While the rest of the nation is at liberty to indulge its bargain hunting urge in January, Premiership directors of rugby are forced to wait until March when the Championship transfer embargo is lifted.

Not that any of us should be naive enough to think that rugby agents have spent the last few weeks blushing like a schoolgirl at a disco whenever a top flight club has made tentative contact about one of their clients.

But as from today those ‘informal soundings out’ can now become more concrete and discussions between the second tier’s unpolished diamonds and elite clubs looking to avoid paying top dollar for big names will intensify.

And so they should because the Championship has been a rich source of talent for clubs with enough common sense to look somewhere other than the southern hemisphere for new players.

Invariably Championship players arrive in the top flight with several seasons of professional or semi-pro rugby on their CVs and the hunger to prove they can make it at the highest level. In that respect they compare favourably to youngsters who have spent three years in an academy.

Anyone who has witnessed the aplomb with which Blair Cowan has made the step up from the Cornish Pirates to the Worcester first team has seen that, even though the New Zealander was far from clear cut first choice in Penzance.

And he’s not the only one. Harlequins centre Matt Hopper has gone from the Pirates to the England Saxons in a matter of months and England lock Mauritz Botha spent three years at Bedford before moving to Sarries and then the international arena.

Locally former Test scrum half Shaun Perry came from even further down the pyramid at Dudley Kingswinford and Coventry to reach the top of the tree with Bristol, Brive and now Worcester.

Indeed Warriors’ head coach Richard Hill was one of the first to cotton on to the existence of ability outside the academy and for the last seven or eight years he has cherry-picked level two’s leading lights.

Former Bees forward Semisi Taulava could become his latest find if he completes his proposed move from Rotherham to Sixways in the coming weeks. And the Tongan is by no means the only contender. Here are just a few of my gems which could be plucked from the bargain bucket.

Phil Burgess (Cornish Pirates)

Worcester have already lured his back row colleagues Cowan and Sam Betty up the M5 and left arguably the most potent of the lot behind.

Burgess has outstanding pace and is a beautifully balanced broken-field runner who tore Warriors to pieces during last season’s play-off final and proved too hot for Moseley to handle off the bench last weekend.

It wouldn’t surprise me if the 23-year-old’s hands and speed attract the interest of the Sevens circuit as well as Premiership clubs.

If there is a downside it’s the fact he tends to drift in and out of the Pirates side and may need to add a bit of bulk to play in the attritional English top flight.

Robin Copeland (Rotherham)

Since moving from Plymouth last season he has scored 11 tries in 20 games for the Titans and at 24-years-old is being touted for a return to the elite level next term.

Copeland came through the Leinster academy but with little prospect of first team rugby he made a bold decision to move to Brickfields where he excelled at lock.

However, another player with superb pace he has made an outstanding success of his move to the blindside flank.

That speed combined with his 6ft 5ins and 16st 7lb frame means he also has bulk to make a big impact in the Premiership. But he’ll need to do the dark stuff too.

Alex Davies (London Welsh)

A bit of a slow burner for the last few years but the 25-year-old appears to be maturing nicely having moved to Old Deer Park.

The England Counties fly half missed a lot of time in his first two seasons at Plymouth but his third was a spectacular success as he became a points machine.

He also demonstrated the fact he can run a game and broke several club scoring records as he earned a move to the Exiles.

This season Davies has played 21 games, albeit ten off the bench, and spent time at both ten and full back and could be a decent game closer.

Mike Ellery (Moseley)

Very similar to Burgess in many ways although 22-year-old Ellery has enjoyed a better season with Moseley, for whom he has emerged a their leading strike runner.

After a breathtaking 50m score on opening day against Pirates, Ellery has continued to burn his way through defences with outrageous pace.

A return of seven tries, many from long distance, is a superb reward for a player who has proved a lot more durable this term than last. He has also turned provider in recent weeks with some outlandish off-loads.

He has worked on his physicality, something his former coach Ian Smith felt he lacked, but he has the raw materials to make it in the Premiership.

Shane Monahan (Rotherham)

Another Titan who has flourished in Andre Bester’s system. Defending the massive wing is a bit like chasing a down bull having been pummelled over the head for ten minutes beforehand.

Monahan was in the Ireland Under-20 side which captured a Six Nations grand slam in 2007 and spent time at both Leinster and Connacht.

However, the 24-year-old has burned bright with the oxygen of first team rugby at Clifton Lane and has scored nine tries in 20 starts.

Despite being 6ft 2ins and nearly 17 stone Monahan is no slouch but it is his size that could help him dominate opponents in the Premiership.

Juan Pablo Socino


Another Bester ‘discovery’ making big waves, albeit for Nottingham after he moved to Meadow Lane last summer.

Widely touted as the best inside centre in the Championship the Argentine is thought to have attracted the attention of Treviso of late, although he signed a two-year contract in 2011.

Very much in the mould of a second five-eighth Socino has a brilliant kicking game, both from floor and hand, but also has the ability to find, go for or put team-mates through gaps. At 23-years-old he has time on his side but also has the experience of a couple of years in the Championship.

Several other players have been extremely impressive this season although I have not seen enough of them to judge fully.

Not least Bedford’s loose forward Jon Fisher, who looked a classy authentic No.8 in his side’s win at Billesley Common in what is his first season at Blues since being released by London Irish.

Pirates’ lock Ian Nimmo is another who at 26 might be ready for a step up. The former Coventry man certainly has the size and the skillset to operate at the top level if given the opportunity.

Fly half Garry Law’s kicking has been a revelation for Rotherham, Greg King has done exceptionally well at Moseley and Doncaster’s No.7 David Bradford is a classic throwback openside who has also done well.