Gallagher Premiership: Most Influential Departures

Gallagher Premiership deptartures
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Gallagher Premiership: most influential departures

The 2019/2020 Gallagher premiership season seems a long time ago, and in many ways it was. However, it was completed in a way that allowed for a preview of the playing squads that would be expected in the 2020-2021 season. With the rugby restart commencing after the completion of transfers agreed in advance of the current season. They were able to take part in the culmination of the 2019/2020 season too. This also meant some of the Gallagher Premiership departures included some teams key players, leaving them with big gaps to fill.

Now we are six rounds into the Gallagher Premiership and entering a late notice two-week break in fixtures. Below we look at the players that are going to be missed by their clubs. There will also be a few players who swapped clubs within the league. We will look to see what has happened to their former clubs since these key players departures and how they have tried to fill the gaps. Which transfers had the most impact on the Gallagher Premiership?

 Cobus Reinach – Northampton Saints to Montpellier

Arguably the most impactful of the Gallagher Premiership departures. The South African scrum half left Franklins Gardens for the French outfit Montpellier. The form of Northampton Saints has been discussed for many months, with lots being said about their appalling home form for the best part of a year. Northampton were in 4th place in the Premiership when Reinach left the team. It is no coincidence that the poor form of the Saints commenced immediately. Reinach’s explosive pace, clever sniping runs and ever-improving kicking game were key to Northampton’s much lauded attacking style of play.

Since then, Northampton are starting to find their attacking identity again. Leaning on the young backs they have put a lot of faith in. It has however taken several months to start to see positive signs from the side. There is a lot of hope that young Alex Mitchell will be the starting scrum-half for seasons to come, and perhaps his injury woes may also be part of the stuttering nature of the Saints form. It is apparent that scrum-half is the key position to the success of Northampton going forward.

 Telusa Veianu – Leicester Tigers – Stade Francais

Leicester have been having backroom troubles and squad overhauls for what seems like a few years now. One of the most traditional and successful clubs in the country has been struggling to reclaim their position at the top of the table. Looking at their squad they are packed with internationals and high-quality players. Last season and seasons before it, in what was a hit and miss backline, the most exciting weapon was the elusive Tongan. The 2017-2018 RPA player’s player of the season may have seen a gradual decline after the recognition. His attacking style and excitement were what led to him being a fan favourite in the 5 years he was at Welford Road

This season, there is arguably the roots for optimism to not be too concerned with the departure of Veianu. The emergence of England U20 Freddie Steward as a first-team quality full-back will go down well with the Tigers faithful. An academy product that is showing glimpses of real promise, with a few more positive performances will become a new fan favourite.

Johnny Williams – Newcastle Falcons – Scarlets

Johnny Williams was at one point being touted as a potential future England centre. He was a first-team regular in a London Irish side from the age of 18. He also featured in the England U20 side in the 2016 season which culminated in victory in the 2016 Junior World Cup. He was proving to be both defensively solid and a more than competent attacking outlet as well. He left London Irish after their relegation in 2018 and joined the Falcons. Managing 5 tries in only 17 appearances, he was showing that he belonged at the top level.

In June 2019 Williams scored a try in a non-capped fixture for England against the Barbarians, but later that year had a life-changing moment. In October 2019 Williams revealed he had a positive diagnosis for testicular cancer. He took time away from the game to focus on his treatment and recovery. Thankfully, he was able to return full time to the sport in 2020. However, he now plies his trade in Wales for the Scarlets, being called up by Wales and now with two Welsh caps to his name and try against England in the November internationals. This may be a story of the one that got away from both club and country.

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Michael Fatialofa – Worcester Warriors – Injury

 In what was one of the moments of the season that brought the sport together in support of a member of the rugby family. Michael Fatialofa suffered a serious neck injury against Saracens in January 2020. The extent of the injury was bad enough that he would be in a wheelchair for the rest of his life. In what has been labeled as a miracle, Michael was up and walking in March of the same year. The former All Black was a high class forward and as such very difficult to replace. He continues with rehabilitation and will not grace the pitch this season having not being featured in the club’s squad for the season.

However, with the nature of his mind-blowing recovery, it wouldn’t be surprising if there was an against all odds recovery to some form of return to the game. Worcester Warriors haven’t directly replaced the lock so far. With Ted Hill and Matt Kvesic in the back row though, they are picking up the sort of work Fatialofa would be doing around the park. It is unclear what the future will be. It is no doubt that ‘Fats’ is sorely missed by both club and league. Although the saddest of the Gallagher Premiership departures, all of the rugby family hope for recovery as soon as possible.

 

Swapping team colours

There have also been a few notable transfers where players have swapped teams in the league. They may have left a huge void to fill behind them or given an opportunity to players who may not have had if they hadn’t left. Not necessarily Gallagher Premiership departures, they are however noteworthy.

Kyle Sinckler – Harlequins – Bristol Bears

Sinckler surprisingly swapped his boyhood club Harlequins for Bristol. To date, he has struggled to nail down the starting spot at tighthead prop, a position he had cemented at Quins. The London based team replaced Sinckler with Wilco Louw and the emergence of Simon Kerrod. Sinckler continues to share game time with the likes of John Afoa, perhaps allowing Sinckler to be fresh for his England duties.

Jonny May – Leicester Tigers – Gloucester

Another England international to change employers was Jonny May, returning to the club that gave him his first games in the Premiership. Gloucester now have a paddock of wingers that would be the envy of most in the league. May is now competing with the likes of Ollie Thorley and Louis Rees-Zammit. It may be seen as a move to keep Jonny developing his game with top-class competition for spots. Leicester have been missing his world-class finishing and he is a player very difficult to replace. Nemani Nadolo has been brought in and is a very different style of winger, world-class in his own way. It remains to be seen if he will be as effective as the England flyer.

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Josh Hodge – Newcastle Falcons – Exeter Chiefs

Finally, a review of a player who may be more missed for the Falcons in future seasons. Josh Hodge is packed with potential and for some it was a surprise that he made the move to Exeter. He had only made one appearance for Newcastle when he made the move. However, he has been called up by Eddie Jones as an apprentice player for England and is clearly highly thought of. Learning from the likes of Stuart Hogg and Jack Nowell will do Hodge a world of good. The talented full-back already has a few appearances for the double winning Chiefs. Will Newcastle rue letting this potential leave the club? Only time will tell.

Let us know if you think any other Gallagher Premiership departures had the most impact. Has your team seen a change in fortunes since a key transfer. Let us know on LWOS Boards or on our social media – Twitter: @lwosrugby and Facebook: LWOS Rugby Union

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