Yorkshire Carnegie have signalled their intent to be genuine promotion challengers next season by signing a Premiership winner and former England Saxons player.
But they have lost one of their brightest prospects for the future as planning for the new season gathers pace.
Andy Saull, who played more than 100 games for Saracens and won the title with them in 2011, has joined the Headingley club from Newcastle Falcons on a two-year deal.
The 26-year-old back-row forward, who earned a call-up to the England Saxons squad aged 19 and was for a long time touted as a potential international forward, made 19 appearances for Newcastle in the top flight.
However, on the flip side, Paul Hill’s move to Northampton Saints has been confirmed, with the 20-year-old England Under-20s star joining the Premiership champions in the summer.
The news of Saull’s capture, coming on the back of a trio of signings already – including Kevin Sinfield from Leeds Rhinos in November – is a major boost for Carnegie as they seek to launch a sustained bid for promotion next season.
Saull said: “I have spoken to Bryan Redpath and Chris Gibson and they set out their vision for the future of the club and their plans to get in to the Aviva Premiership, so it is a very exciting time to be joining the club.
“There are a few players who I know in the Yorkshire Carnegie team, such as James Fitzpatrick and Chris Pilgrim from Newcastle and also I played with Jon Clarke in the Saxons and Charlie Beech and David Doherty for England Under-20s, so it will be good to work alongside them again.
“I have enjoyed my time at Newcastle, they are a great group of guys and I have made many lifelong friends, but I am now looking forward to the challenge at Yorkshire Carnegie and helping them achieve their ambitions.”
Head coach Bryan Redpath added: “Andy is a quality player who I have admired for a long time and I am delighted that he has agreed to join Yorkshire Carnegie.
“He has great leadership qualities and is an outright flanker and will provide good competition within our squad and I am looking forward to working with him next season.”
For Hill, there are mixed emotions at leaving Carnegie –whom he joined as a youngster – to fulfil his ambition of playing in the Premiership.
Hill, who made 16 first-team appearances this season, said: “I’m looking forward to challenging myself at one of the top clubs in Europe and learning from experienced internationals. It’s an exciting time for me and I can’t wait to work hard and continue developing.
“I would also like to thank everyone at Yorkshire for the help and support they’ve given me over the years.”
Redpath has made five changes for the visit of play-off bound London Scottish tomorrow.
Harry Leonard, Chris Pilgrim and James Fitzpatrick return in the backs with Charlie Beech and Jack Walker restored to the front row.