Name: Jerome Schuster
D.o.B.: 29/6/1985 (28 years old)
Position: Tighthead Prop
Experience: 118 Pro Games (116 Perpignan, 2 France)
Shuster joins after playing 116 times for home town team Perpginan. In an interview with the Mercury Cockerill described his “prime position” as a tighthead, despite only 3 of those 116 games for Perpignan coming on the right hand side of the scrum.
So even though he clearly is a loosehead, as a guide Graham Rowntree earned a players tie (20 games) at tighthead in a similar time frame and next to nobody considered him as anything other than a loosehead, Cockerill seems set to feature him as a back up to Dan Cole in the number 3 jersey in competition with Fraser Balmain. This would also suggest that Logovi’i Mulipola will remain primarily as a loosehead.
Schuster will be needed early in the season as both Ayerza and Cole will be missing for the first game against Worcester, and then Cole will be required by England for 11 games. Cole played over 40 games last season after England then the Lions flogged him; so will require plenty of rest from us for him to be right by the end of the season.
Name: Owen Williams
D.o.B.: 27/2/1992 (21 years old)
Position: Fly Half
Experience: 13 Pro Games for Scarlets, 48 Semi-Pro games for Llanelli R.F.C.
Williams move has raised quite a stink in South Wales as he was highly rated by Scarlets’ boss Simon Easterby. An accurate goal-kicker whose percentages have been high 80s in the Welsh Premiership he is seen as a replacement for George Ford as a young heir apparent for Toby Flood; though Ryan Lamb will probably start the season as his back up, Lamb’s well know frailties in defence and with pressure kicks could see the Welshman jump the queue.
Williams will primarily feature for the A side and in LV Cup games as he seeks to bed into his new surroundings. He has played at centre for Llanelli so could well be used at 12 this season to ease him into the First XV. Williams played in the Scarlets run to the Pro12 Semi Finals so he will not be unaccustomed to playing in high pressure and quality games.
Originally from Ystradgynlais, a Valley’s town up from Neath, Williams played for the Ospreys at U-16s and 18s before briefly flirting with League, playing for Great Britain again at U-18s, then returning to Rugby with Llanelli.
Name: Ryan Lamb
D.o.B.: 18/5/1986 (27 years old)
Position: Fly Half
Experience: 190 Pro Games (85 for Gloucester, 49 for London Irish, 56 for Northampton)
After early promise for his home town team Gloucester, Lamb led the Cherry & Whites to back to back top placed finishes only to fall to Tigers and Alesana Tuilagi both times, boss Dean Ryan decided that Lamb wasn’t the man to lead Gloucester to Premiership glory after all and dumped him.
Unsettled spells at London Irish and then Northampton, where once again Lamb was part of a side that lost to Tigers in both a League and Cup final, have led Lamb to declare “If you can’t beat them, join them!”
After 190 senior games Lamb is now a thoroughly experienced pro, one might say a journeyman. He will provide a steady hand on the tiller should Toby Flood take Stuart Lancaster’s fancies, but if Flood remains with the Tigers all season he could well struggle for game time in the same way Dan Bowden has since he joined from London Irish.
All in all seems a rather odd signing and I wait with baited breath to see where the pint sized playmaker fits into Cockerill’s grand master plan.
Name: Sebastian De Chaves
D.o.B.: 30/10/1990 (22 years old)
Experience: 22 Pro Games (19 for Mont du Marsan, 3 for Lions in Vodacom Cup)
Rather fittingly a man whose name means “key” in Portuguese will be Tigers new Lock. De Chaves is eligible for England through his mother, Portugal through his father and South Africa as his place of birth was in Johannesburg. De Chaves played for local side the Lions (formerly Gauteng and even more formerly Transvaal) in the Vodacom Cup, a develop level below Super Rugby, University of Johannesburg and the Baby Boks (SA U-20s) before leaving South Africa for France.
De Chaves spent last season playing for Mont du Marsan in South-West France where he joined Seru Rabeni, Mont du Marsan was also where Waisale Serevi played after he left Tigers.
De Chaves will probably come into the squad as a direct replacement for fellow South African Rob Andrew, who has left for London Welsh, and will play in the LV Cup and A League games. He will hope to emulate Ed Slater’s break through into the First XV rather than follow in the footsteps of Rob Andrew.
Name: Tom Bristow
D.o.B.: 8/4/1991 (22 years old)
Position: Loosehead Prop
Experience: 32 Pro Games (London Welsh)
Bristow’s rise has been incredible. In May 2012 he was playing for Dorking in the 5th tier of English Rugby and Surrey in the County Shield, not even the full County Championship. Last year he was an ever present for London Welsh playing in every single game in all three competitions. Now he has signed for the Tigers and will be playing at the top of the European game.
To rise from the same level as South Leicester and Hinckley to be playing Heineken Cup rugby in just 14 months is such a breakneck journey for the young prop it is almost unbelievable. And to do it in such a physically demanding position as prop is even more incredible.
Bristow will fight it out with Mulipola and Ayerza for the loosehead jersey and initially I would expect him to play A league and LV Cup as he finds his feet at the nation’s biggest club. The last prop to make such a big jump to the club would probably be Darren Garforth, and we all know how well that ended up.
Read Part Two with the rest of new signings now