Just over a week after the end of Bedford Blues 2010/11 season, director of rugby Mike Rayer has added four new faces to the squad for the next Championship campaign
Back rower Jonathon Fisher has joined Jamie Lennard in making the move from London Irish to Goldington, prop Nico Steenkamp becomes another front rower to join Bedford from Rotherham, former Bedford Modern schoolboy Henry Staff signs from Saracens and Mark Kohler makes the relatively short trip from Luton.
Fisher started playing rugby at the age of 12 and it was while he attended Wellington College that his talent began to be developed. The Kingston-Upon-Thames born player joined the London Irish Academy in 2007, but he appeared on the radar when he played for England in 2006-07 season helping them reach the Under 19 World Championships in Belfast. Fisher went on to secure a starting spot at blindside in the Under 20 side during the 2008 Six Nations Grand Slam campaign – alongside the Blues own Gregor Gillanders.
The 23 year old, who has also played for London Welsh, made his breakthrough into the London Irish senior team in 2008-09 with 10 appearances in the Guinness Premiership and European Challenge Cup competitions.
Steenkamp follows the lead of fellow props Phil Boulton and Sam Walsh in swapping Clifton Lane for Goldington Road. Prior to joining the Titans last season, the big South African had spent five years plying his trade with near-neighbours Peterborough and Peterborough Lions.
The loosehead prop easily made the step up to Championship rugby and played a key role in securing the Titans a top eight finish, but he missed the end of the season due to an RFU suspension after he took a high-energy drink, USN Anabolic Nitro, in a bid to help him combat fatigue. The drink contained banned substance methylhexaneamine, but the RFU was content that he had not taken the drink in a bid to improve performance.
20-year-old Henry Staff has already run out on the Goldington Road pitch this season after featuring for the Blues in the Mobbs Memorial game against the Barbarians where he impressed with a try and an assist. The flying centre, who stands at six foot one inch and tips the scales at 14 stone two pounds, joined Saracens in 2007 from Northampton Saints.
Winger Kohler was another who impressed when he turned out for Bedford against the Baa Baas last month. The 21 year old, who is studying at the University of Bedfordshire, has been on trial with the Blues and has done enough to earn himself a contract.
Speaking about the signings Rayer said: “The Championship season along with the British & Irish Cup is a long old affair and clubs have such a limited time to establish their squads so I am delighted to have added three such signings. It is great that the chairman is supporting the coaching staff in such a way and we hope to continue attracting high quality players to the club.
“We all saw what Henry can do against the Baa Baas. He has great power and strength and we are all looking forward to seeing him competing in the centres week-in week-out. Jon has arrived with a big reputation and a glowing reference from the London Irish.
“Mark has shown what a great talent he is on the wing and has been on our radar for some time. He was on trial last year but suffered an unfortunate ankle injury which ruled him out for some time. Mark’s worked hard to get himself fit and has enjoyed another great season at Luton and we are all eager to see what he can do at Bedford.
“Nico is still a young player who has a wealth of experience across several different tiers of rugby. He may have hit the headlines for the wrong reasons last season, but he took his punishment on the chin and is raring to get back into action in a Blues shirt and we are all excited in seeing what he can do to bolster the front row.”