It's a deal, it's a steal
August 25, 2010
Daniel Bowden will turn out for London Irish this season © Getty Images
While the rugby close season is not punctuated by the hysterical wrangling of the football transfer window, there is plenty of excitement to be generated by a couple of new faces knocking around at your club. With the new Aviva Premiership season just around the corner, we've devoted a Scrum Seven to the players we believe will have an impact after signing on the dotted line over the summer.
Andy Powell - Wasps
The former Cardiff No.8 endured a miserable season in 2009-10 but with talk of golf buggies now nestled alongside Gavin Henson's comeback in Wales' past, he appears to have settled in well at Wasps. In full flight there are few back-rowers who can match him for pace and aggression, and should he find a more coherent offloading game, he could do some serious damage around the notoriously spiky fringes of the Premiership. With Dan Ward-Smith set to flit between the second and back-rows, there should be some raw athleticism about their pack and with Shaun Edwards barking the defensive orders, Powell will hope to hit the ground running in order to grab a Wales spot in November.
Lewis Moody - Bath
A few years ago this move would have been treason. The England captain has ended a 16-year association with champions Leicester for a new challenge at their arch-rivals Bath, the challenge being to take the West Country club back to the top. The rivalry has cooled in recent seasons as Bath have proved to be entertaining yet toothless at the sharp end of the season, with Wasps for a time taking over the mantle of Tigers' tormentors-in-chief. In Moody they have a fearless player who knows the Premiership, and the play-offs, back-to-front, inside-out and upside-down. With Luke Watson and Simon Taylor competing for the other back-row berths, there will be plenty of bite at the breakdown. Sam Vesty also completed the switch from Leicester and will provide valuable cover at fly-half and centre with Butch James likely to feature for South Africa at the start of the season.
Daniel Bowden - London Irish
With Mike Catt hanging up his boots for good at the end of last season, the Exiles moved swiftly to secure a quality replacement to cover both fly-half and inside-centre. With the brilliant Seilala Mapusua a fixture in the No.12 jersey, there could be a playmaking shake-up afoot at the Madejski, but the ultra-cool Bowden could prove equally useful in taking some of the decision-making pressure off the shoulders of the mercurial Ryan Lamb. A former Highlanders and Crusaders representative, Bowden has mixed it with the best at Super Rugby level and was mentioned in passing with an All Blacks call-up soon after agreeing a switch to England. He's already received high praise from the coaching staff and could be the man to put the Exiles back on the straight and narrow.
David Strettle - Saracens
Strettle needs a spark to reignite his career after several injury-plagued years at Harlequins, and Saracens appears to be the place to go for radical transformations. The second half of last season was a whirlwind for Brendan Venter's side, the shackles being thrown off after Christmas as quickly as you could say 'RFU hearing'. Strettle, with his mix of quick feet and out-and-out pace, will fit into their new attacking philosophy perfectly, offering a reliable foil at Premiership level for Noah Cato, Chris Wyles and Alex Goode, should he be kept from the No.10 jersey. He has not played a Test since June 2008, despite touring with England in the summer, but with a strong start to the season, he will be first in line given any mishaps among the EPS squad.
Thomas Waldrom - Leicester
The former Wellington, Hawke's Bay and Crusaders No.8 should feel at home when the Premiership is at its grittiest. A powerful ball-carrier, Waldrom will make the hard yards when required and drag the Tigers pack onto the front-foot where he can. With Moody having upped sticks, there is room for another leader in the pack and Waldrom's lead-by-example style should fit the bill. He may have spoken a little early about his ambitions to qualify for England on residency, but look past his portly frame and you'll see a top-class No.8. Also, with Jordan Crane reported to be out for up to three months with an ankle problem, he could prove to be a valuable signing during the early rounds of the Heineken Cup.
Steve Thompson - Leeds
Another member of the old guard who is looking for a new lease of life, Thompson's decision to swap Brive for Leeds could prove to be a major coup for last season's survival specialists. Since returning to action after what was an initially career-ending injury, Thompson has steadily worked his way back to his best form and is now firmly back in the England frame. Leeds made their way last season with committed defence and an 'all for one, one for all' philosophy led by Springbok lock Marco Wentzel. Add to that a World Cup-winning hooker who remains as fractious and hard-working as ever when under extreme pressure and you could have a match made in heaven.
Paul Williams - Sale
The Sharks need an injection of imagination and quality after a miserable return last season and alongside Mark Cueto in the back-three, Williams could go some way to providing that. A Samoan international, after making his debut in this summer's Pacific Nations Cup, he is the son of former All Black Bryan Williams and brother of Clermont Auvergne midfielder Gavin. At home on the wing or at fullback, he has bags of Super Rugby experience from stints with the Highlanders, Blues and Crusaders, winning the NPC with Canterbury in 2009.
Last year's thrashing at the hands of Wales was not the first time England have fallen to their rivals. Scrum Sevens looks at whether they have bounced back the following year
With just two rounds left in the 2014 championship, the intensity cranks up a notch at Twickenham. Tom Hamilton previews the weekend's action
"I had a perfect record against England as did a few other Welshmen. England always seemed to bring the best out of us." John Taylor on the age-old rivalry
Are the margins between the teams in the Six Nations getting smaller year-on-year? Huw Richards gives some answers