Leicester Tigers have confirmed Joe Thomas as their eighth signing of the summer and have also tied down prop Joe Heyes.
Thomas, who was an U20’s Grand Slam winner with Wales in 2016, has spent the last year playing in New Zealand, but is delighted to have moved to the Tigers.
“I’m really excited about the opportunity to join Leicester Tigers. They are a massive club in the Gallagher Premiership with a big history of success. I can’t wait to get started. It will be great to be able to learn off some great coaches and compete and play alongside great players,” he said.
The 23-year-old centre also has PRO 14 experience having lined out for both the Ospreys and the Dragons.
All of which has made him an attractive signing for head coach Geordan Murphy.
“Joe has a very good skill-set, he was highly rated on his way through the ranks in Wales and now he is keen to come in here and take on a new challenge with Leicester,” he said.
On the other hand, Heyes, who is currently at the World Rugby U20 Championship, has committed himself to the club and believes that being at Welford Road has made him a better person.
“Ever since I joined the club, Leicester have supported and guided me all the way to be a better person on and off the pitch. Geordie has a great vision for the future of the club and I want to play my part in it, however big or small it may be. Tigers was the first rugby club I supported and Welford Road was the first rugby venue I went to. So, to be able to play for Leicester Tigers at somewhere as special as Welford Road, in front of a passionate and enthusiastic crowd, is a dream come true. I want to keep learning and develop as much as I can. I just want to play for Leicester Tigers because it’s a dream and I absolutely love wearing the shirt,” he said.
Heyes was thrown-in at the deep end last season making 22 senior appearances in his debut campaign and his re-signing excites Murphy.
“Joe was fast-tracked into senior rugby last season and showed great resilience throughout a tough and long campaign. He is in good hands under the guidance of Boris Stankovich and has come on in leaps and bounds in a short time already. It is very exciting that, at just 20 years of age, he still has a lot of improvement in him and wants to continue his development in Leicester,” he said.
Leicester will be hoping the addition of Thomas along with the likes of Tomas Lavanini, Noel Reid and Jaco Taute will help them achieve a far better campaign than their latest one where they narrowly avoided relegation.
Leicester Tigers head coach, Dan McKellar said: “The group, players and staff were on the go for 23 weeks straight so getting away from the game for a period was really beneficial and we’ve come back in enthused for this challenge this week.
“Ealing are a team full of experience and quality, so we’ll have to be at our best to get the result we want, on a big day for the likes of Hanro and Finn.
“It’s fitting that Hanro leads us on his 100th game. He carried a lot of the leadership burden during the World Cup and continues to be someone the boys can count on to lead with his actions.”
Scott MacLeod is returning to Newcastle Falcons as line-out coach, with the former Scotland lock on board until at least the end of the season.
The Hawick native spent 11 years with the Falcons, making 61 appearances as a player before joining the coaching team in 2016.
Having departed Kingston Park last summer MacLeod will now return to impart his expertise, combining coaching commitments with working for his family’s business in the Scottish Borders.
Newcastle Falcons’ consultant director of rugby Steve Diamond said: “Scott is a well-respected line-out specialist who can help us make some big gains in that area between now and the end of the season.
“He knows and loves the club, he’s very well regarded here and I’m looking forward to getting him back involved.
“We’ve initially said it’s until the end of the season and I know Scott has other business commitments, but if it works well for both parties over the next few months then we’ll be happy to look at extending it beyond that.”
Capped 24 times by Scotland in a playing career which also saw him starring for Border Reivers, Edinburgh, Scarlets, Kobelco Steelers and Newcastle, the set-piece specialist is relishing the prospect of reinvigorating the Falcons’ line-out during the remainder of the season.
MacLeod said: “Our line-out has consistently been in the top four of the Premiership over the past few years, so hopefully I can come in and help get us back up there.
“I’ve been watching the games from afar this season because Newcastle Falcons is still a big part of my life, even though I’ve not been personally involved since the summer. I just want to come in and make a positive difference, get us back to where we should be and help the boys.”
Having spent more than a decade at Kingston Park as a player and coach, MacLeod insisted the opportunity to return was just too good to pass up.
“I’ve missed the place a lot,” said the 44-year-old.
“I’m now working for my family’s business, MacLeod Glass, up in Hawick, but I’m sure any sportsperson will tell you they miss being in and around that team environment. It’s certainly very different going from a Premiership rugby club to working in a factory every day, and it’s been a shock to the system.
“I’ll now get to combine both, and I’ve missed being involved with the professional game. I’ve been coaching my son’s S2 side to get my rugby fix, but I’m buzzing to be back with the Falcons. It’s a really special club for me.”
Setting out with one clear aim, the Scot said: “I just want us to get our identity back.
“I’ll come in, assess our strengths and our weaknesses and come up with a plan accordingly. I know some of the players really well and I don’t know others at all, but luckily with us having this big break before our next game it’s absolutely ideal timing for getting things in place.
“One thing you have to bear in mind with Newcastle is how bad the weather is, in terms of how much you can push it in the line-out, but I just want to get the confidence back into the boys.
“It’s about simple things being done well on a consistent basis, and I’m starting this week to help put it in motion.
“I’ve got a few weeks to get to know the guys I’ve not worked with before, see how it all ties in with the lads I already know and then knit it all together into a game plan which works best for the team.
“As I say, I just want us to have that Newcastle Falcons identity again when it comes to the line-out, and I’m really positive about things. We’ll see how it works between now and the end of the season, and if everyone’s happy then we can see where it goes.”
Newcastle Falcons’ next home game is against Leicester Tigers on Good Friday (March 29), with tickets on sale for the 7.45pm kick-off by clicking here.