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Chiefs pivot to put pressure on places

Guinness PRO12 Editor

20 Nov 2012

Edinburgh Rugby have boosted the depth and competiveness of their inside backs with the recruitment of 22-year-old Waikato Chiefs stand-off Piers Francis on a two season deal.

Born in Gravesend, England, Piers spent three years in the development academy of English Premiership side Saracens, before moving to New Zealand aged 18 to fulfil his ambitions of playing top-flight rugby.

After a season with the Auckland Marists he progressed into the provincial Auckland Academy where he was named young player of the year in an unbeaten season for the provincial under-20 side.

He then made seven ITM Cup appearances for the Auckland province in 2011 before signing for the 2012 Super Rugby winners at the turn of the year.??

A groin injury and fierce competition for places disrupted his chances of Super Rugby action in a Chiefs side that featured Rugby World Cup winning All Black duo Aaron Cruden and Sonny-Bill Williams in Francis’ favoured positions of 10 and 12.??

However, fitness and opportunity allowed him to come back to the fore in the end of season ITM Cup where he lifted the historic Ranfurly Shield with the Waikato province in October.

Edinburgh Rugby head coach, Michael Bradley, said: “We’re very pleased to secure the services of Piers Francis, as his introduction will strengthen and increase the competiveness of our squad across a number of positions.

“He’s a very talented individual, who is quick, skilful, and has a fantastic eye for breaking the line. He’s a very good fit for Edinburgh Rugby.”

With the 2012 southern hemisphere season now at an end, Francis arrives in Scotland tomorrow (Wednesday) and will begin full training immediately.

He said: “Coming from the UK, I was very excited by an approach from Edinburgh Rugby and it moved very quickly from there.

“It’s a new challenge in two great competitions [RaboDirect PRO12 and Heineken Cup], where I can test myself and integrate some of the southern hemisphere ways in my game into a club that’s packed with internationalists.

“I believe I have the skills and the attitude to enjoy success with Edinburgh Rugby and see this as another great opportunity for me to develop my game even further as part of a very professional set-up alongside great players and great coaches.”

Edinburgh Rugby managing director, Craig Docherty, said: “We are excited to welcome yet another young talented player who will add to the depth of the Edinburgh Rugby squad.

“We are sure Piers’ experience of rugby in a different environment will be beneficial to the club and everyone at Murrayfield is very much looking forward to seeing him take to the field in the black and red.

“He is a very ambitious young man and Edinburgh Rugby provides the perfect platform for him to showcase his talent.”

Piers Francis (22) – stand-off (20 June 1990)
Born in Gravesend (England) and educated in Kent St George comprehensive and Kent College (sixth form)

Height: 1.81m
Weight: 90kg (14st 3lb), 5’10”
Nationality: English
Rugby career: Old Gravesendians (minis), Maidstone RFC (U14 – senior), Saracens Academy 2005-08, Auckland Marists (2009), Auckland high performance academy, U20s and ITM Cup squad (2010-11), Waikato Chiefs (2012)

Age-group teams/other representative teams:
2009 – Auckland Marists
2010 – Auckland Academy (unbeaten season with Auckland U20)
2010 – Academy player of the year
2011 – Blues Development tour to South Africa
2011 – Auckland ITM Cup squad – 7 caps (finished 5th)
2012 – Signed for Waikato Chiefs Wider Training Group
2012 – Waikato ITM Cup squad – 10 caps (finished 5th) – Ranfurly Shield winners