5 Most Exciting Newcomers to the Aviva Premiership
In the interest of sporting competition, the Aviva Premiership has been one of the main advocates in cross-continental signings over the last few years.
With some of the Southern Hemisphere’s brightest talents coming to call the English first tier their home in recent seasons, the standard of the division has only increased.
That’s not to say that talent from the United Kingdom is suffering, however, as Irish, Scottish and Welsh talents also contribute their fair share of stars to the Premiership cause.
This summer has seen as strong a batch of players descend on the Aviva scene as ever before, with more than a few of those Premiership debutants having the potential to light up any pitch they feature on.
Confirmed back in January of this year, Paul Warwick joins up with Worcester Warriors this summer after two seasons in the Top 14 with Stade Francais.
Having won the Heineken Cup with Muster in 2008, the 32-year-old has been to the very summit of European rugby and will be as much of an influence to his new team on the pitch as he will off of it.
Now, after two years across the Channel, Warwick returns to the UK looking to succeed in another facet of Europe’s elite crowd.
Upon his arrival at Sixways, per BBC Sport, head coach Richard Hill called Warwick "a winner, very serious about his rugby and very competitive,” adding that “his attitude is absolutely spot on for the culture we are developing.”
A very promising candidate to ensure that the Exeter Chiefs make another good run of their Premiership campaign, Fetu’u Vainikolo adds to the arsenal of a side which finished the 2012-13 campaign as the second-highest scorer in the division.
Vainikolo was a crucial part of Connacht’s squad last season, featuring in 23 matches across the RaboDirect Pro 12 and Heineken Cup campaigns.
In those games, the Tongan showed sparks of superb ingenuity, not least of which came in the club’s 34-6 battering of European champions Leinster.
Now at Sandy Park, the 28-year-old Vainikolo will look to add even more firepower to the Chiefs’ wings, injecting more than a little Pacific Island flair to the mix as he goes.
Probably the most promising external capture of any Aviva Premiership club this summer, George North is one of a few Welsh names jumping the region's ship this summer.
The youngster agreed a deal to move to Northampton back in April, but he has since gone on to enjoy a remarkable British and Irish Lions Tour in Australia where he played a star role in the triumph.
At just 21 years of age, the winger has his whole career ahead of him in time to make an impact, but he is such a talented prospect that he could well be a candidate for Player of the Year honours as early as 2013-14.
Strong, athletic and with plenty of pace in his locker, North comes into a Saints back line that now has the potential to once again compete for major silverware come the end of the season.
What’s more, this summer saw the starlet showcase his ability to come inside and feature in the centres, adding just another great weapon to Jim Mallinder’s arsenal.
While Ben Youngs may not be likely to give up his starting spot at Welford Road anytime soon, David Mele arrives in the East Midlands this summer as the man to ensure the Englishman doesn’t get complacent in his duties.
After spending seven years with Perpignan, the French scrum-half opted for a move to Leicester on the advice of former Top 14 teammate Perry Freshwater.
According to This Is Leicester, Mele saw his time in Perpignan coming to an end and looked at the Tigers as the perfect opportunity to maintain a high standard whilst competing for trophies too.
Given the success of Richard Cockerill’s side in recent seasons, the nippy No. 9 won’t be disappointed in that pursuit and will provide some entertaining competition alongside Youngs.
At 31 years of age, Kahn Fotuali’i isn’t the young prospect that usually causes excitement amongst the fans, but he comes to Franklin’s Gardens with the promise of having an immediate impact on the side’s title hopes.
Having impressed massively during a two-season stay with Ospreys, the 31-year-old will make his Aviva Premiership debut this year hoping that his side can reach the next step in their evolution.
Stephen Myler reinforced that notion and, when speaking to the Northampton Chronicle & Echo, stated:
Kahn coming in, I’ve seen him play and he’s a very good player. He’s experienced as well. We’ve strengthened our squad and Kahn is one of those guys who is definitely going to add something to us.
It’s player like Kahn we need to come in and boost our team when we’re playing and hopefully take us to that next level.
Saints fans nationwide can only hope that Myler’s predictions are accurate, and given the explosive style that the Samoan showcased in Wales, there’s a good chance he’s right on the money.