Edinburgh have boosted the depth and competitiveness of their inside backs with the recruitment of 22-year-old Waikato Chiefs stand-off Piers Francis on a two-season deal.
Born in Gravesend, Kent, Francis spent three years in the development academy of English Premiership side Saracens, before moving to New Zealand aged 18 to fulfil his ambition of playing top-flight rugby.
And, after a season with the Auckland Marists, he progressed into the provincial Auckland Academy, where he was named young player of the year in an unbeaten season for their under-20 side.
Francis then made seven ITM Cup appearances for the Auckland province in 2011 before signing for the 2012 Super Rugby winners at the turn of the year.
A groin injury and fierce competition for places disrupted his chances of Super Rugby action in a Chiefs side that featured Rugby World Cup winning All Black duo Aaron Cruden and Sonny-Bill Williams in Francis’ favoured positions of stand-off and inside centre.
However, he was able to come back to the fore in the end-of season-ITM Cup competition and he lifted the historic Ranfurly Shield with Waikato in October.
Edinburgh head coach, Michael Bradley, said: “We’re very pleased to secure the services of Piers Francis, as his introduction will strengthen and increase the competitiveness of our squad across a number of positions.
“He’s a very talented individual who is quick, skilful, and has a fantastic eye for breaking the line. He’s a very good fit for Edinburgh Rugby.”
With the 2012 southern hemisphere season now at an end, Francis is due to arrive in Scotland today and will begin full training immediately.
He said: “Coming from the UK, I was very excited by an approach from Edinburgh Rugby and it moved very quickly from there.
“It’s a new challenge in two great competitions [RaboDirect PRO12 and Heineken Cup], where I can test myself and integrate some of the southern hemisphere ways in my game into a club that’s packed with internationalists.
“I believe that I have the skills and the attitude to enjoy success with Edinburgh Rugby and I see this as another great opportunity for me to develop my game even further as part of a very professional set-up alongside great players and great coaches.”
Edinburgh managing director Craig Docherty added: “We are excited to welcome yet another young talented player who will add to the depth of the Edinburgh Rugby squad.
“We are sure Piers’ experience of rugby in a different environment will be beneficial to the club and everyone at Murrayfield is very much looking forward to seeing him take to the field in the black and red.
“He is a very ambitious young man and Edinburgh Rugby provides the perfect platform for him to showcase his talent.”