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Sport The new Welsh rugby transfer signings and deals now confirmed in 2021

17:51  18 february  2021
17:51  18 february  2021 Source:   walesonline.co.uk

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It's that time of year again, when rugby incomings and outgoings are confirmed as bosses prepare for the next season.

Various transfers and contract extensions have been announced throughout January and during the Six Nations.

Here are the Welsh rugby deals which have been announced this year so far:

Rhys Priestland (joining Cardiff Blues)

Priestland is returning to Welsh rugby after six seasons with Premiership side Bath.

The 34-year-old will link up with the Arms park side this summer, bringing with him a vast amount of experience.

Explaining his move to the Blues, Priestland said: "I have loved my time at Bath. I needed a change of environment and possibly stayed at the Scarlets a year too long but moving here has been great for me.

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"Some of the coaches and players I have had the opportunity to work and play with has been great, I have learnt a lot and enjoyed playing in the Premiership.

"However now is the right time to come back to Wales and I’m really excited about the future at Cardiff.

"They have a really exciting squad with a lot of good young players and some talented young coaches who I know well like Richie Rees, Tom Smith and Dwayne Peel, who will also be joining next season."

Sam Davies (Dragons)

Dragons fly-half Sam Davies has committed his future to the Dragons, who say he has signed a "new long-term deal".

The Wales international, who has clocked up 217 points in 27 games for the Welsh region, has agreed new terms to remain at Rodney Parade after arriving from the Ospreys in the summer of 2019.

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Director of rugby Dean Ryan said of the 27-year-old's new deal: "It is key that our senior players want to remain here, want to compete and get better with the Dragons.

"Sam is the start of that group committing which is fantastic news.

Willis Halaholo (Cardiff Blues)

New Wales star Willis Halaholo has signed a new long-term deal to remain with Cardiff Blues just days after making his international debut.

As with Davies' Dragons deal, the length of the new deal - which was signed before Halaholo linked up with Wales - is unspecified.

Popular centre Halaholo, who joined the region in 2016, will now remain with the Welsh region where he has made 76 appearances and scored 15 tries.

The deal was announced just a few days after he made an impressive Wales debut in the Six Nations win over Scotland.

Halaholo said: "I’m really pleased to sign this new deal and commit my future to Cardiff Blues, especially at such an exciting time for the region.

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"From the moment we arrived here, the welcome has been unreal and this truly feels like home. My family and I love it here in Cardiff and I cannot wait to run out at the Arms Park in front of our incredible supporters once again."

Gonzalo Bertranou (joining Dragons)

Argentina scrum-half Gonzalo Bertranou joining the Dragons is a major coup for the Welsh region, with the Pumas half-back agreeing an initial deal until the end of the season.

He could well make his first appearance in a Dragons jersey on Friday night against Leinster.

Bertranou, who has won 26 caps for the Pumas, said: "I'm looking forward to starting to train and play with the team. I’m very happy.

"This is my first time in Wales, so it is an exciting time for me. It is a good opportunity for me to prove myself. I love the way the Wales team plays and obviously Dragons, so I am now looking forward to start playing."

Now a Test regular in the matchday squad, he came off the bench during the famous 25-15 victory over the All Blacks late last year and started the drawn match with the Wallabies, winning his most recent cap in the rematch with the Aussies in December.

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Ioan Davies (joining Dragons)

Talented full-back Ioan Davies, 21, has joined the Dragons on loan from Cardiff Blues until the end of the season.

Wales Under-20s international Davies made his professional debut against Edinburgh in February 2020 and has made two further appearances for Cardiff Blues.

The full-back was part of the Wales Under-20s Six Nations squad in 2019, having graduated from Wales Under-18 set-up.

He will bolster the back-three options for Dean Ryan, whose side have five PRO14 matches before the start of the Rainbow Cup involving South African sides.

Dan Baker (joining Dragons)

Former Ospreys and Wales number eight Dan Baker has signed a short-term deal to join the Dragons following a spell in France.

He has linked up with Dean Ryan's men with immediate effect after a recent spell at Stade Montois in France.

The Neath-born back-row, 28, joins the region until the end of the season as an injury replacement for Ross Moriarty, who underwent ankle surgery in December.

Carwyn Tuipulotu (Scarlets)

Talented young back-rower Carwyn Tuipulotu put pen to paper on his first professional contract by signing a four-year deal with the Scarlets.

The 19-year-old back-rower, who is the son of Tongan international Kati Tuipulotu, made a big impression this season after coming off the bench for his PRO14 debut against Leinster.

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He attended Sedbergh School in Cumbria before linking up with the Scarlets Academy from Newcastle Falcons two seasons ago, and has been capped at Wales U16s and U18s level.

He is also in the first year of a philosophy degree at Swansea University, combining his studies with his professional rugby career.

"I feel like I am settled and really at home here", he said. "There are a lot of senior players who have been a great help to me, they are like my big brothers. I am learning a huge amount from their experiences and that can only help me develop my game."

WillGriff John (joining Scarlets)

On the eve of the Six Nations, Scarlets confirmed they had signed former Wales squad member WillGriff John from Sale Sharks.

Part of Wales' Six Nations squad in 2020 and in line for a debut against Scotland, John, 28, was denied that opportunity when the match was postponed and did not feature in the autumn or this year's Six Nations squads.

The prop has been with the Sharks for the last four seasons, initially starting out with Pontypridd in the Welsh Premiership. From there, the 6ft 3in and 19st 11lb front-rower began his professional journey with Cardiff Blues before spells with Doncaster Knights in the English Championship and with New Zealand provincial side Northland. He was also part of Wales U20s' squad at the 2012 Junior World Championships.

Scarlets head coach Glenn Delaney said: "He was due to win his first cap for Wales against Scotland last year only for the match to be postponed because of Covid and he is hungry to get back into the international set-up. He is a player who will add a lot to our squad and we look forward to welcoming him to Parc y Scarlets in the summer."

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Will Rowlands (joining Dragons)

This deal was officially announced at the tail end of January, with the Wales second row's move from Wasps to Wales a major coup.

The 29-year-old will link up with the region in the summer having been linked with the outfit for some months.

With his Wasps contract expiring at the end of this season, the five-cap lock had to head for Wales to remain eligible under the WRU 60-cap rule.

He said: "It’s a new chapter for me, having only played my rugby at one club, so I’m looking forward to some new experiences and challenging myself in a new environment."

Keiran Williams (Ospreys)

Ospreys centre Keiran Williams, one of Welsh rugby's brightest young talents, has signed a new deal to remain at the Liberty Stadium.

The 23-year-old centre has been one of regional rugby’s players of the season, and will now remain with the region for another two years.

Once likened to a young Scott Gibbs because of his build and power-running, the Neath-born youngster has made a big impression on the new coaches at the Liberty, with team boss Toby Booth saying: "Keiran has been impressive from the outset."

Stephen Myler (Ospreys)

Seasoned fly-half Stephen Myler has re-signed with the Ospreys for another season.

The 36-year-old England international has proven one of Welsh rugby’s players of the campaign with his intelligence, calm authority and accurate goal-kicking.

His reward is an extension to the single-year deal he penned with the Swansea-based region last summer, when he became Toby Booth's first signing.

"Effectively having an extra coach on the pitch, which is what Stephen is, allows him to coach in the moment", Booth said.

"He is very generous with his knowledge and very committed to the project he is in.

"Once I knew Stephen was available and had a conversation with him it was a no-brainer to sign him."

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Will Hickey (joining Ospreys)

Will Hickey, a hugely promising young back-rower from Ireland, has signed for the Ospreys.

Hickey captained the renowned St Michael’s College last year.

It had been expected that he would seamlessly progress into the Leinster academy system, having played for the province's A side as recently as December.

But the blindside flanker or No. 8 surprisingly failed to make the cut — putting the Ospreys on alert.

Ifan Phillips (Ospreys)

Ifan Phillips has put pen to paper on a deal that will see him stay with the Liberty Stadium region until 2023.

The son of former Wales and Neath captain Kevin Phillips, it is his "emotional connection" with the region that has impressed his coaches.

“His emotional connection to the Ospreys through his father comes through every time he pulls the shirt on,” said head coach Toby Booth.

“Those ingredients certainly add to your squad both on and off the pitch, which is exciting.

“Ifan has shown some really good performances for the region this season.”

On signing, the hooker said: “We have four quality hookers here and competition throughout the squad that pushes everyone to be better every day.

“Everyone is looking to progress and pushing to be the first-choice in the team and we all push each other because of that which is a big drive for us all.

“Hopefully I can play here, have a few more starts and the end goal is to play for Wales, but now I am just taking every week as it comes, play as well as I can and keep taking the opportunities I am given.”

Wyn Jones (Scarlets)

The Llandovery native signed a new deal with the west Wales region in January, the length of which is unknown.

Now one of Wales' most important players, the unsung hero of the international camp has enjoyed a stellar Six Nations to date.

“It is nice to be able to stay at my home region and play good rugby with a good group of boys. I am enjoying my rugby at the moment, it is a great environment to be part of so it was an easy decision to re-sign,” he said on signing his new deal.

“The squad here is as strong as I can remember, a great mix of experience and youngsters who are putting their hands up and we have ambitions to compete with the best in the PRO14 and in Europe.

“It was a proud moment for me to make my 100th appearance a few weeks ago and I feel that at the age of 28 there is plenty more to come from me and hopefully plenty more matches in a Scarlets jersey.”

Tomas Francis (joining Ospreys)

Prop Francis is returning from across the bridge to join the Ospreys for next season.

Capped 52 times by Wales, Francis would have been captured by the 60-cap rule had he stayed with English champions Exeter Chiefs - with whom he has also won a Champions Cup.

In order to make safe his international ambitions he signed for the Ospreys, who he says are "going places".

“I spoke to the Welsh regions but I was impressed with the vision of head coach, Toby Booth, and where he wanted to take the Ospreys," he said.

"His attention to detail and knowledge of my game and what he and Duncan Jones laid out to me was really appealing.

“Toby and the coaches there are starting to steer the ship in the right direction. It’s just an exciting challenge for myself and I can see the potential there, on and off the pitch. There is a new backer and it’s exciting to see where that takes the Ospreys.

“The boys I know in the Wales squad all talked positively about what is happening at the Ospreys and it seems like a place that is heading in the right direction. The Ospreys just stood out to me as the region that is going places."

Javan Sebastian (Scarlets)

Prop Javan Sebastian has signed a contract extension in January which Scarlets said will keep him at the region "for 2021-22 and beyond".

The 26-year-old tight-head is in his second spell with the region after coming through the Scarlets academy.

Born in Carmarthen, Sebastian made one LV Cup appearance for the region before spending 2015-16 with Glasgow Warriors.

He returned to Parc y Scarlets the following campaign and made his PRO14 debut in 2019.

Sebastian, who has also turned out for Carmarthen Quins, said: "It is a great environment to be part of, you are always being pushed to get better every day and that is what I have been trying to do.

"There is great competition across the front row.

"Samson [Lee] and Werner [Kruger] are experienced Test props and working closely with someone of the international experience of Ben Franks has also been a big help for my game.

"I'm only 26 and feel there is a lot more to come from me and I'm looking forward to continuing my development in the coming years."

Corin Palmer (Ospreys performance director)

Palmer joined the Ospreys as performance director this week.

He links up from his previous role as head of elite performance and player development at Premiership Rugby and will form part of an impressive-looking coaching team.

Palmer will be tasked with driving and leading the off-field performance team for the first-team squad, boasting experience as Rugby Operations Director at Worcester Warriors, Head of Academies and Development at Premiership Rugby, General Manager at Bristol Rugby.

"The project and the journey Toby Booth has begun at the Ospreys is something that I really wanted to be a part of," he said.

"We are both passionate about restoring the region to the forefront of Welsh rugby.

"I believe in the philosophy that you need to have clear leaders on the grass and clear leaders off the grass. Professional rugby programmes have developed to such an extent that there is so much more to be managed than just the rugby.

"My role is to support the coaches and enable Toby and his coaching team to do what they need to do in developing and working to improve the players."

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