On the eve of the new Premiership season, we pick out ten signings to follow over the next nine months.
Luke Charteris (Bath)
Perhaps the most underrated lock in the game, Charteris might be 33 but offers Bath the kind of leadership in the second row the club will miss following the retirement of Stuart Hooper. Outstanding at the last Rugby World Cup for Wales, his ability to steal ball at the lineout and stop rolling mauls in their tracks make him a key asset.
Taulupe Faletau (Bath)
One of the longest transfer sagas for some years finally came to an end with the announcement of Faletau’s move to Bath. Few number eights in the world, let alone Europe, are as consistent as the Wales and British and Irish Lions star, whose full skill-set can help elevate Bath back into play-off contention if he stays healthy. Faletau will certainly be worth it.
Ollie Devoto (Exeter Chiefs)
Bath fans were kicking themselves over Devoto’s departure and rightly so, because the talented 22-year-old is only going to get better. Exeter feels like the perfect environment for him to develop given the club’s track record in recent seasons with young English talent. Now a Test player following his debut against Wales in May, more consistency should lead to further honours.
Dave Dennis (Exeter Chiefs)
A Super Rugby captain with over 100 appearances, Dennis feels like the perfect signing for Exeter to take over from Dean Mumm after his own stint with the club last year. Capable of turning out in the second or back row, his hard-working ethic will fit right in with the Chiefs, and he still has plenty offer at only 30 even after a quiet season.
Matt Toomua (Leicester Tigers)
Talk about finding a player to fit perfectly into your game-plan. Aaron Mauger’s arrival at Leicester last season saw the Tigers rapidly turn into a more expansive outfit and Toomua’s abilities as a distributor and tactical kicker at inside centre will fit that style perfectly, while he can also provide relief at fly-half for Freddie Burns and Owen Williams. Talented operator.
Louis Picamoles (Northampton Saints)
Defenders across the Premiership probably can’t wait to try and get a crack at bringing the big man down. Good luck to them. Picamoles adds even more class to an already highly regarded Northampton pack but the reason his signing is so important is because he’s a difference maker, capable of winning a match on his own with one of those lung-busting carries.
AJ MacGinty (Sale Sharks)
A significant signing not simply because he has to fill the boots of Danny Cipriani, but also because at the Rugby World Cup and subsequent season with Connacht, the Ireland-born 26-year-old showed some supreme touches. Operating outside a couple of scrum-halves with real experience in Peter Stringer and Mike Phillips, MacGinty could produce something special.
Schalk Burger (Saracens)
It’s a credit to the successful career that Burger has had to this point that despite seemingly having been around forever, he’s in fact only 32. Mark McCall stated at the Premiership launch that Burger had effectively been brought in to replace two retiring club legends in Ernst Joubert and his namesake Jacques Burger. He’ll add real experience and energy to an outstanding Saracens pack.
Kurtley Beale (Wasps)
A devastating attacker with ball in hand and versatile enough to cover three, arguably four positions if you include on the wing where he started his career, Beale’s recovery can’t come soon enough. A November return date has been pencilled in for the 60-times capped Wallaby and his partnership with Cipriani, with both players older and wiser, should be vey special.
Ben Te’o (Worcester Warriors)
Te’o didn’t get a chance to win a first England cap on the tour of Australia but he impressed in camp, just as he did throughout last season playing for Leinster in the PRO12 and Champions Cup. The 29-year-old feels like a massive signing for Worcester; someone they can build their attack around and whose powerful carries and offloading ability make him a major threat.