So the vast majority of Tigers business for the summer has been done and for once actually announced.
Who’s coming and who’s going?
The headline signing is Northampton’s Ryan Lamb. Gloucester born and bred Lamb played for his home town for 4 years before moving on to London Irish where he spent two seasons and then on to Northampton. A veteran of 190 professional games Lamb is an experienced and capable understudy to Toby Flood and a mentor to another new signing Owen Williams. Williams joins the club from Llanelli where he guided the side to the RaboDirect Pro12 semi finals after establishing himself earlier in the season. He is 21 and has played 15 times for the Scarlets, 30 times for Llanelli in the Welsh Premiership and has represented Wales at Under 20s and Great Britain Rugby League at Under 18s. He will principally play A league and LV Cup rugby and will presumably become the new favourite of the “How can Cockerill not pick this young lad” group of fans.
Tigers other major singing of the summer is Argentinean test winger Gonzalo Camacho who joins from Exeter. Camacho has played 20 tests for Argentina and started all matches in last year’s Rugby Championship as well as their win over Wales at the Millennium Stadium. Camacho only played 8 games for Exeter last year due to the emergence of Jack Nowell, featuring 18 times the year before and 21 times for Harlequins in 2010/11; in English rugby he has scored only 8 tries in 56 games. Camacho will join up with the squad in time for the Heineken Cup in October, but will face a battle to get into the team as he will be fighting with Morris, Goneva, Thompstone and hopefully fit again Miles Benjamin for the wing berths. Not to mention Academy flier Henry Purdy.
Perpignan has been raided for French pair David Mélé and Jérôme Schuster. Mélé is a 27 year old scrum half who has played 141 times for Perpignan, including being involved in every game last season. Like most French scrum halfs Mélé is a goal kicker and can fill in at fly half as he did 3 times this season, also unlike any of our current players he seems capable of kicking drop goals notching 4 this year. Schuster, who is 2 weeks shy of his 28th birthday, is a loosehead prop who has played 116 times for his home town club Perpignan, though only 44 starts. His form in 2010 earned him two French test caps starting against Fiji and coming off the bench against Australia.
Also joining from the Top 14 is young South African lock-cum-backrow Sebastian De Chaves. De Chaves is a 6’6” 17 and a half stone 23 year old who qualifies for England through his mother and Portugal through his father. He will hope to make more of an impact than fellow South African Rob Andrew had last year. If he does play well I’m sure you’ll hear the usual suspects moaning about him “blocking” a young academy player.
Tigers have signed Neil Briggs from recently relegated London Welsh. Briggs is a hooker who will come in to cover for Tom Youngs during his lengthy spells with the England side and the first two weeks of the season which he will miss resting after the Lions tour. Briggs started out playing for Rotherham before a lengthy spell with Sale, from there he played a season in Pro D2 with Bourgoin before spending last year with the Welsh Exiles.
Rounding off Tigers confirmed signings is Jamie Gibson from London Irish. Gibson plays all three back row positions and despite his 6’5” frame is apparently seen principally as an openside. Gibson went to posh public school Marlborough and is still studying classics at University College, Oxford, how he finds the time for the 5 hour round trip in between training sessions will be of interest. Gibson was a late replacement for the England tour to South Africa last summer playing both midweek matches.
Tigers have also been linked with signing 20 year old Romanian prop Constantin Pristavita who made his Romania test debut last week against Russia. Romania coach Lyn Howells has revealed that one player is set for a “big transfer” after months ago revealing that a Romanian prop was on trial at Leicester. No word has come from the club or its mouthpiece the Mercury however its fairly probable that the paper wouldn’t consider it a news worthy event as they didn’t report the signing of 18 year old Canadian Djustice Sears-Duru last summer either.
The biggest losses are Geordan Murphy who is retiring and Martin Castrogiovanni who is joining European Champions Toulon. Bath have announced the signing of both George Ford and Micky Young as rumoured heavily for months, whilst Kiernan Brookes is returning to Newcastle after two fairly poor season at Leicester dogged by injuries.
Matt Cornwell returns to Italian Excellenza side Mogliano after spending a single season back at his home club.
Richard Thorpe has been signed by relegated London Welsh as they look to bounce back at the first attempt. Joining the Championship from the other direction is Ealing Trailfinders who have announced the signing of prop Camilo Parilli-Ocampo, the Londoner joins the side he played for as a youth after a leg brake ruled him out of the whole of the last season. Charlie Clare has been released from the Academy and has signed with beaten finalists Bedford.
Young trio Jimmy Stevens, Jonny Harris and Alex Lewington have joined Premiership strugglers London Irish as they try to avoid relegation and re-establish themselves in the upper echelons. Andy Forsyth has joined Sale after failing to break into the first team 4 years after his debut.
Andy Symons, another centre, has joined Tasman in the New Zealand Provincial Championship. His name was not on the released list by the club but it is my understanding that there is no agreement for him to come back after their season has ended in October. Equally there is no apparent signing for anyone else so he may yet rejoin but that is unlikely.
Finally Rob Andrew and George Oliver have both been released and have yet to find a new club. Brett Deacon was on the released list by the club but apparently has an injury and will be rehabbing it at the club; with a possible new contract should he be needed.
In: Ryan Lamb (Northampton), Gonzalo Camacho (Exeter), Jamie Gibson (London Irish), David Mele (Perpignan), Jerome Shuster (Perpignan), Neil Briggs (London Welsh), Owen Williams (Llanelli Scarlets), Sebastian de Chaves (Mont du Marsan),
Out: Geordan Murphy (Retiring –coaching staff), Martin Castrogiovanni (Toulon), George Ford (Bath), Micky Young (Bath), Kieran Brookes (Newcastle), Matt Cornwell (Mogliano), Richard Thorpe (London Welsh), Jonny Harris (London Irish), Jimmy Stevens (London Irish), Alex Lewington (London Irish), Andy Forsyth (Sale), Andy Symons (Tasman), Charlie Clare (Bedford), Camilo Parilli-Ocampo (Ealing), Brett Deacon (Unknown), Rob Andrew (Unknown), George Oliver (Unknown)