Gavin Henson – London Welsh
New arrivals London Welsh will be hoping to cement a place in the Aviva Premiership this season and a busy summer has seen some solid additions to their squad. However, one name in particular stands out. The supposed publicity stunt that sees Gavin Henson arrive at his fifth club in two years has been dismissed by club captain Jonathan Mills, who has been quoted as saying, “Gavin wouldn’t come here if he didn’t want to play rugby”. There is no doubting the Welshman’s skill and diversity and if he performs, he may make the difference between survival and relegation for London Welsh. However, he is going to have to work hard to prove himself and avoid the public misdemeanours he is infamous for.
Danny Cipriani – Sale Sharks
The 2012/13 season sees the return of a familiar face to the Premiership. The promise that surrounded Cipriani when he first burst onto the scene has been lost amongst the media speculation and hype that surrounds him. Something which he has in the past not helped himself with.
However, he is now returning from Australia, after some time spent out of the public eye, and he has the chance to prove his worth with Sale. There is no doubting Cipriani’s talent and with the Sale squad developing in such a progressive manner, the fly-half’s ambition of regaining his place within the England setup may not be completely off the cards. However, time will tell, but he will have to work exceptionally hard to turn Stuart Lancaster’s head.
Chris Ashton – Saracens
2010/11 Champions and last year’s play-off semi finalists have made a real statement of intent for this season with the signing of England international Chris Ashton. Whilst the move was not without its controversy, including a training ground bust up with Jim Mallinder, the winger views this as an opportunity for development: “sometimes you need a fresh environment to push on a little bit”. The move away from Northampton marks a new era in Ashton’s rugby union career which promises a greater maturity and consistency from one of England’s most exciting talents. Premiership and International fans will be hoping Ashton ignites once again and that the swallow diving celebration will be lighting up the rugby world as a regular occurrence.
Ben Botica – Harlequins
With a Premiership winning squad it’s always difficult to know where to look for a new signing and Harlequins have been quite restrained in their summer spending with the arrival of only two new players to date. Ensuring strength in depth is paramount to maintaining success, and with the arrival of fly-half Ben Botica, Harlequins will be looking to do just that. Although he will be vying for a starting berth with one of the world’s best in Nick Evans, Botica is youthful and exciting with especially good goal-kicking. He boasts the statistic of thirty two consecutive goal kicks without a miss in league matches for New Zealand side North Shore. If he gets his chance he will certainly be one to watch.
Tom Palmer – Wasps
To say that Wasps fell from grace last season would be an understatement – a dismal eleventh position finish was far from the club’s expectations. However the two-time Heineken cup winners have bolstered their injury-plagued squad with the return of some reassuring faces. The return from France of England international Tom Palmer will bring a strong presence to the line out as well as strengthening the scrum. The move not only helps Wasps but Palmer also, as the policy for international selection requires players to being plying their trade within the English league. With the solidifying effect that comes with the England international’s return we can expect Wasps to find firmer ground next season.
By Jonathan Frank