Not so risky business
August 30, 2013
We think Kahn Fotuali'i will do great things at Northampton © Getty Images
Across the Aviva Premiership a total of 116 players have been brought in by the 12 clubs. While the Euros are being splashed around with reckless abandon in the Top 14, much of the business in the Premiership has been carefully planned and executed. Take Sale for example, they have opted against the Galactico approach which fell flat last season and have brought in seasoned campaigners who know how England's top flight works.
With this in mind, Scrum Sevens picks out seven notable signings from the off-season that we feel are great business.
While Northampton have made headlines for having brought in British & Irish Lions winger George North and prop Alex Corbisiero ahead of this season, the recruitment of Kahn Fotauli'i has been a little overshadowed. In our view, he is already a shoe-in for being the Premiership's star No.9 this season but also expect to see him line-up at fly-half, which is probably good news for Lee Dickson who must have quietly wondered what he had done wrong to see a player of Fotauli'i's quality being brought in.
Aged 31, time is not on Fotauli'i's side but he is showing no signs of slowing down. Take Samoa's surprise win over Wales last November for example, he was sensational in ripping apart the then Grand Slam holders. Such was the clamour for his services, that the Saints beat Toulon and Toulouse to secure Fotauli'i - the Franklin's Gardens faithful should be very excited about seeing him play.
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All signs are pointing towards England using a fetcher at No.7 this year rather than their recent approach of picking a six and a half at openside. Kvesic at the moment looks to be the incumbent for the shirt after an impressive showing in Argentina over the summer. Harlequins' Luke Wallace may have something to say about that, but until he starts week-in-week-out ahead of Chris Robshaw at The Stoop then it is Kvesic's shirt to lose.
And he should flourish at the Cherry and Whites. The infamous Shed has been screaming out for a new cult hero at openside with Andy Hazell approaching the twilight years of his career and Kvesic could be their man. Alongside James Hudson, they are two very astute pieces of business by Nigel Davies and if Kvesic's performances against Argentina are anything to go by, then Gloucester have themselves a gem.
Let's make no bones about it, Bath's signing of Stephen Donald flopped more than the whitebait he likes fishing for. Donald showed glimpses of talent, but on the whole, he struggled with the pace of the Premiership and never really looked at home at The Rec. But they have a new spring in their step down at BA1 and George Ford is likely to be central to their plans this season.
His father Mike is head coach this term but has denied nepotism will be an issue and Ford junior's place in the side is by no means guaranteed with Tom Heathcote and the tangoed Gavin Henson both looking at the No.10 shirt with envious glances. Ford, a former IRB Young Player of the Year, has stacks of ability but now it's time to turn potential into performances.
Will George Ford live up to his potential at Bath? © PA Photos
Kennedy eventually established himself at Toulon © Getty Images
Probably the best second-row to have not got a proper crack for England in recent years, Kennedy came away from his year-long stay in Toulon with a Heineken Cup winner's medal. Not a bad return for someone who was so out of the picture at the start of last season that he was picked at openside. But he finished the campaign on a high partnering Bakkies Botha for their 16-15 win over Clermont.
His performances did not escape Conor O'Shea's attention and he was quick to pick up the phone - you can't imagine O'Shea tweeting - and offering Kennedy a chance to return to London. Kennedy bit his arm off and he has swapped the rouge et noir of Toulon for Quins' quartered shirts. An England recall is not too much of a flight of fancy but expect to see Kennedy calling the shots at the lineout and generally putting his body on the line for those from The Stoop.
He's been there, done it, got the XL shirt, but Goode is still a class act. As much as we don't want to admit it, sometimes games come down to kicks and not the Barbarians-esque free-running style of rugby we all hope to see at whichever rugby ground you turn up to. On wet and windy nights at Kingston Park or at Wasps' Adams Park home, one person you can count on to deliver is Goode.
He has played in Super Rugby, Top 14 and the Premiership; few can say that. He has swapped the Warriors, who didn't want him, for Wasps where he is already feeling at home. Tigers and Bath were interested in his services but Dai Young beat them to his signature. Wasps are renowned for their speedsters on the flanks but they have a more stable core with Goode at No.10.
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When Exeter won promotion to the Premiership and performed superbly in their debut season in the top flight, James Scaysbrook was central to everything they did well. He played in every game that season for the Chiefs and you feel Andy Saull has the potential to have the same impact at the Falcons.
While they know full well what is expected of them in the top flight, they will need to adjust to the pace of the game after a year in the Championship. Saull found himself down the pecking order at Saracens with Jacques Burger, Kelly Brown and Will Fraser all ahead of him, but Saull has bags of ability. Alongside fellow new recruits Mike Blair and Rory Clegg, the openside will be a key player as they battle to avoid the trapdoor back into the Championship.
This transfer, to put it politely, got Quins a bit narked. Johnston developed into a top level tight-head at The Stoop but along came Saracens, they preached about something special happening, perhaps threw in a pizza made by a well known delivery company and before O'Shea had a chance to put his point across, Johnston had opted to shift his 138 kilogramme frame 15 miles up the road to the Allianz Park.
With one of the Premiership's best ever No.3's Carlos Nieto now enjoying retirement, Saracens needed a new tight-head and opted for Johnston. You expect he would demand a lucrative salary for the men in black and red but he will be an important player for Mark McCall's side. He will adapt well to the new scrum laws and hardly ever gets injured. At the centre of all good Heineken Cup-winning sides is a world class tight-head, and Saracens have that in Johnston.
A terrifying sight © Getty Images
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Tom Hamilton is the Assistant Editor of ESPNscrum.