United Rugby Championship: 10 signings to be excited about this season

United Rugby Championship

United Rugby Championship sides have made some very good signings ahead of the new season.

Most of the talk around the upcoming United Rugby Championship season has been about the four incoming South African sides and the change of name and format, but there are a number of very impressive players who have signed on with one of the 16 clubs competing.

Pro14 fans will have plenty of new players to become acquainted with in the four incoming South African teams, but there will also be some unfamiliar faces in the Irish, Welsh, Scottish and Italian sides.

We’ve made a list of the 10 signings that you should keep an eye on this season.

Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro (From Bristol Bears to Benetton)

Benetton have lost some big names during the summer, such as young Italy fly-half Paolo Garbisi, but they have made an excellent signing with Argentina prop Naheul Tetaz Chaparro.

Chaparro has won over 60 caps for Argentina and started in the Pumas’ last two matches against South Africa in the Rugby Championship.

At the age of 32, Chaparro isn’t exactly young, but he should remain near the top of his game for the three years he has signed on for with Benetton.

Johan Goosen (From Montpellier to the Bulls)

Former Springbok Johan Goosen hasn’t exactly had a straight-forward career, having decided to retire from the sport at the age of 24 in December 2016, before later reversing his decision to play for the Cheetahs in 2018.

The South African signed for Montpellier in the Top 14 shortly after he returned from his early retirement, and played a crucial role in the French club’s win against Leicester Tigers in the Challenge Cup final earlier this year.

Goosen starred in the Bulls’ victory against South Africa ‘A’ in July and has been backed by head coach Jake White to win more caps for the Springboks, five years on from his last test match.

Mack Hansen (From the Brumbies to Connacht)

Former Australia U20 international Mack Hansen is set to have a big first season with Connacht, off the back of a number of impressive performances for the Brumbies in Super Rugby.

Hansen wasn’t a guaranteed starter for the Brumbies, but he impressed when given the opportunity, scoring a hat-trick of tries in a 61-10 win against the Waratahs.

The 23-year-old is Irish-qualified, as his mother hails from Cork, and will be aiming to make his international debut for Ireland this season.

Jordan Olowofela (On loan from Leicester Tigers to the Dragons)

Former England U20 international Jordan Olowofela has been deemed surplus to requirements by Leicester Tigers this season, having been sent out on a season-long loan, but the 23-year-old has plenty of potential.

Olowofela played with the Western Force in Super Rugby this year, and picked up a hat-trick against the Reds in an upset victory against the eventual Australian champions.

Dragons winger Ashton Hewitt will miss much of the upcoming season due to a serious knee injury, and Olowofela has been brought in to lessen the effect of his absence.

Emiliano Boffelli (From Racing 92 to Edinburgh)

Edinburgh stole the show on the transfer front ahead of the new season, with the signings of two Argentinian internationals.

Boffelli, the first of the two Pumas who will line out for the Scottish capital, has played over 30 times for his country, and mostly plays at full back and on the wing.

The 26-year-old missed Argentina’s last two games against South Africa due to covid-related reasons but he has excelled for Los Pumas over the last number of years.

Ramiro Moyano (From Toulon to Edinburgh)

The second of Edinburgh’s two Argentinian signings, Moyano will add plenty of firepower on the wing for the Scottish club.

Edinburgh have lost British and Irish Lions winger Duhan van der Merwe to Worcester, but Moyano will certainly help to fill the void left by the Scotland international’s absence.

Moyano has won over 30 caps for his country, and at the age of 31, he brings plenty of experience to a side that are starting life under a new head coach – former Scotland scrum-half Mike Blair.

Michael Ala’alatoa (From the Crusaders to Leinster)

The signing of Michael Ala’alatoa was somewhat surprising seeing as Leinster have two international quality tightheads in Tadhg Furlong and Andrew Porter, but there is no doubting that the Samoan international is a quality player.

Ala’alatoa regularly started for the Crusaders this year, including in the Super Rugby Aotearoa final against the Chiefs, and played at the 2019 Rugby World Cup with Samoa.

Leinster’s incredible depth at tighthead might mean that Porter will shift back to loosehead, as it would be a shame for one of Porter, Ala’alatoa and Furlong to miss out on big games for their province.

Simon Zebo (From Racing 92 to Munster)

Simon Zebo achieved great things during his three-year stay with Racing 92, but he has been unable to play for Ireland as a result of his move to France.

The 31-year-old is Munster’s leading try-scorer of all time, and he will surely add to his tally this season, whether it be from full back or from the wing.

Zebo has stated his intentions to play for Ireland again, and should he be able to regain the form he showed in his previous stint at Munster, Andy Farrell will likely make room for him in his squad.

Tomas Francis (From Exeter Chiefs to Ospreys)

Tomas Francis has won over 50 caps for Wales, but the prop has never actually played professional club rugby for a Welsh team before.

That is set to change this season, as Francis has signed on with the Ospreys on a three-year-deal, in a great move from the Swansea-based side.

The 29-year-old has experience major success with Exeter Chiefs, and he will be hoping that Ospreys can return to their former glory and challenge for the URC title this year.

Asaeli Tuivuaka (From Fiji Sevens to Zebre)

Last but certainly not least is Fijian flyer Asaeli Tuivuaka, who won an Olympic gold medal with his country at this summer’s games in Tokyo.

Tuivuaka has little experience of professional 15-a-side rugby, but he is an incredibly talented athlete who should continue to improve at the age of 25.

The Olympian scored the try that sealed the gold medal for Fiji against New Zealand in the final in Tokyo and he will hope to bring some success to the struggling Italian outfit.

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