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England back Anthony Watson joining Leicester for 2022-23 season

Anthony Watson will be a Leicester player next season (David Davies/PA)
Anthony Watson will be a Leicester player next season (David Davies/PA)

Leicester have announced the signing of England and British and Irish Lions star Anthony Watson.

Amid a flurry of activity at the Tigers, they also confirmed fly-half Jimmy Gopperth’s arrival from Wasps for next season, while Chris Ashton and Richard Wigglesworth have agreed new contracts.

Watson has been sidelined since suffering a knee injury seven months ago, but he is thought to be closing in on a Bath return before the current campaign ends.

The wing or full-back joined Bath from London Irish nine years ago, made his England debut in 2014 and has gone on to win 51 caps.

Watson also toured New Zealand with the Lions in 2017 and South Africa last summer, making a total of five Test appearances.

“Anthony is a world-class player who has played at the highest levels of the game over a number of seasons,” Leicester head coach Steve Borthwick told Tigers’ official website.

“While he has reached great heights, he is incredibly keen to develop his game, remains ambitious and has a lot more he wants to achieve.

Anthony Watson
Anthony Watson leaves the pitch injured during Bath’s game against Saracens this season (David Davies/PA)

“I am fortunate to have worked with Anthony with the England team and on the British and Irish Lions tour in 2017, and have seen first-hand what a professional he is.

“It is very exciting to be adding a player and person of his calibre to what we are building at Leicester Tigers.”

Watson added: “I want to be successful, of course, but I also want to improve as a player.

“And Tigers is an environment where I believe I will be able to become the best player I can possibly be while, most importantly, being a part and contributing to the team being the best it can be.

“Having worked with him before, I know how Steve goes about his business, and the opportunity to work with him, his coaching team and this group at Leicester Tigers is an exciting one.”

Joining Watson and Gopperth as Leicester newcomers will be London Irish pair Phil Cokanasiga and Olly Cracknell, plus Ireland international prop James Cronin from Biarritz.

Ashton, meanwhile, won the last of his 44 England caps in February 2019.

The 35-year-old joined Tigers on a short-term contract earlier this season, and his hat-trick against Bristol last month saw him become the Premiership’s all-time top try scorer.

Leicester Tigers v Bristol – Gallagher Premiership – Mattioli Woods Welford Road Stadium
Chris Ashton (right) in try-scoring action for Leicester (Mike Egerton/PA)

Wigglesworth, who is nearing his 39th birthday, will continue a dual role of player and attack coach at Leicester.

On recruiting vastly-experienced New Zealander Gopperth, Borthwick said: “Jimmy has shown for a number of years in some of the world’s most competitive and tough environments that he is a world-class player.

“A prolific points-scorer capable of playing in various positions, he not only adds valuable depth to our squad, but an incredible amount of experience and knowledge.”