Rugby is well and truly back under way. The continuation of the 2019/2020 season has been a welcome return to TV screens across the country. This season is peculiar in that we are getting a real taste of the Gallagher Premiership new recruits for what would’ve been the 2020/2021 campaign. Now three rounds of the competition have been completed. Squads being rotated to accommodate the heavy workload are giving the fans the chance to see both new signings and academy debutants in detail.
Progress of Gallagher Premiership new recruits
There have been a high number of comings and goings in the league. The financial pressures on the clubs are also creating a reliance on their academy products. These three rounds have been a real test of squad depth. However, lets take a look at some of the players who have made their Gallagher Premiership debut over these last few weeks and how they have fared.
Semi Radradra – Bristol Bears
Perhaps the most exciting recruit to join the Gallagher Premiership has been Bristol’s Radradra. The excitement began back at the World Cup where the powerful Fijian centre showcased his rare blend of power and class. The rumour mill took full affect after the tournament. Once Bristol made the announcement that they had landed the signing, fans of every club were excited. Defence coaches of the other 11 clubs may not have been so.
The pace… The power… The offloads 😍
— Rugby on BT Sport (@btsportrugby) August 23, 2020
In his three performances to date, there has been a real taste of things to come. An amazing performance against Gloucester felt like his arrival on the scene. Gaining 147 metres on the ground off 16 carries and beating four defenders are stats any player would be happy with. This is then followed with being the leading metre maker in Round 16 as well. However, a solid if unspectacular performance in his debut also shows that Bristol should avoid the tactic of relying on Radradra to create magic every time.
Jonny Gray – Exeter Chiefs
Since his brother exploded onto the scene with his bold blonde hair, talk of the younger brother amongst the Glasgow academy followed. It was mooted that he would be even better than Richie and so far, Jonny has made a good effort of living up to that potential. Now having displaced his brother in the Scotland second row, he is on course for being in Lions contention in 2021. Jonny Gray was quite rightly an exciting signing for the Exeter Chiefs.
Already two games in, Jonny Gray has formed what is looking like a strong connection with Jonny Hill. There is arguably no better pairing in the second row based on what has been seen so far. Showcasing his now trademark tackle efficiency as well as his lineout winning and stealing. Gray has made a promising start to his career in Devon and will look to go from strength to strength. There is even a good chance of silverware much earlier in his Exeter career than expected.
Shaun Adendorff – Northampton Saints
Northampton has been a breeding ground for renewing and invigorating South African players. The likes of Cobus Reinach and Juandre Kruger arguably left the Saints better players than when they arrived and Adendorff will hope to follow the same trajectory. Having blasted onto the scene in the 2012 Junior World Cup for the South African under-20’s. Putting in a man of the match performance against the England U20’s with two tries to his name. However, a brief spell with South Africa 7’s, and a handful of appearances for the Blue Bulls are all he has to show after the early promise.
Only making one start so far, there were signs of the reasons as to why Chris Boyd decided to gamble on the unproven Adendorff. Northampton are lacking in powerful ball carriers and ballast in the back row; Adendorff fills that gap well. Much like his compatriots who have run out for the Saints, a period of acclimatisation to the league will be needed. Don’t be surprised if the best of Adendorff will be seen in the following season. However, that doesn’t mean he couldn’t be crucial to the run in for the Saints.
Matt Scott – Leicester Tigers
The experienced and dependable Scot joins Jonny Gray in coming south of the border. Having joined up with the Leicester Tigers aiming to help turn things around. What is potentially the sensible name amongst the raft of new faces, Scott brings lots of experience to the centre position that will be essential for the young backs around him at Welford Road.
Having played in two of the first three games, the surprisingly physical Tigers have been led defensively by emerging leaders within the team. Matt Scott included in that. He has a 96% tackle success rate and has been combative at the breakdown. Managing three turnovers in the two games he has played so far. Matt Scott will likely been seen as a shrewd acquisition in the months ahead, providing stability and consistency going forwards. This will help the Tigers achieve a more respectable position in the league in the 2020/2021 campaign.
Still to come
The players highlighted above are some of the names who have graced our league over the last few rounds of the campaign. However, there are still some who are yet to take their bow. The only player in the world who could possibly push Semi Radradra in terms of having the biggest impact, is Nemani Nadolo. Although four appearances for Exeter in 2011 means he is not technically a Gallagher Premiership debutant. 160 appearances and 135 tries later, it is worth being excited about his return to the league for the Leicester Tigers.
London Irish are waiting on the debuts of a number of interesting new recruits. Rob Simmons bringing 98 Australian caps of experience, alongside the returning Agustin Creevy. This could provide a much needed lineout set piece that will challenge any opponent. There is also the short term deal of Dan Norton. The record high try scorer of all time in sevens rugby. The England speedster will be trying his hand at the 15 man version of the sport. It will be exciting to see if his pace and elusiveness will translate onto the pitch for the Irish.
Maim image credit: Embed from Getty Images