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Transfer Focus: Five new players to watch in Gallagher Premiership Rugby 2018/19

Transfer Focus: Five new players to watch in Gallagher Premiership Rugby 2018/19

The new Gallagher Premiership Rugby season is still a few months away but there’s plenty of world-class talent set to arrive on British shores to get fans excited.

Bristol Bears return to the league after a one-year absence with Pat Lam at the helm while Paul Gustard will be the new man in charge of Harlequins.

On the field though, there’s a host of exciting prospects joining Gallagher Premiership Rugby clubs and we’ve picked out three marquee signings to look out for come the autumn.

Brad Shields (Hurricanes to Wasps)

Shields’ move to Wasps was announced at the end of 2017 but such is the talent the flanker offers, he’s already been called up to the England squad by Eddie Jones.

The 27-year-old back row will be part of the three-Test tour of South Africa this summer having recently surpassed 100 appearances in Super Rugby.

With Guy Thompson and James Haskell both leaving the Ricoh Arena at the end of last season, there’s space for Shields to make an immediate impact in Coventry.

Eddie Jones said: “Brad is a big strong player who does the basics well – he’s a good number six who has a high work rate, tackles well, carries well, and is a good line-out option.”

Dan Biggar (Ospreys to Northampton Saints)

A name that won’t be new to the majority of fans, Dan Biggar already has more than 50 caps with Wales having made his debut back in 2008.

Biggar put pen to paper with Northampton Saints at the conclusion of last year’s British & Irish Lions tour and will be linking up with a new coaching setup at Franklin’s Gardens.

Chris Boyd will be the club’s Director of Rugby for the new season with Alan Dickens (defence), Phil Dowson (forwards) and Sam Vesty (backs/attack) taking on the coaching roles.

“I’m hugely privileged to sign for a club with the history and tradition of Saints,” Biggar said back in September following the announcement.

“This is an opportunity for me and my family to experience rugby in a different environment and playing in a town which has a massive passion for rugby was a huge attraction.”

Francois Venter (Cheetahs to Worcester Warriors)

Another import from the PRO14, Francois Venter joins his Toyota Cheetahs coach Rory Duncan by switching South Africa for Sixways ahead of the new season.

The 27-year-old centre was in the top 25 in the PRO14 OPTA stats rankings for carries (198), metres made (789), offloads (28) and clean breaks (21) last year.

Venter has made seven appearances for the Springboks and will add serious power and cutting edge to the Warriors back line for the 2018/19 season.

He said: “It’s a very exciting step for me to make the move to England and play in the Premiership for Warriors.

“Rory Duncan has been a great coach for us at the Cheetahs and having the opportunity to continue to work alongside him.”

Alex Cuthbert (Cardiff Blues to Exeter Chiefs)

Runners-up Exeter Chiefs have also added to their squad with international quality with the capture of British & Irish Lion Alex Cuthbert from Cardiff Blues.

The 28-year-old winger has been with the Blues since 2011 and has scored 18 tries in 47 appearances for Wales as well as scoring on his sole Test appearance for the Lions in Australia.

“The challenge of going to Exeter and trying to prove myself in a new environment at the Chiefs is something that really appeals to me,” he said.

“I’m excited about the move. I’ve played all of my rugby in Wales and I’ve enjoyed some fantastic times over the years, but I feel I’m at a stage in my career where I have to try something different.”

David Strettle (Clermont Auvergne to Saracens)

145 league starts and 49 tries – David Strettle is a familiar face to English rugby fans.

The winger made his league debut with Rotherham Titans in the 2003/04 season before spending four seasons with Harlequins and five years at Saracens.

In his first season in North London, Strettle lifted the league title as Saracens recorded a 22-18 win over Leicester Tigers in the final – their first ever Aviva Premiership Rugby success.

The England international, 34, has spent the last three years playing in France for Clermont Auvergne and will be a like-for-like replacement for the retiring Chris Wyles.

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