Transfer Spotlight: Who is going where next season?

Paul Eddison
10 July 2019

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Players from as far afield as Cameroon and Romania will be heading to the Guinness PRO14 next season with a mixture of Grand Slam winners and future stars on the move.

Anscombe

Perhaps the most eye-catching switch of the lot is Gareth Anscombe’s move from the Cardiff Blues to the Ospreys but there are plenty more intriguing arrivals, including Josh Adams, Jack McGrath and a host of up-and-comers.

With that in mind, we have picked out some of the most notable transfers and looked at the impact they might have next season.

THE BIG NAMES

We start with Anscombe, inevitably, as he heads to the Ospreys from the Blues. Wales’ first-choice fly-half has grown into one of the most accomplished playmakers in the game, equally comfortable at full-back and fly-half.

While he will miss the start of the campaign due to World Cup responsibilities, he joins an Ospreys team that finished last season on a high, making it into Europe thanks to a pair of Welsh derby successes.

While the Blues are losing one Grand Slam winner, they bring in another in Adams. The winger was so prolific at Worcester Warriors that in the end Warren Gatland had no choice but to start him for Wales.

He seized that opportunity and will fancy his chances of more success in Cardiff, where he has already enjoyed one memorable moment with his clinching try in the win over England in the Guinness Six Nations.

Adams is joined by Hallam Amos in the Blues back three, arriving from the Dragons, and with the likes of Owen Lane already on the books, John Mulvihill has a lot of talent to work with.

Outside Wales, Ulster lost one experienced Ireland front row with the retirement of Rory Best, but have brought in another in the shape of McGrath.

Of course, he is not a like-for-like replacement but the Leinster loosehead’s arrival adds some much-needed experience to Dan McFarland’s team, alongside the young crop of props who impressed this season.

McGrath will face plenty of competition from Eric O’Sullivan, but a pair of top quality loosehead props will be invaluable.

OVERSEAS TALENT

It is always difficult to predict how stars from overseas will fare. Last season Colby Fainga’a made an instant impact at Connacht, Blade Thomson, by contrast, was slowed by injuries at the Scarlets.

Thomson could serve as effectively a new signing this season under new coach Brad Mooar, while Sam Lousi, the experienced Kiwi second row, looks like another player who could make a big impact.

While we’re on the subject of locks, Sam Carter at Ulster brings a wealth of experience to the table and should come in very handy while Iain Henderson is on World Cup duty, and beyond. Similarly, Matt Faddes comes in from the Highlanders and looks a very shrewd pick-up.

At Edinburgh, Nic Groom provides a very useful option alongside the experience of Henry Pyrgos and youngster Charlie Shiel.

Finally, a year after Fainga’a joined Connacht, Andy Friend has gone back to his Australian links with John Porch. The former Sevens player obviously knows Friend well, and while he does not have the same XVs pedigree as Fainga’a, it would be a brave man who bet against him impressing in Galway.

UNDER THE RADAR

Porch could easily have slotted into the category of under-the-radar signings, following in the footsteps of the likes of Monty Ioane and Ratuva Tavuyara in recent seasons.

Inevitably, it is tricky to predict who might imitate the Benetton pair, but there are a number of contenders.

While it would be easy to focus on attacking threats in the backline, a stable scrum is also of huge importance, so the arrival of Alex Tarus at Zebre could make a big impact. The Romanian tighthead has spent the last two seasons at Sale and has 33 caps to his name. A word also for the signing of Luca Bigi, arguably Italy’s first choice hooker, who comes across from Benetton.

Elsewhere, Eroni Sau at Edinburgh feels like a prime candidate to do some damage, even if a back three of Blair Kinghorn, Duhan van der Merwe and Darcy Graham will be tough to crack. If nothing else, it would be great to see him succeed because of his nickname ‘The Sledgehammer’.

Champions Leinster have not made a big splash, but Cian Kelleher returning to the province from Connacht could be a handy signing. Cracking the starting XV for the biggest games will be tricky, but he has shown a lot of potential out west.

Finally, he might not have gone that under the radar thanks to the press release calling him a Greek God, but Demetri Catrakilis will be looking to bounce back after a couple of tricky seasons in England when he joins the Isuzu Southern Kings.

Keep an eye on Sam Davies at the Dragons too. Another look to give his career a kickstart after a few struggles in recent times.

VALUABLE DEPTH

It is not just about finding starting players, squad depth is also of huge importance.

Plenty of the players mentioned may go onto establish themselves in the first-choice XVs, but even if they do not, they could have an important role to play.

Chief among those is Ian Keatley, heading to Benetton and a useful third option at fly-half alongside Tommaso Allan and Ian McKinley.

Similarly, Will Boyde is yet another back-row contender for Cardiff Blues, who have huge depth in the position, while Andrew Davidson at Glasgow Warriors will be looking to take the good form he showed at Newcastle Falcons with him.

It is also great to see Tom James getting another shot at the Scarlets after a difficult time in his personal life. The talent is certainly there for him to make an impact.

Others who might fall under this category include scrum-half Nick McCarthy, swapping Leinster blue for Munster red, Charlie Walker linking up with Zebre and prop Jamie Bhatti swapping Glasgow Warriors for Edinburgh.

YOUTH MOVEMENT

The final set of players we come to are some of the youngsters switching clubs and signing their first full-time deals.

Benetton have shown plenty of faith in youth during their recent upturn in fortunes, and young scrum-half Charly Trussardi arrives from France and could be the latest to come through, while Michele Lamaro in the back row is now on the books full time after featuring as a permit player last year.

Staying in Italy, Danilo Fischetti has joined Zebre from Calvisano and was a standout at loosehead for Italy Under-20s.

Moving to Ireland, Bill Johnston goes from Munster to Ulster and has the chance to fulfill his huge potential. Billy Burns did a fine job at fly-half last season, but there is an opportunity there for Johnston to get significant game time.

Elsewhere, keep an eye on centre Tom Griffiths joining the Dragons, scrum-half Dane Blacker heading to the Scarlets and the likes of Glasgow’s Stafford McDowall, Connacht’s Paul Boyle and Ospreys’ Tiaan Thomas-Wheeler earning senior contracts.

Not all of these signings will succeed, that is for certain. Plenty will though and this season will be a cracker as a result.

 

For a full listing of Guinness PRO14 Ins and Outs, check out our guide here

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