The big, fast, powerful Wasps wing looks such a consummate performer that we sometimes forget that he has arrived in the Premiership via the scenic route with three Championship seasons at Bedford before Wasps saw enough to sign him. Hugely underrated in my opinion, not a million miles away from England recognition.
Another thoroughbred Premiership flanker who took a long time to be picked up on the radar despite being capped at U20 level by Scotland. Played for Carlisle and then Gala before the ever alert scouts at Jersey got him on board. Three cracking seasons for the Reds convinced Dean Richards he needed him at Newcastle and Eddie Jones soon called him up into an England squad.
Devonian who started at Hartpury College but first made his mark during two seasons with Jersey Reds after which Saracens came calling in 2013. Has logged up 140 appearances at prop for Saracens since then.
Rejected by the Gloucester Academy so made his way to Richmond where he caught the eye of the ambitious Jersey Reds where he played 49 games over three seasons before Wasps swooped in 2013. A huge success at Wasps, the ball-carrying flanker could make a big impact for Tigers this season.
Rejected at Wasps where he was in the Academy, Williams, left, honed his front row craft during three seasons of Championship rugby with first Nottingham and then Jersey Reds before Exeter Chiefs decided they wanted him on their payroll. England honours have followed.
You could devote an entire page to Premiership players Pirates have helped on their way, often as dual contract players, but hooker Ward is slightly different. Had missed the boat at Bath, Saints and Sale when he dropped down the Championship for four seasons and 110 games for the Pirates. A player reborn, Ward then moved to Quins where he has been by far the most consistent player in an inconsistent team over the last six years.
Classy scrum-half who spent three formative years in the Championship with Bedford before moving to Newcastle and then on to Exeter where he was an important part of their success story. Has now moved onto Bath where player and club seem nicely matched.
Strictly speaking a dual registration player but Cornish Pirates, where the hooker cut his teeth in the Championship, were in any case his club from mini rugby onwards while he also enjoyed a spell at Plymouth Albion before finally moving to Exeter for good.
The Wales prop is Yorkshire through and through and played a season for Doncaster Knights while finishing his degree at Leeds University. Then enjoyed another spell in the Championship with London Scottish before Rob Baxter – who always keeps an eye on Championship talent – came knocking. Warren Gatland and Wales soon followed suit.
Centre tends to be associated with Wasps which is where he caught Sarries eye but began his senior career with a three-year stint with Leeds Carnegie while a student in the city.
Words by Brendan Gallagher
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