London Welsh can confirm eight new signings as the club prepares for the run in to the Greene King IPA Championship season.
Joining the Exiles are USA Eagles flanker John Quill, Munster prop Paddy Ryan and versatile former London Wasps Academy back Liam O’Neill, while there’s a return to the club for scrum half Tyson Keats.
Arriving on dual registrations are Worcester Warriors and England U19 wing Josh Watkins and Bath second row Will Spencer.
In addition, Wasps Number 8 Rory Pitman and Leicester Tigers prop Tom Bristow have both come on board, with the pair featuring for the Exiles in their 39-6 win over Ealing Trailfinders last Saturday. Pitman joins Welsh on loan, while former Exiles’ loosehead prop Bristow is dual-registered.
London Welsh head coach Justin Burnell said: “The potential within this group of players is remarkable. There’s pace, skill, size and experience.
“What these signings demonstrate to me once again is that London Welsh will leave no stone unturned to further strengthen its squad in the pursuit of success.”
John Quill – Flanker
Quill, 23, has been capped seven times by the Eagles and joins London Welsh from Boston RFC.
From Youghal, East Cork, Quill came through the Academy at Munster, playing Under 18 and Under 20, as well as gaining representative honours with Ireland at Under 19.
He played two seasons with Dolphin RFC in the Ulster Bank League before emigrating to Boston in 2012.
Qualifying for the USA through his mother, who was born in New York, Quill made his debut for the Eagles in November 2012 against Russia in Colwyn Bay, Wales.
Paddy Ryan - Prop
The former Munster tighthead prop, who can also play loosehead, joins London Welsh from Top 10 Italian league side Viadana.
Ryan, 23, came up through the Academy at Munster, progressing through the province’s Under 20 and A teams to the senior squad and featured against Gloucester in Munster’s opening pre-season game of the season at Thomond Park in August.
Earlier this year he gained Amlin Challenge Cup experience, lining out for Viadana against London Wasps and Grenoble.
He played his club rugby in Cork for Dolphin RFC and Highfield RFC, and in 2009 was part of Highfield’s All-Ireland Under 18 championship winning side.
Dual Ireland and USA qualified, Ryan also represented Ireland at Youth and Under 20 level.
Liam O’Neill – Full back/Wing
A product of the Wasps Academy, O’Neill, 20, played for the London Wasps AASE at Henley College for two years between the ages of 16 and 18, before graduating into the club’s Academy, while on loan at Henley Hawks.
He helped Henley to National League One success in 2013, while gaining further experience in the Aviva A League with Wasps. O’Neill was also selected in Wasps’ squad for J.P. Morgan Asset Management Premiership Rugby 7s at Twickenham in 2013.
Born in Oxford, O’Neill played his club rugby at Stratford upon Avon from the age of 13 to 16. He attended Southam College, playing for Warwickshire, Oxfordshire, South West Under 16 and Midlands Under 18.
Tyson Keats – Scrum half
Keats, 32, returns to London Welsh after making 18 appearances for the Exiles in the club’s Aviva Premiership season.
The scrum half joined Welsh from Italian side Aironi Rugby and was part of the side which produced the upset of the 2011/12 RaboDirect PRO12 season, when the Italian club stunned then champions Munster 21-17 at the Stadio Zaffanella.
Keats arrived in Italy after two seasons with Super Rugby side Wellington Hurricanes, having previously made his Super Ruby debut for the Crusaders in 2009.
He made his provincial debut for Nelson Bays in 2003 before transferring to Canterbury, with whom he won back-to-back Air New Zealand Cup titles in 2008 and 2009.
He signed a two-year deal with Taranaki in 2010 and helped them to win the Ranfurly Shield and to a third place finish in the Premiership.
Josh Watkins – Wing
Watkins, 19, joins Welsh on a dual-registration from Worcester Warriors, having already made his debut for Welsh in December in the Exiles’ British & Irish Cup double-header with Edinburgh Academical. Watkins coming off the bench in Welsh’s wins at Old Deer Park and Raeburn Place.
Watkins signed for the Warriors Academy in 2012 and impressed for Worcester Cavaliers in the Aviva A League during the 2013/14 season.
He spent the 2012/13 season on loan at National Two North side Dudley Kingswinford and has represented England at Under 18 and Under 19 level.
Will Spencer – Second row
Spencer, 21, joined the Bath Rugby Academy in August 2010 and arrives at London Welsh on a dual registration.
A graduate of the University of Bath and St Paul’s College in West Sussex, the 6ft 7in and 116kg Hampshire-born second rower has risen through the ranks at Bath Rugby and was named as the Academy’s Player of the Year for 2012/13.
Spencer has made his Aviva Premiership debut for Bath against Leicester Tigers in May 2012 and has gone on to make 11 league appearances for the club, while also gaining valuable experience in the Heineken Cup, Amlin Challenge Cup and the Aviva A League over the course of the past three seasons.
Tom Bristow - Prop
Bristow, 22, returns to London Welsh on a dual-registration from Leicester Tigers.
The loosehead prop spent the 2012/13 season at the Exiles before making the switch to the Tigers, for whom he has made six appearances this season.
Bristow joined Welsh from Dorking in 2012 and went on to make 33 appearances for the club during its season in the Aviva Premiership.
Rory Pitman – Number 8
Pitman, 24, joins Welsh on loan from London Wasps.
Pitman has previous experience of the Championship with Rotherham Titans and has represented Wales at Under 16, Under 18 and Under 20 level. He made his debut for Wasps against Grenoble in December.
A ball carrying number 8, Pitman has also gained previous experience at the Ospreys, Glasgow and in New Zealand with Taranaki.
Pitman began playing rugby at Maesteg Welsh before moving to Llaanharri Welsh School and Tondu and Bridgend Athletic.