Mike Schmid has made five major signings to bolster Esher’s squad ahead of the new Championship campaign.
The Molesey Road chief has added firepower up front by landing back rower Chris Goodman from Bedford, Nottingham lock Ian Kench and hooker Stuart Mackie from French club Nice. Versatile Wasps and England Under-20s fly-half Mark Atkinson has also joined while Doncaster utility back Andy Wright is the fifth top player to sign on the dotted line.
Director of Rugby Schmid admits he is delighted with his additions to the squad as Esher aim to build on an impressive ninth place in their debut Championship season. But he revealed there could be further signings as Esher gun for a top- eight place to avoid the lottery of the relegation play-offs.
Schmid said: “We are really pleased with the signings and we feel we have added some real quality to the squad in key positions. The club were keen to retain the core of the squad who finished ninth in the Championship last season yet maintain and improve the quality of it. We have lost a couple of players to London Welsh and they had to be replaced but we also felt we needed to add more size and physicality up front. That was an area in which we struggled last season, especially in the winter months. I think all of the guys will fit in very well.”
Former Bath star Goodman, 25, can play at flanker or No 8 and will fill the place of Richard Mayhew, who has joined Newcastle.
“Richard made a big impact here so we felt we needed to have a similar presence in the back row and we feel Chris can be a direct replacement for Richard, said Schmidt. “He has had two years’ experience with Bedford at the top end of the Championship and he also has experience in the Premiership with Bath. We are also looking for him to add leadership to the team off and on the field and we feel we have acquired a quality guy and a quality player.”
Former Sale Sharks lock Kench, 31, moves south from Nottingham and will beef up the Esher front five. Mackie, 26, returns to England after a spell with French side Nice.
Schmid said: “We have been interested in Stuart for a number of years. We tried to get Stuart on a loan deal when he was at London Irish but it never materialised because he was in and around the first team there. He is just the type of player we need. He’s a very good set-piece hooker and a good ball carrier and he’ll be a leader for us. He has a very good rugby pedigree behind him and we’ll be looking for him to make a real difference in our squad and there will be good competition at hooker.”
Schmid believes former England Under-20s star Atkinson will fill the gap left by Seb Jewell, who has moved to local rivals Welsh. Atkinson, 21, will continue to train at Wasps. Wright completes the five and will add power to the Esher backline after joining from Doncaster Knights.