Aviva Premiership players to watch

25 August 2017 06:09

The Aviva Premiership will once again welcome a host of star-studded new arrivals this season, while lesser-known fresh faces could also enhance reputations.

Here, we look at five players to watch in the new campaign.


The Wales flyer enjoyed a stellar summer with the British and Irish Lions in New Zealand and will now look to repeat that form with the back-to-back European champions. Saracens lost Chris Ashton to Toulon but shrugged off that blow by recruiting Williams from Scarlets as a direct replacement. Williams' strike running helped the Lions register one of the touring outfit's all-time great tries, kick-started the field-length break in the first New Zealand Test that led to Sean O'Brien's stunning score. At 26 Williams should now hit his prime, leaving Saracens well-placed to reap that fruit.


Underhill's switch from Ospreys to Bath allowed Eddie Jones to take the prodigiously-talented flanker on England's tour of Argentina in the summer. The former Gloucester back-rower broke through with the Ospreys while studying at Cardiff University, but is now back on home soil and able to progress his career for both club and country. Adept at the breakdown and a classic continuity flanker, Underhill boasts a rare skill set that Bath and England will doubtless look to maximise now.


Sale's high-profile capture of Springboks scrum-half De Klerk has signalled their intentions to push on under taskmaster boss Steve Diamond. The north west club hope to bring the best out of James O'Connor, the Australia back looking to rebuild his career after being arrested in Paris for drug offences in February. While O'Connor's move from Toulon will capture much fanfare, De Klerk's arrival at the AJ Bell Stadium ought to excite Sale fans just as much. The gritty half-back has a smart mix of aggression, physicality and wit that Diamond will hope can elevate Sale's back play to new levels.


New Leicester coach Matt O'Connor saw Mapapalangi's bruising qualities first-hand in a recent stint in Tonga's back-room staff. The 24-year-old back-five forward is certainly raw, but has plenty of muscle to flex and pace to augment that. Leicester have plenty of previous when it comes to unearthing and polishing rough diamonds, and may well have another gem on their hands here.


Kvesic traded Worcester for Gloucester in 2013 as the Premiership's hottest property and England's nailed-on next openside flanker. The groundhog seven saw his career stall with the Cherry and Whites however, with his England aspirations remaining largely unfulfilled. Kvesic has yet to feature at all with England under Eddie Jones, and will doubtless hope his switch to Exeter can help reignite his Test chances. Not only are Exeter now reigning Premiership champions, but rugby director Rob Baxter has also helped the Chiefs revitalise the careers of a catalogue of stars in recent years. Should Baxter and the Chiefs strike again here, Sandy Park will play host to yet another back-row forward of the highest quality.

Source: PA