It feels like it has been gone for ages, but we are now just weeks away from the beginning of the new Premiership Rugby season! While there may still be plenty of stories to play out between now and the opening games on 9ᵗʰ September (Bristol v Bath and Sale v Northampton), it’s time for us to start getting excited for another season of rugby.
And that can only mean one thing: the return of my “Players to Watch” series, where I look at all the players who have moved clubs this summer and pick out 7 players who I think we should be keeping an eye on this season. And as usual, we have a nice blend of domestic transfers and new arrivals to the league…
The news that Leicester Tigers captain Ellis Genge would be returning back home to Bristol was already somewhat of a shock, and now feels even more of a surprise after last season ended with him lifting the Premiership title, but after developing from a dynamic young prop into a genuine world-class talent it will be interesting to see just how well the baby rhino adapts to a new team. Genge’s ability in the loose certainly seems a good mix with Bristol’s expansive attacking game as they look to put the disappointment of last season behind them.
Gloucester’s only new arrival of the season, the Fijian back row will be looking to quickly establish himself as a favourite of the Shed following his move from London Irish. In a back row corps that already boasted Jordy Reid, Lewis Ludlow, Ben Morgan, Ruan Ackermann, Jake Polledri (returning from injury) and Jack Clement (Senior Academy) among a number of other talented academy players, Tuisue will bring his own brand of strength and athleticism, and if rumours of Zach Mercer arriving a Kingsholm for the 2023/24 season are to be believed, he will have to be consistently at the top of his game to make the 23.
Tigers may have just won the title, but they are facing a big reset this season with a number of big names leaving. And part of that reset is the arrival of South African Pollard to be the new fly half. On paper, it feels like Leicester would have a playstyle that would suit him, with a strong pack and a back line featuring game managers at 9, physical centres and explosive game changers in the back 3, but he comes in with the pressure of having to follow on from George Ford, while much of his last season in France was spent at 12.
One of my favourite signings of the summer, I’m just absolutely gutted that he isn’t coming to Kingsholm. The Italian loosehead is quickly developing into one of the top props in the world, and this move from Zebre to London Irish will see him training with and competing against some of the best i the world on a weekly basis, which can only be good news for his development and the Azzurri. Watch out for him racking up the turnovers at the breakdown.
This seems an interesting move for the 25-cap Wallaby, as it will be bringing a halt to his international career. The Queensland Red makes the move to Northampton, and I feel that this could be the move that makes his career. Formerly a back row but now a lock, Salakaia-Loto brings dynamism and strength, and has plenty of experience for a 25-year-old. An expansive attacking team like Northampton will surely benefit from his qualities, while I think that a couple of years in the Premiership could help his development as a lock, setting him up to be a key part of the Wallabies squad when he returns Down Under in a couple of years.
As I alluded to earlier, Ellis Genge isn’t the only big name leaving the defending champions this summer, as George Ford moves to Sale. Ford is a clearly talented player, and was in some of the form of his life at Leicester with Steve Borthwick. Will he be able to maintain this form at Sale, whose back line’s most notable talents will be the injury Risk called Manu Tuilagi and fellow new signing Tom O’Flaherty?
And finally we reach Hugh Tizard, who moves to Saracens off the back of a fantastic season with Harlequins. Tizard was a standout player at the Stoop last season and I was honestly shocked that he did not tour with England this summer, such was his dynamism and general talent. Now the big question is on the gametime he will get, as he moves from a club where he was a guaranteed starter to a side that already boasts Maro Itoje, Nick Isiekwe and Theo McFarland at the position.
Which new signings are you most looking forward to watching?
Thanks for reading!