Aviva Premiership 2014/2015: XV to watch

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A mixture of new signings and young Englishmen, below is a team of new(ish) faces who could make their mark on the Premiership this season.

15. Anthony Watson (Bath)
He was so impressive at the beginning of last season, but faded somewhat as Abendanon came back into the team. Likely to be first choice this term, he has a chance to really show how good he is. Still only 20 years of age, with pace, power, a good boot and a dangerous step, he looks the complete package.

14. Asaeli Tikoirotuma (Harlequins)
Fans of Super Rugby will know how dangerous the Fijian flyer is. He is an arch finisher and someone who will add genuine devil to the Quins backline. Already offered at a good price to finish this season as top try scorer.

13. Alapati Leiua (Wasps)
As with Tikoirotuma, Leuia joins the Premiership on the back of a breakthrough Super Rugby season. Equally comfortable in the centres or on the wing, Leiua is outrageously quick and strong – commentators in the Southern Hemisphere have at various times confused him with ex-Hurricanes teammate Julian Savea, which pretty much tells you all you need to know.

12. Ollie Devoto (Bath)
With Tom Heathcote on his way out Devoto may well feature more at fly-half this year, especially with Burgess’ arrival on the horizon. Even so, he showed some simply sublime touches last season and was at times ahead of Eastmond in the pecking order. With his ability to cover fly-half, centre and fullback, expect to see plenty of the young Englishman as Bath chase silverware at home and in Europe.

11. Charlie Walker (Harlequins)
Was just starting to generate some buzz last season when his season was cruelly ended with an injury. He scored an absolute belter against Racing Métro in the Heineken Cup, and has serious pace to burn. A former fly-half and centre, he’s not just an out and out speedster, either.

10. James Hook (Gloucester)
Freddie Burns will be intriguing to watch at Leicester, but James Hook is a massively exciting addition to the Premiership. He’s still got plenty of good years ahead of him, and has been underused by Wales down the years. A gifted playmaker who also has an excellent boot, if he plays well he can unlock the plethora of talents outside him at Gloucester.

9. Piri Weepu (London Welsh)
One of the shocks of the summer, Weepu is unquestionably the standout figure in the horde of newcomers through the door at London Welsh. A World Cup winner with a brilliant boot and a fine understanding of the game, if he can stay fit and well (which we all hope he can) he’s capable of leading his new side to some big wins.

1. Tom Court (London Irish)
Court divides opinion over the Irish Sea, but many thought he has been harshly done by with Ireland. After being chewed up and spat out by Dan Cole at Twickenham a couple of years ago he was never really given another chance, but he has his admirers amongst the fans in green and can certainly be a handy addition to the London Irish squad.

2. Luke Cowan-Dickie (Exeter Chiefs)
Richard Hibbard is the marquee name at Gloucester but England fans will be keeping a close eye on this man. Injury disrupted what should have been his breakthrough season last year – this time around, if he gets a good run of games, he could really fulfil his potential.

3. Juan Figallo (Saracens)
Amongst the best signings of the summer. Saracens have replaced Matt Stevens with someone much better, a superb scrummager and someone who can have a definite impact around the park.

4. Bradley Davies (Wasps)
It’s becoming a bit of cliché to discuss Wasps’ lack of strength up front, but there were signs last season that it might be one that’s about to be consigned to the dustbin. The signing of Davies to the engine room will accelerate that process, the Welshman bringing plenty of grunt and niggle to an area that Wasps suddenly look a lot stronger in.

5. Charlie Matthews (Harlequins)
With Olly Kohn and Nick Kennedy retiring in the last two years and no new faces through the door, Matthews suddenly finds himself as one of the senior locks at Harlequins. He impressed in fits and spurts last year, but needs to kick on even more if he’s to really nail down a starting berth.

6. Josh Furno (Newcastle Falcons)
The shaggy-haired Italian was one of Italy’s sole shining lights in this year’s Six Nations, am abrasive ball carrier with a decent turn of pace and nice soft hands. When he looked to jump ship from sinking Biarritz, Newcastle shrewdly snapped him up. Should prove an excellent signing for them.

7. Will Fraser (Saracens)
Stuart Lancaster claims Chris Robshaw’s place on England’s openside is not guaranteed, and Fraser is one of a handful of young hopefuls (along with the likes of Kvesic and Wallace) snapping at his heels. If he can stay fit, something that is not a given, he should get the chance to shine behind a mammoth Saracens pack. Now is the time to do it if he has any designs on playing at a home World Cup.

8. Laurence Pearce (Leicester Tigers)
The 24 year old number eight is a signing that has gone somewhat under the radar. Weighing in at over 120kgs and soaring over 6’4″, he’s certainly got the physical attributes to succeed, and had an excellent season in the Championship for Rotherham last year. Several Premiership clubs wanted him; he chose the Tigers. It should be an environment in which he thrives.

By Jamie Hosie
Follow Jamie on Twitter: @jhosie43

Photo by: Patrick Khachfe / Onside Images

6 thoughts on “Aviva Premiership 2014/2015: XV to watch

  1. Matthews is an interesting one. He looked ok at Quins last year but I expect we will Easter partnering Robson more often than not, with Jack Clifford given more game time. Easter moved into lock a lot last season with Guest wearing the 8 shirt, and I expect to see a lot more of that. On that note, I expect a big season from Clifford, he has looked really good every time I have seen him play.

    Glad to see the two stand out Wasps signings on this list – I think both Leuia and Davies will be really important to Wasps this year. Davies/Launchbury look as good as any lock pairing in the league.

  2. Really interesting that you picked 2 harlequin wings here, Walker and Tikoirotuma, especially given Yarde’s arrival I would imagine one of them to be regularly missing out. And with Monye still a favourite there. However that being said I have to agree with you- both really exciting picks, and, as I think I have rambled about a lot on here, Walker is a really intriguing talent. He’s got the complete skill set- I would have him as the dark horse for a WC spot (over May and Ashton certainly, alongside Nowell, Yarde and Wade). One of those ‘good footballers’ in the mould or an O’connor or Ben Smith that the southern hemisphere seem to role out on a conveyor belt but we haven’t seen in the England team since Tait (see also Eliot Daly cough cough)- pace, vision, can kick and has a wicked step of both feet. I like.

    Also going to be interesting to see how Devoto pushes on- again another serious all round talent but really should be a 12, however with Eastmond and Burgess arriving, think he may get marginalised into a utility player filling in where needs be (10,12,13 or 15), which would be a huge shame and probably stifle any England prospects for the time being (again, see Daly!).

      1. Both Tiks and Charlie W can play in the centres, and with G-Lo looking to return at the end of October, we’ve an embarrassment of riches available at OC, Wing and FB this season!

        As for Charlie Matthews, last season he spent a fair bit injured near the start (which was why Nick Easter played a lot of 2nd row then). I would hop to see CM playing more regularly. When he *has* played, he’s been developing nicely. It’s just that he was part of our injury plague in 2013/14. I’d also guess that we’ll see Twomey and Merrick on the bench more for 2nd row cover, rather than relying on Minty. If they are to develop and become seasoned players, they need the game-time now.

  3. I’m always a little surprised when any website offers the XV to watch as they never seem to link up with mine. Saying that mine always seem to get injured within a month and thus prove me wrong indefinitely. There are certainly a few movers a shakers in the list above but apart from the imminent arrival of Sam Burgess (who I really think needs to be playing at 12 and not 13 so he can play with Manu in the long run) I really think consideration needs to be given to Joe Marler and Alistair Hargreeves who have both been ‘promoted’ to captain and will both have a very tough season ahead.

    There will be a lot of time to consider the England XV after the internationals but if Burgess acclimatises to Union quickly I can’t see a reason not to play him in the Six Nations to test the water.
    I also think the No 10 shirt will be one to watch as George Ford will be closing in on Farrell and if Freddie Burns manages to show his talent as he did during the Autumn internationals then he’s right back in contention. As are Cipriani and Myler – TOO MUCH CHOICE!!!!!

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