London Irish, under a significant degree of pressure in the transfer market, made a striking signing of their own yesterday by adding the Irish prop Jamie Hagan to their front-row roster for next season. Brian Smith, the Exiles’ rugby director, described Hagan as “a future Test player” and said he would add some much-needed steel to a pack too often exposed as brittle this season.
The 25-year-old Dubliner was a member of the Ireland age-group side that won a junior grand slam in 2007 and has made a couple of appearances for the second-string Wolfhounds. “Jamie has cut his teeth in the Pro12 league and is more than ready to launch his Premiership career,” Smith said. “He’s a tough, uncompromising prop coming into his prime and I’m genuinely delighted that he’s committed himself for three seasons. His Irish heritage makes him a perfect fit for us.”
Smith has recently lost two of his England internationals to top-flight rivals: the prop Alex Corbisiero to Northampton and the centre Jonathan Joseph to Bath. The West Countrymen are also thought to have agreed terms with another pair of Exiles, the full-back Anthony Watson and the back-five forward Matt Garvey, while the highly-rated breakaway Jamie Gibson is off to Leicester.
Meanwhile, the Scottish Rugby Union reacted defiantly to persistent rumours that Scott Johnson, the interim coach of the national team, would soon be heading back to his native Australia to take up a senior position in the Wallaby set-up. A spokesman for the governing body said Johnson would certainly remain in charge of the Test side for this summer’s tour of South Africa, adding that he also had a second job with the SRU, in the coach development field.
Reports in Australia have been linking Johnson with a high-performance management role in Sydney. In addition, there have been strong rumours of the World Cup-winning prop Ewen McKenzie, currently coaching the Queensland Reds, taking on an international coaching job in the British Isles, with Ireland and Scotland mentioned as destinations. This was dismissed as “speculation” by the SRU.
On the Premiership front, relegation-threatened London Welsh will discover today if the Rugby Football Union has given them a helping hand by reducing the immediate five-point penalty imposed as a result of the Tyson Keats registration affair. London Welsh played the scrum-half from New Zealand under false pretences in 10 games before Christmas, but argued that a “rogue employee”, the former team manager Mike Scott, was solely to blame for the irregularity and appealed against the severity of the punishment.