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Transfer focus: Players to watch in Gallagher Premiership Rugby 2018/19

Transfer focus: 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.

And after running through five stars joining the competition last week, we have picked out five more new faces who could have a big impact in 2018/19.

Jaco Kriel – Gloucester Rugby

With Johann Ackermann in charge and his son Ruan packing down at No.8, Gloucester Rugby have strong ties to the Lions, where the pair first worked together.

This season will see a few more players tread that same path from Johannesburg to Kingsholm, and in Jaco Kriel, the Shed will be treated to one of the top all-round flankers in the game.

Kriel is not the biggest flanker by modern standards, but makes up for that with his work-rate around the park, and has regularly topped the stats charts during his time in Super Rugby.

A shoulder issue has held him back over the last year or so after he had broken into the Springbok reckoning in 2016.

He underwent an operation in March, but once Kriel gets back up to speed, he will provide Ackermann with a versatile back-row option to join the likes of Lewis Ludlow, Jake Polledri and Freddie Clarke.

Lima Sopoaga – Wasps

How do you replace an iconic player like Danny Cipriani? Well, if you’re Wasps, then you turn to the southern hemisphere and bring in an All Black and Super Rugby winner in Lima Sopoaga. Seeing Cipriani turning out for Gloucester will be certainly be difficult for Wasps fans, but in Sopoaga they have a very classy replacement.

The 27-year-old was part of the New Zealand team that won the Junior World Cup back in 2011, starting at inside centre in a team that featured Gareth Anscombe at fly-half and two-time World Player of the Year Beauden Barrett at full-back.

England’s side in that final featured a number of Sopoaga’s new teammates, Christian Wade, Joe Launchbury and Elliot Daly, so they will be well-acquainted with one another.

As well as being an accurate goal-kicker, Sopoaga is a skilled playmaker, and finished the 2015 Super Rugby season as the league’s top scorer as he helped the Highlanders to their maiden title.

Taqele Naiyaravoro – Northampton Saints

Weighing in at more than 120kg, Taqele Naiyaravoro does not fit the usual profile for a winger, but when it comes to having an unstoppable force out wide, he is hard to beat.

The Fijian-born Australian international will join Northampton Saints where he will look to fill the gap left by the departing George North.

Immensely powerful, Naiyaravoro started out playing league over in Australia, before switching codes in 2014 to join the Waratahs.

A year later he joined Glasgow Warriors, with whom he spent one season, so the 26-year-old has prior experience of playing in the northern hemisphere.

This season in Super Rugby, Naiyaravoro has managed 11 tries in as many games before he heads to Franklin’s Gardens to work under Chris Boyd.

Charles Piutau – Bristol Bears

While many of those players heading to Gallagher Premiership Rugby next season will be new faces, most fans will remember Charles Piutau’s previous spell in England.
The former All Black full-back or winger spent a season with Wasps where he was simply outstanding in a short stint.

Having then gone to Ulster for a couple of seasons, he now returns from across the Irish Sea where he will be part of Pat Lam’s Bristol Bears revolution.

There Piutau will reunite with brother Siale, with whom he played for Wasps, and the 16-cap All Black should be a major asset.

Still only 25 years old, he managed six tries in 17 appearances the last time he was in the league, Bristol fans will be hopeful of plenty more next season.

Franco Mostert – Gloucester Rugby

Few countries have as big a pedigree when it comes to producing second rows than South Africa, so the signing of Springbok Franco Mostert is quite a coup for Gloucester.

The 27-year-old will join the team from next season to work under Johann Ackermann once more, having first made his name while playing for the Lions.

A dynamic lock, Mostert calls the lineout for South Africa, as well as in Super Rugby, and played an important part in the Springboks’ victory over England on Saturday.

Mostert was first capped in 2016, and now has 19 caps to his name, having scored his first Test try against Italy last November.

With former All Black Jeremy Thrush having departed Kingsholm, Mostert will be a welcome addition in the engine room at Gloucester.

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