Former Otley back-rower Ollie Stedman has joined London Welsh.
Stedman, who has represented England at under-20, under-18 and under-16 level, began last season at SSE National League One Tynedale before moving to Championship club Newcastle.
He uses his 6ft 3in, 117kg frame as an effective ball-carrying forward with real pace. Strong and committed, he has developed a reputation for winning turnover ball.
Stedman scored nine tries for Tynedale before Dean Richards swooped to bring him to Kingston Park. He marked his first two games for the Falcons by crossing for tries against Cross Keys and Moseley.
Stedman also played in last year’s British and Irish Cup final for Newcastle, only for the Falcons to be edged out by Leinster A after extra-time.
He’d previously joined Leeds Carnegie straight from school and captained the club’s A team during the 2010-11 season, as well as making a handful of senior appearances.
After leaving Leeds, following their relegation from the Premiership in 2011, he joined Westoe and also enjoyed a spell in Sydney playing First Grade for Southern Districts.
A talented all-round sportsman, Stedman has previously been involved with the footballing academies at Hartlepool and Newcastle United, as well as Durham County Cricket Club.
London Welsh head coach Justin Burnell said: “After spells at Leeds and Newcastle, this is a massive opportunity for Ollie, who impressed during a six-week trial period with the club.
“Having now worked with him first hand, I can really see what Dean Richards saw in him. He’s got an abundance of ability and, since arriving at Welsh, he’s really got his head down and worked extremely hard the last few weeks.
London Welsh can confirm another signing ahead of the Greene King IPA Championship season.
Australian second row or back-row forward Mitch Lees has joined from Sydney club Eastwood Rugby, for whom he has starred in the Shute Shield.
At 6ft 6in and 120kg, he is another hard-running forward with an impressive turn of speed.
Lees made his senior grade debut for Eastwood in 2010, having joined the club as a colt. He made his 100th appearance for Eastwood in May of this year – an occasion he marked with a try in a convincing win over West Harbour.
He captained Eastwood to Shute Shield success in 2011, with victory over Sydney University in the Grand Final, to end the club’s eight-year wait for a shield title.
Lees was twice selected to represent Sydney in the annual fixture with GrainCorp NSW Country Gold Cockatoos in 2011 and 2012 - a game which showcases the best talent in the Shute Shield and NSW Country competitions.
His impressive performances for Eastwood in recent years saw him selected for the ACT Brumbies A team in 2013.
Burnell added: “Mitch is a bit of an unknown quantity but we’ve had some really positive feedback and reports on him from our contacts in Australia on his abilities and qualities.
“Having now seen him in action on the training pitch with Welsh, I’m positive that he can make a big impact at the club next season.”