We have witnessed a busy transfer window ahead of the 2023/24 Premiership Rugby season, with the new arrivals now more than settled into their clubs following the opening five matches.
Following their collapse at the end of last season, London Irish flooded the free agent pool with top talents, with most finding new homes in the top flight of English rugby. Similarly to the Exiles, some of the top talents from Wasps and Worcester Warriors continue to shine in the Premiership.
When the two clubs entered administration in October 2022, many top talents were picked up by overseas clubs, and have since made their returns to the league. We are now five rounds in to the 2023/24 Premiership season, with the new arrivals showcasing their talents in their new colours.
We’ve nailed down our picks for an Ultimate XV, of the top Premiership signings for the 2023/24 season.
15. Jamie Shillcock (Mitsubishi Dynamboars to Leicester Tigers)
14. Solomone Kata (Exeter Chiefs to Leicester Tigers)
11. Max Malins (Saracens to Bristol Bears)
Our selected back-three could well have been an all Leicester Tigers trio, as plenty of new faces arrived at Welford Road for the new campaign. However, we have decided to give Max Malins the nod to start over former London Irish winger Ollie Hassell-Collins, following the winger’s mid-season departure from the Exiles. Malins will be more motivated than ever to make an impact at Ashton Gate, after an underwhelming stint in Steve Borthwick’s Rugby World Cup squad.
Malins made just one appearance at the World Cup, which came in the 71-0 thrashing of Chile. However, he was able to fight off the contention from Hassell-Collins, and kept the Tigers man off the plane to France. Joining Malins in our back-three is Solomone Kata, who impressed on his international run outs for Tonga. The powerhouse winger scored in the Sea Eagles’ World Cup defeat to Scotland, and ran over Romania for an additional two competition tries. After a brief break, the versatile Kata is back, with Leicester already utilising his hot-stepping talents across the centres and wing positions.
Taking the number 15 jersey in our Ultimate XV is Jamie Shillcock, as the former Worcester Warriors and Bath man makes his return to the Premiership. Shillcock took a brief loan to Bath and returned to Sixways shortly before the club announced it’s administration. Shillcock headed out to Japan, and signed up with Sagamihara side, the Mitsubishi Dynaboars. Shillcock has already presented his varied skillset on his return to England, with a Premiership Cup try against Caldy, and a score in Leicester’s losing effort against Saracens a fortnight ago.
13. Benhard Janse van Rensburg (London Irish to Bristol Bears)
12. Joe Hawkins (Ospreys to Exeter Chiefs)
The first of a handful of names that were briefly free agents following London Irish’s collapse, Benhard Janse van Rensburg was promptly snapped off the market by Bristol Bears. The South African talent brings an impressive versatility to the Bears back-line, as he is a confident ball-playing centre that can seamlessly slot in at fly-half. A valuable asset in both his passing and power game, van Rensburg will soon become a fan favourite at Ashton Gate.
Partnering up in our midfield with van Rensburg is Joe Hawkins, who made a great sacrifice to secure his move to Sandy Park. The 21-year-old gave up the opportunity to play for Wales at the 2023 Rugby World Cup, as he moved outside of the nation with five test caps to his name. The current WRU eligibility laws disqualify players with 25 caps to represent Warren Gatland’s side whilst based overseas. This rules out the former Ospreys man, despite having a starring breakthrough for Wales in the 2023 Six Nations.