen being a talisman around which the Ulster pack can thrive. It is a statement signing to signify a new era for the league.





Emiliano Boffelli (Racing 92 to Edinburgh)





Together with back-three compatriot Ramiro Moyano, Boffelli has made the switch from France to the Scottish capital. Only 26, it feels like he’s been around forever, given his maturity and composure at the highest level.





Emiliano Boffelli
Emiliano Boffelli was part of the Jaguares side that reached the 2019 Super Rugby final (Getty Images)




He will likely battle for the full-back jersey with incumbent Blair Kinghorn – another fleet-footed, solid 15 with a massive boot. Both are capable of playing on the wing and at fly-half, so it will be interesting to see how Mike Blair decides to use them.





Edwill van der Merwe (Stormers to Lions)





One of the hottest prospects in South African club rugby, Van der Merwe is a winger any spectator would be lucky to watch. At 25, he is soaring to peak form, having lit up the Currie Cup and conjured dazzling highlight-reel tries.





Van der Merwe could be one of the most exciting players in the league, and given Makazole Mapimpi’s Pro14 form prior to his Springbok call-up aged 28, don’t bet against the new Lion becoming a Test player. With 32-year-old sevens rapier Rosko Specman winning his first cap this year, it is evident Jacques Neinaber is happy to wait for his wingers to blossom.





WillGriff John (Sale to Scarlets)





A signing that could have implications for Wales’ front-row pecking order. With first-choice tight-head prop Tomas Francis also returning home from England, Scarlets have taken a gamble on John, a 127kg monster.





He will vie for regional selection with Samson Lee, and could pack down with Rob Evans and Ken Owens in a potent front trio. If John can prove a dominant scrummager, Wayne Pivac will surely consider him for Test honours. John was 24 hours away from a starting debut for Wales against Scotland before the pandemic ended the 2020 Six Nations, so he will be keen to take this opportunity and live his dream.





Michael Ala’alatoa (Crusaders to Leinster)





May not seem like a flashy signing on the surface, but this is a big deal at the RDS. Ala’alatoa is Leinster’s first overseas signing since a certain Scott Fardy. Leo Cullen is clearly proud of the Irish representation in his squad, so it must take a lot to impress him.





Samoan skipper Ala’alatoa must have shown he can fit into Leinster’s system as their only foreign player. A solid scrummager and tackler, expect the prop to really kick on with the four-in-a-row champions.





Jac Morgan (Scarlets to Ospreys)





Young flanker Morgan is arguably Welsh rugby’s best uncapped player. In a move that shocked many Scarlets fans, he joined a club on the up, making astute signings on its way. Alex Cuthbert is another strong addition to Toby Booth’s squad. To take such a risk at 21, Morgan must believe the Ospreys coaches can help him develop into the fully-fledged international bruiser he could so very evidently become. 





Jac Morgan
Jac Morgan has routinely made his presence felt in the red of Scarlets, and was one of the league’s top performers last term (Getty Images)




Booth’s snapping up of Leinster academy backrow Will Hickey is another really smart piece of business – poaching one of the senior members of the best academy in world rugby surely can’t backfire. Hickey could be the next Tadhg Beirne, Sam Underhill or Robin Copeland – developing in Wales before moving back to their native country to seek international honours.





Asaeli Tuivuaka (Fiji Sevens to Zebre)





Zebre have long struggled to break into the top half of the table. What needs to change? The leadership? Maybe. The kicking strategy? Sure. The option to just chuck the ball to a Fijian Olympic gold medalist? Now we’re talking. After Edinburgh’s success in converting Rio 2016 champion Viliame Mata into a world-renowned number 8, not to mention Toulouse utilising the rampaging Semi Kunitani as a dynamic lock/flanker, this feels like a perfect signing for the Italian side.





Asaeli Tuivuaka
Asaeli Tuivuaka was a colossal member of Fiji’s all-conquering Olympic sevens side (Getty Images)




Simon Zebo (Racing 92 to Munster)





The last selection has to be Zebo, doesn’t it? Who doesn’t love the guy? A fun-loving winger who is exhilarating on the field and delightful off it, the return of the Cork man will have Munster fans drooling. The only downside is we no longer get to witness him chortling on the pitch with Finn Russell and Kurtley Beale. Instead, we will see the incisive back-three danger man cutting lines off World Cup winners Damien de Allende and RG Snyman.





Munster may be known for their direct style, and as opposing fans we’ve all sat through Thomond Park drubbings before, but with Zebo smiling to the cameras, nobody will accuse this man in red of being dull.





More stories from Will Owen







If you’ve enjoyed this article, please share it with friends or on social media. We rely solely on new subscribers to fund high-quality journalism and appreciate you sharing this so we can continue to grow, produce more quality content and support our writers.



The roar of the crowd. The crackling anticipation of live rugby in pulsating stadia. The smell of linament wafting from changing rooms. The taste of lukewarm, hideously overpriced lager in plastic cups. The opportunity to sit down on a Friday night and watch Dragons playing Ulster. 





Yep, a new season is upon us, so what’s not to love?





With the dawn of each campaign comes acclimatisation. You ask why Benetton aren’t picking Paolo Garbisi before remembering he signed for Montpellier in the summer. You spend the first three weeks of the season deciding whether or not Domingo Miotti looks good in a Glasgow jersey. 





These are seminal months for the competition now formerly known as the Pro14. The arrival of South Africa’s heavyweight quartet, a glossy summer rebrand as the United Rugby Championship, and even a partnership with Jay-Z’s Roc Nation entertainment company.  





There have been some eye-catching signings in the off-season too, from a World Cup winner to an Olympic colossus, homecoming heroes to a gifted Welshman with a big future opting to switch regions. Here, The XV hand-picks some of the tastiest acquisitions for the championship ahead.





Duane Vermeulen (Blue Bulls to Ulster)





If you’re named after a Marvel Superhero, you must have been doing something right. In a buccaneering Test career, the bearded 6ft 4in, 18st Springbok gained the moniker Thor for his rampaging busts in midfield, soft-hands out of contact – few will forget his sweet offload to Fourie du Preez in the 2015 Rugby World Cup quarter-final – and rib-clattering hits.





At 35, he may well be in the latter stages of his career, but if Alun Wyn Jones, and Johnny Sexton, who have both turned 36 in recent months, are still influential figures in the URC, then there is nothing stopping Vermeulen being a talisman around which the Ulster pack can thrive. It is a statement signing to signify a new era for the league.





Emiliano Boffelli (Racing 92 to Edinburgh)





Together with back-three compatriot Ramiro Moyano, Boffelli has made the switch from France to the Scottish capital. Only 26, it feels like he’s been around forever, given his maturity and composure at the highest level.





Emiliano Boffelli
Emiliano Boffelli was part of the Jaguares side that reached the 2019 Super Rugby final (Getty Images)




He will likely battle for the full-back jersey with incumbent Blair Kinghorn – another fleet-footed, solid 15 with a massive boot. Both are capable of playing on the wing and at fly-half, so it will be interesting to see how Mike Blair decides to use them.





Edwill van der Merwe (Stormers to Lions)





One of the hottest prospects in South African club rugby, Van der Merwe is a winger any spectator would be lucky to watch. At 25, he is soaring to peak form, having lit up the Currie Cup and conjured dazzling highlight-reel tries.





Van der Merwe could be one of the most exciting players in the league, and given Makazole Mapimpi’s Pro14 form prior to his Springbok call-up aged 28, don’t bet against the new Lion becoming a Test player. With 32-year-old sevens rapier Rosko Specman winning his first cap this year, it is evident Jacques Neinaber is happy to wait for his wingers to blossom.





WillGriff John (Sale to Scarlets)





A signing that could have implications for Wales’ front-row pecking order. With first-choice tight-head prop Tomas Francis also returning home from England, Scarlets have taken a gamble on John, a 127kg monster.





He will vie for regional selection with Samson Lee, and could pack down with Rob Evans and Ken Owens in a potent front trio. If John can prove a dominant scrummager, Wayne Pivac will surely consider him for Test honours. John was 24 hours away from a starting debut for Wales against Scotland before the pandemic ended the 2020 Six Nations, so he will be keen to take this opportunity and live his dream.





Michael Ala’alatoa (Crusaders to Leinster)





May not seem like a flashy signing on the surface, but this is a big deal at the RDS. Ala’alatoa is Leinster’s first overseas signing since a certain Scott Fardy. Leo Cullen is clearly proud of the Irish representation in his squad, so it must take a lot to impress him.





Samoan skipper Ala’alatoa must have shown he can fit into Leinster’s system as their only foreign player. A solid scrummager and tackler, expect the prop to really kick on with the four-in-a-row champions.





Jac Morgan (Scarlets to Ospreys)





Young flanker Morgan is arguably Welsh rugby’s best uncapped player. In a move that shocked many Scarlets fans, he joined a club on the up, making astute signings on its way. Alex Cuthbert is another strong addition to Toby Booth’s squad. To take such a risk at 21, Morgan must believe the Ospreys coaches can help him develop into the fully-fledged international bruiser he could so very evidently become. 





Jac Morgan
Jac Morgan has routinely made his presence felt in the red of Scarlets, and was one of the league’s top performers last term (Getty Images)




Booth’s snapping up of Leinster academy backrow Will Hickey is another really smart piece of business – poaching one of the senior members of the best academy in world rugby surely can’t backfire. Hickey could be the next Tadhg Beirne, Sam Underhill or Robin Copeland – developing in Wales before moving back to their native country to seek international honours.





Asaeli Tuivuaka (Fiji Sevens to Zebre)





Zebre have long struggled to break into the top half of the table. What needs to change? The leadership? Maybe. The kicking strategy? Sure. The option to just chuck the ball to a Fijian Olympic gold medalist? Now we’re talking. After Edinburgh’s success in converting Rio 2016 champion Viliame Mata into a world-renowned number 8, not to mention Toulouse utilising the rampaging Semi Kunitani as a dynamic lock/flanker, this feels like a perfect signing for the Italian side.





Asaeli Tuivuaka
Asaeli Tuivuaka was a colossal member of Fiji’s all-conquering Olympic sevens side (Getty Images)




Simon Zebo (Racing 92 to Munster)





The last selection has to be Zebo, doesn’t it? Who doesn’t love the guy? A fun-loving winger who is exhilarating on the field and delightful off it, the return of the Cork man will have Munster fans drooling. The only downside is we no longer get to witness him chortling on the pitch with Finn Russell and Kurtley Beale. Instead, we will see the incisive back-three danger man cutting lines off World Cup winners Damien de Allende and RG Snyman.





Munster may be known for their direct style, and as opposing fans we’ve all sat through Thomond Park drubbings before, but with Zebo smiling to the cameras, nobody will accuse this man in red of being dull.





More stories from Will Owen







If you’ve enjoyed this article, please share it with friends or on social media. We rely solely on new subscribers to fund high-quality journalism and appreciate you sharing this so we can continue to grow, produce more quality content and support our writers.



WillGriff John (Sale to Scarlets)





A signing that could have implications for Wales’ front-row pecking order. With first-choice tight-head prop Tomas Francis also returning home from England, Scarlets have taken a gamble on John, a 127kg monster.





He will vie for regional selection with Samson Lee, and could pack down with Rob Evans and Ken Owens in a potent front trio. If John can prove a dominant scrummager, Wayne Pivac will surely consider him for Test honours. John was 24 hours away from a starting debut for Wales against Scotland before the pandemic ended the 2020 Six Nations, so he will be keen to take this opportunity and live his dream.





Michael Ala’alatoa (Crusaders to Leinster)





May not seem like a flashy signing on the surface, but this is a big deal at the RDS. Ala’alatoa is Leinster’s first overseas signing since a certain Scott Fardy. Leo Cullen is clearly proud of the Irish representation in his squad, so it must take a lot to impress him.





Samoan skipper Ala’alatoa must have shown he can fit into Leinster’s system as their only foreign player. A solid scrummager and tackler, expect the prop to really kick on with the four-in-a-row champions.





Jac Morgan (Scarlets to Ospreys)





Young flanker Morgan is arguably Welsh rugby’s best uncapped player. In a move that shocked many Scarlets fans, he joined a club on the up, making astute signings on its way. Alex Cuthbert is another strong addition to Toby Booth’s squad. To take such a risk at 21, Morgan must believe the Ospreys coaches can help him develop into the fully-fledged international bruiser he could so very evidently become. 





Jac Morgan
Jac Morgan has routinely made his presence felt in the red of Scarlets, and was one of the league’s top performers last term (Getty Images)




Booth’s snapping up of Leinster academy backrow Will Hickey is another really smart piece of business – poaching one of the senior members of the best academy in world rugby surely can’t backfire. Hickey could be the next Tadhg Beirne, Sam Underhill or Robin Copeland – developing in Wales before moving back to their native country to seek international honours.





Asaeli Tuivuaka (Fiji Sevens to Zebre)





Zebre have long struggled to break into the top half of the table. What needs to change? The leadership? Maybe. The kicking strategy? Sure. The option to just chuck the ball to a Fijian Olympic gold medalist? Now we’re talking. After Edinburgh’s success in converting Rio 2016 champion Viliame Mata into a world-renowned number 8, not to mention Toulouse utilising the rampaging Semi Kunitani as a dynamic lock/flanker, this feels like a perfect signing for the Italian side.





Asaeli Tuivuaka
Asaeli Tuivuaka was a colossal member of Fiji’s all-conquering Olympic sevens side (Getty Images)




Simon Zebo (Racing 92 to Munster)





The last selection has to be Zebo, doesn’t it? Who doesn’t love the guy? A fun-loving winger who is exhilarating on the field and delightful off it, the return of the Cork man will have Munster fans drooling. The only downside is we no longer get to witness him chortling on the pitch with Finn Russell and Kurtley Beale. Instead, we will see the incisive back-three danger man cutting lines off World Cup winners Damien de Allende and RG Snyman.





Munster may be known for their direct style, and as opposing fans we’ve all sat through Thomond Park drubbings before, but with Zebo smiling to the cameras, nobody will accuse this man in red of being dull.





More stories from Will Owen







If you’ve enjoyed this article, please share it with friends or on social media. We rely solely on new subscribers to fund high-quality journalism and appreciate you sharing this so we can continue to grow, produce more quality content and support our writers.



Asaeli Tuivuaka (Fiji Sevens to Zebre)





Zebre have long struggled to break into the top half of the table. What needs to change? The leadership? Maybe. The kicking strategy? Sure. The option to just chuck the ball to a Fijian Olympic gold medalist? Now we’re talking. After Edinburgh’s success in converting Rio 2016 champion Viliame Mata into a world-renowned number 8, not to mention Toulouse utilising the rampaging Semi Kunitani as a dynamic lock/flanker, this feels like a perfect signing for the Italian side.





Asaeli Tuivuaka
Asaeli Tuivuaka was a colossal member of Fiji’s all-conquering Olympic sevens side (Getty Images)




Simon Zebo (Racing 92 to Munster)





The last selection has to be Zebo, doesn’t it? Who doesn’t love the guy? A fun-loving winger who is exhilarating on the field and delightful off it, the return of the Cork man will have Munster fans drooling. The only downside is we no longer get to witness him chortling on the pitch with Finn Russell and Kurtley Beale. Instead, we will see the incisive back-three danger man cutting lines off World Cup winners Damien de Allende and RG Snyman.





Munster may be known for their direct style, and as opposing fans we’ve all sat through Thomond Park drubbings before, but with Zebo smiling to the cameras, nobody will accuse this man in red of being dull.





More stories from Will Owen







If you’ve enjoyed this article, please share it with friends or on social media. We rely solely on new subscribers to fund high-quality journalism and appreciate you sharing this so we can continue to grow, produce more quality content and support our writers.



Jac Morgan (Scarlets to Ospreys)





Young flanker Morgan is arguably Welsh rugby’s best uncapped player. In a move that shocked many Scarlets fans, he joined a club on the up, making astute signings on its way. Alex Cuthbert is another strong addition to Toby Booth’s squad. To take such a risk at 21, Morgan must believe the Ospreys coaches can help him develop into the fully-fledged international bruiser he could so very evidently become. 





Jac Morgan
Jac Morgan has routinely made his presence felt in the red of Scarlets, and was one of the league’s top performers last term (Getty Images)




Booth’s snapping up of Leinster academy backrow Will Hickey is another really smart piece of business – poaching one of the senior members of the best academy in world rugby surely can’t backfire. Hickey could be the next Tadhg Beirne, Sam Underhill or Robin Copeland – developing in Wales before moving back to their native country to seek international honours.





Asaeli Tuivuaka (Fiji Sevens to Zebre)





Zebre have long struggled to break into the top half of the table. What needs to change? The leadership? Maybe. The kicking strategy? Sure. The option to just chuck the ball to a Fijian Olympic gold medalist? Now we’re talking. After Edinburgh’s success in converting Rio 2016 champion Viliame Mata into a world-renowned number 8, not to mention Toulouse utilising the rampaging Semi Kunitani as a dynamic lock/flanker, this feels like a perfect signing for the Italian side.





Asaeli Tuivuaka
Asaeli Tuivuaka was a colossal member of Fiji’s all-conquering Olympic sevens side (Getty Images)




Simon Zebo (Racing 92 to Munster)





The last selection has to be Zebo, doesn’t it? Who doesn’t love the guy? A fun-loving winger who is exhilarating on the field and delightful off it, the return of the Cork man will have Munster fans drooling. The only downside is we no longer get to witness him chortling on the pitch with Finn Russell and Kurtley Beale. Instead, we will see the incisive back-three danger man cutting lines off World Cup winners Damien de Allende and RG Snyman.





Munster may be known for their direct style, and as opposing fans we’ve all sat through Thomond Park drubbings before, but with Zebo smiling to the cameras, nobody will accuse this man in red of being dull.





More stories from Will Owen







If you’ve enjoyed this article, please share it with friends or on social media. We rely solely on new subscribers to fund high-quality journalism and appreciate you sharing this so we can continue to grow, produce more quality content and support our writers.



Michael Ala’alatoa (Crusaders to Leinster)





May not seem like a flashy signing on the surface, but this is a big deal at the RDS. Ala’alatoa is Leinster’s first overseas signing since a certain Scott Fardy. Leo Cullen is clearly proud of the Irish representation in his squad, so it must take a lot to impress him.





Samoan skipper Ala’alatoa must have shown he can fit into Leinster’s system as their only foreign player. A solid scrummager and tackler, expect the prop to really kick on with the four-in-a-row champions.





Jac Morgan (Scarlets to Ospreys)





Young flanker Morgan is arguably Welsh rugby’s best uncapped player. In a move that shocked many Scarlets fans, he joined a club on the up, making astute signings on its way. Alex Cuthbert is another strong addition to Toby Booth’s squad. To take such a risk at 21, Morgan must believe the Ospreys coaches can help him develop into the fully-fledged international bruiser he could so very evidently become. 





Jac Morgan
Jac Morgan has routinely made his presence felt in the red of Scarlets, and was one of the league’s top performers last term (Getty Images)




Booth’s snapping up of Leinster academy backrow Will Hickey is another really smart piece of business – poaching one of the senior members of the best academy in world rugby surely can’t backfire. Hickey could be the next Tadhg Beirne, Sam Underhill or Robin Copeland – developing in Wales before moving back to their native country to seek international honours.





Asaeli Tuivuaka (Fiji Sevens to Zebre)





Zebre have long struggled to break into the top half of the table. What needs to change? The leadership? Maybe. The kicking strategy? Sure. The option to just chuck the ball to a Fijian Olympic gold medalist? Now we’re talking. After Edinburgh’s success in converting Rio 2016 champion Viliame Mata into a world-renowned number 8, not to mention Toulouse utilising the rampaging Semi Kunitani as a dynamic lock/flanker, this feels like a perfect signing for the Italian side.





Asaeli Tuivuaka
Asaeli Tuivuaka was a colossal member of Fiji’s all-conquering Olympic sevens side (Getty Images)




Simon Zebo (Racing 92 to Munster)





The last selection has to be Zebo, doesn’t it? Who doesn’t love the guy? A fun-loving winger who is exhilarating on the field and delightful off it, the return of the Cork man will have Munster fans drooling. The only downside is we no longer get to witness him chortling on the pitch with Finn Russell and Kurtley Beale. Instead, we will see the incisive back-three danger man cutting lines off World Cup winners Damien de Allende and RG Snyman.





Munster may be known for their direct style, and as opposing fans we’ve all sat through Thomond Park drubbings before, but with Zebo smiling to the cameras, nobody will accuse this man in red of being dull.





More stories from Will Owen







If you’ve enjoyed this article, please share it with friends or on social media. We rely solely on new subscribers to fund high-quality journalism and appreciate you sharing this so we can continue to grow, produce more quality content and support our writers.



WillGriff John (Sale to Scarlets)





A signing that could have implications for Wales’ front-row pecking order. With first-choice tight-head prop Tomas Francis also returning home from England, Scarlets have taken a gamble on John, a 127kg monster.





He will vie for regional selection with Samson Lee, and could pack down with Rob Evans and Ken Owens in a potent front trio. If John can prove a dominant scrummager, Wayne Pivac will surely consider him for Test honours. John was 24 hours away from a starting debut for Wales against Scotland before the pandemic ended the 2020 Six Nations, so he will be keen to take this opportunity and live his dream.





Michael Ala’alatoa (Crusaders to Leinster)





May not seem like a flashy signing on the surface, but this is a big deal at the RDS. Ala’alatoa is Leinster’s first overseas signing since a certain Scott Fardy. Leo Cullen is clearly proud of the Irish representation in his squad, so it must take a lot to impress him.





Samoan skipper Ala’alatoa must have shown he can fit into Leinster’s system as their only foreign player. A solid scrummager and tackler, expect the prop to really kick on with the four-in-a-row champions.





Jac Morgan (Scarlets to Ospreys)





Young flanker Morgan is arguably Welsh rugby’s best uncapped player. In a move that shocked many Scarlets fans, he joined a club on the up, making astute signings on its way. Alex Cuthbert is another strong addition to Toby Booth’s squad. To take such a risk at 21, Morgan must believe the Ospreys coaches can help him develop into the fully-fledged international bruiser he could so very evidently become. 





Jac Morgan
Jac Morgan has routinely made his presence felt in the red of Scarlets, and was one of the league’s top performers last term (Getty Images)




Booth’s snapping up of Leinster academy backrow Will Hickey is another really smart piece of business – poaching one of the senior members of the best academy in world rugby surely can’t backfire. Hickey could be the next Tadhg Beirne, Sam Underhill or Robin Copeland – developing in Wales before moving back to their native country to seek international honours.





Asaeli Tuivuaka (Fiji Sevens to Zebre)





Zebre have long struggled to break into the top half of the table. What needs to change? The leadership? Maybe. The kicking strategy? Sure. The option to just chuck the ball to a Fijian Olympic gold medalist? Now we’re talking. After Edinburgh’s success in converting Rio 2016 champion Viliame Mata into a world-renowned number 8, not to mention Toulouse utilising the rampaging Semi Kunitani as a dynamic lock/flanker, this feels like a perfect signing for the Italian side.





Asaeli Tuivuaka
Asaeli Tuivuaka was a colossal member of Fiji’s all-conquering Olympic sevens side (Getty Images)




Simon Zebo (Racing 92 to Munster)





The last selection has to be Zebo, doesn’t it? Who doesn’t love the guy? A fun-loving winger who is exhilarating on the field and delightful off it, the return of the Cork man will have Munster fans drooling. The only downside is we no longer get to witness him chortling on the pitch with Finn Russell and Kurtley Beale. Instead, we will see the incisive back-three danger man cutting lines off World Cup winners Damien de Allende and RG Snyman.





Munster may be known for their direct style, and as opposing fans we’ve all sat through Thomond Park drubbings before, but with Zebo smiling to the cameras, nobody will accuse this man in red of being dull.





More stories from Will Owen







If you’ve enjoyed this article, please share it with friends or on social media. We rely solely on new subscribers to fund high-quality journalism and appreciate you sharing this so we can continue to grow, produce more quality content and support our writers.



Edwill van der Merwe (Stormers to Lions)





One of the hottest prospects in South African club rugby, Van der Merwe is a winger any spectator would be lucky to watch. At 25, he is soaring to peak form, having lit up the Currie Cup and conjured dazzling highlight-reel tries.





Van der Merwe could be one of the most exciting players in the league, and given Makazole Mapimpi’s Pro14 form prior to his Springbok call-up aged 28, don’t bet against the new Lion becoming a Test player. With 32-year-old sevens rapier Rosko Specman winning his first cap this year, it is evident Jacques Neinaber is happy to wait for his wingers to blossom.





WillGriff John (Sale to Scarlets)





A signing that could have implications for Wales’ front-row pecking order. With first-choice tight-head prop Tomas Francis also returning home from England, Scarlets have taken a gamble on John, a 127kg monster.





He will vie for regional selection with Samson Lee, and could pack down with Rob Evans and Ken Owens in a potent front trio. If John can prove a dominant scrummager, Wayne Pivac will surely consider him for Test honours. John was 24 hours away from a starting debut for Wales against Scotland before the pandemic ended the 2020 Six Nations, so he will be keen to take this opportunity and live his dream.





Michael Ala’alatoa (Crusaders to Leinster)





May not seem like a flashy signing on the surface, but this is a big deal at the RDS. Ala’alatoa is Leinster’s first overseas signing since a certain Scott Fardy. Leo Cullen is clearly proud of the Irish representation in his squad, so it must take a lot to impress him.





Samoan skipper Ala’alatoa must have shown he can fit into Leinster’s system as their only foreign player. A solid scrummager and tackler, expect the prop to really kick on with the four-in-a-row champions.





Jac Morgan (Scarlets to Ospreys)





Young flanker Morgan is arguably Welsh rugby’s best uncapped player. In a move that shocked many Scarlets fans, he joined a club on the up, making astute signings on its way. Alex Cuthbert is another strong addition to Toby Booth’s squad. To take such a risk at 21, Morgan must believe the Ospreys coaches can help him develop into the fully-fledged international bruiser he could so very evidently become. 





Jac Morgan
Jac Morgan has routinely made his presence felt in the red of Scarlets, and was one of the league’s top performers last term (Getty Images)




Booth’s snapping up of Leinster academy backrow Will Hickey is another really smart piece of business – poaching one of the senior members of the best academy in world rugby surely can’t backfire. Hickey could be the next Tadhg Beirne, Sam Underhill or Robin Copeland – developing in Wales before moving back to their native country to seek international honours.





Asaeli Tuivuaka (Fiji Sevens to Zebre)





Zebre have long struggled to break into the top half of the table. What needs to change? The leadership? Maybe. The kicking strategy? Sure. The option to just chuck the ball to a Fijian Olympic gold medalist? Now we’re talking. After Edinburgh’s success in converting Rio 2016 champion Viliame Mata into a world-renowned number 8, not to mention Toulouse utilising the rampaging Semi Kunitani as a dynamic lock/flanker, this feels like a perfect signing for the Italian side.





Asaeli Tuivuaka
Asaeli Tuivuaka was a colossal member of Fiji’s all-conquering Olympic sevens side (Getty Images)




Simon Zebo (Racing 92 to Munster)





The last selection has to be Zebo, doesn’t it? Who doesn’t love the guy? A fun-loving winger who is exhilarating on the field and delightful off it, the return of the Cork man will have Munster fans drooling. The only downside is we no longer get to witness him chortling on the pitch with Finn Russell and Kurtley Beale. Instead, we will see the incisive back-three danger man cutting lines off World Cup winners Damien de Allende and RG Snyman.





Munster may be known for their direct style, and as opposing fans we’ve all sat through Thomond Park drubbings before, but with Zebo smiling to the cameras, nobody will accuse this man in red of being dull.





More stories from Will Owen







If you’ve enjoyed this article, please share it with friends or on social media. We rely solely on new subscribers to fund high-quality journalism and appreciate you sharing this so we can continue to grow, produce more quality content and support our writers.



Emiliano Boffelli (Racing 92 to Edinburgh)





Together with back-three compatriot Ramiro Moyano, Boffelli has made the switch from France to the Scottish capital. Only 26, it feels like he’s been around forever, given his maturity and composure at the highest level.





Emiliano Boffelli
Emiliano Boffelli was part of the Jaguares side that reached the 2019 Super Rugby final (Getty Images)




He will likely battle for the full-back jersey with incumbent Blair Kinghorn – another fleet-footed, solid 15 with a massive boot. Both are capable of playing on the wing and at fly-half, so it will be interesting to see how Mike Blair decides to use them.





Edwill van der Merwe (Stormers to Lions)





One of the hottest prospects in South African club rugby, Van der Merwe is a winger any spectator would be lucky to watch. At 25, he is soaring to peak form, having lit up the Currie Cup and conjured dazzling highlight-reel tries.





Van der Merwe could be one of the most exciting players in the league, and given Makazole Mapimpi’s Pro14 form prior to his Springbok call-up aged 28, don’t bet against the new Lion becoming a Test player. With 32-year-old sevens rapier Rosko Specman winning his first cap this year, it is evident Jacques Neinaber is happy to wait for his wingers to blossom.





WillGriff John (Sale to Scarlets)





A signing that could have implications for Wales’ front-row pecking order. With first-choice tight-head prop Tomas Francis also returning home from England, Scarlets have taken a gamble on John, a 127kg monster.





He will vie for regional selection with Samson Lee, and could pack down with Rob Evans and Ken Owens in a potent front trio. If John can prove a dominant scrummager, Wayne Pivac will surely consider him for Test honours. John was 24 hours away from a starting debut for Wales against Scotland before the pandemic ended the 2020 Six Nations, so he will be keen to take this opportunity and live his dream.





Michael Ala’alatoa (Crusaders to Leinster)





May not seem like a flashy signing on the surface, but this is a big deal at the RDS. Ala’alatoa is Leinster’s first overseas signing since a certain Scott Fardy. Leo Cullen is clearly proud of the Irish representation in his squad, so it must take a lot to impress him.





Samoan skipper Ala’alatoa must have shown he can fit into Leinster’s system as their only foreign player. A solid scrummager and tackler, expect the prop to really kick on with the four-in-a-row champions.





Jac Morgan (Scarlets to Ospreys)





Young flanker Morgan is arguably Welsh rugby’s best uncapped player. In a move that shocked many Scarlets fans, he joined a club on the up, making astute signings on its way. Alex Cuthbert is another strong addition to Toby Booth’s squad. To take such a risk at 21, Morgan must believe the Ospreys coaches can help him develop into the fully-fledged international bruiser he could so very evidently become. 





Jac Morgan
Jac Morgan has routinely made his presence felt in the red of Scarlets, and was one of the league’s top performers last term (Getty Images)




Booth’s snapping up of Leinster academy backrow Will Hickey is another really smart piece of business – poaching one of the senior members of the best academy in world rugby surely can’t backfire. Hickey could be the next Tadhg Beirne, Sam Underhill or Robin Copeland – developing in Wales before moving back to their native country to seek international honours.





Asaeli Tuivuaka (Fiji Sevens to Zebre)





Zebre have long struggled to break into the top half of the table. What needs to change? The leadership? Maybe. The kicking strategy? Sure. The option to just chuck the ball to a Fijian Olympic gold medalist? Now we’re talking. After Edinburgh’s success in converting Rio 2016 champion Viliame Mata into a world-renowned number 8, not to mention Toulouse utilising the rampaging Semi Kunitani as a dynamic lock/flanker, this feels like a perfect signing for the Italian side.





Asaeli Tuivuaka
Asaeli Tuivuaka was a colossal member of Fiji’s all-conquering Olympic sevens side (Getty Images)




Simon Zebo (Racing 92 to Munster)





The last selection has to be Zebo, doesn’t it? Who doesn’t love the guy? A fun-loving winger who is exhilarating on the field and delightful off it, the return of the Cork man will have Munster fans drooling. The only downside is we no longer get to witness him chortling on the pitch with Finn Russell and Kurtley Beale. Instead, we will see the incisive back-three danger man cutting lines off World Cup winners Damien de Allende and RG Snyman.





Munster may be known for their direct style, and as opposing fans we’ve all sat through Thomond Park drubbings before, but with Zebo smiling to the cameras, nobody will accuse this man in red of being dull.





More stories from Will Owen







If you’ve enjoyed this article, please share it with friends or on social media. We rely solely on new subscribers to fund high-quality journalism and appreciate you sharing this so we can continue to grow, produce more quality content and support our writers.



Duane Vermeulen (Blue Bulls to Ulster)





If you’re named after a Marvel Superhero, you must have been doing something right. In a buccaneering Test career, the bearded 6ft 4in, 18st Springbok gained the moniker Thor for his rampaging busts in midfield, soft-hands out of contact – few will forget his sweet offload to Fourie du Preez in the 2015 Rugby World Cup quarter-final – and rib-clattering hits.





At 35, he may well be in the latter stages of his career, but if Alun Wyn Jones, and Johnny Sexton, who have both turned 36 in recent months, are still influential figures in the URC, then there is nothing stopping Vermeulen being a talisman around which the Ulster pack can thrive. It is a statement signing to signify a new era for the league.





Emiliano Boffelli (Racing 92 to Edinburgh)





Together with back-three compatriot Ramiro Moyano, Boffelli has made the switch from France to the Scottish capital. Only 26, it feels like he’s been around forever, given his maturity and composure at the highest level.





Emiliano Boffelli
Emiliano Boffelli was part of the Jaguares side that reached the 2019 Super Rugby final (Getty Images)




He will likely battle for the full-back jersey with incumbent Blair Kinghorn – another fleet-footed, solid 15 with a massive boot. Both are capable of playing on the wing and at fly-half, so it will be interesting to see how Mike Blair decides to use them.





Edwill van der Merwe (Stormers to Lions)





One of the hottest prospects in South African club rugby, Van der Merwe is a winger any spectator would be lucky to watch. At 25, he is soaring to peak form, having lit up the Currie Cup and conjured dazzling highlight-reel tries.





Van der Merwe could be one of the most exciting players in the league, and given Makazole Mapimpi’s Pro14 form prior to his Springbok call-up aged 28, don’t bet against the new Lion becoming a Test player. With 32-year-old sevens rapier Rosko Specman winning his first cap this year, it is evident Jacques Neinaber is happy to wait for his wingers to blossom.





WillGriff John (Sale to Scarlets)





A signing that could have implications for Wales’ front-row pecking order. With first-choice tight-head prop Tomas Francis also returning home from England, Scarlets have taken a gamble on John, a 127kg monster.





He will vie for regional selection with Samson Lee, and could pack down with Rob Evans and Ken Owens in a potent front trio. If John can prove a dominant scrummager, Wayne Pivac will surely consider him for Test honours. John was 24 hours away from a starting debut for Wales against Scotland before the pandemic ended the 2020 Six Nations, so he will be keen to take this opportunity and live his dream.





Michael Ala’alatoa (Crusaders to Leinster)





May not seem like a flashy signing on the surface, but this is a big deal at the RDS. Ala’alatoa is Leinster’s first overseas signing since a certain Scott Fardy. Leo Cullen is clearly proud of the Irish representation in his squad, so it must take a lot to impress him.





Samoan skipper Ala’alatoa must have shown he can fit into Leinster’s system as their only foreign player. A solid scrummager and tackler, expect the prop to really kick on with the four-in-a-row champions.





Jac Morgan (Scarlets to Ospreys)





Young flanker Morgan is arguably Welsh rugby’s best uncapped player. In a move that shocked many Scarlets fans, he joined a club on the up, making astute signings on its way. Alex Cuthbert is another strong addition to Toby Booth’s squad. To take such a risk at 21, Morgan must believe the Ospreys coaches can help him develop into the fully-fledged international bruiser he could so very evidently become. 





Jac Morgan
Jac Morgan has routinely made his presence felt in the red of Scarlets, and was one of the league’s top performers last term (Getty Images)




Booth’s snapping up of Leinster academy backrow Will Hickey is another really smart piece of business – poaching one of the senior members of the best academy in world rugby surely can’t backfire. Hickey could be the next Tadhg Beirne, Sam Underhill or Robin Copeland – developing in Wales before moving back to their native country to seek international honours.





Asaeli Tuivuaka (Fiji Sevens to Zebre)





Zebre have long struggled to break into the top half of the table. What needs to change? The leadership? Maybe. The kicking strategy? Sure. The option to just chuck the ball to a Fijian Olympic gold medalist? Now we’re talking. After Edinburgh’s success in converting Rio 2016 champion Viliame Mata into a world-renowned number 8, not to mention Toulouse utilising the rampaging Semi Kunitani as a dynamic lock/flanker, this feels like a perfect signing for the Italian side.





Asaeli Tuivuaka
Asaeli Tuivuaka was a colossal member of Fiji’s all-conquering Olympic sevens side (Getty Images)




Simon Zebo (Racing 92 to Munster)





The last selection has to be Zebo, doesn’t it? Who doesn’t love the guy? A fun-loving winger who is exhilarating on the field and delightful off it, the return of the Cork man will have Munster fans drooling. The only downside is we no longer get to witness him chortling on the pitch with Finn Russell and Kurtley Beale. Instead, we will see the incisive back-three danger man cutting lines off World Cup winners Damien de Allende and RG Snyman.





Munster may be known for their direct style, and as opposing fans we’ve all sat through Thomond Park drubbings before, but with Zebo smiling to the cameras, nobody will accuse this man in red of being dull.





More stories from Will Owen







If you’ve enjoyed this article, please share it with friends or on social media. We rely solely on new subscribers to fund high-quality journalism and appreciate you sharing this so we can continue to grow, produce more quality content and support our writers.



The roar of the crowd. The crackling anticipation of live rugby in pulsating stadia. The smell of linament wafting from changing rooms. The taste of lukewarm, hideously overpriced lager in plastic cups. The opportunity to sit down on a Friday night and watch Dragons playing Ulster. 





Yep, a new season is upon us, so what’s not to love?





With the dawn of each campaign comes acclimatisation. You ask why Benetton aren’t picking Paolo Garbisi before remembering he signed for Montpellier in the summer. You spend the first three weeks of the season deciding whether or not Domingo Miotti looks good in a Glasgow jersey. 





These are seminal months for the competition now formerly known as the Pro14. The arrival of South Africa’s heavyweight quartet, a glossy summer rebrand as the United Rugby Championship, and even a partnership with Jay-Z’s Roc Nation entertainment company.  





There have been some eye-catching signings in the off-season too, from a World Cup winner to an Olympic colossus, homecoming heroes to a gifted Welshman with a big future opting to switch regions. Here, The XV hand-picks some of the tastiest acquisitions for the championship ahead.





Duane Vermeulen (Blue Bulls to Ulster)





If you’re named after a Marvel Superhero, you must have been doing something right. In a buccaneering Test career, the bearded 6ft 4in, 18st Springbok gained the moniker Thor for his rampaging busts in midfield, soft-hands out of contact – few will forget his sweet offload to Fourie du Preez in the 2015 Rugby World Cup quarter-final – and rib-clattering hits.





At 35, he may well be in the latter stages of his career, but if Alun Wyn Jones, and Johnny Sexton, who have both turned 36 in recent months, are still influential figures in the URC, then there is nothing stopping Vermeulen being a talisman around which the Ulster pack can thrive. It is a statement signing to signify a new era for the league.





Emiliano Boffelli (Racing 92 to Edinburgh)





Together with back-three compatriot Ramiro Moyano, Boffelli has made the switch from France to the Scottish capital. Only 26, it feels like he’s been around forever, given his maturity and composure at the highest level.





Emiliano Boffelli
Emiliano Boffelli was part of the Jaguares side that reached the 2019 Super Rugby final (Getty Images)




He will likely battle for the full-back jersey with incumbent Blair Kinghorn – another fleet-footed, solid 15 with a massive boot. Both are capable of playing on the wing and at fly-half, so it will be interesting to see how Mike Blair decides to use them.





Edwill van der Merwe (Stormers to Lions)





One of the hottest prospects in South African club rugby, Van der Merwe is a winger any spectator would be lucky to watch. At 25, he is soaring to peak form, having lit up the Currie Cup and conjured dazzling highlight-reel tries.





Van der Merwe could be one of the most exciting players in the league, and given Makazole Mapimpi’s Pro14 form prior to his Springbok call-up aged 28, don’t bet against the new Lion becoming a Test player. With 32-year-old sevens rapier Rosko Specman winning his first cap this year, it is evident Jacques Neinaber is happy to wait for his wingers to blossom.





WillGriff John (Sale to Scarlets)





A signing that could have implications for Wales’ front-row pecking order. With first-choice tight-head prop Tomas Francis also returning home from England, Scarlets have taken a gamble on John, a 127kg monster.





He will vie for regional selection with Samson Lee, and could pack down with Rob Evans and Ken Owens in a potent front trio. If John can prove a dominant scrummager, Wayne Pivac will surely consider him for Test honours. John was 24 hours away from a starting debut for Wales against Scotland before the pandemic ended the 2020 Six Nations, so he will be keen to take this opportunity and live his dream.





Michael Ala’alatoa (Crusaders to Leinster)





May not seem like a flashy signing on the surface, but this is a big deal at the RDS. Ala’alatoa is Leinster’s first overseas signing since a certain Scott Fardy. Leo Cullen is clearly proud of the Irish representation in his squad, so it must take a lot to impress him.





Samoan skipper Ala’alatoa must have shown he can fit into Leinster’s system as their only foreign player. A solid scrummager and tackler, expect the prop to really kick on with the four-in-a-row champions.





Jac Morgan (Scarlets to Ospreys)





Young flanker Morgan is arguably Welsh rugby’s best uncapped player. In a move that shocked many Scarlets fans, he joined a club on the up, making astute signings on its way. Alex Cuthbert is another strong addition to Toby Booth’s squad. To take such a risk at 21, Morgan must believe the Ospreys coaches can help him develop into the fully-fledged international bruiser he could so very evidently become. 





Jac Morgan
Jac Morgan has routinely made his presence felt in the red of Scarlets, and was one of the league’s top performers last term (Getty Images)




Booth’s snapping up of Leinster academy backrow Will Hickey is another really smart piece of business – poaching one of the senior members of the best academy in world rugby surely can’t backfire. Hickey could be the next Tadhg Beirne, Sam Underhill or Robin Copeland – developing in Wales before moving back to their native country to seek international honours.





Asaeli Tuivuaka (Fiji Sevens to Zebre)





Zebre have long struggled to break into the top half of the table. What needs to change? The leadership? Maybe. The kicking strategy? Sure. The option to just chuck the ball to a Fijian Olympic gold medalist? Now we’re talking. After Edinburgh’s success in converting Rio 2016 champion Viliame Mata into a world-renowned number 8, not to mention Toulouse utilising the rampaging Semi Kunitani as a dynamic lock/flanker, this feels like a perfect signing for the Italian side.





Asaeli Tuivuaka
Asaeli Tuivuaka was a colossal member of Fiji’s all-conquering Olympic sevens side (Getty Images)




Simon Zebo (Racing 92 to Munster)





The last selection has to be Zebo, doesn’t it? Who doesn’t love the guy? A fun-loving winger who is exhilarating on the field and delightful off it, the return of the Cork man will have Munster fans drooling. The only downside is we no longer get to witness him chortling on the pitch with Finn Russell and Kurtley Beale. Instead, we will see the incisive back-three danger man cutting lines off World Cup winners Damien de Allende and RG Snyman.





Munster may be known for their direct style, and as opposing fans we’ve all sat through Thomond Park drubbings before, but with Zebo smiling to the cameras, nobody will accuse this man in red of being dull.





More stories from Will Owen







If you’ve enjoyed this article, please share it with friends or on social media. We rely solely on new subscribers to fund high-quality journalism and appreciate you sharing this so we can continue to grow, produce more quality content and support our writers.



Edwill van der Merwe (Stormers to Lions)





One of the hottest prospects in South African club rugby, Van der Merwe is a winger any spectator would be lucky to watch. At 25, he is soaring to peak form, having lit up the Currie Cup and conjured dazzling highlight-reel tries.





Van der Merwe could be one of the most exciting players in the league, and given Makazole Mapimpi’s Pro14 form prior to his Springbok call-up aged 28, don’t bet against the new Lion becoming a Test player. With 32-year-old sevens rapier Rosko Specman winning his first cap this year, it is evident Jacques Neinaber is happy to wait for his wingers to blossom.





WillGriff John (Sale to Scarlets)





A signing that could have implications for Wales’ front-row pecking order. With first-choice tight-head prop Tomas Francis also returning home from England, Scarlets have taken a gamble on John, a 127kg monster.





He will vie for regional selection with Samson Lee, and could pack down with Rob Evans and Ken Owens in a potent front trio. If John can prove a dominant scrummager, Wayne Pivac will surely consider him for Test honours. John was 24 hours away from a starting debut for Wales against Scotland before the pandemic ended the 2020 Six Nations, so he will be keen to take this opportunity and live his dream.





Michael Ala’alatoa (Crusaders to Leinster)





May not seem like a flashy signing on the surface, but this is a big deal at the RDS. Ala’alatoa is Leinster’s first overseas signing since a certain Scott Fardy. Leo Cullen is clearly proud of the Irish representation in his squad, so it must take a lot to impress him.





Samoan skipper Ala’alatoa must have shown he can fit into Leinster’s system as their only foreign player. A solid scrummager and tackler, expect the prop to really kick on with the four-in-a-row champions.





Jac Morgan (Scarlets to Ospreys)





Young flanker Morgan is arguably Welsh rugby’s best uncapped player. In a move that shocked many Scarlets fans, he joined a club on the up, making astute signings on its way. Alex Cuthbert is another strong addition to Toby Booth’s squad. To take such a risk at 21, Morgan must believe the Ospreys coaches can help him develop into the fully-fledged international bruiser he could so very evidently become. 





Jac Morgan
Jac Morgan has routinely made his presence felt in the red of Scarlets, and was one of the league’s top performers last term (Getty Images)




Booth’s snapping up of Leinster academy backrow Will Hickey is another really smart piece of business – poaching one of the senior members of the best academy in world rugby surely can’t backfire. Hickey could be the next Tadhg Beirne, Sam Underhill or Robin Copeland – developing in Wales before moving back to their native country to seek international honours.





Asaeli Tuivuaka (Fiji Sevens to Zebre)





Zebre have long struggled to break into the top half of the table. What needs to change? The leadership? Maybe. The kicking strategy? Sure. The option to just chuck the ball to a Fijian Olympic gold medalist? Now we’re talking. After Edinburgh’s success in converting Rio 2016 champion Viliame Mata into a world-renowned number 8, not to mention Toulouse utilising the rampaging Semi Kunitani as a dynamic lock/flanker, this feels like a perfect signing for the Italian side.





Asaeli Tuivuaka
Asaeli Tuivuaka was a colossal member of Fiji’s all-conquering Olympic sevens side (Getty Images)




Simon Zebo (Racing 92 to Munster)





The last selection has to be Zebo, doesn’t it? Who doesn’t love the guy? A fun-loving winger who is exhilarating on the field and delightful off it, the return of the Cork man will have Munster fans drooling. The only downside is we no longer get to witness him chortling on the pitch with Finn Russell and Kurtley Beale. Instead, we will see the incisive back-three danger man cutting lines off World Cup winners Damien de Allende and RG Snyman.





Munster may be known for their direct style, and as opposing fans we’ve all sat through Thomond Park drubbings before, but with Zebo smiling to the cameras, nobody will accuse this man in red of being dull.





More stories from Will Owen







If you’ve enjoyed this article, please share it with friends or on social media. We rely solely on new subscribers to fund high-quality journalism and appreciate you sharing this so we can continue to grow, produce more quality content and support our writers.



Asaeli Tuivuaka (Fiji Sevens to Zebre)





Zebre have long struggled to break into the top half of the table. What needs to change? The leadership? Maybe. The kicking strategy? Sure. The option to just chuck the ball to a Fijian Olympic gold medalist? Now we’re talking. After Edinburgh’s success in converting Rio 2016 champion Viliame Mata into a world-renowned number 8, not to mention Toulouse utilising the rampaging Semi Kunitani as a dynamic lock/flanker, this feels like a perfect signing for the Italian side.





Asaeli Tuivuaka
Asaeli Tuivuaka was a colossal member of Fiji’s all-conquering Olympic sevens side (Getty Images)




Simon Zebo (Racing 92 to Munster)





The last selection has to be Zebo, doesn’t it? Who doesn’t love the guy? A fun-loving winger who is exhilarating on the field and delightful off it, the return of the Cork man will have Munster fans drooling. The only downside is we no longer get to witness him chortling on the pitch with Finn Russell and Kurtley Beale. Instead, we will see the incisive back-three danger man cutting lines off World Cup winners Damien de Allende and RG Snyman.





Munster may be known for their direct style, and as opposing fans we’ve all sat through Thomond Park drubbings before, but with Zebo smiling to the cameras, nobody will accuse this man in red of being dull.





More stories from Will Owen







If you’ve enjoyed this article, please share it with friends or on social media. We rely solely on new subscribers to fund high-quality journalism and appreciate you sharing this so we can continue to grow, produce more quality content and support our writers.



Jac Morgan (Scarlets to Ospreys)





Young flanker Morgan is arguably Welsh rugby’s best uncapped player. In a move that shocked many Scarlets fans, he joined a club on the up, making astute signings on its way. Alex Cuthbert is another strong addition to Toby Booth’s squad. To take such a risk at 21, Morgan must believe the Ospreys coaches can help him develop into the fully-fledged international bruiser he could so very evidently become. 





Jac Morgan
Jac Morgan has routinely made his presence felt in the red of Scarlets, and was one of the league’s top performers last term (Getty Images)




Booth’s snapping up of Leinster academy backrow Will Hickey is another really smart piece of business – poaching one of the senior members of the best academy in world rugby surely can’t backfire. Hickey could be the next Tadhg Beirne, Sam Underhill or Robin Copeland – developing in Wales before moving back to their native country to seek international honours.





Asaeli Tuivuaka (Fiji Sevens to Zebre)





Zebre have long struggled to break into the top half of the table. What needs to change? The leadership? Maybe. The kicking strategy? Sure. The option to just chuck the ball to a Fijian Olympic gold medalist? Now we’re talking. After Edinburgh’s success in converting Rio 2016 champion Viliame Mata into a world-renowned number 8, not to mention Toulouse utilising the rampaging Semi Kunitani as a dynamic lock/flanker, this feels like a perfect signing for the Italian side.





Asaeli Tuivuaka
Asaeli Tuivuaka was a colossal member of Fiji’s all-conquering Olympic sevens side (Getty Images)




Simon Zebo (Racing 92 to Munster)





The last selection has to be Zebo, doesn’t it? Who doesn’t love the guy? A fun-loving winger who is exhilarating on the field and delightful off it, the return of the Cork man will have Munster fans drooling. The only downside is we no longer get to witness him chortling on the pitch with Finn Russell and Kurtley Beale. Instead, we will see the incisive back-three danger man cutting lines off World Cup winners Damien de Allende and RG Snyman.





Munster may be known for their direct style, and as opposing fans we’ve all sat through Thomond Park drubbings before, but with Zebo smiling to the cameras, nobody will accuse this man in red of being dull.





More stories from Will Owen







If you’ve enjoyed this article, please share it with friends or on social media. We rely solely on new subscribers to fund high-quality journalism and appreciate you sharing this so we can continue to grow, produce more quality content and support our writers.



Michael Ala’alatoa (Crusaders to Leinster)





May not seem like a flashy signing on the surface, but this is a big deal at the RDS. Ala’alatoa is Leinster’s first overseas signing since a certain Scott Fardy. Leo Cullen is clearly proud of the Irish representation in his squad, so it must take a lot to impress him.





Samoan skipper Ala’alatoa must have shown he can fit into Leinster’s system as their only foreign player. A solid scrummager and tackler, expect the prop to really kick on with the four-in-a-row champions.





Jac Morgan (Scarlets to Ospreys)





Young flanker Morgan is arguably Welsh rugby’s best uncapped player. In a move that shocked many Scarlets fans, he joined a club on the up, making astute signings on its way. Alex Cuthbert is another strong addition to Toby Booth’s squad. To take such a risk at 21, Morgan must believe the Ospreys coaches can help him develop into the fully-fledged international bruiser he could so very evidently become. 





Jac Morgan
Jac Morgan has routinely made his presence felt in the red of Scarlets, and was one of the league’s top performers last term (Getty Images)




Booth’s snapping up of Leinster academy backrow Will Hickey is another really smart piece of business – poaching one of the senior members of the best academy in world rugby surely can’t backfire. Hickey could be the next Tadhg Beirne, Sam Underhill or Robin Copeland – developing in Wales before moving back to their native country to seek international honours.





Asaeli Tuivuaka (Fiji Sevens to Zebre)





Zebre have long struggled to break into the top half of the table. What needs to change? The leadership? Maybe. The kicking strategy? Sure. The option to just chuck the ball to a Fijian Olympic gold medalist? Now we’re talking. After Edinburgh’s success in converting Rio 2016 champion Viliame Mata into a world-renowned number 8, not to mention Toulouse utilising the rampaging Semi Kunitani as a dynamic lock/flanker, this feels like a perfect signing for the Italian side.





Asaeli Tuivuaka
Asaeli Tuivuaka was a colossal member of Fiji’s all-conquering Olympic sevens side (Getty Images)




Simon Zebo (Racing 92 to Munster)





The last selection has to be Zebo, doesn’t it? Who doesn’t love the guy? A fun-loving winger who is exhilarating on the field and delightful off it, the return of the Cork man will have Munster fans drooling. The only downside is we no longer get to witness him chortling on the pitch with Finn Russell and Kurtley Beale. Instead, we will see the incisive back-three danger man cutting lines off World Cup winners Damien de Allende and RG Snyman.





Munster may be known for their direct style, and as opposing fans we’ve all sat through Thomond Park drubbings before, but with Zebo smiling to the cameras, nobody will accuse this man in red of being dull.





More stories from Will Owen







If you’ve enjoyed this article, please share it with friends or on social media. We rely solely on new subscribers to fund high-quality journalism and appreciate you sharing this so we can continue to grow, produce more quality content and support our writers.



WillGriff John (Sale to Scarlets)





A signing that could have implications for Wales’ front-row pecking order. With first-choice tight-head prop Tomas Francis also returning home from England, Scarlets have taken a gamble on John, a 127kg monster.





He will vie for regional selection with Samson Lee, and could pack down with Rob Evans and Ken Owens in a potent front trio. If John can prove a dominant scrummager, Wayne Pivac will surely consider him for Test honours. John was 24 hours away from a starting debut for Wales against Scotland before the pandemic ended the 2020 Six Nations, so he will be keen to take this opportunity and live his dream.





Michael Ala’alatoa (Crusaders to Leinster)





May not seem like a flashy signing on the surface, but this is a big deal at the RDS. Ala’alatoa is Leinster’s first overseas signing since a certain Scott Fardy. Leo Cullen is clearly proud of the Irish representation in his squad, so it must take a lot to impress him.





Samoan skipper Ala’alatoa must have shown he can fit into Leinster’s system as their only foreign player. A solid scrummager and tackler, expect the prop to really kick on with the four-in-a-row champions.





Jac Morgan (Scarlets to Ospreys)





Young flanker Morgan is arguably Welsh rugby’s best uncapped player. In a move that shocked many Scarlets fans, he joined a club on the up, making astute signings on its way. Alex Cuthbert is another strong addition to Toby Booth’s squad. To take such a risk at 21, Morgan must believe the Ospreys coaches can help him develop into the fully-fledged international bruiser he could so very evidently become. 





Jac Morgan
Jac Morgan has routinely made his presence felt in the red of Scarlets, and was one of the league’s top performers last term (Getty Images)




Booth’s snapping up of Leinster academy backrow Will Hickey is another really smart piece of business – poaching one of the senior members of the best academy in world rugby surely can’t backfire. Hickey could be the next Tadhg Beirne, Sam Underhill or Robin Copeland – developing in Wales before moving back to their native country to seek international honours.





Asaeli Tuivuaka (Fiji Sevens to Zebre)





Zebre have long struggled to break into the top half of the table. What needs to change? The leadership? Maybe. The kicking strategy? Sure. The option to just chuck the ball to a Fijian Olympic gold medalist? Now we’re talking. After Edinburgh’s success in converting Rio 2016 champion Viliame Mata into a world-renowned number 8, not to mention Toulouse utilising the rampaging Semi Kunitani as a dynamic lock/flanker, this feels like a perfect signing for the Italian side.





Asaeli Tuivuaka
Asaeli Tuivuaka was a colossal member of Fiji’s all-conquering Olympic sevens side (Getty Images)




Simon Zebo (Racing 92 to Munster)





The last selection has to be Zebo, doesn’t it? Who doesn’t love the guy? A fun-loving winger who is exhilarating on the field and delightful off it, the return of the Cork man will have Munster fans drooling. The only downside is we no longer get to witness him chortling on the pitch with Finn Russell and Kurtley Beale. Instead, we will see the incisive back-three danger man cutting lines off World Cup winners Damien de Allende and RG Snyman.





Munster may be known for their direct style, and as opposing fans we’ve all sat through Thomond Park drubbings before, but with Zebo smiling to the cameras, nobody will accuse this man in red of being dull.





More stories from Will Owen







If you’ve enjoyed this article, please share it with friends or on social media. We rely solely on new subscribers to fund high-quality journalism and appreciate you sharing this so we can continue to grow, produce more quality content and support our writers.



Edwill van der Merwe (Stormers to Lions)





One of the hottest prospects in South African club rugby, Van der Merwe is a winger any spectator would be lucky to watch. At 25, he is soaring to peak form, having lit up the Currie Cup and conjured dazzling highlight-reel tries.





Van der Merwe could be one of the most exciting players in the league, and given Makazole Mapimpi’s Pro14 form prior to his Springbok call-up aged 28, don’t bet against the new Lion becoming a Test player. With 32-year-old sevens rapier Rosko Specman winning his first cap this year, it is evident Jacques Neinaber is happy to wait for his wingers to blossom.





WillGriff John (Sale to Scarlets)





A signing that could have implications for Wales’ front-row pecking order. With first-choice tight-head prop Tomas Francis also returning home from England, Scarlets have taken a gamble on John, a 127kg monster.





He will vie for regional selection with Samson Lee, and could pack down with Rob Evans and Ken Owens in a potent front trio. If John can prove a dominant scrummager, Wayne Pivac will surely consider him for Test honours. John was 24 hours away from a starting debut for Wales against Scotland before the pandemic ended the 2020 Six Nations, so he will be keen to take this opportunity and live his dream.





Michael Ala’alatoa (Crusaders to Leinster)





May not seem like a flashy signing on the surface, but this is a big deal at the RDS. Ala’alatoa is Leinster’s first overseas signing since a certain Scott Fardy. Leo Cullen is clearly proud of the Irish representation in his squad, so it must take a lot to impress him.





Samoan skipper Ala’alatoa must have shown he can fit into Leinster’s system as their only foreign player. A solid scrummager and tackler, expect the prop to really kick on with the four-in-a-row champions.





Jac Morgan (Scarlets to Ospreys)





Young flanker Morgan is arguably Welsh rugby’s best uncapped player. In a move that shocked many Scarlets fans, he joined a club on the up, making astute signings on its way. Alex Cuthbert is another strong addition to Toby Booth’s squad. To take such a risk at 21, Morgan must believe the Ospreys coaches can help him develop into the fully-fledged international bruiser he could so very evidently become. 





Jac Morgan
Jac Morgan has routinely made his presence felt in the red of Scarlets, and was one of the league’s top performers last term (Getty Images)




Booth’s snapping up of Leinster academy backrow Will Hickey is another really smart piece of business – poaching one of the senior members of the best academy in world rugby surely can’t backfire. Hickey could be the next Tadhg Beirne, Sam Underhill or Robin Copeland – developing in Wales before moving back to their native country to seek international honours.





Asaeli Tuivuaka (Fiji Sevens to Zebre)





Zebre have long struggled to break into the top half of the table. What needs to change? The leadership? Maybe. The kicking strategy? Sure. The option to just chuck the ball to a Fijian Olympic gold medalist? Now we’re talking. After Edinburgh’s success in converting Rio 2016 champion Viliame Mata into a world-renowned number 8, not to mention Toulouse utilising the rampaging Semi Kunitani as a dynamic lock/flanker, this feels like a perfect signing for the Italian side.





Asaeli Tuivuaka
Asaeli Tuivuaka was a colossal member of Fiji’s all-conquering Olympic sevens side (Getty Images)




Simon Zebo (Racing 92 to Munster)





The last selection has to be Zebo, doesn’t it? Who doesn’t love the guy? A fun-loving winger who is exhilarating on the field and delightful off it, the return of the Cork man will have Munster fans drooling. The only downside is we no longer get to witness him chortling on the pitch with Finn Russell and Kurtley Beale. Instead, we will see the incisive back-three danger man cutting lines off World Cup winners Damien de Allende and RG Snyman.





Munster may be known for their direct style, and as opposing fans we’ve all sat through Thomond Park drubbings before, but with Zebo smiling to the cameras, nobody will accuse this man in red of being dull.





More stories from Will Owen







If you’ve enjoyed this article, please share it with friends or on social media. We rely solely on new subscribers to fund high-quality journalism and appreciate you sharing this so we can continue to grow, produce more quality content and support our writers.



Emiliano Boffelli (Racing 92 to Edinburgh)





Together with back-three compatriot Ramiro Moyano, Boffelli has made the switch from France to the Scottish capital. Only 26, it feels like he’s been around forever, given his maturity and composure at the highest level.





Emiliano Boffelli
Emiliano Boffelli was part of the Jaguares side that reached the 2019 Super Rugby final (Getty Images)




He will likely battle for the full-back jersey with incumbent Blair Kinghorn – another fleet-footed, solid 15 with a massive boot. Both are capable of playing on the wing and at fly-half, so it will be interesting to see how Mike Blair decides to use them.





Edwill van der Merwe (Stormers to Lions)





One of the hottest prospects in South African club rugby, Van der Merwe is a winger any spectator would be lucky to watch. At 25, he is soaring to peak form, having lit up the Currie Cup and conjured dazzling highlight-reel tries.





Van der Merwe could be one of the most exciting players in the league, and given Makazole Mapimpi’s Pro14 form prior to his Springbok call-up aged 28, don’t bet against the new Lion becoming a Test player. With 32-year-old sevens rapier Rosko Specman winning his first cap this year, it is evident Jacques Neinaber is happy to wait for his wingers to blossom.





WillGriff John (Sale to Scarlets)





A signing that could have implications for Wales’ front-row pecking order. With first-choice tight-head prop Tomas Francis also returning home from England, Scarlets have taken a gamble on John, a 127kg monster.





He will vie for regional selection with Samson Lee, and could pack down with Rob Evans and Ken Owens in a potent front trio. If John can prove a dominant scrummager, Wayne Pivac will surely consider him for Test honours. John was 24 hours away from a starting debut for Wales against Scotland before the pandemic ended the 2020 Six Nations, so he will be keen to take this opportunity and live his dream.





Michael Ala’alatoa (Crusaders to Leinster)





May not seem like a flashy signing on the surface, but this is a big deal at the RDS. Ala’alatoa is Leinster’s first overseas signing since a certain Scott Fardy. Leo Cullen is clearly proud of the Irish representation in his squad, so it must take a lot to impress him.





Samoan skipper Ala’alatoa must have shown he can fit into Leinster’s system as their only foreign player. A solid scrummager and tackler, expect the prop to really kick on with the four-in-a-row champions.





Jac Morgan (Scarlets to Ospreys)





Young flanker Morgan is arguably Welsh rugby’s best uncapped player. In a move that shocked many Scarlets fans, he joined a club on the up, making astute signings on its way. Alex Cuthbert is another strong addition to Toby Booth’s squad. To take such a risk at 21, Morgan must believe the Ospreys coaches can help him develop into the fully-fledged international bruiser he could so very evidently become. 





Jac Morgan
Jac Morgan has routinely made his presence felt in the red of Scarlets, and was one of the league’s top performers last term (Getty Images)




Booth’s snapping up of Leinster academy backrow Will Hickey is another really smart piece of business – poaching one of the senior members of the best academy in world rugby surely can’t backfire. Hickey could be the next Tadhg Beirne, Sam Underhill or Robin Copeland – developing in Wales before moving back to their native country to seek international honours.





Asaeli Tuivuaka (Fiji Sevens to Zebre)





Zebre have long struggled to break into the top half of the table. What needs to change? The leadership? Maybe. The kicking strategy? Sure. The option to just chuck the ball to a Fijian Olympic gold medalist? Now we’re talking. After Edinburgh’s success in converting Rio 2016 champion Viliame Mata into a world-renowned number 8, not to mention Toulouse utilising the rampaging Semi Kunitani as a dynamic lock/flanker, this feels like a perfect signing for the Italian side.





Asaeli Tuivuaka
Asaeli Tuivuaka was a colossal member of Fiji’s all-conquering Olympic sevens side (Getty Images)




Simon Zebo (Racing 92 to Munster)





The last selection has to be Zebo, doesn’t it? Who doesn’t love the guy? A fun-loving winger who is exhilarating on the field and delightful off it, the return of the Cork man will have Munster fans drooling. The only downside is we no longer get to witness him chortling on the pitch with Finn Russell and Kurtley Beale. Instead, we will see the incisive back-three danger man cutting lines off World Cup winners Damien de Allende and RG Snyman.





Munster may be known for their direct style, and as opposing fans we’ve all sat through Thomond Park drubbings before, but with Zebo smiling to the cameras, nobody will accuse this man in red of being dull.





More stories from Will Owen







If you’ve enjoyed this article, please share it with friends or on social media. We rely solely on new subscribers to fund high-quality journalism and appreciate you sharing this so we can continue to grow, produce more quality content and support our writers.



Duane Vermeulen (Blue Bulls to Ulster)





If you’re named after a Marvel Superhero, you must have been doing something right. In a buccaneering Test career, the bearded 6ft 4in, 18st Springbok gained the moniker Thor for his rampaging busts in midfield, soft-hands out of contact – few will forget his sweet offload to Fourie du Preez in the 2015 Rugby World Cup quarter-final – and rib-clattering hits.





At 35, he may well be in the latter stages of his career, but if Alun Wyn Jones, and Johnny Sexton, who have both turned 36 in recent months, are still influential figures in the URC, then there is nothing stopping Vermeulen being a talisman around which the Ulster pack can thrive. It is a statement signing to signify a new era for the league.





Emiliano Boffelli (Racing 92 to Edinburgh)





Together with back-three compatriot Ramiro Moyano, Boffelli has made the switch from France to the Scottish capital. Only 26, it feels like he’s been around forever, given his maturity and composure at the highest level.





Emiliano Boffelli
Emiliano Boffelli was part of the Jaguares side that reached the 2019 Super Rugby final (Getty Images)




He will likely battle for the full-back jersey with incumbent Blair Kinghorn – another fleet-footed, solid 15 with a massive boot. Both are capable of playing on the wing and at fly-half, so it will be interesting to see how Mike Blair decides to use them.





Edwill van der Merwe (Stormers to Lions)





One of the hottest prospects in South African club rugby, Van der Merwe is a winger any spectator would be lucky to watch. At 25, he is soaring to peak form, having lit up the Currie Cup and conjured dazzling highlight-reel tries.





Van der Merwe could be one of the most exciting players in the league, and given Makazole Mapimpi’s Pro14 form prior to his Springbok call-up aged 28, don’t bet against the new Lion becoming a Test player. With 32-year-old sevens rapier Rosko Specman winning his first cap this year, it is evident Jacques Neinaber is happy to wait for his wingers to blossom.





WillGriff John (Sale to Scarlets)





A signing that could have implications for Wales’ front-row pecking order. With first-choice tight-head prop Tomas Francis also returning home from England, Scarlets have taken a gamble on John, a 127kg monster.





He will vie for regional selection with Samson Lee, and could pack down with Rob Evans and Ken Owens in a potent front trio. If John can prove a dominant scrummager, Wayne Pivac will surely consider him for Test honours. John was 24 hours away from a starting debut for Wales against Scotland before the pandemic ended the 2020 Six Nations, so he will be keen to take this opportunity and live his dream.





Michael Ala’alatoa (Crusaders to Leinster)





May not seem like a flashy signing on the surface, but this is a big deal at the RDS. Ala’alatoa is Leinster’s first overseas signing since a certain Scott Fardy. Leo Cullen is clearly proud of the Irish representation in his squad, so it must take a lot to impress him.





Samoan skipper Ala’alatoa must have shown he can fit into Leinster’s system as their only foreign player. A solid scrummager and tackler, expect the prop to really kick on with the four-in-a-row champions.





Jac Morgan (Scarlets to Ospreys)





Young flanker Morgan is arguably Welsh rugby’s best uncapped player. In a move that shocked many Scarlets fans, he joined a club on the up, making astute signings on its way. Alex Cuthbert is another strong addition to Toby Booth’s squad. To take such a risk at 21, Morgan must believe the Ospreys coaches can help him develop into the fully-fledged international bruiser he could so very evidently become. 





Jac Morgan
Jac Morgan has routinely made his presence felt in the red of Scarlets, and was one of the league’s top performers last term (Getty Images)




Booth’s snapping up of Leinster academy backrow Will Hickey is another really smart piece of business – poaching one of the senior members of the best academy in world rugby surely can’t backfire. Hickey could be the next Tadhg Beirne, Sam Underhill or Robin Copeland – developing in Wales before moving back to their native country to seek international honours.





Asaeli Tuivuaka (Fiji Sevens to Zebre)





Zebre have long struggled to break into the top half of the table. What needs to change? The leadership? Maybe. The kicking strategy? Sure. The option to just chuck the ball to a Fijian Olympic gold medalist? Now we’re talking. After Edinburgh’s success in converting Rio 2016 champion Viliame Mata into a world-renowned number 8, not to mention Toulouse utilising the rampaging Semi Kunitani as a dynamic lock/flanker, this feels like a perfect signing for the Italian side.





Asaeli Tuivuaka
Asaeli Tuivuaka was a colossal member of Fiji’s all-conquering Olympic sevens side (Getty Images)




Simon Zebo (Racing 92 to Munster)





The last selection has to be Zebo, doesn’t it? Who doesn’t love the guy? A fun-loving winger who is exhilarating on the field and delightful off it, the return of the Cork man will have Munster fans drooling. The only downside is we no longer get to witness him chortling on the pitch with Finn Russell and Kurtley Beale. Instead, we will see the incisive back-three danger man cutting lines off World Cup winners Damien de Allende and RG Snyman.





Munster may be known for their direct style, and as opposing fans we’ve all sat through Thomond Park drubbings before, but with Zebo smiling to the cameras, nobody will accuse this man in red of being dull.





More stories from Will Owen







If you’ve enjoyed this article, please share it with friends or on social media. We rely solely on new subscribers to fund high-quality journalism and appreciate you sharing this so we can continue to grow, produce more quality content and support our writers.



The roar of the crowd. The crackling anticipation of live rugby in pulsating stadia. The smell of linament wafting from changing rooms. The taste of lukewarm, hideously overpriced lager in plastic cups. The opportunity to sit down on a Friday night and watch Dragons playing Ulster. 





Yep, a new season is upon us, so what’s not to love?





With the dawn of each campaign comes acclimatisation. You ask why Benetton aren’t picking Paolo Garbisi before remembering he signed for Montpellier in the summer. You spend the first three weeks of the season deciding whether or not Domingo Miotti looks good in a Glasgow jersey. 





These are seminal months for the competition now formerly known as the Pro14. The arrival of South Africa’s heavyweight quartet, a glossy summer rebrand as the United Rugby Championship, and even a partnership with Jay-Z’s Roc Nation entertainment company.  





There have been some eye-catching signings in the off-season too, from a World Cup winner to an Olympic colossus, homecoming heroes to a gifted Welshman with a big future opting to switch regions. Here, The XV hand-picks some of the tastiest acquisitions for the championship ahead.





Duane Vermeulen (Blue Bulls to Ulster)





If you’re named after a Marvel Superhero, you must have been doing something right. In a buccaneering Test career, the bearded 6ft 4in, 18st Springbok gained the moniker Thor for his rampaging busts in midfield, soft-hands out of contact – few will forget his sweet offload to Fourie du Preez in the 2015 Rugby World Cup quarter-final – and rib-clattering hits.





At 35, he may well be in the latter stages of his career, but if Alun Wyn Jones, and Johnny Sexton, who have both turned 36 in recent months, are still influential figures in the URC, then there is nothing stopping Vermeulen being a talisman around which the Ulster pack can thrive. It is a statement signing to signify a new era for the league.





Emiliano Boffelli (Racing 92 to Edinburgh)





Together with back-three compatriot Ramiro Moyano, Boffelli has made the switch from France to the Scottish capital. Only 26, it feels like he’s been around forever, given his maturity and composure at the highest level.





Emiliano Boffelli
Emiliano Boffelli was part of the Jaguares side that reached the 2019 Super Rugby final (Getty Images)




He will likely battle for the full-back jersey with incumbent Blair Kinghorn – another fleet-footed, solid 15 with a massive boot. Both are capable of playing on the wing and at fly-half, so it will be interesting to see how Mike Blair decides to use them.





Edwill van der Merwe (Stormers to Lions)





One of the hottest prospects in South African club rugby, Van der Merwe is a winger any spectator would be lucky to watch. At 25, he is soaring to peak form, having lit up the Currie Cup and conjured dazzling highlight-reel tries.





Van der Merwe could be one of the most exciting players in the league, and given Makazole Mapimpi’s Pro14 form prior to his Springbok call-up aged 28, don’t bet against the new Lion becoming a Test player. With 32-year-old sevens rapier Rosko Specman winning his first cap this year, it is evident Jacques Neinaber is happy to wait for his wingers to blossom.





WillGriff John (Sale to Scarlets)





A signing that could have implications for Wales’ front-row pecking order. With first-choice tight-head prop Tomas Francis also returning home from England, Scarlets have taken a gamble on John, a 127kg monster.





He will vie for regional selection with Samson Lee, and could pack down with Rob Evans and Ken Owens in a potent front trio. If John can prove a dominant scrummager, Wayne Pivac will surely consider him for Test honours. John was 24 hours away from a starting debut for Wales against Scotland before the pandemic ended the 2020 Six Nations, so he will be keen to take this opportunity and live his dream.





Michael Ala’alatoa (Crusaders to Leinster)





May not seem like a flashy signing on the surface, but this is a big deal at the RDS. Ala’alatoa is Leinster’s first overseas signing since a certain Scott Fardy. Leo Cullen is clearly proud of the Irish representation in his squad, so it must take a lot to impress him.





Samoan skipper Ala’alatoa must have shown he can fit into Leinster’s system as their only foreign player. A solid scrummager and tackler, expect the prop to really kick on with the four-in-a-row champions.





Jac Morgan (Scarlets to Ospreys)





Young flanker Morgan is arguably Welsh rugby’s best uncapped player. In a move that shocked many Scarlets fans, he joined a club on the up, making astute signings on its way. Alex Cuthbert is another strong addition to Toby Booth’s squad. To take such a risk at 21, Morgan must believe the Ospreys coaches can help him develop into the fully-fledged international bruiser he could so very evidently become. 





Jac Morgan
Jac Morgan has routinely made his presence felt in the red of Scarlets, and was one of the league’s top performers last term (Getty Images)




Booth’s snapping up of Leinster academy backrow Will Hickey is another really smart piece of business – poaching one of the senior members of the best academy in world rugby surely can’t backfire. Hickey could be the next Tadhg Beirne, Sam Underhill or Robin Copeland – developing in Wales before moving back to their native country to seek international honours.





Asaeli Tuivuaka (Fiji Sevens to Zebre)





Zebre have long struggled to break into the top half of the table. What needs to change? The leadership? Maybe. The kicking strategy? Sure. The option to just chuck the ball to a Fijian Olympic gold medalist? Now we’re talking. After Edinburgh’s success in converting Rio 2016 champion Viliame Mata into a world-renowned number 8, not to mention Toulouse utilising the rampaging Semi Kunitani as a dynamic lock/flanker, this feels like a perfect signing for the Italian side.





Asaeli Tuivuaka
Asaeli Tuivuaka was a colossal member of Fiji’s all-conquering Olympic sevens side (Getty Images)




Simon Zebo (Racing 92 to Munster)





The last selection has to be Zebo, doesn’t it? Who doesn’t love the guy? A fun-loving winger who is exhilarating on the field and delightful off it, the return of the Cork man will have Munster fans drooling. The only downside is we no longer get to witness him chortling on the pitch with Finn Russell and Kurtley Beale. Instead, we will see the incisive back-three danger man cutting lines off World Cup winners Damien de Allende and RG Snyman.





Munster may be known for their direct style, and as opposing fans we’ve all sat through Thomond Park drubbings before, but with Zebo smiling to the cameras, nobody will accuse this man in red of being dull.





More stories from Will Owen







If you’ve enjoyed this article, please share it with friends or on social media. We rely solely on new subscribers to fund high-quality journalism and appreciate you sharing this so we can continue to grow, produce more quality content and support our writers.



Emiliano Boffelli (Racing 92 to Edinburgh)





Together with back-three compatriot Ramiro Moyano, Boffelli has made the switch from France to the Scottish capital. Only 26, it feels like he’s been around forever, given his maturity and composure at the highest level.





Emiliano Boffelli
Emiliano Boffelli was part of the Jaguares side that reached the 2019 Super Rugby final (Getty Images)




He will likely battle for the full-back jersey with incumbent Blair Kinghorn – another fleet-footed, solid 15 with a massive boot. Both are capable of playing on the wing and at fly-half, so it will be interesting to see how Mike Blair decides to use them.





Edwill van der Merwe (Stormers to Lions)





One of the hottest prospects in South African club rugby, Van der Merwe is a winger any spectator would be lucky to watch. At 25, he is soaring to peak form, having lit up the Currie Cup and conjured dazzling highlight-reel tries.





Van der Merwe could be one of the most exciting players in the league, and given Makazole Mapimpi’s Pro14 form prior to his Springbok call-up aged 28, don’t bet against the new Lion becoming a Test player. With 32-year-old sevens rapier Rosko Specman winning his first cap this year, it is evident Jacques Neinaber is happy to wait for his wingers to blossom.





WillGriff John (Sale to Scarlets)





A signing that could have implications for Wales’ front-row pecking order. With first-choice tight-head prop Tomas Francis also returning home from England, Scarlets have taken a gamble on John, a 127kg monster.





He will vie for regional selection with Samson Lee, and could pack down with Rob Evans and Ken Owens in a potent front trio. If John can prove a dominant scrummager, Wayne Pivac will surely consider him for Test honours. John was 24 hours away from a starting debut for Wales against Scotland before the pandemic ended the 2020 Six Nations, so he will be keen to take this opportunity and live his dream.





Michael Ala’alatoa (Crusaders to Leinster)





May not seem like a flashy signing on the surface, but this is a big deal at the RDS. Ala’alatoa is Leinster’s first overseas signing since a certain Scott Fardy. Leo Cullen is clearly proud of the Irish representation in his squad, so it must take a lot to impress him.





Samoan skipper Ala’alatoa must have shown he can fit into Leinster’s system as their only foreign player. A solid scrummager and tackler, expect the prop to really kick on with the four-in-a-row champions.





Jac Morgan (Scarlets to Ospreys)





Young flanker Morgan is arguably Welsh rugby’s best uncapped player. In a move that shocked many Scarlets fans, he joined a club on the up, making astute signings on its way. Alex Cuthbert is another strong addition to Toby Booth’s squad. To take such a risk at 21, Morgan must believe the Ospreys coaches can help him develop into the fully-fledged international bruiser he could so very evidently become. 





Jac Morgan
Jac Morgan has routinely made his presence felt in the red of Scarlets, and was one of the league’s top performers last term (Getty Images)




Booth’s snapping up of Leinster academy backrow Will Hickey is another really smart piece of business – poaching one of the senior members of the best academy in world rugby surely can’t backfire. Hickey could be the next Tadhg Beirne, Sam Underhill or Robin Copeland – developing in Wales before moving back to their native country to seek international honours.





Asaeli Tuivuaka (Fiji Sevens to Zebre)





Zebre have long struggled to break into the top half of the table. What needs to change? The leadership? Maybe. The kicking strategy? Sure. The option to just chuck the ball to a Fijian Olympic gold medalist? Now we’re talking. After Edinburgh’s success in converting Rio 2016 champion Viliame Mata into a world-renowned number 8, not to mention Toulouse utilising the rampaging Semi Kunitani as a dynamic lock/flanker, this feels like a perfect signing for the Italian side.





Asaeli Tuivuaka
Asaeli Tuivuaka was a colossal member of Fiji’s all-conquering Olympic sevens side (Getty Images)




Simon Zebo (Racing 92 to Munster)





The last selection has to be Zebo, doesn’t it? Who doesn’t love the guy? A fun-loving winger who is exhilarating on the field and delightful off it, the return of the Cork man will have Munster fans drooling. The only downside is we no longer get to witness him chortling on the pitch with Finn Russell and Kurtley Beale. Instead, we will see the incisive back-three danger man cutting lines off World Cup winners Damien de Allende and RG Snyman.





Munster may be known for their direct style, and as opposing fans we’ve all sat through Thomond Park drubbings before, but with Zebo smiling to the cameras, nobody will accuse this man in red of being dull.





More stories from Will Owen







If you’ve enjoyed this article, please share it with friends or on social media. We rely solely on new subscribers to fund high-quality journalism and appreciate you sharing this so we can continue to grow, produce more quality content and support our writers.



Asaeli Tuivuaka (Fiji Sevens to Zebre)





Zebre have long struggled to break into the top half of the table. What needs to change? The leadership? Maybe. The kicking strategy? Sure. The option to just chuck the ball to a Fijian Olympic gold medalist? Now we’re talking. After Edinburgh’s success in converting Rio 2016 champion Viliame Mata into a world-renowned number 8, not to mention Toulouse utilising the rampaging Semi Kunitani as a dynamic lock/flanker, this feels like a perfect signing for the Italian side.





Asaeli Tuivuaka
Asaeli Tuivuaka was a colossal member of Fiji’s all-conquering Olympic sevens side (Getty Images)




Simon Zebo (Racing 92 to Munster)





The last selection has to be Zebo, doesn’t it? Who doesn’t love the guy? A fun-loving winger who is exhilarating on the field and delightful off it, the return of the Cork man will have Munster fans drooling. The only downside is we no longer get to witness him chortling on the pitch with Finn Russell and Kurtley Beale. Instead, we will see the incisive back-three danger man cutting lines off World Cup winners Damien de Allende and RG Snyman.





Munster may be known for their direct style, and as opposing fans we’ve all sat through Thomond Park drubbings before, but with Zebo smiling to the cameras, nobody will accuse this man in red of being dull.





More stories from Will Owen







If you’ve enjoyed this article, please share it with friends or on social media. We rely solely on new subscribers to fund high-quality journalism and appreciate you sharing this so we can continue to grow, produce more quality content and support our writers.



Jac Morgan (Scarlets to Ospreys)





Young flanker Morgan is arguably Welsh rugby’s best uncapped player. In a move that shocked many Scarlets fans, he joined a club on the up, making astute signings on its way. Alex Cuthbert is another strong addition to Toby Booth’s squad. To take such a risk at 21, Morgan must believe the Ospreys coaches can help him develop into the fully-fledged international bruiser he could so very evidently become. 





Jac Morgan
Jac Morgan has routinely made his presence felt in the red of Scarlets, and was one of the league’s top performers last term (Getty Images)




Booth’s snapping up of Leinster academy backrow Will Hickey is another really smart piece of business – poaching one of the senior members of the best academy in world rugby surely can’t backfire. Hickey could be the next Tadhg Beirne, Sam Underhill or Robin Copeland – developing in Wales before moving back to their native country to seek international honours.





Asaeli Tuivuaka (Fiji Sevens to Zebre)





Zebre have long struggled to break into the top half of the table. What needs to change? The leadership? Maybe. The kicking strategy? Sure. The option to just chuck the ball to a Fijian Olympic gold medalist? Now we’re talking. After Edinburgh’s success in converting Rio 2016 champion Viliame Mata into a world-renowned number 8, not to mention Toulouse utilising the rampaging Semi Kunitani as a dynamic lock/flanker, this feels like a perfect signing for the Italian side.





Asaeli Tuivuaka
Asaeli Tuivuaka was a colossal member of Fiji’s all-conquering Olympic sevens side (Getty Images)




Simon Zebo (Racing 92 to Munster)





The last selection has to be Zebo, doesn’t it? Who doesn’t love the guy? A fun-loving winger who is exhilarating on the field and delightful off it, the return of the Cork man will have Munster fans drooling. The only downside is we no longer get to witness him chortling on the pitch with Finn Russell and Kurtley Beale. Instead, we will see the incisive back-three danger man cutting lines off World Cup winners Damien de Allende and RG Snyman.





Munster may be known for their direct style, and as opposing fans we’ve all sat through Thomond Park drubbings before, but with Zebo smiling to the cameras, nobody will accuse this man in red of being dull.





More stories from Will Owen







If you’ve enjoyed this article, please share it with friends or on social media. We rely solely on new subscribers to fund high-quality journalism and appreciate you sharing this so we can continue to grow, produce more quality content and support our writers.



Michael Ala’alatoa (Crusaders to Leinster)





May not seem like a flashy signing on the surface, but this is a big deal at the RDS. Ala’alatoa is Leinster’s first overseas signing since a certain Scott Fardy. Leo Cullen is clearly proud of the Irish representation in his squad, so it must take a lot to impress him.





Samoan skipper Ala’alatoa must have shown he can fit into Leinster’s system as their only foreign player. A solid scrummager and tackler, expect the prop to really kick on with the four-in-a-row champions.





Jac Morgan (Scarlets to Ospreys)





Young flanker Morgan is arguably Welsh rugby’s best uncapped player. In a move that shocked many Scarlets fans, he joined a club on the up, making astute signings on its way. Alex Cuthbert is another strong addition to Toby Booth’s squad. To take such a risk at 21, Morgan must believe the Ospreys coaches can help him develop into the fully-fledged international bruiser he could so very evidently become. 





Jac Morgan
Jac Morgan has routinely made his presence felt in the red of Scarlets, and was one of the league’s top performers last term (Getty Images)




Booth’s snapping up of Leinster academy backrow Will Hickey is another really smart piece of business – poaching one of the senior members of the best academy in world rugby surely can’t backfire. Hickey could be the next Tadhg Beirne, Sam Underhill or Robin Copeland – developing in Wales before moving back to their native country to seek international honours.





Asaeli Tuivuaka (Fiji Sevens to Zebre)





Zebre have long struggled to break into the top half of the table. What needs to change? The leadership? Maybe. The kicking strategy? Sure. The option to just chuck the ball to a Fijian Olympic gold medalist? Now we’re talking. After Edinburgh’s success in converting Rio 2016 champion Viliame Mata into a world-renowned number 8, not to mention Toulouse utilising the rampaging Semi Kunitani as a dynamic lock/flanker, this feels like a perfect signing for the Italian side.





Asaeli Tuivuaka
Asaeli Tuivuaka was a colossal member of Fiji’s all-conquering Olympic sevens side (Getty Images)




Simon Zebo (Racing 92 to Munster)





The last selection has to be Zebo, doesn’t it? Who doesn’t love the guy? A fun-loving winger who is exhilarating on the field and delightful off it, the return of the Cork man will have Munster fans drooling. The only downside is we no longer get to witness him chortling on the pitch with Finn Russell and Kurtley Beale. Instead, we will see the incisive back-three danger man cutting lines off World Cup winners Damien de Allende and RG Snyman.





Munster may be known for their direct style, and as opposing fans we’ve all sat through Thomond Park drubbings before, but with Zebo smiling to the cameras, nobody will accuse this man in red of being dull.





More stories from Will Owen







If you’ve enjoyed this article, please share it with friends or on social media. We rely solely on new subscribers to fund high-quality journalism and appreciate you sharing this so we can continue to grow, produce more quality content and support our writers.



WillGriff John (Sale to Scarlets)





A signing that could have implications for Wales’ front-row pecking order. With first-choice tight-head prop Tomas Francis also returning home from England, Scarlets have taken a gamble on John, a 127kg monster.





He will vie for regional selection with Samson Lee, and could pack down with Rob Evans and Ken Owens in a potent front trio. If John can prove a dominant scrummager, Wayne Pivac will surely consider him for Test honours. John was 24 hours away from a starting debut for Wales against Scotland before the pandemic ended the 2020 Six Nations, so he will be keen to take this opportunity and live his dream.





Michael Ala’alatoa (Crusaders to Leinster)





May not seem like a flashy signing on the surface, but this is a big deal at the RDS. Ala’alatoa is Leinster’s first overseas signing since a certain Scott Fardy. Leo Cullen is clearly proud of the Irish representation in his squad, so it must take a lot to impress him.





Samoan skipper Ala’alatoa must have shown he can fit into Leinster’s system as their only foreign player. A solid scrummager and tackler, expect the prop to really kick on with the four-in-a-row champions.





Jac Morgan (Scarlets to Ospreys)





Young flanker Morgan is arguably Welsh rugby’s best uncapped player. In a move that shocked many Scarlets fans, he joined a club on the up, making astute signings on its way. Alex Cuthbert is another strong addition to Toby Booth’s squad. To take such a risk at 21, Morgan must believe the Ospreys coaches can help him develop into the fully-fledged international bruiser he could so very evidently become. 





Jac Morgan
Jac Morgan has routinely made his presence felt in the red of Scarlets, and was one of the league’s top performers last term (Getty Images)




Booth’s snapping up of Leinster academy backrow Will Hickey is another really smart piece of business – poaching one of the senior members of the best academy in world rugby surely can’t backfire. Hickey could be the next Tadhg Beirne, Sam Underhill or Robin Copeland – developing in Wales before moving back to their native country to seek international honours.





Asaeli Tuivuaka (Fiji Sevens to Zebre)





Zebre have long struggled to break into the top half of the table. What needs to change? The leadership? Maybe. The kicking strategy? Sure. The option to just chuck the ball to a Fijian Olympic gold medalist? Now we’re talking. After Edinburgh’s success in converting Rio 2016 champion Viliame Mata into a world-renowned number 8, not to mention Toulouse utilising the rampaging Semi Kunitani as a dynamic lock/flanker, this feels like a perfect signing for the Italian side.





Asaeli Tuivuaka
Asaeli Tuivuaka was a colossal member of Fiji’s all-conquering Olympic sevens side (Getty Images)




Simon Zebo (Racing 92 to Munster)





The last selection has to be Zebo, doesn’t it? Who doesn’t love the guy? A fun-loving winger who is exhilarating on the field and delightful off it, the return of the Cork man will have Munster fans drooling. The only downside is we no longer get to witness him chortling on the pitch with Finn Russell and Kurtley Beale. Instead, we will see the incisive back-three danger man cutting lines off World Cup winners Damien de Allende and RG Snyman.





Munster may be known for their direct style, and as opposing fans we’ve all sat through Thomond Park drubbings before, but with Zebo smiling to the cameras, nobody will accuse this man in red of being dull.





More stories from Will Owen







If you’ve enjoyed this article, please share it with friends or on social media. We rely solely on new subscribers to fund high-quality journalism and appreciate you sharing this so we can continue to grow, produce more quality content and support our writers.



Edwill van der Merwe (Stormers to Lions)





One of the hottest prospects in South African club rugby, Van der Merwe is a winger any spectator would be lucky to watch. At 25, he is soaring to peak form, having lit up the Currie Cup and conjured dazzling highlight-reel tries.





Van der Merwe could be one of the most exciting players in the league, and given Makazole Mapimpi’s Pro14 form prior to his Springbok call-up aged 28, don’t bet against the new Lion becoming a Test player. With 32-year-old sevens rapier Rosko Specman winning his first cap this year, it is evident Jacques Neinaber is happy to wait for his wingers to blossom.





WillGriff John (Sale to Scarlets)





A signing that could have implications for Wales’ front-row pecking order. With first-choice tight-head prop Tomas Francis also returning home from England, Scarlets have taken a gamble on John, a 127kg monster.





He will vie for regional selection with Samson Lee, and could pack down with Rob Evans and Ken Owens in a potent front trio. If John can prove a dominant scrummager, Wayne Pivac will surely consider him for Test honours. John was 24 hours away from a starting debut for Wales against Scotland before the pandemic ended the 2020 Six Nations, so he will be keen to take this opportunity and live his dream.





Michael Ala’alatoa (Crusaders to Leinster)





May not seem like a flashy signing on the surface, but this is a big deal at the RDS. Ala’alatoa is Leinster’s first overseas signing since a certain Scott Fardy. Leo Cullen is clearly proud of the Irish representation in his squad, so it must take a lot to impress him.





Samoan skipper Ala’alatoa must have shown he can fit into Leinster’s system as their only foreign player. A solid scrummager and tackler, expect the prop to really kick on with the four-in-a-row champions.





Jac Morgan (Scarlets to Ospreys)





Young flanker Morgan is arguably Welsh rugby’s best uncapped player. In a move that shocked many Scarlets fans, he joined a club on the up, making astute signings on its way. Alex Cuthbert is another strong addition to Toby Booth’s squad. To take such a risk at 21, Morgan must believe the Ospreys coaches can help him develop into the fully-fledged international bruiser he could so very evidently become. 





Jac Morgan
Jac Morgan has routinely made his presence felt in the red of Scarlets, and was one of the league’s top performers last term (Getty Images)




Booth’s snapping up of Leinster academy backrow Will Hickey is another really smart piece of business – poaching one of the senior members of the best academy in world rugby surely can’t backfire. Hickey could be the next Tadhg Beirne, Sam Underhill or Robin Copeland – developing in Wales before moving back to their native country to seek international honours.





Asaeli Tuivuaka (Fiji Sevens to Zebre)





Zebre have long struggled to break into the top half of the table. What needs to change? The leadership? Maybe. The kicking strategy? Sure. The option to just chuck the ball to a Fijian Olympic gold medalist? Now we’re talking. After Edinburgh’s success in converting Rio 2016 champion Viliame Mata into a world-renowned number 8, not to mention Toulouse utilising the rampaging Semi Kunitani as a dynamic lock/flanker, this feels like a perfect signing for the Italian side.





Asaeli Tuivuaka
Asaeli Tuivuaka was a colossal member of Fiji’s all-conquering Olympic sevens side (Getty Images)




Simon Zebo (Racing 92 to Munster)





The last selection has to be Zebo, doesn’t it? Who doesn’t love the guy? A fun-loving winger who is exhilarating on the field and delightful off it, the return of the Cork man will have Munster fans drooling. The only downside is we no longer get to witness him chortling on the pitch with Finn Russell and Kurtley Beale. Instead, we will see the incisive back-three danger man cutting lines off World Cup winners Damien de Allende and RG Snyman.





Munster may be known for their direct style, and as opposing fans we’ve all sat through Thomond Park drubbings before, but with Zebo smiling to the cameras, nobody will accuse this man in red of being dull.





More stories from Will Owen







If you’ve enjoyed this article, please share it with friends or on social media. We rely solely on new subscribers to fund high-quality journalism and appreciate you sharing this so we can continue to grow, produce more quality content and support our writers.



Emiliano Boffelli (Racing 92 to Edinburgh)





Together with back-three compatriot Ramiro Moyano, Boffelli has made the switch from France to the Scottish capital. Only 26, it feels like he’s been around forever, given his maturity and composure at the highest level.





Emiliano Boffelli
Emiliano Boffelli was part of the Jaguares side that reached the 2019 Super Rugby final (Getty Images)




He will likely battle for the full-back jersey with incumbent Blair Kinghorn – another fleet-footed, solid 15 with a massive boot. Both are capable of playing on the wing and at fly-half, so it will be interesting to see how Mike Blair decides to use them.





Edwill van der Merwe (Stormers to Lions)





One of the hottest prospects in South African club rugby, Van der Merwe is a winger any spectator would be lucky to watch. At 25, he is soaring to peak form, having lit up the Currie Cup and conjured dazzling highlight-reel tries.





Van der Merwe could be one of the most exciting players in the league, and given Makazole Mapimpi’s Pro14 form prior to his Springbok call-up aged 28, don’t bet against the new Lion becoming a Test player. With 32-year-old sevens rapier Rosko Specman winning his first cap this year, it is evident Jacques Neinaber is happy to wait for his wingers to blossom.





WillGriff John (Sale to Scarlets)





A signing that could have implications for Wales’ front-row pecking order. With first-choice tight-head prop Tomas Francis also returning home from England, Scarlets have taken a gamble on John, a 127kg monster.





He will vie for regional selection with Samson Lee, and could pack down with Rob Evans and Ken Owens in a potent front trio. If John can prove a dominant scrummager, Wayne Pivac will surely consider him for Test honours. John was 24 hours away from a starting debut for Wales against Scotland before the pandemic ended the 2020 Six Nations, so he will be keen to take this opportunity and live his dream.





Michael Ala’alatoa (Crusaders to Leinster)





May not seem like a flashy signing on the surface, but this is a big deal at the RDS. Ala’alatoa is Leinster’s first overseas signing since a certain Scott Fardy. Leo Cullen is clearly proud of the Irish representation in his squad, so it must take a lot to impress him.





Samoan skipper Ala’alatoa must have shown he can fit into Leinster’s system as their only foreign player. A solid scrummager and tackler, expect the prop to really kick on with the four-in-a-row champions.





Jac Morgan (Scarlets to Ospreys)





Young flanker Morgan is arguably Welsh rugby’s best uncapped player. In a move that shocked many Scarlets fans, he joined a club on the up, making astute signings on its way. Alex Cuthbert is another strong addition to Toby Booth’s squad. To take such a risk at 21, Morgan must believe the Ospreys coaches can help him develop into the fully-fledged international bruiser he could so very evidently become. 





Jac Morgan
Jac Morgan has routinely made his presence felt in the red of Scarlets, and was one of the league’s top performers last term (Getty Images)




Booth’s snapping up of Leinster academy backrow Will Hickey is another really smart piece of business – poaching one of the senior members of the best academy in world rugby surely can’t backfire. Hickey could be the next Tadhg Beirne, Sam Underhill or Robin Copeland – developing in Wales before moving back to their native country to seek international honours.





Asaeli Tuivuaka (Fiji Sevens to Zebre)





Zebre have long struggled to break into the top half of the table. What needs to change? The leadership? Maybe. The kicking strategy? Sure. The option to just chuck the ball to a Fijian Olympic gold medalist? Now we’re talking. After Edinburgh’s success in converting Rio 2016 champion Viliame Mata into a world-renowned number 8, not to mention Toulouse utilising the rampaging Semi Kunitani as a dynamic lock/flanker, this feels like a perfect signing for the Italian side.





Asaeli Tuivuaka
Asaeli Tuivuaka was a colossal member of Fiji’s all-conquering Olympic sevens side (Getty Images)




Simon Zebo (Racing 92 to Munster)





The last selection has to be Zebo, doesn’t it? Who doesn’t love the guy? A fun-loving winger who is exhilarating on the field and delightful off it, the return of the Cork man will have Munster fans drooling. The only downside is we no longer get to witness him chortling on the pitch with Finn Russell and Kurtley Beale. Instead, we will see the incisive back-three danger man cutting lines off World Cup winners Damien de Allende and RG Snyman.





Munster may be known for their direct style, and as opposing fans we’ve all sat through Thomond Park drubbings before, but with Zebo smiling to the cameras, nobody will accuse this man in red of being dull.





More stories from Will Owen







If you’ve enjoyed this article, please share it with friends or on social media. We rely solely on new subscribers to fund high-quality journalism and appreciate you sharing this so we can continue to grow, produce more quality content and support our writers.



Duane Vermeulen (Blue Bulls to Ulster)





If you’re named after a Marvel Superhero, you must have been doing something right. In a buccaneering Test career, the bearded 6ft 4in, 18st Springbok gained the moniker Thor for his rampaging busts in midfield, soft-hands out of contact – few will forget his sweet offload to Fourie du Preez in the 2015 Rugby World Cup quarter-final – and rib-clattering hits.





At 35, he may well be in the latter stages of his career, but if Alun Wyn Jones, and Johnny Sexton, who have both turned 36 in recent months, are still influential figures in the URC, then there is nothing stopping Vermeulen being a talisman around which the Ulster pack can thrive. It is a statement signing to signify a new era for the league.





Emiliano Boffelli (Racing 92 to Edinburgh)





Together with back-three compatriot Ramiro Moyano, Boffelli has made the switch from France to the Scottish capital. Only 26, it feels like he’s been around forever, given his maturity and composure at the highest level.





Emiliano Boffelli
Emiliano Boffelli was part of the Jaguares side that reached the 2019 Super Rugby final (Getty Images)




He will likely battle for the full-back jersey with incumbent Blair Kinghorn – another fleet-footed, solid 15 with a massive boot. Both are capable of playing on the wing and at fly-half, so it will be interesting to see how Mike Blair decides to use them.





Edwill van der Merwe (Stormers to Lions)





One of the hottest prospects in South African club rugby, Van der Merwe is a winger any spectator would be lucky to watch. At 25, he is soaring to peak form, having lit up the Currie Cup and conjured dazzling highlight-reel tries.





Van der Merwe could be one of the most exciting players in the league, and given Makazole Mapimpi’s Pro14 form prior to his Springbok call-up aged 28, don’t bet against the new Lion becoming a Test player. With 32-year-old sevens rapier Rosko Specman winning his first cap this year, it is evident Jacques Neinaber is happy to wait for his wingers to blossom.





WillGriff John (Sale to Scarlets)





A signing that could have implications for Wales’ front-row pecking order. With first-choice tight-head prop Tomas Francis also returning home from England, Scarlets have taken a gamble on John, a 127kg monster.





He will vie for regional selection with Samson Lee, and could pack down with Rob Evans and Ken Owens in a potent front trio. If John can prove a dominant scrummager, Wayne Pivac will surely consider him for Test honours. John was 24 hours away from a starting debut for Wales against Scotland before the pandemic ended the 2020 Six Nations, so he will be keen to take this opportunity and live his dream.





Michael Ala’alatoa (Crusaders to Leinster)





May not seem like a flashy signing on the surface, but this is a big deal at the RDS. Ala’alatoa is Leinster’s first overseas signing since a certain Scott Fardy. Leo Cullen is clearly proud of the Irish representation in his squad, so it must take a lot to impress him.





Samoan skipper Ala’alatoa must have shown he can fit into Leinster’s system as their only foreign player. A solid scrummager and tackler, expect the prop to really kick on with the four-in-a-row champions.





Jac Morgan (Scarlets to Ospreys)





Young flanker Morgan is arguably Welsh rugby’s best uncapped player. In a move that shocked many Scarlets fans, he joined a club on the up, making astute signings on its way. Alex Cuthbert is another strong addition to Toby Booth’s squad. To take such a risk at 21, Morgan must believe the Ospreys coaches can help him develop into the fully-fledged international bruiser he could so very evidently become. 





Jac Morgan
Jac Morgan has routinely made his presence felt in the red of Scarlets, and was one of the league’s top performers last term (Getty Images)




Booth’s snapping up of Leinster academy backrow Will Hickey is another really smart piece of business – poaching one of the senior members of the best academy in world rugby surely can’t backfire. Hickey could be the next Tadhg Beirne, Sam Underhill or Robin Copeland – developing in Wales before moving back to their native country to seek international honours.





Asaeli Tuivuaka (Fiji Sevens to Zebre)





Zebre have long struggled to break into the top half of the table. What needs to change? The leadership? Maybe. The kicking strategy? Sure. The option to just chuck the ball to a Fijian Olympic gold medalist? Now we’re talking. After Edinburgh’s success in converting Rio 2016 champion Viliame Mata into a world-renowned number 8, not to mention Toulouse utilising the rampaging Semi Kunitani as a dynamic lock/flanker, this feels like a perfect signing for the Italian side.





Asaeli Tuivuaka
Asaeli Tuivuaka was a colossal member of Fiji’s all-conquering Olympic sevens side (Getty Images)




Simon Zebo (Racing 92 to Munster)





The last selection has to be Zebo, doesn’t it? Who doesn’t love the guy? A fun-loving winger who is exhilarating on the field and delightful off it, the return of the Cork man will have Munster fans drooling. The only downside is we no longer get to witness him chortling on the pitch with Finn Russell and Kurtley Beale. Instead, we will see the incisive back-three danger man cutting lines off World Cup winners Damien de Allende and RG Snyman.





Munster may be known for their direct style, and as opposing fans we’ve all sat through Thomond Park drubbings before, but with Zebo smiling to the cameras, nobody will accuse this man in red of being dull.





More stories from Will Owen







If you’ve enjoyed this article, please share it with friends or on social media. We rely solely on new subscribers to fund high-quality journalism and appreciate you sharing this so we can continue to grow, produce more quality content and support our writers.



The roar of the crowd. The crackling anticipation of live rugby in pulsating stadia. The smell of linament wafting from changing rooms. The taste of lukewarm, hideously overpriced lager in plastic cups. The opportunity to sit down on a Friday night and watch Dragons playing Ulster. 





Yep, a new season is upon us, so what’s not to love?





With the dawn of each campaign comes acclimatisation. You ask why Benetton aren’t picking Paolo Garbisi before remembering he signed for Montpellier in the summer. You spend the first three weeks of the season deciding whether or not Domingo Miotti looks good in a Glasgow jersey. 





These are seminal months for the competition now formerly known as the Pro14. The arrival of South Africa’s heavyweight quartet, a glossy summer rebrand as the United Rugby Championship, and even a partnership with Jay-Z’s Roc Nation entertainment company.  





There have been some eye-catching signings in the off-season too, from a World Cup winner to an Olympic colossus, homecoming heroes to a gifted Welshman with a big future opting to switch regions. Here, The XV hand-picks some of the tastiest acquisitions for the championship ahead.





Duane Vermeulen (Blue Bulls to Ulster)





If you’re named after a Marvel Superhero, you must have been doing something right. In a buccaneering Test career, the bearded 6ft 4in, 18st Springbok gained the moniker Thor for his rampaging busts in midfield, soft-hands out of contact – few will forget his sweet offload to Fourie du Preez in the 2015 Rugby World Cup quarter-final – and rib-clattering hits.





At 35, he may well be in the latter stages of his career, but if Alun Wyn Jones, and Johnny Sexton, who have both turned 36 in recent months, are still influential figures in the URC, then there is nothing stopping Vermeulen being a talisman around which the Ulster pack can thrive. It is a statement signing to signify a new era for the league.





Emiliano Boffelli (Racing 92 to Edinburgh)





Together with back-three compatriot Ramiro Moyano, Boffelli has made the switch from France to the Scottish capital. Only 26, it feels like he’s been around forever, given his maturity and composure at the highest level.





Emiliano Boffelli
Emiliano Boffelli was part of the Jaguares side that reached the 2019 Super Rugby final (Getty Images)




He will likely battle for the full-back jersey with incumbent Blair Kinghorn – another fleet-footed, solid 15 with a massive boot. Both are capable of playing on the wing and at fly-half, so it will be interesting to see how Mike Blair decides to use them.





Edwill van der Merwe (Stormers to Lions)





One of the hottest prospects in South African club rugby, Van der Merwe is a winger any spectator would be lucky to watch. At 25, he is soaring to peak form, having lit up the Currie Cup and conjured dazzling highlight-reel tries.





Van der Merwe could be one of the most exciting players in the league, and given Makazole Mapimpi’s Pro14 form prior to his Springbok call-up aged 28, don’t bet against the new Lion becoming a Test player. With 32-year-old sevens rapier Rosko Specman winning his first cap this year, it is evident Jacques Neinaber is happy to wait for his wingers to blossom.





WillGriff John (Sale to Scarlets)





A signing that could have implications for Wales’ front-row pecking order. With first-choice tight-head prop Tomas Francis also returning home from England, Scarlets have taken a gamble on John, a 127kg monster.





He will vie for regional selection with Samson Lee, and could pack down with Rob Evans and Ken Owens in a potent front trio. If John can prove a dominant scrummager, Wayne Pivac will surely consider him for Test honours. John was 24 hours away from a starting debut for Wales against Scotland before the pandemic ended the 2020 Six Nations, so he will be keen to take this opportunity and live his dream.





Michael Ala’alatoa (Crusaders to Leinster)





May not seem like a flashy signing on the surface, but this is a big deal at the RDS. Ala’alatoa is Leinster’s first overseas signing since a certain Scott Fardy. Leo Cullen is clearly proud of the Irish representation in his squad, so it must take a lot to impress him.





Samoan skipper Ala’alatoa must have shown he can fit into Leinster’s system as their only foreign player. A solid scrummager and tackler, expect the prop to really kick on with the four-in-a-row champions.





Jac Morgan (Scarlets to Ospreys)





Young flanker Morgan is arguably Welsh rugby’s best uncapped player. In a move that shocked many Scarlets fans, he joined a club on the up, making astute signings on its way. Alex Cuthbert is another strong addition to Toby Booth’s squad. To take such a risk at 21, Morgan must believe the Ospreys coaches can help him develop into the fully-fledged international bruiser he could so very evidently become. 





Jac Morgan
Jac Morgan has routinely made his presence felt in the red of Scarlets, and was one of the league’s top performers last term (Getty Images)




Booth’s snapping up of Leinster academy backrow Will Hickey is another really smart piece of business – poaching one of the senior members of the best academy in world rugby surely can’t backfire. Hickey could be the next Tadhg Beirne, Sam Underhill or Robin Copeland – developing in Wales before moving back to their native country to seek international honours.





Asaeli Tuivuaka (Fiji Sevens to Zebre)





Zebre have long struggled to break into the top half of the table. What needs to change? The leadership? Maybe. The kicking strategy? Sure. The option to just chuck the ball to a Fijian Olympic gold medalist? Now we’re talking. After Edinburgh’s success in converting Rio 2016 champion Viliame Mata into a world-renowned number 8, not to mention Toulouse utilising the rampaging Semi Kunitani as a dynamic lock/flanker, this feels like a perfect signing for the Italian side.





Asaeli Tuivuaka
Asaeli Tuivuaka was a colossal member of Fiji’s all-conquering Olympic sevens side (Getty Images)




Simon Zebo (Racing 92 to Munster)





The last selection has to be Zebo, doesn’t it? Who doesn’t love the guy? A fun-loving winger who is exhilarating on the field and delightful off it, the return of the Cork man will have Munster fans drooling. The only downside is we no longer get to witness him chortling on the pitch with Finn Russell and Kurtley Beale. Instead, we will see the incisive back-three danger man cutting lines off World Cup winners Damien de Allende and RG Snyman.





Munster may be known for their direct style, and as opposing fans we’ve all sat through Thomond Park drubbings before, but with Zebo smiling to the cameras, nobody will accuse this man in red of being dull.





More stories from Will Owen







If you’ve enjoyed this article, please share it with friends or on social media. We rely solely on new subscribers to fund high-quality journalism and appreciate you sharing this so we can continue to grow, produce more quality content and support our writers.



Simon Zebo (Racing 92 to Munster)





The last selection has to be Zebo, doesn’t it? Who doesn’t love the guy? A fun-loving winger who is exhilarating on the field and delightful off it, the return of the Cork man will have Munster fans drooling. The only downside is we no longer get to witness him chortling on the pitch with Finn Russell and Kurtley Beale. Instead, we will see the incisive back-three danger man cutting lines off World Cup winners Damien de Allende and RG Snyman.





Munster may be known for their direct style, and as opposing fans we’ve all sat through Thomond Park drubbings before, but with Zebo smiling to the cameras, nobody will accuse this man in red of being dull.





More stories from Will Owen







If you’ve enjoyed this article, please share it with friends or on social media. We rely solely on new subscribers to fund high-quality journalism and appreciate you sharing this so we can continue to grow, produce more quality content and support our writers.



The roar of the crowd. The crackling anticipation of live rugby in pulsating stadia. The smell of linament wafting from changing rooms. The taste of lukewarm, hideously overpriced lager in plastic cups. The opportunity to sit down on a Friday night and watch Dragons playing Ulster. 





Yep, a new season is upon us, so what’s not to love?





With the dawn of each campaign comes acclimatisation. You ask why Benetton aren’t picking Paolo Garbisi before remembering he signed for Montpellier in the summer. You spend the first three weeks of the season deciding whether or not Domingo Miotti looks good in a Glasgow jersey. 





These are seminal months for the competition now formerly known as the Pro14. The arrival of South Africa’s heavyweight quartet, a glossy summer rebrand as the United Rugby Championship, and even a partnership with Jay-Z’s Roc Nation entertainment company.  





There have been some eye-catching signings in the off-season too, from a World Cup winner to an Olympic colossus, homecoming heroes to a gifted Welshman with a big future opting to switch regions. Here, The XV hand-picks some of the tastiest acquisitions for the championship ahead.





Duane Vermeulen (Blue Bulls to Ulster)





If you’re named after a Marvel Superhero, you must have been doing something right. In a buccaneering Test career, the bearded 6ft 4in, 18st Springbok gained the moniker Thor for his rampaging busts in midfield, soft-hands out of contact – few will forget his sweet offload to Fourie du Preez in the 2015 Rugby World Cup quarter-final – and rib-clattering hits.





At 35, he may well be in the latter stages of his career, but if Alun Wyn Jones, and Johnny Sexton, who have both turned 36 in recent months, are still influential figures in the URC, then there is nothing stopping Vermeulen being a talisman around which the Ulster pack can thrive. It is a statement signing to signify a new era for the league.





Emiliano Boffelli (Racing 92 to Edinburgh)





Together with back-three compatriot Ramiro Moyano, Boffelli has made the switch from France to the Scottish capital. Only 26, it feels like he’s been around forever, given his maturity and composure at the highest level.





Emiliano Boffelli
Emiliano Boffelli was part of the Jaguares side that reached the 2019 Super Rugby final (Getty Images)




He will likely battle for the full-back jersey with incumbent Blair Kinghorn – another fleet-footed, solid 15 with a massive boot. Both are capable of playing on the wing and at fly-half, so it will be interesting to see how Mike Blair decides to use them.





Edwill van der Merwe (Stormers to Lions)





One of the hottest prospects in South African club rugby, Van der Merwe is a winger any spectator would be lucky to watch. At 25, he is soaring to peak form, having lit up the Currie Cup and conjured dazzling highlight-reel tries.





Van der Merwe could be one of the most exciting players in the league, and given Makazole Mapimpi’s Pro14 form prior to his Springbok call-up aged 28, don’t bet against the new Lion becoming a Test player. With 32-year-old sevens rapier Rosko Specman winning his first cap this year, it is evident Jacques Neinaber is happy to wait for his wingers to blossom.





WillGriff John (Sale to Scarlets)





A signing that could have implications for Wales’ front-row pecking order. With first-choice tight-head prop Tomas Francis also returning home from England, Scarlets have taken a gamble on John, a 127kg monster.





He will vie for regional selection with Samson Lee, and could pack down with Rob Evans and Ken Owens in a potent front trio. If John can prove a dominant scrummager, Wayne Pivac will surely consider him for Test honours. John was 24 hours away from a starting debut for Wales against Scotland before the pandemic ended the 2020 Six Nations, so he will be keen to take this opportunity and live his dream.





Michael Ala’alatoa (Crusaders to Leinster)





May not seem like a flashy signing on the surface, but this is a big deal at the RDS. Ala’alatoa is Leinster’s first overseas signing since a certain Scott Fardy. Leo Cullen is clearly proud of the Irish representation in his squad, so it must take a lot to impress him.





Samoan skipper Ala’alatoa must have shown he can fit into Leinster’s system as their only foreign player. A solid scrummager and tackler, expect the prop to really kick on with the four-in-a-row champions.





Jac Morgan (Scarlets to Ospreys)





Young flanker Morgan is arguably Welsh rugby’s best uncapped player. In a move that shocked many Scarlets fans, he joined a club on the up, making astute signings on its way. Alex Cuthbert is another strong addition to Toby Booth’s squad. To take such a risk at 21, Morgan must believe the Ospreys coaches can help him develop into the fully-fledged international bruiser he could so very evidently become. 





Jac Morgan
Jac Morgan has routinely made his presence felt in the red of Scarlets, and was one of the league’s top performers last term (Getty Images)




Booth’s snapping up of Leinster academy backrow Will Hickey is another really smart piece of business – poaching one of the senior members of the best academy in world rugby surely can’t backfire. Hickey could be the next Tadhg Beirne, Sam Underhill or Robin Copeland – developing in Wales before moving back to their native country to seek international honours.





Asaeli Tuivuaka (Fiji Sevens to Zebre)





Zebre have long struggled to break into the top half of the table. What needs to change? The leadership? Maybe. The kicking strategy? Sure. The option to just chuck the ball to a Fijian Olympic gold medalist? Now we’re talking. After Edinburgh’s success in converting Rio 2016 champion Viliame Mata into a world-renowned number 8, not to mention Toulouse utilising the rampaging Semi Kunitani as a dynamic lock/flanker, this feels like a perfect signing for the Italian side.





Asaeli Tuivuaka
Asaeli Tuivuaka was a colossal member of Fiji’s all-conquering Olympic sevens side (Getty Images)




Simon Zebo (Racing 92 to Munster)





The last selection has to be Zebo, doesn’t it? Who doesn’t love the guy? A fun-loving winger who is exhilarating on the field and delightful off it, the return of the Cork man will have Munster fans drooling. The only downside is we no longer get to witness him chortling on the pitch with Finn Russell and Kurtley Beale. Instead, we will see the incisive back-three danger man cutting lines off World Cup winners Damien de Allende and RG Snyman.





Munster may be known for their direct style, and as opposing fans we’ve all sat through Thomond Park drubbings before, but with Zebo smiling to the cameras, nobody will accuse this man in red of being dull.





More stories from Will Owen







If you’ve enjoyed this article, please share it with friends or on social media. We rely solely on new subscribers to fund high-quality journalism and appreciate you sharing this so we can continue to grow, produce more quality content and support our writers.



Asaeli Tuivuaka (Fiji Sevens to Zebre)





Zebre have long struggled to break into the top half of the table. What needs to change? The leadership? Maybe. The kicking strategy? Sure. The option to just chuck the ball to a Fijian Olympic gold medalist? Now we’re talking. After Edinburgh’s success in converting Rio 2016 champion Viliame Mata into a world-renowned number 8, not to mention Toulouse utilising the rampaging Semi Kunitani as a dynamic lock/flanker, this feels like a perfect signing for the Italian side.





Asaeli Tuivuaka
Asaeli Tuivuaka was a colossal member of Fiji’s all-conquering Olympic sevens side (Getty Images)




Simon Zebo (Racing 92 to Munster)





The last selection has to be Zebo, doesn’t it? Who doesn’t love the guy? A fun-loving winger who is exhilarating on the field and delightful off it, the return of the Cork man will have Munster fans drooling. The only downside is we no longer get to witness him chortling on the pitch with Finn Russell and Kurtley Beale. Instead, we will see the incisive back-three danger man cutting lines off World Cup winners Damien de Allende and RG Snyman.





Munster may be known for their direct style, and as opposing fans we’ve all sat through Thomond Park drubbings before, but with Zebo smiling to the cameras, nobody will accuse this man in red of being dull.





More stories from Will Owen







If you’ve enjoyed this article, please share it with friends or on social media. We rely solely on new subscribers to fund high-quality journalism and appreciate you sharing this so we can continue to grow, produce more quality content and support our writers.



Jac Morgan (Scarlets to Ospreys)





Young flanker Morgan is arguably Welsh rugby’s best uncapped player. In a move that shocked many Scarlets fans, he joined a club on the up, making astute signings on its way. Alex Cuthbert is another strong addition to Toby Booth’s squad. To take such a risk at 21, Morgan must believe the Ospreys coaches can help him develop into the fully-fledged international bruiser he could so very evidently become. 





Jac Morgan
Jac Morgan has routinely made his presence felt in the red of Scarlets, and was one of the league’s top performers last term (Getty Images)




Booth’s snapping up of Leinster academy backrow Will Hickey is another really smart piece of business – poaching one of the senior members of the best academy in world rugby surely can’t backfire. Hickey could be the next Tadhg Beirne, Sam Underhill or Robin Copeland – developing in Wales before moving back to their native country to seek international honours.





Asaeli Tuivuaka (Fiji Sevens to Zebre)





Zebre have long struggled to break into the top half of the table. What needs to change? The leadership? Maybe. The kicking strategy? Sure. The option to just chuck the ball to a Fijian Olympic gold medalist? Now we’re talking. After Edinburgh’s success in converting Rio 2016 champion Viliame Mata into a world-renowned number 8, not to mention Toulouse utilising the rampaging Semi Kunitani as a dynamic lock/flanker, this feels like a perfect signing for the Italian side.





Asaeli Tuivuaka
Asaeli Tuivuaka was a colossal member of Fiji’s all-conquering Olympic sevens side (Getty Images)




Simon Zebo (Racing 92 to Munster)





The last selection has to be Zebo, doesn’t it? Who doesn’t love the guy? A fun-loving winger who is exhilarating on the field and delightful off it, the return of the Cork man will have Munster fans drooling. The only downside is we no longer get to witness him chortling on the pitch with Finn Russell and Kurtley Beale. Instead, we will see the incisive back-three danger man cutting lines off World Cup winners Damien de Allende and RG Snyman.





Munster may be known for their direct style, and as opposing fans we’ve all sat through Thomond Park drubbings before, but with Zebo smiling to the cameras, nobody will accuse this man in red of being dull.





More stories from Will Owen







If you’ve enjoyed this article, please share it with friends or on social media. We rely solely on new subscribers to fund high-quality journalism and appreciate you sharing this so we can continue to grow, produce more quality content and support our writers.



Michael Ala’alatoa (Crusaders to Leinster)





May not seem like a flashy signing on the surface, but this is a big deal at the RDS. Ala’alatoa is Leinster’s first overseas signing since a certain Scott Fardy. Leo Cullen is clearly proud of the Irish representation in his squad, so it must take a lot to impress him.





Samoan skipper Ala’alatoa must have shown he can fit into Leinster’s system as their only foreign player. A solid scrummager and tackler, expect the prop to really kick on with the four-in-a-row champions.





Jac Morgan (Scarlets to Ospreys)





Young flanker Morgan is arguably Welsh rugby’s best uncapped player. In a move that shocked many Scarlets fans, he joined a club on the up, making astute signings on its way. Alex Cuthbert is another strong addition to Toby Booth’s squad. To take such a risk at 21, Morgan must believe the Ospreys coaches can help him develop into the fully-fledged international bruiser he could so very evidently become. 





Jac Morgan
Jac Morgan has routinely made his presence felt in the red of Scarlets, and was one of the league’s top performers last term (Getty Images)




Booth’s snapping up of Leinster academy backrow Will Hickey is another really smart piece of business – poaching one of the senior members of the best academy in world rugby surely can’t backfire. Hickey could be the next Tadhg Beirne, Sam Underhill or Robin Copeland – developing in Wales before moving back to their native country to seek international honours.





Asaeli Tuivuaka (Fiji Sevens to Zebre)





Zebre have long struggled to break into the top half of the table. What needs to change? The leadership? Maybe. The kicking strategy? Sure. The option to just chuck the ball to a Fijian Olympic gold medalist? Now we’re talking. After Edinburgh’s success in converting Rio 2016 champion Viliame Mata into a world-renowned number 8, not to mention Toulouse utilising the rampaging Semi Kunitani as a dynamic lock/flanker, this feels like a perfect signing for the Italian side.





Asaeli Tuivuaka
Asaeli Tuivuaka was a colossal member of Fiji’s all-conquering Olympic sevens side (Getty Images)




Simon Zebo (Racing 92 to Munster)





The last selection has to be Zebo, doesn’t it? Who doesn’t love the guy? A fun-loving winger who is exhilarating on the field and delightful off it, the return of the Cork man will have Munster fans drooling. The only downside is we no longer get to witness him chortling on the pitch with Finn Russell and Kurtley Beale. Instead, we will see the incisive back-three danger man cutting lines off World Cup winners Damien de Allende and RG Snyman.





Munster may be known for their direct style, and as opposing fans we’ve all sat through Thomond Park drubbings before, but with Zebo smiling to the cameras, nobody will accuse this man in red of being dull.





More stories from Will Owen







If you’ve enjoyed this article, please share it with friends or on social media. We rely solely on new subscribers to fund high-quality journalism and appreciate you sharing this so we can continue to grow, produce more quality content and support our writers.



WillGriff John (Sale to Scarlets)





A signing that could have implications for Wales’ front-row pecking order. With first-choice tight-head prop Tomas Francis also returning home from England, Scarlets have taken a gamble on John, a 127kg monster.





He will vie for regional selection with Samson Lee, and could pack down with Rob Evans and Ken Owens in a potent front trio. If John can prove a dominant scrummager, Wayne Pivac will surely consider him for Test honours. John was 24 hours away from a starting debut for Wales against Scotland before the pandemic ended the 2020 Six Nations, so he will be keen to take this opportunity and live his dream.





Michael Ala’alatoa (Crusaders to Leinster)





May not seem like a flashy signing on the surface, but this is a big deal at the RDS. Ala’alatoa is Leinster’s first overseas signing since a certain Scott Fardy. Leo Cullen is clearly proud of the Irish representation in his squad, so it must take a lot to impress him.





Samoan skipper Ala’alatoa must have shown he can fit into Leinster’s system as their only foreign player. A solid scrummager and tackler, expect the prop to really kick on with the four-in-a-row champions.





Jac Morgan (Scarlets to Ospreys)





Young flanker Morgan is arguably Welsh rugby’s best uncapped player. In a move that shocked many Scarlets fans, he joined a club on the up, making astute signings on its way. Alex Cuthbert is another strong addition to Toby Booth’s squad. To take such a risk at 21, Morgan must believe the Ospreys coaches can help him develop into the fully-fledged international bruiser he could so very evidently become. 





Jac Morgan
Jac Morgan has routinely made his presence felt in the red of Scarlets, and was one of the league’s top performers last term (Getty Images)




Booth’s snapping up of Leinster academy backrow Will Hickey is another really smart piece of business – poaching one of the senior members of the best academy in world rugby surely can’t backfire. Hickey could be the next Tadhg Beirne, Sam Underhill or Robin Copeland – developing in Wales before moving back to their native country to seek international honours.





Asaeli Tuivuaka (Fiji Sevens to Zebre)





Zebre have long struggled to break into the top half of the table. What needs to change? The leadership? Maybe. The kicking strategy? Sure. The option to just chuck the ball to a Fijian Olympic gold medalist? Now we’re talking. After Edinburgh’s success in converting Rio 2016 champion Viliame Mata into a world-renowned number 8, not to mention Toulouse utilising the rampaging Semi Kunitani as a dynamic lock/flanker, this feels like a perfect signing for the Italian side.





Asaeli Tuivuaka
Asaeli Tuivuaka was a colossal member of Fiji’s all-conquering Olympic sevens side (Getty Images)




Simon Zebo (Racing 92 to Munster)





The last selection has to be Zebo, doesn’t it? Who doesn’t love the guy? A fun-loving winger who is exhilarating on the field and delightful off it, the return of the Cork man will have Munster fans drooling. The only downside is we no longer get to witness him chortling on the pitch with Finn Russell and Kurtley Beale. Instead, we will see the incisive back-three danger man cutting lines off World Cup winners Damien de Allende and RG Snyman.





Munster may be known for their direct style, and as opposing fans we’ve all sat through Thomond Park drubbings before, but with Zebo smiling to the cameras, nobody will accuse this man in red of being dull.





More stories from Will Owen







If you’ve enjoyed this article, please share it with friends or on social media. We rely solely on new subscribers to fund high-quality journalism and appreciate you sharing this so we can continue to grow, produce more quality content and support our writers.



Edwill van der Merwe (Stormers to Lions)





One of the hottest prospects in South African club rugby, Van der Merwe is a winger any spectator would be lucky to watch. At 25, he is soaring to peak form, having lit up the Currie Cup and conjured dazzling highlight-reel tries.





Van der Merwe could be one of the most exciting players in the league, and given Makazole Mapimpi’s Pro14 form prior to his Springbok call-up aged 28, don’t bet against the new Lion becoming a Test player. With 32-year-old sevens rapier Rosko Specman winning his first cap this year, it is evident Jacques Neinaber is happy to wait for his wingers to blossom.





WillGriff John (Sale to Scarlets)





A signing that could have implications for Wales’ front-row pecking order. With first-choice tight-head prop Tomas Francis also returning home from England, Scarlets have taken a gamble on John, a 127kg monster.





He will vie for regional selection with Samson Lee, and could pack down with Rob Evans and Ken Owens in a potent front trio. If John can prove a dominant scrummager, Wayne Pivac will surely consider him for Test honours. John was 24 hours away from a starting debut for Wales against Scotland before the pandemic ended the 2020 Six Nations, so he will be keen to take this opportunity and live his dream.





Michael Ala’alatoa (Crusaders to Leinster)





May not seem like a flashy signing on the surface, but this is a big deal at the RDS. Ala’alatoa is Leinster’s first overseas signing since a certain Scott Fardy. Leo Cullen is clearly proud of the Irish representation in his squad, so it must take a lot to impress him.





Samoan skipper Ala’alatoa must have shown he can fit into Leinster’s system as their only foreign player. A solid scrummager and tackler, expect the prop to really kick on with the four-in-a-row champions.





Jac Morgan (Scarlets to Ospreys)





Young flanker Morgan is arguably Welsh rugby’s best uncapped player. In a move that shocked many Scarlets fans, he joined a club on the up, making astute signings on its way. Alex Cuthbert is another strong addition to Toby Booth’s squad. To take such a risk at 21, Morgan must believe the Ospreys coaches can help him develop into the fully-fledged international bruiser he could so very evidently become. 





Jac Morgan
Jac Morgan has routinely made his presence felt in the red of Scarlets, and was one of the league’s top performers last term (Getty Images)




Booth’s snapping up of Leinster academy backrow Will Hickey is another really smart piece of business – poaching one of the senior members of the best academy in world rugby surely can’t backfire. Hickey could be the next Tadhg Beirne, Sam Underhill or Robin Copeland – developing in Wales before moving back to their native country to seek international honours.





Asaeli Tuivuaka (Fiji Sevens to Zebre)





Zebre have long struggled to break into the top half of the table. What needs to change? The leadership? Maybe. The kicking strategy? Sure. The option to just chuck the ball to a Fijian Olympic gold medalist? Now we’re talking. After Edinburgh’s success in converting Rio 2016 champion Viliame Mata into a world-renowned number 8, not to mention Toulouse utilising the rampaging Semi Kunitani as a dynamic lock/flanker, this feels like a perfect signing for the Italian side.





Asaeli Tuivuaka
Asaeli Tuivuaka was a colossal member of Fiji’s all-conquering Olympic sevens side (Getty Images)




Simon Zebo (Racing 92 to Munster)





The last selection has to be Zebo, doesn’t it? Who doesn’t love the guy? A fun-loving winger who is exhilarating on the field and delightful off it, the return of the Cork man will have Munster fans drooling. The only downside is we no longer get to witness him chortling on the pitch with Finn Russell and Kurtley Beale. Instead, we will see the incisive back-three danger man cutting lines off World Cup winners Damien de Allende and RG Snyman.





Munster may be known for their direct style, and as opposing fans we’ve all sat through Thomond Park drubbings before, but with Zebo smiling to the cameras, nobody will accuse this man in red of being dull.





More stories from Will Owen







If you’ve enjoyed this article, please share it with friends or on social media. We rely solely on new subscribers to fund high-quality journalism and appreciate you sharing this so we can continue to grow, produce more quality content and support our writers.



Emiliano Boffelli (Racing 92 to Edinburgh)





Together with back-three compatriot Ramiro Moyano, Boffelli has made the switch from France to the Scottish capital. Only 26, it feels like he’s been around forever, given his maturity and composure at the highest level.





Emiliano Boffelli
Emiliano Boffelli was part of the Jaguares side that reached the 2019 Super Rugby final (Getty Images)




He will likely battle for the full-back jersey with incumbent Blair Kinghorn – another fleet-footed, solid 15 with a massive boot. Both are capable of playing on the wing and at fly-half, so it will be interesting to see how Mike Blair decides to use them.





Edwill van der Merwe (Stormers to Lions)





One of the hottest prospects in South African club rugby, Van der Merwe is a winger any spectator would be lucky to watch. At 25, he is soaring to peak form, having lit up the Currie Cup and conjured dazzling highlight-reel tries.





Van der Merwe could be one of the most exciting players in the league, and given Makazole Mapimpi’s Pro14 form prior to his Springbok call-up aged 28, don’t bet against the new Lion becoming a Test player. With 32-year-old sevens rapier Rosko Specman winning his first cap this year, it is evident Jacques Neinaber is happy to wait for his wingers to blossom.





WillGriff John (Sale to Scarlets)





A signing that could have implications for Wales’ front-row pecking order. With first-choice tight-head prop Tomas Francis also returning home from England, Scarlets have taken a gamble on John, a 127kg monster.





He will vie for regional selection with Samson Lee, and could pack down with Rob Evans and Ken Owens in a potent front trio. If John can prove a dominant scrummager, Wayne Pivac will surely consider him for Test honours. John was 24 hours away from a starting debut for Wales against Scotland before the pandemic ended the 2020 Six Nations, so he will be keen to take this opportunity and live his dream.





Michael Ala’alatoa (Crusaders to Leinster)





May not seem like a flashy signing on the surface, but this is a big deal at the RDS. Ala’alatoa is Leinster’s first overseas signing since a certain Scott Fardy. Leo Cullen is clearly proud of the Irish representation in his squad, so it must take a lot to impress him.





Samoan skipper Ala’alatoa must have shown he can fit into Leinster’s system as their only foreign player. A solid scrummager and tackler, expect the prop to really kick on with the four-in-a-row champions.





Jac Morgan (Scarlets to Ospreys)





Young flanker Morgan is arguably Welsh rugby’s best uncapped player. In a move that shocked many Scarlets fans, he joined a club on the up, making astute signings on its way. Alex Cuthbert is another strong addition to Toby Booth’s squad. To take such a risk at 21, Morgan must believe the Ospreys coaches can help him develop into the fully-fledged international bruiser he could so very evidently become. 





Jac Morgan
Jac Morgan has routinely made his presence felt in the red of Scarlets, and was one of the league’s top performers last term (Getty Images)




Booth’s snapping up of Leinster academy backrow Will Hickey is another really smart piece of business – poaching one of the senior members of the best academy in world rugby surely can’t backfire. Hickey could be the next Tadhg Beirne, Sam Underhill or Robin Copeland – developing in Wales before moving back to their native country to seek international honours.





Asaeli Tuivuaka (Fiji Sevens to Zebre)





Zebre have long struggled to break into the top half of the table. What needs to change? The leadership? Maybe. The kicking strategy? Sure. The option to just chuck the ball to a Fijian Olympic gold medalist? Now we’re talking. After Edinburgh’s success in converting Rio 2016 champion Viliame Mata into a world-renowned number 8, not to mention Toulouse utilising the rampaging Semi Kunitani as a dynamic lock/flanker, this feels like a perfect signing for the Italian side.





Asaeli Tuivuaka
Asaeli Tuivuaka was a colossal member of Fiji’s all-conquering Olympic sevens side (Getty Images)




Simon Zebo (Racing 92 to Munster)





The last selection has to be Zebo, doesn’t it? Who doesn’t love the guy? A fun-loving winger who is exhilarating on the field and delightful off it, the return of the Cork man will have Munster fans drooling. The only downside is we no longer get to witness him chortling on the pitch with Finn Russell and Kurtley Beale. Instead, we will see the incisive back-three danger man cutting lines off World Cup winners Damien de Allende and RG Snyman.





Munster may be known for their direct style, and as opposing fans we’ve all sat through Thomond Park drubbings before, but with Zebo smiling to the cameras, nobody will accuse this man in red of being dull.





More stories from Will Owen







If you’ve enjoyed this article, please share it with friends or on social media. We rely solely on new subscribers to fund high-quality journalism and appreciate you sharing this so we can continue to grow, produce more quality content and support our writers.



Duane Vermeulen (Blue Bulls to Ulster)





If you’re named after a Marvel Superhero, you must have been doing something right. In a buccaneering Test career, the bearded 6ft 4in, 18st Springbok gained the moniker Thor for his rampaging busts in midfield, soft-hands out of contact – few will forget his sweet offload to Fourie du Preez in the 2015 Rugby World Cup quarter-final – and rib-clattering hits.





At 35, he may well be in the latter stages of his career, but if Alun Wyn Jones, and Johnny Sexton, who have both turned 36 in recent months, are still influential figures in the URC, then there is nothing stopping Vermeulen being a talisman around which the Ulster pack can thrive. It is a statement signing to signify a new era for the league.





Emiliano Boffelli (Racing 92 to Edinburgh)





Together with back-three compatriot Ramiro Moyano, Boffelli has made the switch from France to the Scottish capital. Only 26, it feels like he’s been around forever, given his maturity and composure at the highest level.





Emiliano Boffelli
Emiliano Boffelli was part of the Jaguares side that reached the 2019 Super Rugby final (Getty Images)




He will likely battle for the full-back jersey with incumbent Blair Kinghorn – another fleet-footed, solid 15 with a massive boot. Both are capable of playing on the wing and at fly-half, so it will be interesting to see how Mike Blair decides to use them.





Edwill van der Merwe (Stormers to Lions)





One of the hottest prospects in South African club rugby, Van der Merwe is a winger any spectator would be lucky to watch. At 25, he is soaring to peak form, having lit up the Currie Cup and conjured dazzling highlight-reel tries.





Van der Merwe could be one of the most exciting players in the league, and given Makazole Mapimpi’s Pro14 form prior to his Springbok call-up aged 28, don’t bet against the new Lion becoming a Test player. With 32-year-old sevens rapier Rosko Specman winning his first cap this year, it is evident Jacques Neinaber is happy to wait for his wingers to blossom.





WillGriff John (Sale to Scarlets)





A signing that could have implications for Wales’ front-row pecking order. With first-choice tight-head prop Tomas Francis also returning home from England, Scarlets have taken a gamble on John, a 127kg monster.





He will vie for regional selection with Samson Lee, and could pack down with Rob Evans and Ken Owens in a potent front trio. If John can prove a dominant scrummager, Wayne Pivac will surely consider him for Test honours. John was 24 hours away from a starting debut for Wales against Scotland before the pandemic ended the 2020 Six Nations, so he will be keen to take this opportunity and live his dream.





Michael Ala’alatoa (Crusaders to Leinster)





May not seem like a flashy signing on the surface, but this is a big deal at the RDS. Ala’alatoa is Leinster’s first overseas signing since a certain Scott Fardy. Leo Cullen is clearly proud of the Irish representation in his squad, so it must take a lot to impress him.





Samoan skipper Ala’alatoa must have shown he can fit into Leinster’s system as their only foreign player. A solid scrummager and tackler, expect the prop to really kick on with the four-in-a-row champions.





Jac Morgan (Scarlets to Ospreys)





Young flanker Morgan is arguably Welsh rugby’s best uncapped player. In a move that shocked many Scarlets fans, he joined a club on the up, making astute signings on its way. Alex Cuthbert is another strong addition to Toby Booth’s squad. To take such a risk at 21, Morgan must believe the Ospreys coaches can help him develop into the fully-fledged international bruiser he could so very evidently become. 





Jac Morgan
Jac Morgan has routinely made his presence felt in the red of Scarlets, and was one of the league’s top performers last term (Getty Images)




Booth’s snapping up of Leinster academy backrow Will Hickey is another really smart piece of business – poaching one of the senior members of the best academy in world rugby surely can’t backfire. Hickey could be the next Tadhg Beirne, Sam Underhill or Robin Copeland – developing in Wales before moving back to their native country to seek international honours.





Asaeli Tuivuaka (Fiji Sevens to Zebre)





Zebre have long struggled to break into the top half of the table. What needs to change? The leadership? Maybe. The kicking strategy? Sure. The option to just chuck the ball to a Fijian Olympic gold medalist? Now we’re talking. After Edinburgh’s success in converting Rio 2016 champion Viliame Mata into a world-renowned number 8, not to mention Toulouse utilising the rampaging Semi Kunitani as a dynamic lock/flanker, this feels like a perfect signing for the Italian side.





Asaeli Tuivuaka
Asaeli Tuivuaka was a colossal member of Fiji’s all-conquering Olympic sevens side (Getty Images)




Simon Zebo (Racing 92 to Munster)





The last selection has to be Zebo, doesn’t it? Who doesn’t love the guy? A fun-loving winger who is exhilarating on the field and delightful off it, the return of the Cork man will have Munster fans drooling. The only downside is we no longer get to witness him chortling on the pitch with Finn Russell and Kurtley Beale. Instead, we will see the incisive back-three danger man cutting lines off World Cup winners Damien de Allende and RG Snyman.





Munster may be known for their direct style, and as opposing fans we’ve all sat through Thomond Park drubbings before, but with Zebo smiling to the cameras, nobody will accuse this man in red of being dull.





More stories from Will Owen







If you’ve enjoyed this article, please share it with friends or on social media. We rely solely on new subscribers to fund high-quality journalism and appreciate you sharing this so we can continue to grow, produce more quality content and support our writers.



The roar of the crowd. The crackling anticipation of live rugby in pulsating stadia. The smell of linament wafting from changing rooms. The taste of lukewarm, hideously overpriced lager in plastic cups. The opportunity to sit down on a Friday night and watch Dragons playing Ulster. 





Yep, a new season is upon us, so what’s not to love?





With the dawn of each campaign comes acclimatisation. You ask why Benetton aren’t picking Paolo Garbisi before remembering he signed for Montpellier in the summer. You spend the first three weeks of the season deciding whether or not Domingo Miotti looks good in a Glasgow jersey. 





These are seminal months for the competition now formerly known as the Pro14. The arrival of South Africa’s heavyweight quartet, a glossy summer rebrand as the United Rugby Championship, and even a partnership with Jay-Z’s Roc Nation entertainment company.  





There have been some eye-catching signings in the off-season too, from a World Cup winner to an Olympic colossus, homecoming heroes to a gifted Welshman with a big future opting to switch regions. Here, The XV hand-picks some of the tastiest acquisitions for the championship ahead.





Duane Vermeulen (Blue Bulls to Ulster)





If you’re named after a Marvel Superhero, you must have been doing something right. In a buccaneering Test career, the bearded 6ft 4in, 18st Springbok gained the moniker Thor for his rampaging busts in midfield, soft-hands out of contact – few will forget his sweet offload to Fourie du Preez in the 2015 Rugby World Cup quarter-final – and rib-clattering hits.





At 35, he may well be in the latter stages of his career, but if Alun Wyn Jones, and Johnny Sexton, who have both turned 36 in recent months, are still influential figures in the URC, then there is nothing stopping Vermeulen being a talisman around which the Ulster pack can thrive. It is a statement signing to signify a new era for the league.





Emiliano Boffelli (Racing 92 to Edinburgh)





Together with back-three compatriot Ramiro Moyano, Boffelli has made the switch from France to the Scottish capital. Only 26, it feels like he’s been around forever, given his maturity and composure at the highest level.





Emiliano Boffelli
Emiliano Boffelli was part of the Jaguares side that reached the 2019 Super Rugby final (Getty Images)




He will likely battle for the full-back jersey with incumbent Blair Kinghorn – another fleet-footed, solid 15 with a massive boot. Both are capable of playing on the wing and at fly-half, so it will be interesting to see how Mike Blair decides to use them.





Edwill van der Merwe (Stormers to Lions)





One of the hottest prospects in South African club rugby, Van der Merwe is a winger any spectator would be lucky to watch. At 25, he is soaring to peak form, having lit up the Currie Cup and conjured dazzling highlight-reel tries.





Van der Merwe could be one of the most exciting players in the league, and given Makazole Mapimpi’s Pro14 form prior to his Springbok call-up aged 28, don’t bet against the new Lion becoming a Test player. With 32-year-old sevens rapier Rosko Specman winning his first cap this year, it is evident Jacques Neinaber is happy to wait for his wingers to blossom.





WillGriff John (Sale to Scarlets)





A signing that could have implications for Wales’ front-row pecking order. With first-choice tight-head prop Tomas Francis also returning home from England, Scarlets have taken a gamble on John, a 127kg monster.





He will vie for regional selection with Samson Lee, and could pack down with Rob Evans and Ken Owens in a potent front trio. If John can prove a dominant scrummager, Wayne Pivac will surely consider him for Test honours. John was 24 hours away from a starting debut for Wales against Scotland before the pandemic ended the 2020 Six Nations, so he will be keen to take this opportunity and live his dream.





Michael Ala’alatoa (Crusaders to Leinster)





May not seem like a flashy signing on the surface, but this is a big deal at the RDS. Ala’alatoa is Leinster’s first overseas signing since a certain Scott Fardy. Leo Cullen is clearly proud of the Irish representation in his squad, so it must take a lot to impress him.





Samoan skipper Ala’alatoa must have shown he can fit into Leinster’s system as their only foreign player. A solid scrummager and tackler, expect the prop to really kick on with the four-in-a-row champions.





Jac Morgan (Scarlets to Ospreys)





Young flanker Morgan is arguably Welsh rugby’s best uncapped player. In a move that shocked many Scarlets fans, he joined a club on the up, making astute signings on its way. Alex Cuthbert is another strong addition to Toby Booth’s squad. To take such a risk at 21, Morgan must believe the Ospreys coaches can help him develop into the fully-fledged international bruiser he could so very evidently become. 





Jac Morgan
Jac Morgan has routinely made his presence felt in the red of Scarlets, and was one of the league’s top performers last term (Getty Images)




Booth’s snapping up of Leinster academy backrow Will Hickey is another really smart piece of business – poaching one of the senior members of the best academy in world rugby surely can’t backfire. Hickey could be the next Tadhg Beirne, Sam Underhill or Robin Copeland – developing in Wales before moving back to their native country to seek international honours.





Asaeli Tuivuaka (Fiji Sevens to Zebre)





Zebre have long struggled to break into the top half of the table. What needs to change? The leadership? Maybe. The kicking strategy? Sure. The option to just chuck the ball to a Fijian Olympic gold medalist? Now we’re talking. After Edinburgh’s success in converting Rio 2016 champion Viliame Mata into a world-renowned number 8, not to mention Toulouse utilising the rampaging Semi Kunitani as a dynamic lock/flanker, this feels like a perfect signing for the Italian side.





Asaeli Tuivuaka
Asaeli Tuivuaka was a colossal member of Fiji’s all-conquering Olympic sevens side (Getty Images)




Simon Zebo (Racing 92 to Munster)





The last selection has to be Zebo, doesn’t it? Who doesn’t love the guy? A fun-loving winger who is exhilarating on the field and delightful off it, the return of the Cork man will have Munster fans drooling. The only downside is we no longer get to witness him chortling on the pitch with Finn Russell and Kurtley Beale. Instead, we will see the incisive back-three danger man cutting lines off World Cup winners Damien de Allende and RG Snyman.





Munster may be known for their direct style, and as opposing fans we’ve all sat through Thomond Park drubbings before, but with Zebo smiling to the cameras, nobody will accuse this man in red of being dull.





More stories from Will Owen







If you’ve enjoyed this article, please share it with friends or on social media. We rely solely on new subscribers to fund high-quality journalism and appreciate you sharing this so we can continue to grow, produce more quality content and support our writers.



Asaeli Tuivuaka (Fiji Sevens to Zebre)





Zebre have long struggled to break into the top half of the table. What needs to change? The leadership? Maybe. The kicking strategy? Sure. The option to just chuck the ball to a Fijian Olympic gold medalist? Now we’re talking. After Edinburgh’s success in converting Rio 2016 champion Viliame Mata into a world-renowned number 8, not to mention Toulouse utilising the rampaging Semi Kunitani as a dynamic lock/flanker, this feels like a perfect signing for the Italian side.





Asaeli Tuivuaka
Asaeli Tuivuaka was a colossal member of Fiji’s all-conquering Olympic sevens side (Getty Images)




Simon Zebo (Racing 92 to Munster)





The last selection has to be Zebo, doesn’t it? Who doesn’t love the guy? A fun-loving winger who is exhilarating on the field and delightful off it, the return of the Cork man will have Munster fans drooling. The only downside is we no longer get to witness him chortling on the pitch with Finn Russell and Kurtley Beale. Instead, we will see the incisive back-three danger man cutting lines off World Cup winners Damien de Allende and RG Snyman.





Munster may be known for their direct style, and as opposing fans we’ve all sat through Thomond Park drubbings before, but with Zebo smiling to the cameras, nobody will accuse this man in red of being dull.





More stories from Will Owen







If you’ve enjoyed this article, please share it with friends or on social media. We rely solely on new subscribers to fund high-quality journalism and appreciate you sharing this so we can continue to grow, produce more quality content and support our writers.



The roar of the crowd. The crackling anticipation of live rugby in pulsating stadia. The smell of linament wafting from changing rooms. The taste of lukewarm, hideously overpriced lager in plastic cups. The opportunity to sit down on a Friday night and watch Dragons playing Ulster. 





Yep, a new season is upon us, so what’s not to love?





With the dawn of each campaign comes acclimatisation. You ask why Benetton aren’t picking Paolo Garbisi before remembering he signed for Montpellier in the summer. You spend the first three weeks of the season deciding whether or not Domingo Miotti looks good in a Glasgow jersey. 





These are seminal months for the competition now formerly known as the Pro14. The arrival of South Africa’s heavyweight quartet, a glossy summer rebrand as the United Rugby Championship, and even a partnership with Jay-Z’s Roc Nation entertainment company.  





There have been some eye-catching signings in the off-season too, from a World Cup winner to an Olympic colossus, homecoming heroes to a gifted Welshman with a big future opting to switch regions. Here, The XV hand-picks some of the tastiest acquisitions for the championship ahead.





Duane Vermeulen (Blue Bulls to Ulster)





If you’re named after a Marvel Superhero, you must have been doing something right. In a buccaneering Test career, the bearded 6ft 4in, 18st Springbok gained the moniker Thor for his rampaging busts in midfield, soft-hands out of contact – few will forget his sweet offload to Fourie du Preez in the 2015 Rugby World Cup quarter-final – and rib-clattering hits.





At 35, he may well be in the latter stages of his career, but if Alun Wyn Jones, and Johnny Sexton, who have both turned 36 in recent months, are still influential figures in the URC, then there is nothing stopping Vermeulen being a talisman around which the Ulster pack can thrive. It is a statement signing to signify a new era for the league.





Emiliano Boffelli (Racing 92 to Edinburgh)





Together with back-three compatriot Ramiro Moyano, Boffelli has made the switch from France to the Scottish capital. Only 26, it feels like he’s been around forever, given his maturity and composure at the highest level.





Emiliano Boffelli
Emiliano Boffelli was part of the Jaguares side that reached the 2019 Super Rugby final (Getty Images)




He will likely battle for the full-back jersey with incumbent Blair Kinghorn – another fleet-footed, solid 15 with a massive boot. Both are capable of playing on the wing and at fly-half, so it will be interesting to see how Mike Blair decides to use them.





Edwill van der Merwe (Stormers to Lions)





One of the hottest prospects in South African club rugby, Van der Merwe is a winger any spectator would be lucky to watch. At 25, he is soaring to peak form, having lit up the Currie Cup and conjured dazzling highlight-reel tries.





Van der Merwe could be one of the most exciting players in the league, and given Makazole Mapimpi’s Pro14 form prior to his Springbok call-up aged 28, don’t bet against the new Lion becoming a Test player. With 32-year-old sevens rapier Rosko Specman winning his first cap this year, it is evident Jacques Neinaber is happy to wait for his wingers to blossom.





WillGriff John (Sale to Scarlets)





A signing that could have implications for Wales’ front-row pecking order. With first-choice tight-head prop Tomas Francis also returning home from England, Scarlets have taken a gamble on John, a 127kg monster.





He will vie for regional selection with Samson Lee, and could pack down with Rob Evans and Ken Owens in a potent front trio. If John can prove a dominant scrummager, Wayne Pivac will surely consider him for Test honours. John was 24 hours away from a starting debut for Wales against Scotland before the pandemic ended the 2020 Six Nations, so he will be keen to take this opportunity and live his dream.





Michael Ala’alatoa (Crusaders to Leinster)





May not seem like a flashy signing on the surface, but this is a big deal at the RDS. Ala’alatoa is Leinster’s first overseas signing since a certain Scott Fardy. Leo Cullen is clearly proud of the Irish representation in his squad, so it must take a lot to impress him.





Samoan skipper Ala’alatoa must have shown he can fit into Leinster’s system as their only foreign player. A solid scrummager and tackler, expect the prop to really kick on with the four-in-a-row champions.





Jac Morgan (Scarlets to Ospreys)





Young flanker Morgan is arguably Welsh rugby’s best uncapped player. In a move that shocked many Scarlets fans, he joined a club on the up, making astute signings on its way. Alex Cuthbert is another strong addition to Toby Booth’s squad. To take such a risk at 21, Morgan must believe the Ospreys coaches can help him develop into the fully-fledged international bruiser he could so very evidently become. 





Jac Morgan
Jac Morgan has routinely made his presence felt in the red of Scarlets, and was one of the league’s top performers last term (Getty Images)




Booth’s snapping up of Leinster academy backrow Will Hickey is another really smart piece of business – poaching one of the senior members of the best academy in world rugby surely can’t backfire. Hickey could be the next Tadhg Beirne, Sam Underhill or Robin Copeland – developing in Wales before moving back to their native country to seek international honours.





Asaeli Tuivuaka (Fiji Sevens to Zebre)





Zebre have long struggled to break into the top half of the table. What needs to change? The leadership? Maybe. The kicking strategy? Sure. The option to just chuck the ball to a Fijian Olympic gold medalist? Now we’re talking. After Edinburgh’s success in converting Rio 2016 champion Viliame Mata into a world-renowned number 8, not to mention Toulouse utilising the rampaging Semi Kunitani as a dynamic lock/flanker, this feels like a perfect signing for the Italian side.





Asaeli Tuivuaka
Asaeli Tuivuaka was a colossal member of Fiji’s all-conquering Olympic sevens side (Getty Images)




Simon Zebo (Racing 92 to Munster)





The last selection has to be Zebo, doesn’t it? Who doesn’t love the guy? A fun-loving winger who is exhilarating on the field and delightful off it, the return of the Cork man will have Munster fans drooling. The only downside is we no longer get to witness him chortling on the pitch with Finn Russell and Kurtley Beale. Instead, we will see the incisive back-three danger man cutting lines off World Cup winners Damien de Allende and RG Snyman.





Munster may be known for their direct style, and as opposing fans we’ve all sat through Thomond Park drubbings before, but with Zebo smiling to the cameras, nobody will accuse this man in red of being dull.





More stories from Will Owen







If you’ve enjoyed this article, please share it with friends or on social media. We rely solely on new subscribers to fund high-quality journalism and appreciate you sharing this so we can continue to grow, produce more quality content and support our writers.



Asaeli Tuivuaka (Fiji Sevens to Zebre)





Zebre have long struggled to break into the top half of the table. What needs to change? The leadership? Maybe. The kicking strategy? Sure. The option to just chuck the ball to a Fijian Olympic gold medalist? Now we’re talking. After Edinburgh’s success in converting Rio 2016 champion Viliame Mata into a world-renowned number 8, not to mention Toulouse utilising the rampaging Semi Kunitani as a dynamic lock/flanker, this feels like a perfect signing for the Italian side.





Asaeli Tuivuaka
Asaeli Tuivuaka was a colossal member of Fiji’s all-conquering Olympic sevens side (Getty Images)




Simon Zebo (Racing 92 to Munster)





The last selection has to be Zebo, doesn’t it? Who doesn’t love the guy? A fun-loving winger who is exhilarating on the field and delightful off it, the return of the Cork man will have Munster fans drooling. The only downside is we no longer get to witness him chortling on the pitch with Finn Russell and Kurtley Beale. Instead, we will see the incisive back-three danger man cutting lines off World Cup winners Damien de Allende and RG Snyman.





Munster may be known for their direct style, and as opposing fans we’ve all sat through Thomond Park drubbings before, but with Zebo smiling to the cameras, nobody will accuse this man in red of being dull.





More stories from Will Owen







If you’ve enjoyed this article, please share it with friends or on social media. We rely solely on new subscribers to fund high-quality journalism and appreciate you sharing this so we can continue to grow, produce more quality content and support our writers.



Jac Morgan (Scarlets to Ospreys)





Young flanker Morgan is arguably Welsh rugby’s best uncapped player. In a move that shocked many Scarlets fans, he joined a club on the up, making astute signings on its way. Alex Cuthbert is another strong addition to Toby Booth’s squad. To take such a risk at 21, Morgan must believe the Ospreys coaches can help him develop into the fully-fledged international bruiser he could so very evidently become. 





Jac Morgan
Jac Morgan has routinely made his presence felt in the red of Scarlets, and was one of the league’s top performers last term (Getty Images)




Booth’s snapping up of Leinster academy backrow Will Hickey is another really smart piece of business – poaching one of the senior members of the best academy in world rugby surely can’t backfire. Hickey could be the next Tadhg Beirne, Sam Underhill or Robin Copeland – developing in Wales before moving back to their native country to seek international honours.





Asaeli Tuivuaka (Fiji Sevens to Zebre)





Zebre have long struggled to break into the top half of the table. What needs to change? The leadership? Maybe. The kicking strategy? Sure. The option to just chuck the ball to a Fijian Olympic gold medalist? Now we’re talking. After Edinburgh’s success in converting Rio 2016 champion Viliame Mata into a world-renowned number 8, not to mention Toulouse utilising the rampaging Semi Kunitani as a dynamic lock/flanker, this feels like a perfect signing for the Italian side.





Asaeli Tuivuaka
Asaeli Tuivuaka was a colossal member of Fiji’s all-conquering Olympic sevens side (Getty Images)




Simon Zebo (Racing 92 to Munster)





The last selection has to be Zebo, doesn’t it? Who doesn’t love the guy? A fun-loving winger who is exhilarating on the field and delightful off it, the return of the Cork man will have Munster fans drooling. The only downside is we no longer get to witness him chortling on the pitch with Finn Russell and Kurtley Beale. Instead, we will see the incisive back-three danger man cutting lines off World Cup winners Damien de Allende and RG Snyman.





Munster may be known for their direct style, and as opposing fans we’ve all sat through Thomond Park drubbings before, but with Zebo smiling to the cameras, nobody will accuse this man in red of being dull.





More stories from Will Owen







If you’ve enjoyed this article, please share it with friends or on social media. We rely solely on new subscribers to fund high-quality journalism and appreciate you sharing this so we can continue to grow, produce more quality content and support our writers.



Michael Ala’alatoa (Crusaders to Leinster)





May not seem like a flashy signing on the surface, but this is a big deal at the RDS. Ala’alatoa is Leinster’s first overseas signing since a certain Scott Fardy. Leo Cullen is clearly proud of the Irish representation in his squad, so it must take a lot to impress him.





Samoan skipper Ala’alatoa must have shown he can fit into Leinster’s system as their only foreign player. A solid scrummager and tackler, expect the prop to really kick on with the four-in-a-row champions.





Jac Morgan (Scarlets to Ospreys)





Young flanker Morgan is arguably Welsh rugby’s best uncapped player. In a move that shocked many Scarlets fans, he joined a club on the up, making astute signings on its way. Alex Cuthbert is another strong addition to Toby Booth’s squad. To take such a risk at 21, Morgan must believe the Ospreys coaches can help him develop into the fully-fledged international bruiser he could so very evidently become. 





Jac Morgan
Jac Morgan has routinely made his presence felt in the red of Scarlets, and was one of the league’s top performers last term (Getty Images)




Booth’s snapping up of Leinster academy backrow Will Hickey is another really smart piece of business – poaching one of the senior members of the best academy in world rugby surely can’t backfire. Hickey could be the next Tadhg Beirne, Sam Underhill or Robin Copeland – developing in Wales before moving back to their native country to seek international honours.





Asaeli Tuivuaka (Fiji Sevens to Zebre)





Zebre have long struggled to break into the top half of the table. What needs to change? The leadership? Maybe. The kicking strategy? Sure. The option to just chuck the ball to a Fijian Olympic gold medalist? Now we’re talking. After Edinburgh’s success in converting Rio 2016 champion Viliame Mata into a world-renowned number 8, not to mention Toulouse utilising the rampaging Semi Kunitani as a dynamic lock/flanker, this feels like a perfect signing for the Italian side.





Asaeli Tuivuaka
Asaeli Tuivuaka was a colossal member of Fiji’s all-conquering Olympic sevens side (Getty Images)




Simon Zebo (Racing 92 to Munster)





The last selection has to be Zebo, doesn’t it? Who doesn’t love the guy? A fun-loving winger who is exhilarating on the field and delightful off it, the return of the Cork man will have Munster fans drooling. The only downside is we no longer get to witness him chortling on the pitch with Finn Russell and Kurtley Beale. Instead, we will see the incisive back-three danger man cutting lines off World Cup winners Damien de Allende and RG Snyman.





Munster may be known for their direct style, and as opposing fans we’ve all sat through Thomond Park drubbings before, but with Zebo smiling to the cameras, nobody will accuse this man in red of being dull.





More stories from Will Owen







If you’ve enjoyed this article, please share it with friends or on social media. We rely solely on new subscribers to fund high-quality journalism and appreciate you sharing this so we can continue to grow, produce more quality content and support our writers.



WillGriff John (Sale to Scarlets)





A signing that could have implications for Wales’ front-row pecking order. With first-choice tight-head prop Tomas Francis also returning home from England, Scarlets have taken a gamble on John, a 127kg monster.





He will vie for regional selection with Samson Lee, and could pack down with Rob Evans and Ken Owens in a potent front trio. If John can prove a dominant scrummager, Wayne Pivac will surely consider him for Test honours. John was 24 hours away from a starting debut for Wales against Scotland before the pandemic ended the 2020 Six Nations, so he will be keen to take this opportunity and live his dream.





Michael Ala’alatoa (Crusaders to Leinster)





May not seem like a flashy signing on the surface, but this is a big deal at the RDS. Ala’alatoa is Leinster’s first overseas signing since a certain Scott Fardy. Leo Cullen is clearly proud of the Irish representation in his squad, so it must take a lot to impress him.





Samoan skipper Ala’alatoa must have shown he can fit into Leinster’s system as their only foreign player. A solid scrummager and tackler, expect the prop to really kick on with the four-in-a-row champions.





Jac Morgan (Scarlets to Ospreys)





Young flanker Morgan is arguably Welsh rugby’s best uncapped player. In a move that shocked many Scarlets fans, he joined a club on the up, making astute signings on its way. Alex Cuthbert is another strong addition to Toby Booth’s squad. To take such a risk at 21, Morgan must believe the Ospreys coaches can help him develop into the fully-fledged international bruiser he could so very evidently become. 





Jac Morgan
Jac Morgan has routinely made his presence felt in the red of Scarlets, and was one of the league’s top performers last term (Getty Images)




Booth’s snapping up of Leinster academy backrow Will Hickey is another really smart piece of business – poaching one of the senior members of the best academy in world rugby surely can’t backfire. Hickey could be the next Tadhg Beirne, Sam Underhill or Robin Copeland – developing in Wales before moving back to their native country to seek international honours.





Asaeli Tuivuaka (Fiji Sevens to Zebre)





Zebre have long struggled to break into the top half of the table. What needs to change? The leadership? Maybe. The kicking strategy? Sure. The option to just chuck the ball to a Fijian Olympic gold medalist? Now we’re talking. After Edinburgh’s success in converting Rio 2016 champion Viliame Mata into a world-renowned number 8, not to mention Toulouse utilising the rampaging Semi Kunitani as a dynamic lock/flanker, this feels like a perfect signing for the Italian side.





Asaeli Tuivuaka
Asaeli Tuivuaka was a colossal member of Fiji’s all-conquering Olympic sevens side (Getty Images)




Simon Zebo (Racing 92 to Munster)





The last selection has to be Zebo, doesn’t it? Who doesn’t love the guy? A fun-loving winger who is exhilarating on the field and delightful off it, the return of the Cork man will have Munster fans drooling. The only downside is we no longer get to witness him chortling on the pitch with Finn Russell and Kurtley Beale. Instead, we will see the incisive back-three danger man cutting lines off World Cup winners Damien de Allende and RG Snyman.





Munster may be known for their direct style, and as opposing fans we’ve all sat through Thomond Park drubbings before, but with Zebo smiling to the cameras, nobody will accuse this man in red of being dull.





More stories from Will Owen







If you’ve enjoyed this article, please share it with friends or on social media. We rely solely on new subscribers to fund high-quality journalism and appreciate you sharing this so we can continue to grow, produce more quality content and support our writers.



Edwill van der Merwe (Stormers to Lions)





One of the hottest prospects in South African club rugby, Van der Merwe is a winger any spectator would be lucky to watch. At 25, he is soaring to peak form, having lit up the Currie Cup and conjured dazzling highlight-reel tries.





Van der Merwe could be one of the most exciting players in the league, and given Makazole Mapimpi’s Pro14 form prior to his Springbok call-up aged 28, don’t bet against the new Lion becoming a Test player. With 32-year-old sevens rapier Rosko Specman winning his first cap this year, it is evident Jacques Neinaber is happy to wait for his wingers to blossom.





WillGriff John (Sale to Scarlets)





A signing that could have implications for Wales’ front-row pecking order. With first-choice tight-head prop Tomas Francis also returning home from England, Scarlets have taken a gamble on John, a 127kg monster.





He will vie for regional selection with Samson Lee, and could pack down with Rob Evans and Ken Owens in a potent front trio. If John can prove a dominant scrummager, Wayne Pivac will surely consider him for Test honours. John was 24 hours away from a starting debut for Wales against Scotland before the pandemic ended the 2020 Six Nations, so he will be keen to take this opportunity and live his dream.





Michael Ala’alatoa (Crusaders to Leinster)





May not seem like a flashy signing on the surface, but this is a big deal at the RDS. Ala’alatoa is Leinster’s first overseas signing since a certain Scott Fardy. Leo Cullen is clearly proud of the Irish representation in his squad, so it must take a lot to impress him.





Samoan skipper Ala’alatoa must have shown he can fit into Leinster’s system as their only foreign player. A solid scrummager and tackler, expect the prop to really kick on with the four-in-a-row champions.





Jac Morgan (Scarlets to Ospreys)





Young flanker Morgan is arguably Welsh rugby’s best uncapped player. In a move that shocked many Scarlets fans, he joined a club on the up, making astute signings on its way. Alex Cuthbert is another strong addition to Toby Booth’s squad. To take such a risk at 21, Morgan must believe the Ospreys coaches can help him develop into the fully-fledged international bruiser he could so very evidently become. 





Jac Morgan
Jac Morgan has routinely made his presence felt in the red of Scarlets, and was one of the league’s top performers last term (Getty Images)




Booth’s snapping up of Leinster academy backrow Will Hickey is another really smart piece of business – poaching one of the senior members of the best academy in world rugby surely can’t backfire. Hickey could be the next Tadhg Beirne, Sam Underhill or Robin Copeland – developing in Wales before moving back to their native country to seek international honours.





Asaeli Tuivuaka (Fiji Sevens to Zebre)





Zebre have long struggled to break into the top half of the table. What needs to change? The leadership? Maybe. The kicking strategy? Sure. The option to just chuck the ball to a Fijian Olympic gold medalist? Now we’re talking. After Edinburgh’s success in converting Rio 2016 champion Viliame Mata into a world-renowned number 8, not to mention Toulouse utilising the rampaging Semi Kunitani as a dynamic lock/flanker, this feels like a perfect signing for the Italian side.





Asaeli Tuivuaka
Asaeli Tuivuaka was a colossal member of Fiji’s all-conquering Olympic sevens side (Getty Images)




Simon Zebo (Racing 92 to Munster)





The last selection has to be Zebo, doesn’t it? Who doesn’t love the guy? A fun-loving winger who is exhilarating on the field and delightful off it, the return of the Cork man will have Munster fans drooling. The only downside is we no longer get to witness him chortling on the pitch with Finn Russell and Kurtley Beale. Instead, we will see the incisive back-three danger man cutting lines off World Cup winners Damien de Allende and RG Snyman.





Munster may be known for their direct style, and as opposing fans we’ve all sat through Thomond Park drubbings before, but with Zebo smiling to the cameras, nobody will accuse this man in red of being dull.





More stories from Will Owen







If you’ve enjoyed this article, please share it with friends or on social media. We rely solely on new subscribers to fund high-quality journalism and appreciate you sharing this so we can continue to grow, produce more quality content and support our writers.



Emiliano Boffelli (Racing 92 to Edinburgh)





Together with back-three compatriot Ramiro Moyano, Boffelli has made the switch from France to the Scottish capital. Only 26, it feels like he’s been around forever, given his maturity and composure at the highest level.





Emiliano Boffelli
Emiliano Boffelli was part of the Jaguares side that reached the 2019 Super Rugby final (Getty Images)




He will likely battle for the full-back jersey with incumbent Blair Kinghorn – another fleet-footed, solid 15 with a massive boot. Both are capable of playing on the wing and at fly-half, so it will be interesting to see how Mike Blair decides to use them.





Edwill van der Merwe (Stormers to Lions)





One of the hottest prospects in South African club rugby, Van der Merwe is a winger any spectator would be lucky to watch. At 25, he is soaring to peak form, having lit up the Currie Cup and conjured dazzling highlight-reel tries.





Van der Merwe could be one of the most exciting players in the league, and given Makazole Mapimpi’s Pro14 form prior to his Springbok call-up aged 28, don’t bet against the new Lion becoming a Test player. With 32-year-old sevens rapier Rosko Specman winning his first cap this year, it is evident Jacques Neinaber is happy to wait for his wingers to blossom.





WillGriff John (Sale to Scarlets)





A signing that could have implications for Wales’ front-row pecking order. With first-choice tight-head prop Tomas Francis also returning home from England, Scarlets have taken a gamble on John, a 127kg monster.





He will vie for regional selection with Samson Lee, and could pack down with Rob Evans and Ken Owens in a potent front trio. If John can prove a dominant scrummager, Wayne Pivac will surely consider him for Test honours. John was 24 hours away from a starting debut for Wales against Scotland before the pandemic ended the 2020 Six Nations, so he will be keen to take this opportunity and live his dream.





Michael Ala’alatoa (Crusaders to Leinster)





May not seem like a flashy signing on the surface, but this is a big deal at the RDS. Ala’alatoa is Leinster’s first overseas signing since a certain Scott Fardy. Leo Cullen is clearly proud of the Irish representation in his squad, so it must take a lot to impress him.





Samoan skipper Ala’alatoa must have shown he can fit into Leinster’s system as their only foreign player. A solid scrummager and tackler, expect the prop to really kick on with the four-in-a-row champions.





Jac Morgan (Scarlets to Ospreys)





Young flanker Morgan is arguably Welsh rugby’s best uncapped player. In a move that shocked many Scarlets fans, he joined a club on the up, making astute signings on its way. Alex Cuthbert is another strong addition to Toby Booth’s squad. To take such a risk at 21, Morgan must believe the Ospreys coaches can help him develop into the fully-fledged international bruiser he could so very evidently become. 





Jac Morgan
Jac Morgan has routinely made his presence felt in the red of Scarlets, and was one of the league’s top performers last term (Getty Images)




Booth’s snapping up of Leinster academy backrow Will Hickey is another really smart piece of business – poaching one of the senior members of the best academy in world rugby surely can’t backfire. Hickey could be the next Tadhg Beirne, Sam Underhill or Robin Copeland – developing in Wales before moving back to their native country to seek international honours.





Asaeli Tuivuaka (Fiji Sevens to Zebre)





Zebre have long struggled to break into the top half of the table. What needs to change? The leadership? Maybe. The kicking strategy? Sure. The option to just chuck the ball to a Fijian Olympic gold medalist? Now we’re talking. After Edinburgh’s success in converting Rio 2016 champion Viliame Mata into a world-renowned number 8, not to mention Toulouse utilising the rampaging Semi Kunitani as a dynamic lock/flanker, this feels like a perfect signing for the Italian side.





Asaeli Tuivuaka
Asaeli Tuivuaka was a colossal member of Fiji’s all-conquering Olympic sevens side (Getty Images)




Simon Zebo (Racing 92 to Munster)





The last selection has to be Zebo, doesn’t it? Who doesn’t love the guy? A fun-loving winger who is exhilarating on the field and delightful off it, the return of the Cork man will have Munster fans drooling. The only downside is we no longer get to witness him chortling on the pitch with Finn Russell and Kurtley Beale. Instead, we will see the incisive back-three danger man cutting lines off World Cup winners Damien de Allende and RG Snyman.





Munster may be known for their direct style, and as opposing fans we’ve all sat through Thomond Park drubbings before, but with Zebo smiling to the cameras, nobody will accuse this man in red of being dull.





More stories from Will Owen







If you’ve enjoyed this article, please share it with friends or on social media. We rely solely on new subscribers to fund high-quality journalism and appreciate you sharing this so we can continue to grow, produce more quality content and support our writers.



Duane Vermeulen (Blue Bulls to Ulster)





If you’re named after a Marvel Superhero, you must have been doing something right. In a buccaneering Test career, the bearded 6ft 4in, 18st Springbok gained the moniker Thor for his rampaging busts in midfield, soft-hands out of contact – few will forget his sweet offload to Fourie du Preez in the 2015 Rugby World Cup quarter-final – and rib-clattering hits.





At 35, he may well be in the latter stages of his career, but if Alun Wyn Jones, and Johnny Sexton, who have both turned 36 in recent months, are still influential figures in the URC, then there is nothing stopping Vermeulen being a talisman around which the Ulster pack can thrive. It is a statement signing to signify a new era for the league.





Emiliano Boffelli (Racing 92 to Edinburgh)





Together with back-three compatriot Ramiro Moyano, Boffelli has made the switch from France to the Scottish capital. Only 26, it feels like he’s been around forever, given his maturity and composure at the highest level.





Emiliano Boffelli
Emiliano Boffelli was part of the Jaguares side that reached the 2019 Super Rugby final (Getty Images)




He will likely battle for the full-back jersey with incumbent Blair Kinghorn – another fleet-footed, solid 15 with a massive boot. Both are capable of playing on the wing and at fly-half, so it will be interesting to see how Mike Blair decides to use them.





Edwill van der Merwe (Stormers to Lions)





One of the hottest prospects in South African club rugby, Van der Merwe is a winger any spectator would be lucky to watch. At 25, he is soaring to peak form, having lit up the Currie Cup and conjured dazzling highlight-reel tries.





Van der Merwe could be one of the most exciting players in the league, and given Makazole Mapimpi’s Pro14 form prior to his Springbok call-up aged 28, don’t bet against the new Lion becoming a Test player. With 32-year-old sevens rapier Rosko Specman winning his first cap this year, it is evident Jacques Neinaber is happy to wait for his wingers to blossom.





WillGriff John (Sale to Scarlets)





A signing that could have implications for Wales’ front-row pecking order. With first-choice tight-head prop Tomas Francis also returning home from England, Scarlets have taken a gamble on John, a 127kg monster.





He will vie for regional selection with Samson Lee, and could pack down with Rob Evans and Ken Owens in a potent front trio. If John can prove a dominant scrummager, Wayne Pivac will surely consider him for Test honours. John was 24 hours away from a starting debut for Wales against Scotland before the pandemic ended the 2020 Six Nations, so he will be keen to take this opportunity and live his dream.





Michael Ala’alatoa (Crusaders to Leinster)





May not seem like a flashy signing on the surface, but this is a big deal at the RDS. Ala’alatoa is Leinster’s first overseas signing since a certain Scott Fardy. Leo Cullen is clearly proud of the Irish representation in his squad, so it must take a lot to impress him.





Samoan skipper Ala’alatoa must have shown he can fit into Leinster’s system as their only foreign player. A solid scrummager and tackler, expect the prop to really kick on with the four-in-a-row champions.





Jac Morgan (Scarlets to Ospreys)





Young flanker Morgan is arguably Welsh rugby’s best uncapped player. In a move that shocked many Scarlets fans, he joined a club on the up, making astute signings on its way. Alex Cuthbert is another strong addition to Toby Booth’s squad. To take such a risk at 21, Morgan must believe the Ospreys coaches can help him develop into the fully-fledged international bruiser he could so very evidently become. 





Jac Morgan
Jac Morgan has routinely made his presence felt in the red of Scarlets, and was one of the league’s top performers last term (Getty Images)




Booth’s snapping up of Leinster academy backrow Will Hickey is another really smart piece of business – poaching one of the senior members of the best academy in world rugby surely can’t backfire. Hickey could be the next Tadhg Beirne, Sam Underhill or Robin Copeland – developing in Wales before moving back to their native country to seek international honours.





Asaeli Tuivuaka (Fiji Sevens to Zebre)





Zebre have long struggled to break into the top half of the table. What needs to change? The leadership? Maybe. The kicking strategy? Sure. The option to just chuck the ball to a Fijian Olympic gold medalist? Now we’re talking. After Edinburgh’s success in converting Rio 2016 champion Viliame Mata into a world-renowned number 8, not to mention Toulouse utilising the rampaging Semi Kunitani as a dynamic lock/flanker, this feels like a perfect signing for the Italian side.





Asaeli Tuivuaka
Asaeli Tuivuaka was a colossal member of Fiji’s all-conquering Olympic sevens side (Getty Images)




Simon Zebo (Racing 92 to Munster)





The last selection has to be Zebo, doesn’t it? Who doesn’t love the guy? A fun-loving winger who is exhilarating on the field and delightful off it, the return of the Cork man will have Munster fans drooling. The only downside is we no longer get to witness him chortling on the pitch with Finn Russell and Kurtley Beale. Instead, we will see the incisive back-three danger man cutting lines off World Cup winners Damien de Allende and RG Snyman.





Munster may be known for their direct style, and as opposing fans we’ve all sat through Thomond Park drubbings before, but with Zebo smiling to the cameras, nobody will accuse this man in red of being dull.





More stories from Will Owen







If you’ve enjoyed this article, please share it with friends or on social media. We rely solely on new subscribers to fund high-quality journalism and appreciate you sharing this so we can continue to grow, produce more quality content and support our writers.



The roar of the crowd. The crackling anticipation of live rugby in pulsating stadia. The smell of linament wafting from changing rooms. The taste of lukewarm, hideously overpriced lager in plastic cups. The opportunity to sit down on a Friday night and watch Dragons playing Ulster. 





Yep, a new season is upon us, so what’s not to love?





With the dawn of each campaign comes acclimatisation. You ask why Benetton aren’t picking Paolo Garbisi before remembering he signed for Montpellier in the summer. You spend the first three weeks of the season deciding whether or not Domingo Miotti looks good in a Glasgow jersey. 





These are seminal months for the competition now formerly known as the Pro14. The arrival of South Africa’s heavyweight quartet, a glossy summer rebrand as the United Rugby Championship, and even a partnership with Jay-Z’s Roc Nation entertainment company.  





There have been some eye-catching signings in the off-season too, from a World Cup winner to an Olympic colossus, homecoming heroes to a gifted Welshman with a big future opting to switch regions. Here, The XV hand-picks some of the tastiest acquisitions for the championship ahead.





Duane Vermeulen (Blue Bulls to Ulster)





If you’re named after a Marvel Superhero, you must have been doing something right. In a buccaneering Test career, the bearded 6ft 4in, 18st Springbok gained the moniker Thor for his rampaging busts in midfield, soft-hands out of contact – few will forget his sweet offload to Fourie du Preez in the 2015 Rugby World Cup quarter-final – and rib-clattering hits.





At 35, he may well be in the latter stages of his career, but if Alun Wyn Jones, and Johnny Sexton, who have both turned 36 in recent months, are still influential figures in the URC, then there is nothing stopping Vermeulen being a talisman around which the Ulster pack can thrive. It is a statement signing to signify a new era for the league.





Emiliano Boffelli (Racing 92 to Edinburgh)





Together with back-three compatriot Ramiro Moyano, Boffelli has made the switch from France to the Scottish capital. Only 26, it feels like he’s been around forever, given his maturity and composure at the highest level.





Emiliano Boffelli
Emiliano Boffelli was part of the Jaguares side that reached the 2019 Super Rugby final (Getty Images)




He will likely battle for the full-back jersey with incumbent Blair Kinghorn – another fleet-footed, solid 15 with a massive boot. Both are capable of playing on the wing and at fly-half, so it will be interesting to see how Mike Blair decides to use them.





Edwill van der Merwe (Stormers to Lions)





One of the hottest prospects in South African club rugby, Van der Merwe is a winger any spectator would be lucky to watch. At 25, he is soaring to peak form, having lit up the Currie Cup and conjured dazzling highlight-reel tries.





Van der Merwe could be one of the most exciting players in the league, and given Makazole Mapimpi’s Pro14 form prior to his Springbok call-up aged 28, don’t bet against the new Lion becoming a Test player. With 32-year-old sevens rapier Rosko Specman winning his first cap this year, it is evident Jacques Neinaber is happy to wait for his wingers to blossom.





WillGriff John (Sale to Scarlets)





A signing that could have implications for Wales’ front-row pecking order. With first-choice tight-head prop Tomas Francis also returning home from England, Scarlets have taken a gamble on John, a 127kg monster.





He will vie for regional selection with Samson Lee, and could pack down with Rob Evans and Ken Owens in a potent front trio. If John can prove a dominant scrummager, Wayne Pivac will surely consider him for Test honours. John was 24 hours away from a starting debut for Wales against Scotland before the pandemic ended the 2020 Six Nations, so he will be keen to take this opportunity and live his dream.





Michael Ala’alatoa (Crusaders to Leinster)





May not seem like a flashy signing on the surface, but this is a big deal at the RDS. Ala’alatoa is Leinster’s first overseas signing since a certain Scott Fardy. Leo Cullen is clearly proud of the Irish representation in his squad, so it must take a lot to impress him.





Samoan skipper Ala’alatoa must have shown he can fit into Leinster’s system as their only foreign player. A solid scrummager and tackler, expect the prop to really kick on with the four-in-a-row champions.





Jac Morgan (Scarlets to Ospreys)





Young flanker Morgan is arguably Welsh rugby’s best uncapped player. In a move that shocked many Scarlets fans, he joined a club on the up, making astute signings on its way. Alex Cuthbert is another strong addition to Toby Booth’s squad. To take such a risk at 21, Morgan must believe the Ospreys coaches can help him develop into the fully-fledged international bruiser he could so very evidently become. 





Jac Morgan
Jac Morgan has routinely made his presence felt in the red of Scarlets, and was one of the league’s top performers last term (Getty Images)




Booth’s snapping up of Leinster academy backrow Will Hickey is another really smart piece of business – poaching one of the senior members of the best academy in world rugby surely can’t backfire. Hickey could be the next Tadhg Beirne, Sam Underhill or Robin Copeland – developing in Wales before moving back to their native country to seek international honours.





Asaeli Tuivuaka (Fiji Sevens to Zebre)





Zebre have long struggled to break into the top half of the table. What needs to change? The leadership? Maybe. The kicking strategy? Sure. The option to just chuck the ball to a Fijian Olympic gold medalist? Now we’re talking. After Edinburgh’s success in converting Rio 2016 champion Viliame Mata into a world-renowned number 8, not to mention Toulouse utilising the rampaging Semi Kunitani as a dynamic lock/flanker, this feels like a perfect signing for the Italian side.





Asaeli Tuivuaka
Asaeli Tuivuaka was a colossal member of Fiji’s all-conquering Olympic sevens side (Getty Images)




Simon Zebo (Racing 92 to Munster)





The last selection has to be Zebo, doesn’t it? Who doesn’t love the guy? A fun-loving winger who is exhilarating on the field and delightful off it, the return of the Cork man will have Munster fans drooling. The only downside is we no longer get to witness him chortling on the pitch with Finn Russell and Kurtley Beale. Instead, we will see the incisive back-three danger man cutting lines off World Cup winners Damien de Allende and RG Snyman.





Munster may be known for their direct style, and as opposing fans we’ve all sat through Thomond Park drubbings before, but with Zebo smiling to the cameras, nobody will accuse this man in red of being dull.





More stories from Will Owen







If you’ve enjoyed this article, please share it with friends or on social media. We rely solely on new subscribers to fund high-quality journalism and appreciate you sharing this so we can continue to grow, produce more quality content and support our writers.



Jac Morgan (Scarlets to Ospreys)





Young flanker Morgan is arguably Welsh rugby’s best uncapped player. In a move that shocked many Scarlets fans, he joined a club on the up, making astute signings on its way. Alex Cuthbert is another strong addition to Toby Booth’s squad. To take such a risk at 21, Morgan must believe the Ospreys coaches can help him develop into the fully-fledged international bruiser he could so very evidently become. 





Jac Morgan
Jac Morgan has routinely made his presence felt in the red of Scarlets, and was one of the league’s top performers last term (Getty Images)




Booth’s snapping up of Leinster academy backrow Will Hickey is another really smart piece of business – poaching one of the senior members of the best academy in world rugby surely can’t backfire. Hickey could be the next Tadhg Beirne, Sam Underhill or Robin Copeland – developing in Wales before moving back to their native country to seek international honours.





Asaeli Tuivuaka (Fiji Sevens to Zebre)





Zebre have long struggled to break into the top half of the table. What needs to change? The leadership? Maybe. The kicking strategy? Sure. The option to just chuck the ball to a Fijian Olympic gold medalist? Now we’re talking. After Edinburgh’s success in converting Rio 2016 champion Viliame Mata into a world-renowned number 8, not to mention Toulouse utilising the rampaging Semi Kunitani as a dynamic lock/flanker, this feels like a perfect signing for the Italian side.





Asaeli Tuivuaka
Asaeli Tuivuaka was a colossal member of Fiji’s all-conquering Olympic sevens side (Getty Images)




Simon Zebo (Racing 92 to Munster)





The last selection has to be Zebo, doesn’t it? Who doesn’t love the guy? A fun-loving winger who is exhilarating on the field and delightful off it, the return of the Cork man will have Munster fans drooling. The only downside is we no longer get to witness him chortling on the pitch with Finn Russell and Kurtley Beale. Instead, we will see the incisive back-three danger man cutting lines off World Cup winners Damien de Allende and RG Snyman.





Munster may be known for their direct style, and as opposing fans we’ve all sat through Thomond Park drubbings before, but with Zebo smiling to the cameras, nobody will accuse this man in red of being dull.





More stories from Will Owen







If you’ve enjoyed this article, please share it with friends or on social media. We rely solely on new subscribers to fund high-quality journalism and appreciate you sharing this so we can continue to grow, produce more quality content and support our writers.



The roar of the crowd. The crackling anticipation of live rugby in pulsating stadia. The smell of linament wafting from changing rooms. The taste of lukewarm, hideously overpriced lager in plastic cups. The opportunity to sit down on a Friday night and watch Dragons playing Ulster. 





Yep, a new season is upon us, so what’s not to love?





With the dawn of each campaign comes acclimatisation. You ask why Benetton aren’t picking Paolo Garbisi before remembering he signed for Montpellier in the summer. You spend the first three weeks of the season deciding whether or not Domingo Miotti looks good in a Glasgow jersey. 





These are seminal months for the competition now formerly known as the Pro14. The arrival of South Africa’s heavyweight quartet, a glossy summer rebrand as the United Rugby Championship, and even a partnership with Jay-Z’s Roc Nation entertainment company.  





There have been some eye-catching signings in the off-season too, from a World Cup winner to an Olympic colossus, homecoming heroes to a gifted Welshman with a big future opting to switch regions. Here, The XV hand-picks some of the tastiest acquisitions for the championship ahead.





Duane Vermeulen (Blue Bulls to Ulster)





If you’re named after a Marvel Superhero, you must have been doing something right. In a buccaneering Test career, the bearded 6ft 4in, 18st Springbok gained the moniker Thor for his rampaging busts in midfield, soft-hands out of contact – few will forget his sweet offload to Fourie du Preez in the 2015 Rugby World Cup quarter-final – and rib-clattering hits.





At 35, he may well be in the latter stages of his career, but if Alun Wyn Jones, and Johnny Sexton, who have both turned 36 in recent months, are still influential figures in the URC, then there is nothing stopping Vermeulen being a talisman around which the Ulster pack can thrive. It is a statement signing to signify a new era for the league.





Emiliano Boffelli (Racing 92 to Edinburgh)





Together with back-three compatriot Ramiro Moyano, Boffelli has made the switch from France to the Scottish capital. Only 26, it feels like he’s been around forever, given his maturity and composure at the highest level.





Emiliano Boffelli
Emiliano Boffelli was part of the Jaguares side that reached the 2019 Super Rugby final (Getty Images)




He will likely battle for the full-back jersey with incumbent Blair Kinghorn – another fleet-footed, solid 15 with a massive boot. Both are capable of playing on the wing and at fly-half, so it will be interesting to see how Mike Blair decides to use them.





Edwill van der Merwe (Stormers to Lions)





One of the hottest prospects in South African club rugby, Van der Merwe is a winger any spectator would be lucky to watch. At 25, he is soaring to peak form, having lit up the Currie Cup and conjured dazzling highlight-reel tries.





Van der Merwe could be one of the most exciting players in the league, and given Makazole Mapimpi’s Pro14 form prior to his Springbok call-up aged 28, don’t bet against the new Lion becoming a Test player. With 32-year-old sevens rapier Rosko Specman winning his first cap this year, it is evident Jacques Neinaber is happy to wait for his wingers to blossom.





WillGriff John (Sale to Scarlets)





A signing that could have implications for Wales’ front-row pecking order. With first-choice tight-head prop Tomas Francis also returning home from England, Scarlets have taken a gamble on John, a 127kg monster.





He will vie for regional selection with Samson Lee, and could pack down with Rob Evans and Ken Owens in a potent front trio. If John can prove a dominant scrummager, Wayne Pivac will surely consider him for Test honours. John was 24 hours away from a starting debut for Wales against Scotland before the pandemic ended the 2020 Six Nations, so he will be keen to take this opportunity and live his dream.





Michael Ala’alatoa (Crusaders to Leinster)





May not seem like a flashy signing on the surface, but this is a big deal at the RDS. Ala’alatoa is Leinster’s first overseas signing since a certain Scott Fardy. Leo Cullen is clearly proud of the Irish representation in his squad, so it must take a lot to impress him.





Samoan skipper Ala’alatoa must have shown he can fit into Leinster’s system as their only foreign player. A solid scrummager and tackler, expect the prop to really kick on with the four-in-a-row champions.





Jac Morgan (Scarlets to Ospreys)





Young flanker Morgan is arguably Welsh rugby’s best uncapped player. In a move that shocked many Scarlets fans, he joined a club on the up, making astute signings on its way. Alex Cuthbert is another strong addition to Toby Booth’s squad. To take such a risk at 21, Morgan must believe the Ospreys coaches can help him develop into the fully-fledged international bruiser he could so very evidently become. 





Jac Morgan
Jac Morgan has routinely made his presence felt in the red of Scarlets, and was one of the league’s top performers last term (Getty Images)




Booth’s snapping up of Leinster academy backrow Will Hickey is another really smart piece of business – poaching one of the senior members of the best academy in world rugby surely can’t backfire. Hickey could be the next Tadhg Beirne, Sam Underhill or Robin Copeland – developing in Wales before moving back to their native country to seek international honours.





Asaeli Tuivuaka (Fiji Sevens to Zebre)





Zebre have long struggled to break into the top half of the table. What needs to change? The leadership? Maybe. The kicking strategy? Sure. The option to just chuck the ball to a Fijian Olympic gold medalist? Now we’re talking. After Edinburgh’s success in converting Rio 2016 champion Viliame Mata into a world-renowned number 8, not to mention Toulouse utilising the rampaging Semi Kunitani as a dynamic lock/flanker, this feels like a perfect signing for the Italian side.





Asaeli Tuivuaka
Asaeli Tuivuaka was a colossal member of Fiji’s all-conquering Olympic sevens side (Getty Images)




Simon Zebo (Racing 92 to Munster)





The last selection has to be Zebo, doesn’t it? Who doesn’t love the guy? A fun-loving winger who is exhilarating on the field and delightful off it, the return of the Cork man will have Munster fans drooling. The only downside is we no longer get to witness him chortling on the pitch with Finn Russell and Kurtley Beale. Instead, we will see the incisive back-three danger man cutting lines off World Cup winners Damien de Allende and RG Snyman.





Munster may be known for their direct style, and as opposing fans we’ve all sat through Thomond Park drubbings before, but with Zebo smiling to the cameras, nobody will accuse this man in red of being dull.





More stories from Will Owen







If you’ve enjoyed this article, please share it with friends or on social media. We rely solely on new subscribers to fund high-quality journalism and appreciate you sharing this so we can continue to grow, produce more quality content and support our writers.



Asaeli Tuivuaka (Fiji Sevens to Zebre)





Zebre have long struggled to break into the top half of the table. What needs to change? The leadership? Maybe. The kicking strategy? Sure. The option to just chuck the ball to a Fijian Olympic gold medalist? Now we’re talking. After Edinburgh’s success in converting Rio 2016 champion Viliame Mata into a world-renowned number 8, not to mention Toulouse utilising the rampaging Semi Kunitani as a dynamic lock/flanker, this feels like a perfect signing for the Italian side.





Asaeli Tuivuaka
Asaeli Tuivuaka was a colossal member of Fiji’s all-conquering Olympic sevens side (Getty Images)




Simon Zebo (Racing 92 to Munster)





The last selection has to be Zebo, doesn’t it? Who doesn’t love the guy? A fun-loving winger who is exhilarating on the field and delightful off it, the return of the Cork man will have Munster fans drooling. The only downside is we no longer get to witness him chortling on the pitch with Finn Russell and Kurtley Beale. Instead, we will see the incisive back-three danger man cutting lines off World Cup winners Damien de Allende and RG Snyman.





Munster may be known for their direct style, and as opposing fans we’ve all sat through Thomond Park drubbings before, but with Zebo smiling to the cameras, nobody will accuse this man in red of being dull.





More stories from Will Owen







If you’ve enjoyed this article, please share it with friends or on social media. We rely solely on new subscribers to fund high-quality journalism and appreciate you sharing this so we can continue to grow, produce more quality content and support our writers.



Jac Morgan (Scarlets to Ospreys)





Young flanker Morgan is arguably Welsh rugby’s best uncapped player. In a move that shocked many Scarlets fans, he joined a club on the up, making astute signings on its way. Alex Cuthbert is another strong addition to Toby Booth’s squad. To take such a risk at 21, Morgan must believe the Ospreys coaches can help him develop into the fully-fledged international bruiser he could so very evidently become. 





Jac Morgan
Jac Morgan has routinely made his presence felt in the red of Scarlets, and was one of the league’s top performers last term (Getty Images)




Booth’s snapping up of Leinster academy backrow Will Hickey is another really smart piece of business – poaching one of the senior members of the best academy in world rugby surely can’t backfire. Hickey could be the next Tadhg Beirne, Sam Underhill or Robin Copeland – developing in Wales before moving back to their native country to seek international honours.





Asaeli Tuivuaka (Fiji Sevens to Zebre)





Zebre have long struggled to break into the top half of the table. What needs to change? The leadership? Maybe. The kicking strategy? Sure. The option to just chuck the ball to a Fijian Olympic gold medalist? Now we’re talking. After Edinburgh’s success in converting Rio 2016 champion Viliame Mata into a world-renowned number 8, not to mention Toulouse utilising the rampaging Semi Kunitani as a dynamic lock/flanker, this feels like a perfect signing for the Italian side.





Asaeli Tuivuaka
Asaeli Tuivuaka was a colossal member of Fiji’s all-conquering Olympic sevens side (Getty Images)




Simon Zebo (Racing 92 to Munster)





The last selection has to be Zebo, doesn’t it? Who doesn’t love the guy? A fun-loving winger who is exhilarating on the field and delightful off it, the return of the Cork man will have Munster fans drooling. The only downside is we no longer get to witness him chortling on the pitch with Finn Russell and Kurtley Beale. Instead, we will see the incisive back-three danger man cutting lines off World Cup winners Damien de Allende and RG Snyman.





Munster may be known for their direct style, and as opposing fans we’ve all sat through Thomond Park drubbings before, but with Zebo smiling to the cameras, nobody will accuse this man in red of being dull.





More stories from Will Owen







If you’ve enjoyed this article, please share it with friends or on social media. We rely solely on new subscribers to fund high-quality journalism and appreciate you sharing this so we can continue to grow, produce more quality content and support our writers.



Michael Ala’alatoa (Crusaders to Leinster)





May not seem like a flashy signing on the surface, but this is a big deal at the RDS. Ala’alatoa is Leinster’s first overseas signing since a certain Scott Fardy. Leo Cullen is clearly proud of the Irish representation in his squad, so it must take a lot to impress him.





Samoan skipper Ala’alatoa must have shown he can fit into Leinster’s system as their only foreign player. A solid scrummager and tackler, expect the prop to really kick on with the four-in-a-row champions.





Jac Morgan (Scarlets to Ospreys)





Young flanker Morgan is arguably Welsh rugby’s best uncapped player. In a move that shocked many Scarlets fans, he joined a club on the up, making astute signings on its way. Alex Cuthbert is another strong addition to Toby Booth’s squad. To take such a risk at 21, Morgan must believe the Ospreys coaches can help him develop into the fully-fledged international bruiser he could so very evidently become. 





Jac Morgan
Jac Morgan has routinely made his presence felt in the red of Scarlets, and was one of the league’s top performers last term (Getty Images)




Booth’s snapping up of Leinster academy backrow Will Hickey is another really smart piece of business – poaching one of the senior members of the best academy in world rugby surely can’t backfire. Hickey could be the next Tadhg Beirne, Sam Underhill or Robin Copeland – developing in Wales before moving back to their native country to seek international honours.





Asaeli Tuivuaka (Fiji Sevens to Zebre)





Zebre have long struggled to break into the top half of the table. What needs to change? The leadership? Maybe. The kicking strategy? Sure. The option to just chuck the ball to a Fijian Olympic gold medalist? Now we’re talking. After Edinburgh’s success in converting Rio 2016 champion Viliame Mata into a world-renowned number 8, not to mention Toulouse utilising the rampaging Semi Kunitani as a dynamic lock/flanker, this feels like a perfect signing for the Italian side.





Asaeli Tuivuaka
Asaeli Tuivuaka was a colossal member of Fiji’s all-conquering Olympic sevens side (Getty Images)




Simon Zebo (Racing 92 to Munster)





The last selection has to be Zebo, doesn’t it? Who doesn’t love the guy? A fun-loving winger who is exhilarating on the field and delightful off it, the return of the Cork man will have Munster fans drooling. The only downside is we no longer get to witness him chortling on the pitch with Finn Russell and Kurtley Beale. Instead, we will see the incisive back-three danger man cutting lines off World Cup winners Damien de Allende and RG Snyman.





Munster may be known for their direct style, and as opposing fans we’ve all sat through Thomond Park drubbings before, but with Zebo smiling to the cameras, nobody will accuse this man in red of being dull.





More stories from Will Owen







If you’ve enjoyed this article, please share it with friends or on social media. We rely solely on new subscribers to fund high-quality journalism and appreciate you sharing this so we can continue to grow, produce more quality content and support our writers.



WillGriff John (Sale to Scarlets)





A signing that could have implications for Wales’ front-row pecking order. With first-choice tight-head prop Tomas Francis also returning home from England, Scarlets have taken a gamble on John, a 127kg monster.





He will vie for regional selection with Samson Lee, and could pack down with Rob Evans and Ken Owens in a potent front trio. If John can prove a dominant scrummager, Wayne Pivac will surely consider him for Test honours. John was 24 hours away from a starting debut for Wales against Scotland before the pandemic ended the 2020 Six Nations, so he will be keen to take this opportunity and live his dream.





Michael Ala’alatoa (Crusaders to Leinster)





May not seem like a flashy signing on the surface, but this is a big deal at the RDS. Ala’alatoa is Leinster’s first overseas signing since a certain Scott Fardy. Leo Cullen is clearly proud of the Irish representation in his squad, so it must take a lot to impress him.





Samoan skipper Ala’alatoa must have shown he can fit into Leinster’s system as their only foreign player. A solid scrummager and tackler, expect the prop to really kick on with the four-in-a-row champions.





Jac Morgan (Scarlets to Ospreys)





Young flanker Morgan is arguably Welsh rugby’s best uncapped player. In a move that shocked many Scarlets fans, he joined a club on the up, making astute signings on its way. Alex Cuthbert is another strong addition to Toby Booth’s squad. To take such a risk at 21, Morgan must believe the Ospreys coaches can help him develop into the fully-fledged international bruiser he could so very evidently become. 





Jac Morgan
Jac Morgan has routinely made his presence felt in the red of Scarlets, and was one of the league’s top performers last term (Getty Images)




Booth’s snapping up of Leinster academy backrow Will Hickey is another really smart piece of business – poaching one of the senior members of the best academy in world rugby surely can’t backfire. Hickey could be the next Tadhg Beirne, Sam Underhill or Robin Copeland – developing in Wales before moving back to their native country to seek international honours.





Asaeli Tuivuaka (Fiji Sevens to Zebre)





Zebre have long struggled to break into the top half of the table. What needs to change? The leadership? Maybe. The kicking strategy? Sure. The option to just chuck the ball to a Fijian Olympic gold medalist? Now we’re talking. After Edinburgh’s success in converting Rio 2016 champion Viliame Mata into a world-renowned number 8, not to mention Toulouse utilising the rampaging Semi Kunitani as a dynamic lock/flanker, this feels like a perfect signing for the Italian side.





Asaeli Tuivuaka
Asaeli Tuivuaka was a colossal member of Fiji’s all-conquering Olympic sevens side (Getty Images)




Simon Zebo (Racing 92 to Munster)





The last selection has to be Zebo, doesn’t it? Who doesn’t love the guy? A fun-loving winger who is exhilarating on the field and delightful off it, the return of the Cork man will have Munster fans drooling. The only downside is we no longer get to witness him chortling on the pitch with Finn Russell and Kurtley Beale. Instead, we will see the incisive back-three danger man cutting lines off World Cup winners Damien de Allende and RG Snyman.





Munster may be known for their direct style, and as opposing fans we’ve all sat through Thomond Park drubbings before, but with Zebo smiling to the cameras, nobody will accuse this man in red of being dull.





More stories from Will Owen







If you’ve enjoyed this article, please share it with friends or on social media. We rely solely on new subscribers to fund high-quality journalism and appreciate you sharing this so we can continue to grow, produce more quality content and support our writers.



Edwill van der Merwe (Stormers to Lions)





One of the hottest prospects in South African club rugby, Van der Merwe is a winger any spectator would be lucky to watch. At 25, he is soaring to peak form, having lit up the Currie Cup and conjured dazzling highlight-reel tries.





Van der Merwe could be one of the most exciting players in the league, and given Makazole Mapimpi’s Pro14 form prior to his Springbok call-up aged 28, don’t bet against the new Lion becoming a Test player. With 32-year-old sevens rapier Rosko Specman winning his first cap this year, it is evident Jacques Neinaber is happy to wait for his wingers to blossom.





WillGriff John (Sale to Scarlets)





A signing that could have implications for Wales’ front-row pecking order. With first-choice tight-head prop Tomas Francis also returning home from England, Scarlets have taken a gamble on John, a 127kg monster.





He will vie for regional selection with Samson Lee, and could pack down with Rob Evans and Ken Owens in a potent front trio. If John can prove a dominant scrummager, Wayne Pivac will surely consider him for Test honours. John was 24 hours away from a starting debut for Wales against Scotland before the pandemic ended the 2020 Six Nations, so he will be keen to take this opportunity and live his dream.





Michael Ala’alatoa (Crusaders to Leinster)





May not seem like a flashy signing on the surface, but this is a big deal at the RDS. Ala’alatoa is Leinster’s first overseas signing since a certain Scott Fardy. Leo Cullen is clearly proud of the Irish representation in his squad, so it must take a lot to impress him.





Samoan skipper Ala’alatoa must have shown he can fit into Leinster’s system as their only foreign player. A solid scrummager and tackler, expect the prop to really kick on with the four-in-a-row champions.





Jac Morgan (Scarlets to Ospreys)





Young flanker Morgan is arguably Welsh rugby’s best uncapped player. In a move that shocked many Scarlets fans, he joined a club on the up, making astute signings on its way. Alex Cuthbert is another strong addition to Toby Booth’s squad. To take such a risk at 21, Morgan must believe the Ospreys coaches can help him develop into the fully-fledged international bruiser he could so very evidently become. 





Jac Morgan
Jac Morgan has routinely made his presence felt in the red of Scarlets, and was one of the league’s top performers last term (Getty Images)




Booth’s snapping up of Leinster academy backrow Will Hickey is another really smart piece of business – poaching one of the senior members of the best academy in world rugby surely can’t backfire. Hickey could be the next Tadhg Beirne, Sam Underhill or Robin Copeland – developing in Wales before moving back to their native country to seek international honours.





Asaeli Tuivuaka (Fiji Sevens to Zebre)





Zebre have long struggled to break into the top half of the table. What needs to change? The leadership? Maybe. The kicking strategy? Sure. The option to just chuck the ball to a Fijian Olympic gold medalist? Now we’re talking. After Edinburgh’s success in converting Rio 2016 champion Viliame Mata into a world-renowned number 8, not to mention Toulouse utilising the rampaging Semi Kunitani as a dynamic lock/flanker, this feels like a perfect signing for the Italian side.





Asaeli Tuivuaka
Asaeli Tuivuaka was a colossal member of Fiji’s all-conquering Olympic sevens side (Getty Images)




Simon Zebo (Racing 92 to Munster)





The last selection has to be Zebo, doesn’t it? Who doesn’t love the guy? A fun-loving winger who is exhilarating on the field and delightful off it, the return of the Cork man will have Munster fans drooling. The only downside is we no longer get to witness him chortling on the pitch with Finn Russell and Kurtley Beale. Instead, we will see the incisive back-three danger man cutting lines off World Cup winners Damien de Allende and RG Snyman.





Munster may be known for their direct style, and as opposing fans we’ve all sat through Thomond Park drubbings before, but with Zebo smiling to the cameras, nobody will accuse this man in red of being dull.





More stories from Will Owen







If you’ve enjoyed this article, please share it with friends or on social media. We rely solely on new subscribers to fund high-quality journalism and appreciate you sharing this so we can continue to grow, produce more quality content and support our writers.



Emiliano Boffelli (Racing 92 to Edinburgh)





Together with back-three compatriot Ramiro Moyano, Boffelli has made the switch from France to the Scottish capital. Only 26, it feels like he’s been around forever, given his maturity and composure at the highest level.





Emiliano Boffelli
Emiliano Boffelli was part of the Jaguares side that reached the 2019 Super Rugby final (Getty Images)




He will likely battle for the full-back jersey with incumbent Blair Kinghorn – another fleet-footed, solid 15 with a massive boot. Both are capable of playing on the wing and at fly-half, so it will be interesting to see how Mike Blair decides to use them.





Edwill van der Merwe (Stormers to Lions)





One of the hottest prospects in South African club rugby, Van der Merwe is a winger any spectator would be lucky to watch. At 25, he is soaring to peak form, having lit up the Currie Cup and conjured dazzling highlight-reel tries.





Van der Merwe could be one of the most exciting players in the league, and given Makazole Mapimpi’s Pro14 form prior to his Springbok call-up aged 28, don’t bet against the new Lion becoming a Test player. With 32-year-old sevens rapier Rosko Specman winning his first cap this year, it is evident Jacques Neinaber is happy to wait for his wingers to blossom.





WillGriff John (Sale to Scarlets)





A signing that could have implications for Wales’ front-row pecking order. With first-choice tight-head prop Tomas Francis also returning home from England, Scarlets have taken a gamble on John, a 127kg monster.





He will vie for regional selection with Samson Lee, and could pack down with Rob Evans and Ken Owens in a potent front trio. If John can prove a dominant scrummager, Wayne Pivac will surely consider him for Test honours. John was 24 hours away from a starting debut for Wales against Scotland before the pandemic ended the 2020 Six Nations, so he will be keen to take this opportunity and live his dream.





Michael Ala’alatoa (Crusaders to Leinster)





May not seem like a flashy signing on the surface, but this is a big deal at the RDS. Ala’alatoa is Leinster’s first overseas signing since a certain Scott Fardy. Leo Cullen is clearly proud of the Irish representation in his squad, so it must take a lot to impress him.





Samoan skipper Ala’alatoa must have shown he can fit into Leinster’s system as their only foreign player. A solid scrummager and tackler, expect the prop to really kick on with the four-in-a-row champions.





Jac Morgan (Scarlets to Ospreys)





Young flanker Morgan is arguably Welsh rugby’s best uncapped player. In a move that shocked many Scarlets fans, he joined a club on the up, making astute signings on its way. Alex Cuthbert is another strong addition to Toby Booth’s squad. To take such a risk at 21, Morgan must believe the Ospreys coaches can help him develop into the fully-fledged international bruiser he could so very evidently become. 





Jac Morgan
Jac Morgan has routinely made his presence felt in the red of Scarlets, and was one of the league’s top performers last term (Getty Images)




Booth’s snapping up of Leinster academy backrow Will Hickey is another really smart piece of business – poaching one of the senior members of the best academy in world rugby surely can’t backfire. Hickey could be the next Tadhg Beirne, Sam Underhill or Robin Copeland – developing in Wales before moving back to their native country to seek international honours.





Asaeli Tuivuaka (Fiji Sevens to Zebre)





Zebre have long struggled to break into the top half of the table. What needs to change? The leadership? Maybe. The kicking strategy? Sure. The option to just chuck the ball to a Fijian Olympic gold medalist? Now we’re talking. After Edinburgh’s success in converting Rio 2016 champion Viliame Mata into a world-renowned number 8, not to mention Toulouse utilising the rampaging Semi Kunitani as a dynamic lock/flanker, this feels like a perfect signing for the Italian side.





Asaeli Tuivuaka
Asaeli Tuivuaka was a colossal member of Fiji’s all-conquering Olympic sevens side (Getty Images)




Simon Zebo (Racing 92 to Munster)





The last selection has to be Zebo, doesn’t it? Who doesn’t love the guy? A fun-loving winger who is exhilarating on the field and delightful off it, the return of the Cork man will have Munster fans drooling. The only downside is we no longer get to witness him chortling on the pitch with Finn Russell and Kurtley Beale. Instead, we will see the incisive back-three danger man cutting lines off World Cup winners Damien de Allende and RG Snyman.





Munster may be known for their direct style, and as opposing fans we’ve all sat through Thomond Park drubbings before, but with Zebo smiling to the cameras, nobody will accuse this man in red of being dull.





More stories from Will Owen







If you’ve enjoyed this article, please share it with friends or on social media. We rely solely on new subscribers to fund high-quality journalism and appreciate you sharing this so we can continue to grow, produce more quality content and support our writers.



Duane Vermeulen (Blue Bulls to Ulster)





If you’re named after a Marvel Superhero, you must have been doing something right. In a buccaneering Test career, the bearded 6ft 4in, 18st Springbok gained the moniker Thor for his rampaging busts in midfield, soft-hands out of contact – few will forget his sweet offload to Fourie du Preez in the 2015 Rugby World Cup quarter-final – and rib-clattering hits.





At 35, he may well be in the latter stages of his career, but if Alun Wyn Jones, and Johnny Sexton, who have both turned 36 in recent months, are still influential figures in the URC, then there is nothing stopping Vermeulen being a talisman around which the Ulster pack can thrive. It is a statement signing to signify a new era for the league.





Emiliano Boffelli (Racing 92 to Edinburgh)





Together with back-three compatriot Ramiro Moyano, Boffelli has made the switch from France to the Scottish capital. Only 26, it feels like he’s been around forever, given his maturity and composure at the highest level.





Emiliano Boffelli
Emiliano Boffelli was part of the Jaguares side that reached the 2019 Super Rugby final (Getty Images)




He will likely battle for the full-back jersey with incumbent Blair Kinghorn – another fleet-footed, solid 15 with a massive boot. Both are capable of playing on the wing and at fly-half, so it will be interesting to see how Mike Blair decides to use them.





Edwill van der Merwe (Stormers to Lions)





One of the hottest prospects in South African club rugby, Van der Merwe is a winger any spectator would be lucky to watch. At 25, he is soaring to peak form, having lit up the Currie Cup and conjured dazzling highlight-reel tries.





Van der Merwe could be one of the most exciting players in the league, and given Makazole Mapimpi’s Pro14 form prior to his Springbok call-up aged 28, don’t bet against the new Lion becoming a Test player. With 32-year-old sevens rapier Rosko Specman winning his first cap this year, it is evident Jacques Neinaber is happy to wait for his wingers to blossom.





WillGriff John (Sale to Scarlets)





A signing that could have implications for Wales’ front-row pecking order. With first-choice tight-head prop Tomas Francis also returning home from England, Scarlets have taken a gamble on John, a 127kg monster.





He will vie for regional selection with Samson Lee, and could pack down with Rob Evans and Ken Owens in a potent front trio. If John can prove a dominant scrummager, Wayne Pivac will surely consider him for Test honours. John was 24 hours away from a starting debut for Wales against Scotland before the pandemic ended the 2020 Six Nations, so he will be keen to take this opportunity and live his dream.





Michael Ala’alatoa (Crusaders to Leinster)





May not seem like a flashy signing on the surface, but this is a big deal at the RDS. Ala’alatoa is Leinster’s first overseas signing since a certain Scott Fardy. Leo Cullen is clearly proud of the Irish representation in his squad, so it must take a lot to impress him.





Samoan skipper Ala’alatoa must have shown he can fit into Leinster’s system as their only foreign player. A solid scrummager and tackler, expect the prop to really kick on with the four-in-a-row champions.





Jac Morgan (Scarlets to Ospreys)





Young flanker Morgan is arguably Welsh rugby’s best uncapped player. In a move that shocked many Scarlets fans, he joined a club on the up, making astute signings on its way. Alex Cuthbert is another strong addition to Toby Booth’s squad. To take such a risk at 21, Morgan must believe the Ospreys coaches can help him develop into the fully-fledged international bruiser he could so very evidently become. 





Jac Morgan
Jac Morgan has routinely made his presence felt in the red of Scarlets, and was one of the league’s top performers last term (Getty Images)




Booth’s snapping up of Leinster academy backrow Will Hickey is another really smart piece of business – poaching one of the senior members of the best academy in world rugby surely can’t backfire. Hickey could be the next Tadhg Beirne, Sam Underhill or Robin Copeland – developing in Wales before moving back to their native country to seek international honours.





Asaeli Tuivuaka (Fiji Sevens to Zebre)





Zebre have long struggled to break into the top half of the table. What needs to change? The leadership? Maybe. The kicking strategy? Sure. The option to just chuck the ball to a Fijian Olympic gold medalist? Now we’re talking. After Edinburgh’s success in converting Rio 2016 champion Viliame Mata into a world-renowned number 8, not to mention Toulouse utilising the rampaging Semi Kunitani as a dynamic lock/flanker, this feels like a perfect signing for the Italian side.





Asaeli Tuivuaka
Asaeli Tuivuaka was a colossal member of Fiji’s all-conquering Olympic sevens side (Getty Images)




Simon Zebo (Racing 92 to Munster)





The last selection has to be Zebo, doesn’t it? Who doesn’t love the guy? A fun-loving winger who is exhilarating on the field and delightful off it, the return of the Cork man will have Munster fans drooling. The only downside is we no longer get to witness him chortling on the pitch with Finn Russell and Kurtley Beale. Instead, we will see the incisive back-three danger man cutting lines off World Cup winners Damien de Allende and RG Snyman.





Munster may be known for their direct style, and as opposing fans we’ve all sat through Thomond Park drubbings before, but with Zebo smiling to the cameras, nobody will accuse this man in red of being dull.





More stories from Will Owen







If you’ve enjoyed this article, please share it with friends or on social media. We rely solely on new subscribers to fund high-quality journalism and appreciate you sharing this so we can continue to grow, produce more quality content and support our writers.



The roar of the crowd. The crackling anticipation of live rugby in pulsating stadia. The smell of linament wafting from changing rooms. The taste of lukewarm, hideously overpriced lager in plastic cups. The opportunity to sit down on a Friday night and watch Dragons playing Ulster. 





Yep, a new season is upon us, so what’s not to love?





With the dawn of each campaign comes acclimatisation. You ask why Benetton aren’t picking Paolo Garbisi before remembering he signed for Montpellier in the summer. You spend the first three weeks of the season deciding whether or not Domingo Miotti looks good in a Glasgow jersey. 





These are seminal months for the competition now formerly known as the Pro14. The arrival of South Africa’s heavyweight quartet, a glossy summer rebrand as the United Rugby Championship, and even a partnership with Jay-Z’s Roc Nation entertainment company.  





There have been some eye-catching signings in the off-season too, from a World Cup winner to an Olympic colossus, homecoming heroes to a gifted Welshman with a big future opting to switch regions. Here, The XV hand-picks some of the tastiest acquisitions for the championship ahead.





Duane Vermeulen (Blue Bulls to Ulster)





If you’re named after a Marvel Superhero, you must have been doing something right. In a buccaneering Test career, the bearded 6ft 4in, 18st Springbok gained the moniker Thor for his rampaging busts in midfield, soft-hands out of contact – few will forget his sweet offload to Fourie du Preez in the 2015 Rugby World Cup quarter-final – and rib-clattering hits.





At 35, he may well be in the latter stages of his career, but if Alun Wyn Jones, and Johnny Sexton, who have both turned 36 in recent months, are still influential figures in the URC, then there is nothing stopping Vermeulen being a talisman around which the Ulster pack can thrive. It is a statement signing to signify a new era for the league.





Emiliano Boffelli (Racing 92 to Edinburgh)





Together with back-three compatriot Ramiro Moyano, Boffelli has made the switch from France to the Scottish capital. Only 26, it feels like he’s been around forever, given his maturity and composure at the highest level.





Emiliano Boffelli
Emiliano Boffelli was part of the Jaguares side that reached the 2019 Super Rugby final (Getty Images)




He will likely battle for the full-back jersey with incumbent Blair Kinghorn – another fleet-footed, solid 15 with a massive boot. Both are capable of playing on the wing and at fly-half, so it will be interesting to see how Mike Blair decides to use them.





Edwill van der Merwe (Stormers to Lions)





One of the hottest prospects in South African club rugby, Van der Merwe is a winger any spectator would be lucky to watch. At 25, he is soaring to peak form, having lit up the Currie Cup and conjured dazzling highlight-reel tries.





Van der Merwe could be one of the most exciting players in the league, and given Makazole Mapimpi’s Pro14 form prior to his Springbok call-up aged 28, don’t bet against the new Lion becoming a Test player. With 32-year-old sevens rapier Rosko Specman winning his first cap this year, it is evident Jacques Neinaber is happy to wait for his wingers to blossom.





WillGriff John (Sale to Scarlets)





A signing that could have implications for Wales’ front-row pecking order. With first-choice tight-head prop Tomas Francis also returning home from England, Scarlets have taken a gamble on John, a 127kg monster.





He will vie for regional selection with Samson Lee, and could pack down with Rob Evans and Ken Owens in a potent front trio. If John can prove a dominant scrummager, Wayne Pivac will surely consider him for Test honours. John was 24 hours away from a starting debut for Wales against Scotland before the pandemic ended the 2020 Six Nations, so he will be keen to take this opportunity and live his dream.





Michael Ala’alatoa (Crusaders to Leinster)





May not seem like a flashy signing on the surface, but this is a big deal at the RDS. Ala’alatoa is Leinster’s first overseas signing since a certain Scott Fardy. Leo Cullen is clearly proud of the Irish representation in his squad, so it must take a lot to impress him.





Samoan skipper Ala’alatoa must have shown he can fit into Leinster’s system as their only foreign player. A solid scrummager and tackler, expect the prop to really kick on with the four-in-a-row champions.





Jac Morgan (Scarlets to Ospreys)





Young flanker Morgan is arguably Welsh rugby’s best uncapped player. In a move that shocked many Scarlets fans, he joined a club on the up, making astute signings on its way. Alex Cuthbert is another strong addition to Toby Booth’s squad. To take such a risk at 21, Morgan must believe the Ospreys coaches can help him develop into the fully-fledged international bruiser he could so very evidently become. 





Jac Morgan
Jac Morgan has routinely made his presence felt in the red of Scarlets, and was one of the league’s top performers last term (Getty Images)




Booth’s snapping up of Leinster academy backrow Will Hickey is another really smart piece of business – poaching one of the senior members of the best academy in world rugby surely can’t backfire. Hickey could be the next Tadhg Beirne, Sam Underhill or Robin Copeland – developing in Wales before moving back to their native country to seek international honours.





Asaeli Tuivuaka (Fiji Sevens to Zebre)





Zebre have long struggled to break into the top half of the table. What needs to change? The leadership? Maybe. The kicking strategy? Sure. The option to just chuck the ball to a Fijian Olympic gold medalist? Now we’re talking. After Edinburgh’s success in converting Rio 2016 champion Viliame Mata into a world-renowned number 8, not to mention Toulouse utilising the rampaging Semi Kunitani as a dynamic lock/flanker, this feels like a perfect signing for the Italian side.





Asaeli Tuivuaka
Asaeli Tuivuaka was a colossal member of Fiji’s all-conquering Olympic sevens side (Getty Images)




Simon Zebo (Racing 92 to Munster)





The last selection has to be Zebo, doesn’t it? Who doesn’t love the guy? A fun-loving winger who is exhilarating on the field and delightful off it, the return of the Cork man will have Munster fans drooling. The only downside is we no longer get to witness him chortling on the pitch with Finn Russell and Kurtley Beale. Instead, we will see the incisive back-three danger man cutting lines off World Cup winners Damien de Allende and RG Snyman.





Munster may be known for their direct style, and as opposing fans we’ve all sat through Thomond Park drubbings before, but with Zebo smiling to the cameras, nobody will accuse this man in red of being dull.





More stories from Will Owen







If you’ve enjoyed this article, please share it with friends or on social media. We rely solely on new subscribers to fund high-quality journalism and appreciate you sharing this so we can continue to grow, produce more quality content and support our writers.



Michael Ala’alatoa (Crusaders to Leinster)





May not seem like a flashy signing on the surface, but this is a big deal at the RDS. Ala’alatoa is Leinster’s first overseas signing since a certain Scott Fardy. Leo Cullen is clearly proud of the Irish representation in his squad, so it must take a lot to impress him.





Samoan skipper Ala’alatoa must have shown he can fit into Leinster’s system as their only foreign player. A solid scrummager and tackler, expect the prop to really kick on with the four-in-a-row champions.





Jac Morgan (Scarlets to Ospreys)





Young flanker Morgan is arguably Welsh rugby’s best uncapped player. In a move that shocked many Scarlets fans, he joined a club on the up, making astute signings on its way. Alex Cuthbert is another strong addition to Toby Booth’s squad. To take such a risk at 21, Morgan must believe the Ospreys coaches can help him develop into the fully-fledged international bruiser he could so very evidently become. 





Jac Morgan
Jac Morgan has routinely made his presence felt in the red of Scarlets, and was one of the league’s top performers last term (Getty Images)




Booth’s snapping up of Leinster academy backrow Will Hickey is another really smart piece of business – poaching one of the senior members of the best academy in world rugby surely can’t backfire. Hickey could be the next Tadhg Beirne, Sam Underhill or Robin Copeland – developing in Wales before moving back to their native country to seek international honours.





Asaeli Tuivuaka (Fiji Sevens to Zebre)





Zebre have long struggled to break into the top half of the table. What needs to change? The leadership? Maybe. The kicking strategy? Sure. The option to just chuck the ball to a Fijian Olympic gold medalist? Now we’re talking. After Edinburgh’s success in converting Rio 2016 champion Viliame Mata into a world-renowned number 8, not to mention Toulouse utilising the rampaging Semi Kunitani as a dynamic lock/flanker, this feels like a perfect signing for the Italian side.





Asaeli Tuivuaka
Asaeli Tuivuaka was a colossal member of Fiji’s all-conquering Olympic sevens side (Getty Images)




Simon Zebo (Racing 92 to Munster)





The last selection has to be Zebo, doesn’t it? Who doesn’t love the guy? A fun-loving winger who is exhilarating on the field and delightful off it, the return of the Cork man will have Munster fans drooling. The only downside is we no longer get to witness him chortling on the pitch with Finn Russell and Kurtley Beale. Instead, we will see the incisive back-three danger man cutting lines off World Cup winners Damien de Allende and RG Snyman.





Munster may be known for their direct style, and as opposing fans we’ve all sat through Thomond Park drubbings before, but with Zebo smiling to the cameras, nobody will accuse this man in red of being dull.





More stories from Will Owen







If you’ve enjoyed this article, please share it with friends or on social media. We rely solely on new subscribers to fund high-quality journalism and appreciate you sharing this so we can continue to grow, produce more quality content and support our writers.



The roar of the crowd. The crackling anticipation of live rugby in pulsating stadia. The smell of linament wafting from changing rooms. The taste of lukewarm, hideously overpriced lager in plastic cups. The opportunity to sit down on a Friday night and watch Dragons playing Ulster. 





Yep, a new season is upon us, so what’s not to love?





With the dawn of each campaign comes acclimatisation. You ask why Benetton aren’t picking Paolo Garbisi before remembering he signed for Montpellier in the summer. You spend the first three weeks of the season deciding whether or not Domingo Miotti looks good in a Glasgow jersey. 





These are seminal months for the competition now formerly known as the Pro14. The arrival of South Africa’s heavyweight quartet, a glossy summer rebrand as the United Rugby Championship, and even a partnership with Jay-Z’s Roc Nation entertainment company.  





There have been some eye-catching signings in the off-season too, from a World Cup winner to an Olympic colossus, homecoming heroes to a gifted Welshman with a big future opting to switch regions. Here, The XV hand-picks some of the tastiest acquisitions for the championship ahead.





Duane Vermeulen (Blue Bulls to Ulster)





If you’re named after a Marvel Superhero, you must have been doing something right. In a buccaneering Test career, the bearded 6ft 4in, 18st Springbok gained the moniker Thor for his rampaging busts in midfield, soft-hands out of contact – few will forget his sweet offload to Fourie du Preez in the 2015 Rugby World Cup quarter-final – and rib-clattering hits.





At 35, he may well be in the latter stages of his career, but if Alun Wyn Jones, and Johnny Sexton, who have both turned 36 in recent months, are still influential figures in the URC, then there is nothing stopping Vermeulen being a talisman around which the Ulster pack can thrive. It is a statement signing to signify a new era for the league.





Emiliano Boffelli (Racing 92 to Edinburgh)





Together with back-three compatriot Ramiro Moyano, Boffelli has made the switch from France to the Scottish capital. Only 26, it feels like he’s been around forever, given his maturity and composure at the highest level.





Emiliano Boffelli
Emiliano Boffelli was part of the Jaguares side that reached the 2019 Super Rugby final (Getty Images)




He will likely battle for the full-back jersey with incumbent Blair Kinghorn – another fleet-footed, solid 15 with a massive boot. Both are capable of playing on the wing and at fly-half, so it will be interesting to see how Mike Blair decides to use them.





Edwill van der Merwe (Stormers to Lions)





One of the hottest prospects in South African club rugby, Van der Merwe is a winger any spectator would be lucky to watch. At 25, he is soaring to peak form, having lit up the Currie Cup and conjured dazzling highlight-reel tries.





Van der Merwe could be one of the most exciting players in the league, and given Makazole Mapimpi’s Pro14 form prior to his Springbok call-up aged 28, don’t bet against the new Lion becoming a Test player. With 32-year-old sevens rapier Rosko Specman winning his first cap this year, it is evident Jacques Neinaber is happy to wait for his wingers to blossom.





WillGriff John (Sale to Scarlets)





A signing that could have implications for Wales’ front-row pecking order. With first-choice tight-head prop Tomas Francis also returning home from England, Scarlets have taken a gamble on John, a 127kg monster.





He will vie for regional selection with Samson Lee, and could pack down with Rob Evans and Ken Owens in a potent front trio. If John can prove a dominant scrummager, Wayne Pivac will surely consider him for Test honours. John was 24 hours away from a starting debut for Wales against Scotland before the pandemic ended the 2020 Six Nations, so he will be keen to take this opportunity and live his dream.





Michael Ala’alatoa (Crusaders to Leinster)





May not seem like a flashy signing on the surface, but this is a big deal at the RDS. Ala’alatoa is Leinster’s first overseas signing since a certain Scott Fardy. Leo Cullen is clearly proud of the Irish representation in his squad, so it must take a lot to impress him.





Samoan skipper Ala’alatoa must have shown he can fit into Leinster’s system as their only foreign player. A solid scrummager and tackler, expect the prop to really kick on with the four-in-a-row champions.





Jac Morgan (Scarlets to Ospreys)





Young flanker Morgan is arguably Welsh rugby’s best uncapped player. In a move that shocked many Scarlets fans, he joined a club on the up, making astute signings on its way. Alex Cuthbert is another strong addition to Toby Booth’s squad. To take such a risk at 21, Morgan must believe the Ospreys coaches can help him develop into the fully-fledged international bruiser he could so very evidently become. 





Jac Morgan
Jac Morgan has routinely made his presence felt in the red of Scarlets, and was one of the league’s top performers last term (Getty Images)




Booth’s snapping up of Leinster academy backrow Will Hickey is another really smart piece of business – poaching one of the senior members of the best academy in world rugby surely can’t backfire. Hickey could be the next Tadhg Beirne, Sam Underhill or Robin Copeland – developing in Wales before moving back to their native country to seek international honours.





Asaeli Tuivuaka (Fiji Sevens to Zebre)





Zebre have long struggled to break into the top half of the table. What needs to change? The leadership? Maybe. The kicking strategy? Sure. The option to just chuck the ball to a Fijian Olympic gold medalist? Now we’re talking. After Edinburgh’s success in converting Rio 2016 champion Viliame Mata into a world-renowned number 8, not to mention Toulouse utilising the rampaging Semi Kunitani as a dynamic lock/flanker, this feels like a perfect signing for the Italian side.





Asaeli Tuivuaka
Asaeli Tuivuaka was a colossal member of Fiji’s all-conquering Olympic sevens side (Getty Images)




Simon Zebo (Racing 92 to Munster)





The last selection has to be Zebo, doesn’t it? Who doesn’t love the guy? A fun-loving winger who is exhilarating on the field and delightful off it, the return of the Cork man will have Munster fans drooling. The only downside is we no longer get to witness him chortling on the pitch with Finn Russell and Kurtley Beale. Instead, we will see the incisive back-three danger man cutting lines off World Cup winners Damien de Allende and RG Snyman.





Munster may be known for their direct style, and as opposing fans we’ve all sat through Thomond Park drubbings before, but with Zebo smiling to the cameras, nobody will accuse this man in red of being dull.





More stories from Will Owen







If you’ve enjoyed this article, please share it with friends or on social media. We rely solely on new subscribers to fund high-quality journalism and appreciate you sharing this so we can continue to grow, produce more quality content and support our writers.



Asaeli Tuivuaka (Fiji Sevens to Zebre)





Zebre have long struggled to break into the top half of the table. What needs to change? The leadership? Maybe. The kicking strategy? Sure. The option to just chuck the ball to a Fijian Olympic gold medalist? Now we’re talking. After Edinburgh’s success in converting Rio 2016 champion Viliame Mata into a world-renowned number 8, not to mention Toulouse utilising the rampaging Semi Kunitani as a dynamic lock/flanker, this feels like a perfect signing for the Italian side.





Asaeli Tuivuaka
Asaeli Tuivuaka was a colossal member of Fiji’s all-conquering Olympic sevens side (Getty Images)




Simon Zebo (Racing 92 to Munster)





The last selection has to be Zebo, doesn’t it? Who doesn’t love the guy? A fun-loving winger who is exhilarating on the field and delightful off it, the return of the Cork man will have Munster fans drooling. The only downside is we no longer get to witness him chortling on the pitch with Finn Russell and Kurtley Beale. Instead, we will see the incisive back-three danger man cutting lines off World Cup winners Damien de Allende and RG Snyman.





Munster may be known for their direct style, and as opposing fans we’ve all sat through Thomond Park drubbings before, but with Zebo smiling to the cameras, nobody will accuse this man in red of being dull.





More stories from Will Owen







If you’ve enjoyed this article, please share it with friends or on social media. We rely solely on new subscribers to fund high-quality journalism and appreciate you sharing this so we can continue to grow, produce more quality content and support our writers.



Jac Morgan (Scarlets to Ospreys)





Young flanker Morgan is arguably Welsh rugby’s best uncapped player. In a move that shocked many Scarlets fans, he joined a club on the up, making astute signings on its way. Alex Cuthbert is another strong addition to Toby Booth’s squad. To take such a risk at 21, Morgan must believe the Ospreys coaches can help him develop into the fully-fledged international bruiser he could so very evidently become. 





Jac Morgan
Jac Morgan has routinely made his presence felt in the red of Scarlets, and was one of the league’s top performers last term (Getty Images)




Booth’s snapping up of Leinster academy backrow Will Hickey is another really smart piece of business – poaching one of the senior members of the best academy in world rugby surely can’t backfire. Hickey could be the next Tadhg Beirne, Sam Underhill or Robin Copeland – developing in Wales before moving back to their native country to seek international honours.





Asaeli Tuivuaka (Fiji Sevens to Zebre)





Zebre have long struggled to break into the top half of the table. What needs to change? The leadership? Maybe. The kicking strategy? Sure. The option to just chuck the ball to a Fijian Olympic gold medalist? Now we’re talking. After Edinburgh’s success in converting Rio 2016 champion Viliame Mata into a world-renowned number 8, not to mention Toulouse utilising the rampaging Semi Kunitani as a dynamic lock/flanker, this feels like a perfect signing for the Italian side.





Asaeli Tuivuaka
Asaeli Tuivuaka was a colossal member of Fiji’s all-conquering Olympic sevens side (Getty Images)




Simon Zebo (Racing 92 to Munster)





The last selection has to be Zebo, doesn’t it? Who doesn’t love the guy? A fun-loving winger who is exhilarating on the field and delightful off it, the return of the Cork man will have Munster fans drooling. The only downside is we no longer get to witness him chortling on the pitch with Finn Russell and Kurtley Beale. Instead, we will see the incisive back-three danger man cutting lines off World Cup winners Damien de Allende and RG Snyman.





Munster may be known for their direct style, and as opposing fans we’ve all sat through Thomond Park drubbings before, but with Zebo smiling to the cameras, nobody will accuse this man in red of being dull.





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Michael Ala’alatoa (Crusaders to Leinster)





May not seem like a flashy signing on the surface, but this is a big deal at the RDS. Ala’alatoa is Leinster’s first overseas signing since a certain Scott Fardy. Leo Cullen is clearly proud of the Irish representation in his squad, so it must take a lot to impress him.





Samoan skipper Ala’alatoa must have shown he can fit into Leinster’s system as their only foreign player. A solid scrummager and tackler, expect the prop to really kick on with the four-in-a-row champions.





Jac Morgan (Scarlets to Ospreys)





Young flanker Morgan is arguably Welsh rugby’s best uncapped player. In a move that shocked many Scarlets fans, he joined a club on the up, making astute signings on its way. Alex Cuthbert is another strong addition to Toby Booth’s squad. To take such a risk at 21, Morgan must believe the Ospreys coaches can help him develop into the fully-fledged international bruiser he could so very evidently become. 





Jac Morgan
Jac Morgan has routinely made his presence felt in the red of Scarlets, and was one of the league’s top performers last term (Getty Images)




Booth’s snapping up of Leinster academy backrow Will Hickey is another really smart piece of business – poaching one of the senior members of the best academy in world rugby surely can’t backfire. Hickey could be the next Tadhg Beirne, Sam Underhill or Robin Copeland – developing in Wales before moving back to their native country to seek international honours.





Asaeli Tuivuaka (Fiji Sevens to Zebre)





Zebre have long struggled to break into the top half of the table. What needs to change? The leadership? Maybe. The kicking strategy? Sure. The option to just chuck the ball to a Fijian Olympic gold medalist? Now we’re talking. After Edinburgh’s success in converting Rio 2016 champion Viliame Mata into a world-renowned number 8, not to mention Toulouse utilising the rampaging Semi Kunitani as a dynamic lock/flanker, this feels like a perfect signing for the Italian side.





Asaeli Tuivuaka
Asaeli Tuivuaka was a colossal member of Fiji’s all-conquering Olympic sevens side (Getty Images)




Simon Zebo (Racing 92 to Munster)





The last selection has to be Zebo, doesn’t it? Who doesn’t love the guy? A fun-loving winger who is exhilarating on the field and delightful off it, the return of the Cork man will have Munster fans drooling. The only downside is we no longer get to witness him chortling on the pitch with Finn Russell and Kurtley Beale. Instead, we will see the incisive back-three danger man cutting lines off World Cup winners Damien de Allende and RG Snyman.





Munster may be known for their direct style, and as opposing fans we’ve all sat through Thomond Park drubbings before, but with Zebo smiling to the cameras, nobody will accuse this man in red of being dull.





More stories from Will Owen







If you’ve enjoyed this article, please share it with friends or on social media. We rely solely on new subscribers to fund high-quality journalism and appreciate you sharing this so we can continue to grow, produce more quality content and support our writers.



WillGriff John (Sale to Scarlets)





A signing that could have implications for Wales’ front-row pecking order. With first-choice tight-head prop Tomas Francis also returning home from England, Scarlets have taken a gamble on John, a 127kg monster.





He will vie for regional selection with Samson Lee, and could pack down with Rob Evans and Ken Owens in a potent front trio. If John can prove a dominant scrummager, Wayne Pivac will surely consider him for Test honours. John was 24 hours away from a starting debut for Wales against Scotland before the pandemic ended the 2020 Six Nations, so he will be keen to take this opportunity and live his dream.





Michael Ala’alatoa (Crusaders to Leinster)





May not seem like a flashy signing on the surface, but this is a big deal at the RDS. Ala’alatoa is Leinster’s first overseas signing since a certain Scott Fardy. Leo Cullen is clearly proud of the Irish representation in his squad, so it must take a lot to impress him.





Samoan skipper Ala’alatoa must have shown he can fit into Leinster’s system as their only foreign player. A solid scrummager and tackler, expect the prop to really kick on with the four-in-a-row champions.





Jac Morgan (Scarlets to Ospreys)





Young flanker Morgan is arguably Welsh rugby’s best uncapped player. In a move that shocked many Scarlets fans, he joined a club on the up, making astute signings on its way. Alex Cuthbert is another strong addition to Toby Booth’s squad. To take such a risk at 21, Morgan must believe the Ospreys coaches can help him develop into the fully-fledged international bruiser he could so very evidently become. 





Jac Morgan
Jac Morgan has routinely made his presence felt in the red of Scarlets, and was one of the league’s top performers last term (Getty Images)




Booth’s snapping up of Leinster academy backrow Will Hickey is another really smart piece of business – poaching one of the senior members of the best academy in world rugby surely can’t backfire. Hickey could be the next Tadhg Beirne, Sam Underhill or Robin Copeland – developing in Wales before moving back to their native country to seek international honours.





Asaeli Tuivuaka (Fiji Sevens to Zebre)





Zebre have long struggled to break into the top half of the table. What needs to change? The leadership? Maybe. The kicking strategy? Sure. The option to just chuck the ball to a Fijian Olympic gold medalist? Now we’re talking. After Edinburgh’s success in converting Rio 2016 champion Viliame Mata into a world-renowned number 8, not to mention Toulouse utilising the rampaging Semi Kunitani as a dynamic lock/flanker, this feels like a perfect signing for the Italian side.





Asaeli Tuivuaka
Asaeli Tuivuaka was a colossal member of Fiji’s all-conquering Olympic sevens side (Getty Images)




Simon Zebo (Racing 92 to Munster)





The last selection has to be Zebo, doesn’t it? Who doesn’t love the guy? A fun-loving winger who is exhilarating on the field and delightful off it, the return of the Cork man will have Munster fans drooling. The only downside is we no longer get to witness him chortling on the pitch with Finn Russell and Kurtley Beale. Instead, we will see the incisive back-three danger man cutting lines off World Cup winners Damien de Allende and RG Snyman.





Munste