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New Faces: A ‘Best XV’ Of PRO14 Signings For The Upcoming Season

We’re a little over a month away from the start of the 2018/2019 Guinness PRO14 season. 

All clubs have commenced their preseason preparations and many of them will be welcoming some new faces to their clubs in the hope of adding that extra quality needed to make the next step-up.

With that in mind, we decided to produce a ‘Best XV’  of new PRO14 signings. We are allowing players who have joined from other PRO14 clubs into the team.

Pundit Arena’s ‘Best XV’ Of New PRO14 Signings

15. Mike Haley (Sale Sharks -> Munster)

Munster have signed Irish-qualified full-back Mike Haley on a three-year contract from Sale Sharks of the Gallagher Premiership.

Haley is from Preston in England but his grandmother hails from Co. Kerry and is eligible to play for Ireland as a result. Although he is only 24, Haley has over six years of professional rugby under his belt and has made 105 appearances for the Sharks.

He represented the England Saxons and an England XV against the Barbarians so he has exposure to a very high level of the game.

It’s going to be difficult to fill the void left by Simon Zebo who departed to Racing 92 but Haley is quick and has an eye for a gap so hopefully, he will be able to add an attacking edge to this Munster team.

14. DTH van der Merwe (Newcastle Falcons -> Glasgow Warriors)

DTH van der Merwe made his return to the Guinness PRO14 in the middle of last season with the Glasgow Warriors from Newcastle Falcons. Although he signed for the club back in March, we’re still going to include him as it will be his first full season back at the club. Van der Merwe is one of the best finishers out there and it’s not surprising the Warriors welcomed him back with open arms considering his try-scoring record.

He has scored 43 times in 96 games in his previous spell with the Glasgow club where he won the title in 2015, he then went to Scarlets where won the league again in 2017. He didn’t get as many opportunities as he would have liked at the Falcons under Dean Richards but the Canadian international can cause damage when he is allowed space and he should continue to do so under Dave Rennie.

13. Scott Williams (Scarlets -> Ospreys)

Wales international Scott Williams has made the short move to the Ospreys from the Scarlets this summer. Williams formed a pretty impressive partnership with Hadleigh Parkes last season with the Scarlets and his performances helped the club to a PRO14 final.

Williams is below the threshold to play abroad and still be selected by Wales so he had to remain in the country to keep his hopes of the 2019 World Cup alive.

The 27-year-old turned down offers from England and France to join the Ospreys and the club will hope a player of his quality can improve their fortunes.

12. Joe Tomane (Montpellier -> Leinster)

No one can replace Isa Nacewa, even the most optimistic of Leinster supporters will tell you that but the club have still done an excellent job with the signing of Wallaby Joe Tomane from Montpellier. Tomane can play in numerous positions across the backline including both centre positions and on the wing.

His versatility will come in handy when Leinster’s Ireland contingent are away in camp.

An extremely powerful ball-carrier, Tomane should fit in perfectly to what is already a devastating Leinster backline.

11. George North (Northampton Saints -> Ospreys)

George North will finally return to Wales after spending the last five years with the Northampton Saints. The 26-year-old will join a new-look Ospreys on a national dual contract (NDC) which means the WRU will fund 60% of his pay.

76 caps for Wales and two British and Irish Lions tours behind him, North has exceptional experience at such a young age. Although he hasn’t hit the form from previous years, a move back to Wales may be just what he needs to reach those heights again.

10. Joey Carbery (Leinster -> Munster)

It was the transfer saga of the summer. Joey Carbery will be lining out in the famous red of Munster in September but his destination seemed unclear for quite some time. Originally, Ulster were interested in bringing the out-half to Belfast only for Carbery to opt for Munster when it became clear the southern province began to show an interest.

There is no doubting Carbery’s potential and he will certainly bring a new attacking flair to Munster next season. Munster now have Carbery, Tyler Bleyendaal, Ian Keatley, JJ Hanrahan and Bill Johnston as their senior out-halves. How Johann van Graan will accommodate all these players is anyone’s guess.

European Rugby Champions Cup Quarter-Final, Aviva Stadium, Dublin 1/4/2017 Leinster vs Wasps Leinster's Joey Carbery Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/Ryan Byrne

Nevertheless, Carbery will bring something which has been missing from Munster last season, an attacking spark from the out-half channel.

This could be the signing which brings Munster to the next level and that finally ends their trophy drought.

9. Henry Pyrgos (Glasgow Warriors -> Edinburgh)

The Richard Cockerill revolution seems set to continue at Edinburgh and the English coach has added the experienced Henry Pyrgos to his ranks. Pyrgos struggled for game time last season with Glasgow Warriors so a move to Edinburgh seems ideal for the 29-year-old.

Pyrgos, although out of favour with Scotland, still has considerable international experience and he will likely be an important piece to the puzzle for Edinburgh next season.

1. Aaron Jarvis (Clermont -> Dragons) 

Bernard Jackman has added some experience to his front-row with the likes of Jarvis, Richard Hibbard and Ryan Bevington all returning.

Although Jarvis is 32, that’s still about 26 in prop years. Jarvis has considerable experience at international, European and domestic level and he hopes that move back to the Dragons will increase his chance for selection by Warren Gatland.

2. Richard Hibbard (Gloucester -> Dragons) 

Richard Hibbard has ended his stint in England a season early to join Jackman’s revolution at Dragons. Hibbard made over 100 appearances for Gloucester from his time in England and reached three Challenge Cup finals, winning one.

Although he’s 34, Hibbard can still compete at the top level, his performances for the Cherry & Whites last season showed this. His experience and ability will be huge for the Dragons as they look to improve on their disappointing showing last season.

3. Marty Moore (Wasps -> Ulster)

When Marty Moore left Leinster for Wasps at the end of the 2016/2016 season, there was considerable anger in Irish rugby circles considering that quality tighthead props don’t grow on trees.

However, the emergence of Tadhg Furlong, Andrew Porter and John Ryan in recent seasons has seen Ireland with plenty of good options. This has prompted Moore to get himself back into the Irish system in order to stake a claim for Japan next year.

Moore made 32 appearances for Wasps in two seasons and he will hope that playing week in, week out for the northern province will give him another Ireland opportunity.

4. Tadhg Beirne (Scarlets -> Munster) 

Tadhg Beirne has been one of the outstanding players not only in the PRO14 over the last two seasons but also the Champions Cup. The second-row who can also play in the back-row is known for his turnover ability but his aggression in contact, his carrying ability and work-rate will bring an already impressive Munster pack to a whole new level.

It is a serious coup that Munster were able to secure his signature and Munster supporters will be excited to see what he can bring to their team.

5. Samu Manoa (Toulon -> Cardiff Blues)

Samu Manoa makes the trip from Toulon to join up with the Cardiff Blues. The 21-times capped USA international will bring some versatility to the club as he can play at lock or at number eight.

An extremely powerful player, Manoa will bring an extra level of physicality to the Cardiff pack. He will also be joined by USA teammate Blaine Scully at the Arms Park.

6. Ross Moriarty (Gloucester -> Dragons)

With over 20 international caps to Ross Moriarty’s name, the former Gloucester star will bring some star quality to a Dragons side looking to improve on last season.

Moriarty’s ability to play across the back row will be a huge boost to Bernard Jackman and his aggression and willingness to win will be a huge plus for his new club.

Unfortunately, that aggression boiled over during Wales’ summer tour where he received a red card and subsequent ban for a ‘choke hold’ on Argentina’s Nicolas Sanchez. Thankfully, he will only miss one PRO14 game for the Dragons as a result.

7. Jordi Murphy (Leinster -> Ulster)

Ulster announced the signing of Jordi Murphy from Leinster back in December but they will probably be even more excited with their new arrival considering the form he showed at the end of last season.

Murphy played an instrumental role in Leinster’s Champions Cup success and also played his part in Ireland’s series win against the Wallabies in June.

Murphy looks to be back to his best after an unlucky run with injuries and the experienced international back-row should do an excellent job up in Belfast. His carrying and breakdown work will be much welcomed at Ulster.

8. John Barclay (Scarlets -> Edinburgh)

Last but certainly not least, John Barclay. The Scotland captain makes the move to Edinburgh from the Scarlets and is arguably one of the best signings of the PRO14.

He was incredible during the Six Nations and the Scarlets’ run to the PRO14 final but unfortunately for his new club, the Achilles injury which he picked up in the PRO14 semi-final win over Glasgow has ruled him out until at least the November Internationals.

Edinburgh supporters will hope he is back and firing soon for a club which looks revitalised under Richard Cockerill.

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Author: Sean McMahon

Sean is Deputy Editor and head rugby writer. You can contact him by email [email protected] or on Twitter