With the dust still settling on an historic seventh Premiership title for Leicester Tigers all eyes are turned upon the challenge of the new season, a chance for glory and consolidation for some and a chance for redemption for many others.
After arguably the most erratic and headline-grabbing year of player movements the Premiership has ever seen, there will be many of the biggest stars donning new colours and potentially creating new dynasties. The heart of that title-winning Leicester team has already been poached through the loss of stars such as George Ford and Ellis Genge however they will hope their own new signings can keep them at the head of the pack.
I compiled this list based on my own personal opinion of which players will have the biggest impact on their respective new clubs. Therefore, teams that performed well last season will suffer because they have little room for improvement, whereas, teams that underperformed, such as Bristol and Sale, rank higher because they are expected to improve because of their signings.
Albert Tuisue will add some serious aggression and intensity to Gloucester’s already extremely physical pack and could well give them the push they need to secure a Top 4 finish. Niall Annett is an extremely underrated player who will likely cement himself as Bath’s starting hooker next season. Recently crowned Premiership champion, Matias Moroni, is another underrated player who will add a new dimension to Newcastle’s attack. While many would have expected Anthony Watson to be on this top 10 list only time will tell whether his move to Leicester is worth his wage bill considering his fitness problems and possible England commitments.
10. Tom O’Flaherty -> Sale Sharks
Speaking of underrated players, few fly lower under the preverbal radar than Tom O’Flaherty. An English and Welsh qualified winger, O’Flaherty is consistently at the top of the metres made and defenders beaten charts and punches significantly above his weight for his 5’9 stature. He is not only strong but also one of the fastest players in the league and notably efficient under the high-ball. Exeter Chiefs will be gutted to lose the elusive winger, he has been integral to their recent success, starting in their famous 2020 Champions Cup Final win over Racing. He will be a regular starter for Sale and will be vital for them as they look to expand and develop on their attacking structure which was dull and blunt in 2021-22. O’Flaherty was third in the entire league for metres made last season with 1773 and eleventh in the entire league for defender’s beaten with 60.
|Defenders Beaten||Metres Made||Tries Scored||Clean Breaks|
|Tom O’Flaherty (2021-22)||60||1773m||5||13|
9. Magnus Bradbury -> Bristol Bears
The 18-time capped Scottish international is an extremely shrewd signing by the usually unsubtle Bristol Bears. The Number 8 is a hard-worker who is very explosive and fast for his size and, significantly, is comfortable playing across the back row so will strengthen an area where the Bears are weak after the loss of Nathan Hughes and with talisman Steven Luatua going on his 32nd birthday. The makeup of the Bears backrow next season will be extremely interesting with Bradbury, Luatua, Harding and Jeffries all being fluidly interchangeable between the 6,7 and 8 jerseys and all extremely mobile and skillful. Bradbury, however, will add some much needed physicality to Bristol who, at times last season, were guilty of overplaying and too often looking for a miracle play when structure and game-management were necessary. Bradbury had a successful 2021-22 with Edinburgh, finishing with the fourth best tackle success rate across the whole league with 98% from 101 tackles made. He was also tenth for turnovers won with 14 and seventh for carries made with 158.
|Tackles Made||Tackle Success||Carries||Turnovers Won|
|Magnus Bradbury (2021-22)||101||98%||158||14|
8. Danilo Fischetti -> London Irish
While it would be naïve to suggest that Irish are carried by their backs and are let down by their forwards, you could say that they are one or two forwards away from being a regular top 4 team, and Fischetti may well be one. The prop has 20 caps for Italy at just 24 years of age and had a very impressive 2022 Six Nations campaign. He is dynamic and deceivingly powerful and has the potential to be a regular starter for Italy for years to come. Irish have good depth at loosehead prop with Will Goodrich-Clarke and Facundo Gigena but expect Fischetti to be in the matchday 23 every week that he is available. The Italian perfectly suits the Irish style of play with his nice balance of brawn and heads-up rugby nous.
|Tackles Made||Tackle Success||Carries||Turnovers Won|
|Danilo Fischetti (2021-22)||79||96%||55||2|
7. Lukhan Salakai-Loto -> Northampton Saints
The 25 cap Wallaby will fit into the Saints DNA seamlessly with his ability to slide between lock and blindside flanker, not too dissimilar from current Saints stars Courtney Lawes and Alex Coles. Salakai-Loto is in the beneficial position of not being in the current Wallabies setup despite arguably entering his playing prime, meaning he is available to Saints for more games, adding to his value to the team. The Lawes and Salakai-Loto comparisons do not end at their versaility, Lukhan is a devastating blend of raw power and freakish athleticism and speed for his size, eerily reminiscent of the England captain. His carrying is to an elite standard and his soft hands lend to his value as a solid lineout option. The Wallaby did not play many games last season for the Reds due to injury however over an impressive nine seasons of Super Rugby he played a total of 69 games, scoring 4 tries. He will be a good replacement for the departing Api Ratuniyarawa, a very underrated piece of the Saints team the last few years.
6. Hugh Tizard -> Saracens
More than a few eyebrows were raised when Harlequins allowed Hugh Tizard to leave for arch-rivals Saracens. The Quins academy product had a thoroughly impressive breakthrough season in 2021-22 and looked like one of the best locks in the league for long periods, and at just 22 years of age. I would personally suggest that he will go onto to be a 50 cap England international and it could be said that but for his injury, he would be on the plane to Australia this summer for England’s summer tour. Tizard will have staunch competition for places at Saracens with Maro Itoje and Nick Isiekwe in the mix, however, Tim Swinson’s retirement should assure him a regular place in the matchday 23. The lock made 168 carries last season for 785 metres made, an average of 4.7 metres per carry. He also had a 89% tackle success rate from 240 tackles made. Saracens, known for their shrewd signings, really have secured a nugget of gold with this one.
|Tackles Made||Tackle Succes||Tries||Carries||Metres Made|
|Hugh Tizard (2021-22)||240||89%||3||168||785|
5. Handre Pollard -> Leicester Tigers
Possibly lower than many of you reading this may have expected. The World Cup winner will miss a fair portion of the start of the season through the Rugby Championship and when he returns, will have a fight on his hands to dethrone the impressive Freddie Burns for the 10 shirt. Add to this that he has consistently struggled with injury problems and spent much of last season on the bench for Montpellier behind Paulo Garbisi. Despite all this Handre is obviously one of the best fly half’s in the business. A consummate professional and meticulous tactician, Pollard did not get his World Cup winners medal for nothing and Leicester certainly do not hand out big money for any old player. He will have big shoes to fill replacing George Ford who was arguably Tigers best player last season on the way to their title, however, Pollard is well suited to the Tigers kick-heavy, possession-less style of tactical rugby and will no doubt excel in the English Midlands.
4. AJ MacGinty -> Bristol Bears
Controversial above the World Cup winner, purely because I think overall he will add more value to his respective team. A slightly confusing signing when it was first announced considering Bristol have Wales international fly half Callum Sheedy. However, I can see how both can work in tandem in dual-first-receiver roles with one possibly playing at 15 or 12 or coming off the bench and with both possibly missing time for internationals. AJ may be the stronger of the two 10s so I would expect him to start. Despite a quiet end to his final season at Sale, AJ had an extremely impressive time in Manchester, infinitely multiplying his market value and reputation after moving from Connacht in 2016. The American international played 108 times over 6 seasons for Sale scoring 878 points including 9 tries and you could see the value he added to the team especially in the games when he did not feature. He is extremely well-rounded, causing headaches for defences because he is equally effective distributing the ball through his short and long passing and kicking and as a running threat. His vision and knowledge of the game is at the very top level, as is his goalkicking which rarely waivers below 85% on average. AJ has the potential to be the best 10 in the league on his day.
|Metres Made||Try Assists||Points||Clean Breaks||Defenders Beaten|
|AJ MacGinty (2021-22)||432||4||110||6||19|
3. Vincent Koch -> Wasps
Another World Cup winner and Springbok stalwart, Wasps have bagged a gem with the 28-time capped tighthead. Wasps have been weak at tighthead for a few years and will lose Jeff Toomaga-Allen next season, however, Biyi Alo has somewhat emerged this season as a potential England tighthead, meaning they now have good competition there. Koch is elite in just about every area around the park, he is a strong carrier, a brick wall in defence and one of the best scrummaging tightheads in the world. Koch played 109 times over 6 seasons for Saracens and can boast a staggering array of trophies, winning the Premiership twice and Champions Cup twice and being integral in every campaign. Koch’s experience and consistency will be vital for what is a young and inexperienced Wasps squad looking to build from being a underperforming, inconsistent, mid-table back to the regular top 4 threats that they once were.
|Carries||Metres Made||Metres Per Carry||Tackles Made||Tackle Success|
|Vincent Koch (2021-22||79||421m||5.3m||222||94%|
2. Ellis Genge -> Bristol Bears
The 36-time England international needs no introduction or hype and his Bristolian homecoming has been well documented. An extroverted and controversial character off the field, his confidence is more than matched by his consistent performances on the pitch. He has already cemented himself as one of the best loose heads in the world and the firm owner of the England number 1 shirt and, scarily, is still improving. Leicester’s decision to make him club captain last season, although controversial at the time, turned about to be inspired as he flourished as a natural and inspirational leader and was overall a great gesture by the club for a man who gave his all every week during his tenure. There is no doubt that he will continue to improve at Bristol and will re-affirm himself as a strong leader in the South West. Bristol, as previously mentioned, crave direction and game-management which come from experienced leaders like Genge and his blend of power and dynamic intensity will nicely compliment Bristol’s style of free flowing rugby. I would be very surprised if Bristol do not return to the top 6 of English rugby next season.
|Carries||Metres Made||Metres Per Carry||Defenders Beaten||Tackles Made|
|Ellis Genge (2021-22)||132||687m||5.2m||35||111|
- George Ford -> Sale Sharks
Unequivocally the single best player in the Premiership last season, Ford was instrumental in Tigers Premiership title last season, steering the ship like a captain at sea. Sale will have to overhaul and re-design their attack next season after an underwhelming 2021-22 campaign and no doubt the game plan will be scrupulously designed and detailed around the Manchester-native Ford. Unlike MacGinty, Ford prefers not to run the ball unless the opportunity presents itself to him, preferring to invited his teammates onto the ball, inviting them into gaps in the defence with his razor-sharp vision. His kicking game is devastating and unpicked numerous teams last season. He can find space in the backfield effortlessly and his bombs give opposition fullbacks nightmares the night before gameday. On form he is the current best 10 in England, however, Eddie Jones preferring Marcus Smith and Owen Farrell just adds to his value, meaning he can devote all his time and effort to Sale’s Premiership effort. Although he will miss the start of next season with the injury he sustained in the Premiership final, Ford has immense effect on every game he plays in and does so much to influence winning. He finished this last season with the most points of anyone in the Premiership with 220 and picked up two Player of the Month awards. You can read my analysis on how Ford will change the Sharks here:
|Try Assists||Kicks From Hand||Metres Made||Metres Per Carry||Defenders Beaten|
|George Ford (2021-22)||7||250||349m||5.8m||13|
I hope you agree with my list, if you do not agree be sure to tweet me @bennurse8 and tell me why.