Edinburgh have added yet another cosmopolitan twist to their multinational squad by securing the services of Piers Francis, the Kent-born 22-year-old fly-half/centre who has spent the past four years at club and provincial level in New Zealand.
Francis, who spent three years as part of the Saracens development squad before trying his luck Down Under, is likely to arrive at Murrayfield today. It is understood that he has signed a two-year deal with the capital side.
Francis made an impact immediately after moving to New Zealand, progressing from the Marist club into the Auckland Academy side, where he was named young player of the year after an unbeaten season with the provincial under-20 side. He was subsequently invited into the Waikato Chiefs' Super Rugby extended squad, but his opportunities in his preferred positions were limited by the presence of All Blacks of the calibre of Sonny Bill Williams.
"We're very pleased to secure the services of Piers," said Michael Bradley, the Edinburgh head coach. "His introduction will strengthen and increase the competitiveness of our squad across a number of positions. He's a very talented individual, who is quick, skilful and has a fantastic eye for breaking the line. He's a very good fit."
The signing of Francis will take pressure off both Greig Laidlaw and Matt Scott, current first choices in the 10 and 12 positions. Last season, Edinburgh's resources were stretched by their commitments in the RaboDirect PRO12 and their unexpected run in the Heineken Cup.
Francis said: "I was very excited by the approach and it moved very quickly from there. It's a new challenge in two great competitions, where I can test myself and integrate some of the southern hemisphere ways in my game into a club packed with internationalists.
"I believe I have the skills and the attitude to enjoy success with Edinburgh and see this as another great opportunity for me to develop my game even further as part of a very professional set-up alongside great players and great coaches."
Francis is unlikely to have anything more than a spectating role when Edinburgh take on Ospreys on PRO12 duty at Murrayfield on Friday evening. At the other end of the M8, however, Gregor Townsend is preparing to welcome back a host of Glasgow Warriors players when his side face Leinster.
Despite a crippling injury list, Glasgow have won their last six PRO12 games – a club record – and Townsend reported things are looking up again as they look forward to hosting the European champions. "We've used 40 players so far in the PRO12 and I've been delighted with the progress we've made as a squad in the first third of the season," said Townsend.
"There is going to be even more competition for places soon, as we have a number of players coming back from injury and putting themselves into contention for Friday. This will stand us in good stead as we enter a crucial run of games. Rory Lamont is now back running, as are Graeme Morrison, Ed Kalman and Murray McConnell. We have Jon Welsh and Chris Cusiter also well on the road to recovery.
"Pat McArthur, Duncan Weir and Byron McGuigan have been in great shape this week at training and DTH van der Merwe has made a full recovery from the hamstring injury he suffered at the start of October. Moray Low, who was injured in the same match, should also be available for selection."