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