10 of the biggest new signings in Gallagher Premiership Rugby
It feels like only yesterday that Saracens were beating Exeter Chiefs in one of the great Gallagher Premiership Rugby finals but already excitement is building for the new campaign.
London Irish have returned to the top flight, Saracens are looking to become the first team since Wasps in the early 2000s to win three in a row, while every team has reinforced ahead of the new campaign.
With that in mind, we have picked out ten of the biggest signings and looked at the impact they could make this season.
Stuart Hogg (Exeter Chiefs)
Where else to start than a two-time Six Nations Player of the Championship? The Scotland full-back is still only 27 but already has 67 Test caps to his name, has been on two Lions tours and has established himself as one of the most dangerous attacking threats in the northern hemisphere.
For Chiefs, replacing the twinkle toes of Santiago Cordero was always going to be tough, but in Hogg they have brought in one of the few players who could even be an improvement.
While he will primarily be used at full-back, he also adds yet another playmaking option for Chiefs, in addition to Joe Simmonds, Henry Slade and Ollie Devoto, not to mention the experienced Gareth Steenson.
Under Rob Baxter, Exeter always seem to be more than the sum of their parts. If you add in a talent like Hogg, that only makes them more dangerous as they look to make it to a fifth successive Gallagher Premiership Rugby final.
Lood de Jager (Sale Sharks)
Sale Sharks have brought in a lot of talented players from South Africa, the Du Preez twins give them back-row depth to rival any team in the league, while older brother Robert is a fantastic alternative to AJ MacGinty at fly-half.
However, the most eye-catching arrival of all is Lood de Jager, the dynamic second row, who joins from the Bulls. Still only 26, De Jager is a dominant lineout forward and already has 39 Springbok caps to his name. Add in Mark Wilson’s loan move from Newcastle, and Sale might be the team who have brought in the most talent of any side in the league over the summer.
Elliot Daly (Saracens)
Generally we will focus on players coming from outside Gallagher Premiership Rugby, but we’ll make an exception for Elliot Daly. Alongside the aforementioned Wilson, Bristol Bears recruit Nathan Hughes and fellow Saracen Jack Singleton, Daly is one of the most noteworthy internal moves within the league.
The England and Lions three-quarter can play in the centres, on the wing and at full-back, a valuable skillset in a Sarries team overflowing with talent. While some have earmarked his long-term future in the No.15 jersey, he will have a challenge leapfrogging Alex Goode in the pecking order.
Throw in Liam Williams and you have a trio of outstanding full-backs, but with the versatility to get all three onto the pitch at the same time. The champions are always looking to improve, and Daly looks like the perfect player to reinforce what was already an outstanding back division.
Owen Franks and Matt Proctor (Northampton Saints)
Cheating slightly here with a pair of Saints, but these two New Zealanders could be huge at Franklin’s Gardens.
As a double World Cup-winner, Owen Franks needs no introduction, and should serve as incredible mentor for Ehren Painter and Paul Hill in the front row.
Matt Proctor, meanwhile, may not be quite as familiar to northern hemisphere fans, but has been a standout in the midfield for the Hurricanes for half a decade. Reunited with Chris Boyd and replacing the departed Luther Burrell, he looks set to flourish in Saints’ freeflowing backline as they try to build on a semi-final place in Boyd’s first season in charge.
Jordan Taufua and Tomas Lavanini (Leicester Tigers)
Moving across the east Midlands, Leicester Tigers have responded to a tricky season by reinforcing their pack with a host of notable additions. The return of Calum Green in the second row will certainly help, but the two arrivals who really stand out are Crusaders back-rower Jordan Taufua and Argentina lock Tomas Lavanini.
The latter is a real old school forward who should fit right in at Welford Road where the Leicester pack will be looking to re-establish itself among the very best in the league.
And in Taufua, Tigers have a No.8 who has three Super Rugby titles to his name and but for Kieran Read, might have a host of All Black caps.
Waisake Naholo and Sean O’Brien (London Irish)
Talking of All Blacks, London Irish made a statement of intent on their return to the top flight with the signing of New Zealand winger Waisake Naholo.
The man who made a remarkable recovery from a broken leg to help the All Blacks to World Cup glory four years ago, will arrive at the Madejski Stadium with 16 Test tries in 26 appearances at international level. Add in 45 Super Rugby tries and you have an absolutely lethal finisher.
Among the other big name arrivals, Sean O’Brien stands out although he faces a period on the sidelines with a hip injury. Once he is back up to speed however, the 32-year-old provides the experience of five Lions Test caps, a Six Nations title and three Champions Cups with Leinster.
Matteo Minozzi (Wasps)
There are so many options for the final spot but we’ll go with a young Italian who caught the eye in his first season at the highest level in 2018. Minozzi was unquestionably Italy’s best player in his maiden Six Nations, even being nominated for Player of the Championship for his displays from full-back.
A serious knee injury cost him all of last season, but he has recovered in time to be named in Italy’s wider squad for the World Cup. Replacing a player of the calibre of Willie le Roux at Wasps will not be easy, but Minozzi is electric with ball in hand and at just 23, could quickly establish himself as a long-term fan favourite at the Ricoh Arena.