While there are still five rounds to go in the Aviva Premiership regular season, directors of rugby will already be looking towards next season and their club’s goals.
There have already been many new signings ahead of next season in the Premiership so far, but here we’ve looked at each club and identified where they need to strengthen.
Bath have improved drastically this season under Todd Blackadder, and have already acquired Freddie Burns and Sam Underhill to fill vacancies left over from the last couple of seasons. The lineout has been a bit of a weakness for Bath of late, and having lost Rob Webber to Sale Sharks last season Ross Batty has become the first choice hooker.
Signing a world-class hooker would be an excellent piece of business for Bath, so perhaps Ross Ford of Glasgow Warriors, who has fallen behind Fraser Brown at international level, could look to move to a bigger team in order to win back his place.
It looks increasingly likely that Bristol will be in the Championship next season after a loss to Worcester in their relegation battle at the weekend. Having strengthened the back row and fly-half positions by signing Steven Luatua and Ian Madigan, Worcester would benefit hugely from signing a second row.
Rumours of Eben Etzebeth have certainly died down, but Grant Gilchrist of Edinburgh could be one to move on with his contract expiring in May, and since injuries have slightly hampered his Scotland career, he could look for a fresh start at Ashton Gate.
Exeter are turing into a hugely successful Premiership team and are competing for a place in the final this year. Across the board they are strong, but they could use a world-class loosehead prop. Even if London Irish do make it back into the Premiership this season, it is hard to see Ben Franks – who has been linked with the club before – staying if Exeter were to offer him a chance to play in the Champions Cup and challenge for trophies.
The former All Black has another year on his contract, and it would be difficult to persuade Irish, but with a bit of effort this could potentially happen, and would undeniably strengthen Exeter at scrum time.
Gloucester are in a bit of trouble at the moment, with Laurie Fisher appearing to have resigned on Twitter after a 30-27 loss this weekend, and new blood needs to come in soon. Greig Laidlaw’s departure will hit the Cherry and Whites hard, and a leader to replace him will be key, as Will Heinz will slot in well at 9.
With Bristol seemingly going down as the season draws to a close, their star man Jason Woodward would be a brilliant signing. Again, despite having another year on his contract, a player of his quality is unlikely to want to be playing Championship rugby next season. He would breath life into a seemingly tired Gloucester side.
Harlequins are still in transition since the end of the Conor O’Shea era, and have signed some good players ahead of next season. Quins have struggled to replace the talismanic Nick Easter at No. 8 and while Jack Clifford has filled in there at times, an out-and-out number 8 would be brilliant for them.
Ross Moriarty has proven in the Six Nations to be a more than useful number 8 and can clearly change a game for the better. He would be a brilliant piece of business for Quins if they can convince him to join them and compete for trophies, as they should be.
Leicester, like Quins, are in a transition period following the Richard Cockerill era and are looking for new blood. The signing of George Ford is an excellent start, but up front is where the Tigers need to expand. Their front row is well stacked but the second row is lacking international experience.
South African lock Lood de Jager has been switching between Super Rugby franchises and has not signed a contract for next season. The 24-year-old would give Leicester back the hard-nosed approach they’ve been so used to for many years, and have been lacking of late.
Newcastle are an up-and-coming team in the Premiership and are playing some good rugby. The place they are currently lacking in, however, is the inside centre role, and with Maxime Mermoz coming in he would need a world-class partner in the 13 shirt to get the most out of him.
Marcelo Bosch is still a quality player and would be a brilliant signing for the Falcons. The Argentinian would really bring life into that backline, not to mention a serious boot. He will probably be a victim of the merry-go-round of rugby transfers over the summer, and Newcastle would really be able to fortify that centre partnership for next season if they could sign him up.
Northampton Saints are not having a good season, and need a fresh start next year, like so many other clubs. Losing Kahn Fotuali’i slowed them down this season, and with JJ Hanrahan leaving and Stephen Myler no longer as much of an attacking threat, the half backs are where a signing would be most useful.
They are reportedly eager to sign springbok Pat Lambie, who is a class act. Combined with Harry Malinder, he could bring the Saints backline back up to the standard it should be at and would get the most out of their brilliant pack.
Sale Sharks have two brilliant scrum-halves this season in Peter Stringer and Mike Phillips – unfortunately for the Sharks however, both are approaching the end of their careers.
Sale have thrived off good, clean ball and a well executed kicking game, and with Ben Spencer rapidly making a name for himself at Saracens perhaps it’s time for Richard Wigglesworth to return to see out the rest of his career in Salford while the Sharks develop some new talent in their academy.
The most dominant team in Europe last year seem a bit off the pace this season, and will hope to have a better overall campaign in 2017/18. New blood is needed in the centres, with the Brad Barritt/Bosch axis becoming predictable, and Duncan Taylor needing a carrier outside of Owen Farrell to get the game flowing.
Ben Te’o has also seized his opportunity in the Six Nations to excel in an England shirt and the 30-year-old will be wanting to compete at a higher level in Europe. With time running out on his contract, Sarries would be wise to start talks to sign the New Zealand-born centre.
Who do you sign if you already have everyone? Wasps have been far and away the best team in the league this season, and the only position where they are perhaps lacking is in the second row, where they need a third player to back up James Gaskell and Joe Launchbury.
Waikato Chiefs lock Dominic Bird has lost his place in the All Blacks squad and may be looking to move after his contract expires this year. He would be a brilliant short-term addition to Wasps, but in all honesty they don’t really need anyone at this point with the strength in depth they already have.
If Worcester are to stay up in the Premiership for next season they would need more strength in depth across the backline, and a utility back who could come off the bench and cover multiple positions would be ideal for them.
Gavin Henson may not have been able to beat Worcester last weekend, but the 35-year-old would bring experience and nous to the Warriors backline and is able to cover many positions. While this would be a short-term deal, it could help both player and club hugely, as Henson’s Bristol contract expires at the close of the season.
Who do you think your club needs to sign?
Feel free to leave comments on our Facebook page with players you want to see in the Premiership next season.
Oscar Reilly, Pundit Arena