London Welsh head coach Justin Burnell will deliver the verdict on the Premiership credentials of his Championship title winners by ending the Old Deer Park careers of a host of players.
The exiles unveiled a whopping 14 new signings this week, with the arrival of former England international Olly Barkley grabbing the headlines in the same way Gavin Henson’s signature did two years ago.
Among the tranch of new faces are six front row specailists that Burnell hopes will provide his men with a good enough platform to secure top flight survival in 12 months time.
Welsh, who used more than 50 players in the process of securing promotion last season, narrowly failed to avoid relegation in 2013 and the changes confirm the squad that achieved promotion is thought not be good enough for the step up.
“The demands of the Premiership compared to the Championship are going to be huge, so strength in depth is absolutely paramount to us,” said Burnell, who is expected to confirm the long list of departures tomorrow.
A lot has been made of the team spirit at London Welsh this term and Burnell will have to integrate his new men with his established stars.
But 32-year-old Barkley, who switches to the exiles from French Top 14 team Grenoble, is ready for the challenge.
“I’m really looking forward to being part of what looks to be a great coaching team and a talented group of players for London Welsh’s return back to where they should,” he said.
“There looks to be a spirit amongst the group that I can’t wait to be involved with and I’m looking forward to getting stuck in to the challenge of the Premiership with them all.”
And Burnell, who has also signed Bristol fly half Tristan Roberts, admitted his signature was a key part of his plans for next term.
“Olly has a wealth of experience, both at club and international level, and he’s exactly the type of player we’re looking for,” he added.
“He’s got a fantastic game understanding and his other biggest strong point is his accuracy with the ball.
“His goal kicking is phenomenal and we are going to need that in the Premiership.”
London Welsh’s new arrivals by position (previous club): Props: Taione Vea (London Wasps), Ricky Reeves (London Wasps), Shane Cahill (Cornish Pirates), Jack Gilding (Viadana), Jimmy Litchfield (Hartpury College) Hooker: Nathan Taylor (Hartpury College) Second row: James Sandford (Cornish Pirates) Back row: Cameron Goodhue (Worcester Warriors), Jesse Liston (Blackheath) Scrum half: Paul Rowley (Plymouth Albion) Fly half: Olly Barkley (Grenoble), Tristan Roberts (Bristol).Centre: Nick Reynolds (Llanelli Scarlets) Full back: Chris Elder (Plymouth Albion