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Premiership

London Irish Sign Tongan International Forward

London Irish’s impressive summer recruitment has continued as they have captured the signing of an experienced forward

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(Photo by Fiona Goodall/Getty Images)

London Irish have confirmed the signing of Tongan international forward Steve Mafi ahead of the 2019/20 Gallagher Premiership season.

The versatile forward, who is comfortable in both the second-row and back-row, has had previous experience in England having lined-out for Leicester Tigers over 80 times over a four-year spell and is excited to return to the Premiership.

“This is a fantastic opportunity for me to return to England and test myself in the Premiership. London Irish is entering an exciting period in its history and I am thrilled to have signed. Next season will be a great challenge for myself and for the club and I cannot wait to run out and play for my first game in the famous green shirt,” he said.

Since his time with the Tigers Mafi has gone on to play for Super Rugby franchise the Western Force and Castres, where he won the Top 14 in 2018.

The Exiles director of rugby Declan Kidney is delighted to have added such an experienced player to his squad.

“Steve is another experienced addition to our squad moving forward. We know how demanding and challenging the Gallagher Premiership is, so it is important that we assemble a squad to meet the demands. Steve has a wealth of experience and the ability to cover several positions in the second and back row. We look forward to welcoming him to the club,” he said.

The 29-cap Tongan will certainly add experience to the club who are preparing for life back in the Premiership following their promotion from the Championship last season.

London Irish have already spent big this summer adding the likes of Waisake Naholo, Paddy Jackson, Noel Reid, Sean O’Brien, Sekope Kepu, and Nick Phipps among others with Mafi now joining the list of in-comings.

Premiership

Saracens Set to Sign Springboks Out-Half

Saracens have agreed a deal to sign a Springbok fly-half ahead of the new season

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(Photo by Craig Mercer/MB Media/Getty Images)

Saracens have agreed to sign Stormer and Springboks No 10 Damien Willemse as a World Cup cover player if he fails to break into Rassie Erasmus’ 31-man squad.

The out-half, who can also play centre, winger and full-back is currently playing in the Currie Cup but has been given the opportunity to play for Saracens according to Western Province coach John Dobson.

“If he doesn’t go to the World Cup, Damian could have an opportunity to go to Saracens on a short-term loan. If that does come about it will be a good thing for him as he can learn a lot through a short stint in the UK. Saracens, as you know, have a very good kicking game. If he goes there he will learn a lot about the game management that is expected of fly-half and he will come back better equipped to do well for us in Super Rugby. Our WP captain Chris van Zyl played for Saracens last year, enjoyed it and learnt a lot from the experience and was then back to take part in our pre-season,” he said.

As well as gaining experience Willemse could get some vital game time and be match-fit should an injury occur to someone in the 31-man squad and he would therefore be available to slot in.

Having come back from a knee injury Willemse is preparing for Western Province’s final Currie Cup game this weekend against the Cheetahs. Dobson is sure that Willemse could cut it at the reigning European and Premiership champions, but nothing is confirmed that he will head to England.

“Damian is a special kid off the field as well as on it and is a deep thinker on the game so I don’t think he’s going to be too badly knocked if he isn’t in the World Cup squad, but he does want to make a point to the national selectors. In his mind, he is still playing for a chance to be in the World Cup squad. Damian showed us last week when he came on against Griquas what a good attacking fly-half he is and we are expecting a lot from him against the Cheetahs. He is really motivated to do well for us and hopefully push our season out by another few weeks, but if he is not in the World Cup squad when it is announced on Monday he will then give some thought to Saracens,” he added.

The Springboks’ World Cup squad is set to be announced on Monday and it seems unlikely Willemse will be involved which would open the door for him to cover for the likes of England’s Owen Farrell while they go to Japan.

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Premiership

Bristol Bears announce All Black contract extension with quality Love Island video

Love Island Inspired

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Photo by Harry Trump/Getty Images

Bristol Bears social media team need a pay rise.

They’ve given us some quality signing videos this year and other hilarious social media content and now they’ve just released this quality video announcing the contract extension of one of their key men. Check it out below.

He’s sticking around for #1MoreYear

Pat Lamb spoke about Afoa’s decision to stay another season,

“I’m absolutely delighted that John has committed to another season with the Bears. He is a genuinely world-class performer and a shining example to our younger players.”

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Premiership

Mike Ford’s Role Changed at Leicester

Mike Ford’s role has been revised at Leicester Tigers ahead of the new campaign

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(Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

Mike Ford’s role has been revised at Leicester Tigers and he will now take up the job of attacks coach.

Ford was brought in halfway through last season as a consultant to help the club avoid relegation. However, former Tigers coach Pat Howard has now taken over the job of mentoring the managerial group meaning that Ford has been allowed to shift positions.

Having scored only 47 tries during a terrible season for the Tigers, head coach Geordan Murphy is delighted to have Ford in a more defined role.

“The nature of last season it certainly felt I was in doing quite a lot throughout the season. Having Mike come on board and take a little bit more of a lead in the attack has been great for me in that it helps me oversee and have those conversations with Mike and we have got Phil Blake who has got a pre-season, he has been putting the defence together,” he said while talking to Leicester Tigers TV.

He went on to give a rundown of which coaches will be taking control of each area as the club look to massively improve on their 11th place finish last season.

“He joined us in January and that was probably one of the massive areas of improvement that we expect to see. Mark Bakewell is taking the forwards and Brett Deacon is picking up all the work that needs to be done in and around that. We have resourced well and hopefully, we can keep improving. Mike is going to run the attack. Phil will run the defence, Mark will run the forwards and Brett is going to do breakdown across the club. At the minute Boris (Stankovich) does the scrum and does that throughout the club and we’re lucky. One of the things that I was conscious that I wanted to do was use people where they are strong. We have got some great coaches in the academy as well who will help develop and mentor guys. Dave Mele has come on board the academy and we will use him with the first-team nines and 10s as well,” he added.

The squad are currently training at an army base in Aldershot to try and improve their fitness levels ahead of the 2019/20 season, as Murphy believes that it’s an area where they were weaker last season.

“We are very lucky to be here and train at a new venue. We can get the players together for a week so we can have numerous training sessions and meetings and spend a little bit of time together… we wanted to work on our fitness. We have done that over the first few weeks and coming to an army camp enables us to train particularly hard. It [pre-season] has been good so far. The players are working very hard and I have to commend them. There has been a real attitude shift. People recognise we probably weren’t fit enough last season and it is something we wanted to address,” he finished up.

Murphy and his side have not only switched up the coaching staff but have spent big during the summer too and will be expected to have a much improved season than the one gone by.

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