Aviva Premiership: Team-by-Team Guide

Although all the focus right now is on the Rugby World Cup, there is still the domestic season set to begin this weekend as the Aviva Premiership kicks off. Here is our guide to all 12 teams:

Bath Rugby

Coach: Sir Ian McGeechan

Ground: The Recreation Ground

Players In:
Charlie Beech, Anthony Perenise, Dave Attwood, Ryan Caldwell, Carl Fearns, Francois Louw, Stephen Donald, Kyle Eastmond, Dan Hipkiss.

Players Out:
David Barnes, Danny Grewcock, Peter Short, Luke Watson, Butch James, Shontayne Hape, Jacques Bousugge.

Strengths:
Bath have a lot of fresh faces coming into the squad for this season, a lot of them on relatively large salaries such Stephen Donald and Francois Louw. The class there is undoubted, plus a potent pair of second rows have been recruited in Dave Attwood and Ryan Caldwell. With those two combining with club captain Stuart Hooper, Bath have huge potential in their engine room, and will use a strong line out to create a solid set piece. Dan Hipkiss alongside Olly Barkley will be charged with setting free lethal flyers Nick Abendanon and Tom Biggs.

Weaknesses:
They have lost an awful lot of influence with David Barnes and Danny Grewcock retiring, and Luke Watson and Butch James moving back to South Africa. Their front row may also come under pressure despite the signings of Charlie Beech and Anthony Perenise.

One to watch:
Carl Fearns started to look excellent for Sale as last season progressed, and now charged with filling Watson’s boots, the young back rower will have to start strongly for his new club. A potential England squad member for the next Rugby World Cup.

Last Season: 5th

Prediction:
Traditionally dreadful during the winter months, no one is more inconsistent across a season than Bath. With that in mind, mid-table would seem adequate given the demands of playing Heineken Cup rugby alongside the Premiership. They are not going to be heavily affected by the Rugby World Cup however, so could make a very strong start to the season. 4th

Exeter Chiefs

Coach: Rob Baxter

Ground: Sandy Park

Players In:
Craig Mitchell, John Andress, Peter Short, Aly Muldowney, Ben White, Kevin Barrett, Myles Dorrian, Josh Tatupu, Gonzalo Camacho.

Players Out:
Eoghan Grace, Ryan Davis, Josh Matavesi, Nemani Nadolo, Jack Andrew, Andrew Higgins, Ruaidhri Murphy, Garrick Cowley, Andy Miller, Ignacio Elosu, Dave Gannon, Paul McKenzie.

Strengths:
Now survival has been achieved, Exeter are setting out to become a Premiership force by clearing out the dead wood and bringing in some astute signings. The pack that performed so brilliantly last season remains pretty much intact, with the likes of captain Tommy Hayes, James Scaysbrook and fan favourite Chris Budgens set to do it all against up front. They have also done some great business bringing in Wales prop Craig Mitchell and Harlequins winger Gonzalo Camacho.

Weaknesses:
Deadly second season syndrome could strike down at Sandy Park, with the other Premiership sides more aware of what Exeter can produce after they stunned many a visiting team last season.

One to watch:
Camacho’s late try in Cardiff last season saw Harlequins defeat Stade Français to lift the European Challenge Cup for the first time. After a very successful time at Quins, Camacho will look to finish as one of the season’s top try scorers following his time with Argentina at the Rugby World Cup.

Last Season: 8th

Prediction: Exeter have strengthened so well over the summer that they are in an even stronger position this time round than when they got promoted. They should go well again. 10th

Gloucester Rugby

Coach: Bryan Redpath

Ground: Kingsholm

Players In:
Dan Murphy, Matias Cortese, Nathan Charles, Dario Chistolini, Dave Markham, Tom Savage, Nick Runciman.

Players Out:
Alasdair Dickinson, Olivier Azam, Paul Doran-Jones, Pierre Capdevielle, Dave Attwood, Jordi Pasqualin, Nicky Robinson, Dan Williams.

Strengths:
Gloucester’s backs are some of the most exciting in the country, with their open running game leading to success in the LV Cup last season. Nicky Robinson has moved to London Wasps, and in the process handed over the number 10 keys to young Freddie Burns, who had an outstanding season last year. Outside him, there are some fliers, including controversial tweeter Eliota Fuiamono-Sapolu, England squad members James Simpson-Daniel and Charlie Sharples, as well as Olly Morgan at full back.

Weaknesses:
The Cherry & Whites have lost a lot of influence in the front row following the departures of Olivier Azam, Paul Doran-Jones and Al Dickinson all moving on. Losing Dave Attwood in the engine room is another blow, leaving the responsibility with Jim Hamilton and either Alex Brown or Will James to get the line out functioning smoothly.

One to watch:
Charlie Sharples’s rise last season was remarkable. Described by those in the England camp this summer as “the fastest white man” they had ever seen, Sharples is top class finisher and will look to break back into the England reckoning next season with another set of impressive performances.

Last Season: 3rd

Prediction:
With few World Cup absentees, Gloucester should be challenging for the top 4 come the end of the season. 5th

Harlequins

Coach: Conor O’Shea

Ground: The Stoop

Players In:
Nic Mayhew, Tim Fairbrother, Richard Bolt, Matt Hopper.

Players Out:
Tom Cheeseman, Ceri Jones, John Andress, James Percival, Lewis Stevenson, Dave Moore, Gonzalo Camacho.

Strengths:
Quins still have the best fly-half in the Premiership in Nick Evans, and keeping him fit will be crucial if they are to achieve anything this season. Their side has not undergone much change over the summer, with the core units of Chris Robshaw, Will Skinner and Nick Easter in the back row and centres Jordan Turner-Hall and George Lowe still there. Signing Tim Fairbrother is also some good business joining Joe Marler and Joe Gray in the front row.

Weaknesses:
The outgoing list is more impressive than the incoming one for Harelquins, with a lack of fresh blood coming in. This could lead to a stagnant season for the club judging on last year’s performances in the league, putting their Amlin Challenge Cup success aside, and they may struggle with a lack of strength in depth.

One to watch:
Maurie Fa’asavalu made quite the impression with Harlequins last season following his transfer from Rugby League, and although he is set to star at the Rugby World Cup with Samoa, he will be welcomed back by the fans at the Stoop, who love his big defence and hard running.

Last Season: 7th

Prediction:
It could be a miserable season at the Stoop. 8th

Leicester Tigers

Coach: Richard Cockerill

Ground: Welford Road

Players In:
Kieran Brookes, Graham Kitchener, Julian Salvi, Micky Young, Mathew Tait, Richard de Carpentier, Tom Youngs, Niall Morris.

Players Out:
Joe Duffey, Dave Markham, Dan Hemingway, Lucas Amorosino, Matt Everard, Will Hurrell.

Strengths:
With their seemingly infinite salary cap allowing Leicester to snatch up any exciting young English talent in the country, the Tigers look in good shape going into the new season. Kieran Brookes, Micky Young and Graham Kitchener are all exciting prospects, whilst a potential back row of Tom Croft, Julian Salvi and Thomas Waldrom is the best in the league.

Weaknesses:
Leicester are currently suffering an early season propping crisis, with five either away at the Rugby World Cup or injured, and that will test their squad to the limits. Otherwise, there are not many chinks in the armour.

One to watch:
Mathew Tait has arrived at Welford Road in what could be the most important season of his career thus far. Tait’s class saw him leave his mark on the 2007 Rugby World Cup, and in a Leicester team full of top players Tait will find more try scoring opportunities than he has become used to at Newcastle and Sale.

Last Season: Runners-Up

Prediction:
Close yet again between Leicester and Saracens. They will be hurting after the loss in the final last season. Champions.

London Irish

Coach: Toby Booth

Ground: Madejski Stadium

Players In:
Leo Halavatau, Bryn Evans, James Sandford, Edward Siggery, Ross Samson, Adrian Jarvis, Steven Shingler, Shontayne Hape, Jonathan Spratt, Joe Ansbro, Jebb Sinclair, Alex Gray, Tom Alexander.

Players Out:
Dan Murphy, George Stowers, Steffon Armitage, Ryan Lamb, Seilala Mapasua,
Chris Malone, Ben Stevenson, James Tideswell, Jon Fisher, Elvis Seveali’i, James Lennard.

Strengths:
Irish have been one of the busiest clubs in the transfer market this summer, and two of the acquisitions have been the new centre pairing of Shontayne Hape and Joe Ansbro. Both will be away at the Rugby World Cup with England and Scotland respectively, but should form a dangerous partnership in midfield to release flyers Sailosi Tagicakibau, Topsy Ojo and Delon Armitage.

Weaknesses:
There has been so much change at London Irish during the off-season, that it may be difficult for all the new recruits to gel together instantly. The Exiles have invested heavily in youth, signing Alex Gray, Steven Shingler and Ed Siggery, and these players will be asked to step up right from that start, a risky strategy that could backfire.

One to watch:
The signing of Alex Gray ruffled a few feathers up at his former club Newcastle, with the England U20 captain being a player the Falcons did not want to lose. Gray’s impressive performances for the national team have impressed many, and he should expect to get plenty of game time in the 8 shirt this season for Irish, competing with Chris Hala’ufia.

Last Season: 6th

Prediction:
A difficult season for Irish, but they should end up roughly mid-table once again. 6th.

London Wasps

Coach: Dai Young

Ground: Adams Park

Players In:
Steve Thompson, Jerome Castex, Arden Perrot, Guillermo Roan, Ross Filipo, Marco Wentzel, Jonathan Poff, Nicky Robinson, Ryan Davis, Chris Bell, Chris Mayor, Alex Cheesman, Hugo Southwell, Simon McIntyre, Lewis Thiede, Matt Everard, James Harris.

Players Out:
Charlie Beech, Joe Ward, Jason Hobson, Serge Betsen, Andy Powell, Dave Walder, Steve Kefu, Ben Jacobs, Mark van Gisbergen, Tom French, Josh Lewsey, Seb Jewell, Michael Mayhew, Marty Veale, Will Matthews, Shaun Ruwers, David Lemi, Dan Ward-Smith.

Strengths:
Another club who have operated an impressive revolving door this summer, Wasps have a new Director of Rugby and will be targeting a fresh start. On the impressive raft of new signings come experienced players such as Nicky Robinson, Ryan Davis and Hugo Southwell, plus some much needed leadership and grunt up front from Steve Thompson, Ross Filipo and Marco Wentzel.

Weaknesses:
As with London Irish, it’s all about how the new signings settle in early on. Wasps had such a dismal time of it last season that things really can only get better, but how long this takes will be the key.

One to watch:
Nicky Robinson will be reunited with his former Director of Rugby at Cardiff Blues, Dai Young, where he was the key pivot in a team at its peak, challenging both in Europe and in the Magners League. This time around, the experience will be very different, but Robinson was in some blistering form for previous club Gloucester at times last season. Every Wasps fan will be hoping that carries through to this season.

Last Season: 9th

Prediction:
An improvement from Dai Young’s team, but not by an awful lot. 7th

Newcastle Falcons

Coach: Alan Tait

Ground: Kingston Park

Players In:
Dan Frazier, Ashley Wells, Richard Boyle, Josh Beaumont, Richard Mayhew, Jordi Pasqualin, Will Chudley, Ricki Sherriffe, Ryan Shortland, Joe Robinson, Jamie Helleur, Taiasina Tu’ifua, Greg Goosen.

Players Out:
Kieran Brookes, Filipo Levi, Micky Young, Tane Tu’ipulotu, Rob Vickerman, Gcobani Bobo, Charlie Amesbury, Hall Charlton, Alex Gray, Micky Ward, Danny Williams, Ed Williamson, Brent Wilson, Andrew Henderson, Josh Afu, Tim Ryan.

Strengths:
Far from obvious on first inspection. The pack won much praise last season and statistically was one of the best around, and they could potentially have a rather handy back row with new signing Taiasana Tu’ifua and Ally Hogg combining. Overall though, Newcastle’s weak squad has lost plenty of bodies over the summer, but luckily Jimmy Gopperth remains. The fly-half is one of the best in the league with his ever accurate boot, and Newcastle will need him to take all the points on offer if they are to stay up this season.

Weaknesses:
The whole back line, bar Gopperth, lacks any real class, although there is pace in the form of Luke Fielden. Newcastle need more quality Premiership players across the backline though, and a lack of tries could be where they come unstuck again, after finishing the lowest number of tries scored in the league last season with 27.

One to watch:
Jamie Helleur has played a lot of Super Rugby at the heart of the Auckland Blues midfield over the years, and the Samoan’s running game and physicality in midfield could be the key to the Falcons defence.

Last Season: 11th

Prediction:
Newcastle survived by the skin of the teeth last season on the final day, but this year their squad is simply not good enough. They could be down and out by Christmas. Relegated.

Northampton Saints

Coach: Jim Mallinder

Ground: Franklin’s Gardens

Players In:
Paul Doran-Jones, Samu Manoa, James Craig, Martin Roberts, Ryan Lamb, Tom May, George Pisi, Noah Cato, Vasili Artemiev, Cesar Sempere.

Players Out:
Regardt Dreyer, Dan Sanderson, Mark Easter, Shane Geraghty, Joe Ford, Joe Ansbro, Matt Cornwell, Bruce Reihana, Ryan Powell, Dan Vickerman.

Strengths:
Northampton Saints have made some excellent signings over the summer, compensating for the loss of many leading players such as Geraghty, Ansbro and club legend Bruce Reihana, by bringing in Paul Doran-Jones, Noah Cato and Tom May, as well hard-hitting Samoa centre George Pisi. All in all where Northampton were strong last year, this year they are stronger.

Weaknesses:
Saints have faded in the last two domestic seasons after arguably focusing their attention too much on European competition, so keeping consistent form is without doubt on their main challenges for the season. But in terms of personnel, there are no glaring weaknesses anywhere.

One to watch:
Russian winger Vasily Artemiev will spend the first few months of the season away representing his country at the Rugby World Cup, but on his return should certainly be in contention for a starting sport. The winger was educated in Ireland, even speaking English with a slight Irish accent, but has an incredible amount of pace to burn.

Last Season: 4th

Prediction:
Saints agony of losing the Heineken Cup final last season will have steeled them for the upcoming campaign, and they will want to be challenging for silverware right to the death. 3rd

Sale Sharks

Coach: Steve Diamond

Ground: Edgeley Park

Players In:
Alasdair Dickinson, Joe Ward, Tony Buckley, Vadim Cobalas, Andrei Ostrikov, Fraser McKenzie, Kearnan Myall, Hendre Fourie, Andy Powell, Richie Vernon, Mark Easter, Scott Mathie, Tasesa Lavea, Sam Tuitupou, Luther Burrell, Charlie Amesbury, Joaquin Tuculet, Johnny Leota.

Players Out:
Eifion Lewis-Roberts, Jack Forster, Simon McIntyre, Nic Rouse, Sean Cox, Chris Jones, Carl Fearns, Kristian Ormsby, Neil McMillan, Sisa Koyamaibole, Chris Brightwell, Asaeli Boko, Charlie Hodgson, Matty James, Ben Cohen, Andy Tuilagi, Chris Bell, Mathew Tait, Jonny Kennedy, Rhys Crane, Fergus Mulchrone, Selorm Kuadey, Paul Williams, Karena Wihongi, Chris Leck.

Strengths:
Another ridiculous summer of spending for Sale, following another set of mass changes at the start of last season following the appointment of Mike Brewer. This time round, it’s Steve Diamond’s turn, and his unhappiness with the squad has seen plenty leave, and plenty come in. The immediate strength judging from the signings comes in the back row, where the acquisitions of Hendre Fourie and Andy Powell will add some powerful running and aggression at the breakdown. There are also some fast runners out wide in Johnny Leota and Charlie Amesbury.

Weaknesses:
The gelling process will take time, but there’s an immediate weakness at fly-half. Charlie Hodgson’s departure after a decade at the club will no doubt leave supporters feeling a little blue, and whilst Tasesa Lavea is an adequate replacement, his kicking game is nowhere near the level of accuracy of Hodgson’s. It should be an interesting few months for the club.

One to watch:
Richie Vernon has moved south across the border from Glasgow and it yet another handy back row option for Sale this season. He will face stiff competition for one of the flanker spots however from former young Leeds flanker Kearnan Myall.

Last Season: 10th

Prediction:
Under Diamond’s coaching and judging by the signings, Sale are set to be very physical this season. Whether this will bring an improvement remains to be seen. 9th

Saracens

Coach: Mark McCall

Ground: Vicarage Road

Players In:
Mako Vunipola, John Smit, Charlie Hodgson, Joe Maddock, Marcus Watson, Nemia Kenatale.

Players Out:
Ethienne Reynecke, Richard Skuse, Matt Parr, Alex Brown, Tom Ryder, Don Barrell, Kevin Barrett, Noah Cato, Henry Staff.

Strengths:
With the majority of last season’s league winning squad retained, and some high quality signings in John Smit, Charlie Hodgson and Joe Maddock, Saracens are in a great position to retain their title this season. They will have great competition at 10 with Hodgson competing against young Owen Farrell, and the duel for selection between Smit and superstar Schalk Brits will be an interesting one.

Weaknesses:
Honestly, none. The sign of a championship winning side is strength in depth, and Saracens have got it in abundance. The only challenge will be holding off a strong charge from big rivals Leicester.

One to watch:

Young England U20 prop Mako Vunipola will be spotted rumbling around up and down the country this season. He has already been highlighted as a future England star, so look out for him this season.

Last Season: Champions

Prediction:
It comes down once again to Saracens against Leicester, and hitting the heights of last season may prove too much of a task to win the title with the Tigers breathing down their necks. 2nd

Worcester Warriors

Coach: Richard Hill

Ground: Sixways

Players In:
Ceri Jones, George Porter, Ollie Hayes, James Percival, Ben Gulliver, Chris Jones, Shaun Perry, Errie Claasens, Danny Gray, Sione Tu’ipulotu, Josh Drauniniu, Sam Betty, Ravai Fatiaki.

Players Out:
Adam Black, James Collins, Callum Black, Greg Rawlinson, Graham Kitchener, Louis Silver, Will Bowley, Greg King, Oriol Ripol, Willie Walker, Andy Williams, Rob Higgitt, Pat Sanderson.

Strengths:
Worcester return to the Premiership after one season down in the RFU Championship, and they will not want to be heading back down there any time soon. Managed by former Bristol boss Richard Hill, the Warriors have always had fantastic home support and will aim to make Sixways a fortress for all visiting teams, much like Exeter last season. There is some great experience in the pack in Chris Jones from Sale, and also Shaun Perry is set to team up with his former boss at scrum half after a few years in France with Brive.

Weaknesses:
The Warriors have lost a lot of leadership with the retirements of Pat Sanderson and Greg Rawlinson, and will need to be aggressive in midfield to punch up and put away flyers Miles Benjamin and Marcel Garvey.

One to watch:

Sione Tu’ipulotu is part of the Tongan Rugby World Cup squad, and enjoyed a couple of good years with Nottingham in the Championship, regularly impressing. It will be interesting to see how he steps up following his move to the Premiership.

Last Season: – (RFU Championship Winners)

Prediction:
Worcester should be in a straight shoot out with Newcastle to avoid relegation, and it’s a fight that judging by their squad they will easily win. 11th

by Ben Coles

25 thoughts on “Aviva Premiership: Team-by-Team Guide

  1. A bit harsh on Quins i think. They have huge talent throughout their youthful side, and i think they’ll surprise many this year.

  2. Sorry, but I’ve got to disagree with you about our chances at Quins. Everyone seems to be judging how we will do on the basis that we’ve not had many new joiners. What you’re failing to see are the players that we’re bringing up from within.

    Yes, we lost Gonzo to the Chiefs over the summer, but when you have players like Ross Chisholm and Sam Smith waiting in the wings (or wing/full back in the case of Chisholm) we’re not going to be that disadvantaged. With the two new additional props, we now have good cover across most of the pack. In fact our options on the back row are pretty enviable, I would say, with Robshaw not going to the RWC, Tom Guest who would be a first pick at most clubs, Will Skinner, and the up and coming Luke Wallace and Chris York too. Add in Nick Easter and big Mo when the RWC is over, and out pack is pretty damn solid.

    Yes we have Danny Care out for the first 6 weeks roughly, but Karl Dickson (Lee’s Brother) is more than capable as a stand in (in fact he almost displaced DC as first choice at one point last season). With Rory Clegg coming on leaps and bounds at FH (Remember it was he that played the 2nd half against Munster and closed that game out), and centres like Jordan Turner-Hall, George Lowe, Matt Hopper, and a backline from Ugo Monye, Sam Smith, Ross Chisholm, Mike Brown, I would say that we pose a serious threat to any team, home or away. Remember we were the first team to beat Northampton at Franklins Gardens last season. We also had the stingiest defense (shared with Sarries) and let in the fewest tries in the season, and in pretty much losing game, we were within 7 points at the end. Write us off at your peril. Realistically, I would say we will finish at least in the top 6, and if we hit the ground running at the start of the season, we could make top 4.

    1. Well put Fred. The reality is all the teams between 4th and 10th could finish anywhere. Sale and Wasps are pretty much unknown packages given all their signings. You may yet prove me wrong!

  3. Exeter will surprise a lot of teams this year. I don’t think they will suffer “second season syndrome”.They now feel that they belong with the “big boys” I predict a top 6 finish for them.

  4. You mention that Newcastle’s already weak squad has lost plenty of good bodies over the summer’. Most of those players you highlight are what can be classified as dead-wood in most people’s eyes.

    Anyone who watches all the teams on a regular basis will have noted that the only Micky Young( had the worst season last year),Bobo, Amesbury( when fit) and Tuipulotu(when fit) were regulars in the squad. But I cannot say they will be particularly missed. Good squad players yes.

    Brookes and Alex Gray are ‘potentially’ good prospects, but so far they are just that, prospects, albeit good ones at that. Alex Gray only played in three premiership games last season and none of them where full games. Brookes had a few starts but most of his appearances were from the bench.

    On the issue of strengths which you neglected to mention, is that Newcastle had one one of the most feared scrums last season and that was a widely accepted view by the experts and statistics showed that.

    I also dont know how you can reach the conclusion that Worcester have a stronger squad when they have not played in the premiership this season for you to gauge them against similar opposition. Rugby is not played on paper and the loss of Pat Sanderson IMO equates to at least two Worcester back rowers.

    For your info Newcastle have also signed exciting backrower Taiasina Tuifua who the experts have put in the players to watch bracket at the world cup. Keep an eye on Will Welch who is a very exciting prospect at number 7. And Tim Swinson at number 6 would be near the England set-up if he was at one of the bigger clubs, that’s according to Ben Kay. The Newcastle pack is definitely stronger this season than last. The backs are a bit thin admittedly but overall the squad is stronger this season than last.

    I dont even know how you can say Mako Vunipola will be a player to watch at Saracens when he didnt exactly impose himself in the championship.Short will be the player to watch there that’s for sure.

    1. Lizard, there’s no need to turn what you see as an incorrect opinion into a personal attack. That is something we do not tolerate on this website.

      I’ve taken the time to edit out the abuse because in between it you actually make some interesting points about the Newcastle squad ahead of the new season. Your statement would have more credibility if that had been all you said.

  5. I also think you’re being extremely harsh on Harlequins. I don’t think for a minute that we’ll be a top 2 team but to say we’ll be 10th seems ridiculous. We will definitely finish above Exeter, Sale, Newcastle, Worcester…with a strong chance of finishing above Irish, Bath and Wasps. Who knows from there! We haven’t lost any of our core team, and with the talents of Evans, Easter, Care, Lowe and Browne we technically can beat anyone on our day.

    The bookies have Quins at 6th spot for a start!

  6. Apologies for the offence.I just cannot help but notice there is an obvious bias in your report and I think it could do with a lot more focus on what sort players particular teams have brought in and what they are going to add to the squad.

    But my other points remain in terms of how you can conclude that ‘ Worcester should be in a straight shoot out with Newcastle to avoid relegation, and it’s a fight that judging by their squad they will easily win’.I think there is an obvious bias in that statement dont you think? Just because I dont know how you came to that conclusion, especially in light that we havent seen Worcester against premiership opposition, yet, this season anyway.
    And also how you think Mako, who I have watched a lot at Bristol, my local team, would be a player to watch at Saracens, when he didnt impose himself at a lower level in the Championship.And as I mentioned I think Short will be the player to watch there and possibly England.

    1. Newcastle’s squad is the weakest in the league. You admitted yourself that the backs are “a bit thin”. Worcester, despite being promoted, have a better squad in terms of Premiership experience and class players. It’s not bias, it’s a comment. Believe me, I would never show any bias to Worcester, of all teams.

      With Vunipola, the praise he has won from England coaches and the amount of clubs eager to bring him in over the summer shows he has potential. That’s why he is picked out as “One to Watch”; he might not play every week, but he’s worthing keep tabs on in the long term.

  7. Just like to say thank you for another kick in the teeth for Newcastle but they will rise above it. I would love that all the remarks you have made are wrong and then maybe you would be relegated too.

  8. Ah the wrath of Newcastle fans!

    I’ve got a feeling Wasps’ youngsters might come through this season, they’ve been doing ok in pre-season and we don’t seem to have been hit by RWC call-ups (aside from Shaw & Simpson) because we were so rubbish last year. 7th seems fair. If we beat Sarries this weekend it might be a different story! COME ON YOU WASPS!

  9. Interesting that you don’t think Sarries can retain the title. I think they learnt form the 2009/10, and don’t want to get there and lose again. Would I be right in thinking Sarries are the only team to beat Leicester and Northampton away two seasons in a row?

    Don’t know much about Vunipola, but a lot of coaches seem to rate him. But if everyone stays fit, I don’t know if he’ll get many starts.

  10. Well, I hope you’re not trying to appease all the Falcons fans now Ben, because one player cannot suddenly make a lot of changes. I think you’d be suprised because I honestly believe the relegated team will not be so obvious to the regular rugby fan.I cannot say for starting another war on here.
    The Falcons have bought well this season and I think will be higher than you think. And no, I dont dont think they have the weakest squad in the AP considering the Falcons team has more ex or current international players than Exeter and Worcester.
    Exeter did well last season but you cannot say their squad is better than the Falcons squad. Exeter are fitter and obviously get better coaching from a coach who gets the best out of the players available.
    As for Worcester I dont know how you can arrive at your conclusion considering the bulk of the team is the same team that got relegated.
    As for Mako, like I said rugby is not played on paper or opinions. I’d like to say Mako will be one to watch, but based on what I saw in real games at Bristol, I cannot say he will be one to watch just because I didnt see a lot, despite what others say, to suggest he will impose himself in the premiership.Yes, he’s a good ball carrier but that’s not even a prop’s primary role. He will shine at age group rugby. But he failed to do that in the championship, so I wonder how you arrived at your conclusion, other than the reports you say you heard, which I think should not form a basis to elevate someone to that level. I’m sure he will improve in time,but I think I cannot say he will be one to watch at Sarries this season, even the season after this one.He’s just a kid at premiership level.

    1. Lizard, I would never try and change my opinion on Newcastle! Uys is a class player from what I’ve seen in Super Rugby and the Currie Cup, so treat it with less superstition! Perhaps you will be in a relegation fight with Worcester, but I’d back them because their squad is better. Best of luck for the season.

  11. Hi Ben,

    So now we’re a few weeks into the season, I was wondering what you made of the 12 teams based on what you’ve seen on the field compared to what you wrote here.

    I’d say Exeter are showing that no-one should consider that they’d be a “sure fire win” either at home or away. Will they be in the top 4? Somehow, I think that’s not realistic this season. Top 6? That’s actually a possibility, and I would be more than happy to see them have the chance of the big European games.

    Sale & Wasps have managed to gel as teams fairly quickly, given the amount of player “churn” over the summer. Will either be good enough to make HC qualification this year? I’d guess that only one of the two will get into next seasons HC. I have a feeling that they will be in the scrap for 6th to 8th place.

    Sorry, Newcastle fans, but I think you may be in the relegation battle all way through the season (along with Worcester and maybe the Not Nots unless they can get their team firing in the next week or so. LI have the potential to be in the top 6, but somehow I thin that losing too many talisman players may see them struggling the way Wasps did last season.

    Leicester and Northampton will be hoping that they can weather the first 8 weeks of the season, and be in the top half of the table. If wither is below 7th at the beginning of November, I can see them struggling with Sale and Wasps for the HC qualification.

    Gloucs need to find a rhythm to their play. Today the looked very disjointed, and players you’d usually be looking to bring something extra to the game (like Voyce for example) were very anonymous. If it gels for them, I’d look for them to finish 4th or 5th.

    Sarries need to learn that now they’ve won the Premiership, they need to earn it all over again. From what I’ve seen so far, they haven’t brought the same intensity to the park as they did last year. They will, given a wee or two more, but this slow start may cost them. Still on for a top 4, but maybe without the home advantage in the semi-finals.

    Bath look to be pulling out of the recent doldrums they were in, and re-establishing themselves as a firm force in this season. A top 4 is what they should be aiming for (not expecting, as all teams should have to fight harder than before for this, but I think it’s theirs to lose…)

    And as for Quins, I openly acknowledge I’m biased here. Still, for a first three weeks, it’s not gone too badly! Even given we’ve been using our even younger players, the way some of them (Wallace particularly) have stepped up and shown their potential has given me some cause to hope for a top 4 finish this year. Yes, we’ll suffer in the HC I think, and we often find November/December time a bit of a struggle as pitches soften up, but we’ve certainly announced out intentions so far!

    So, after 3 weeks out of 22, I’d suggest that this could be one of those seasons where everything is turned on its head, and we see firm favourites (Leics, Sarries, Wasps) ousted by teams more willing to take riskes (Bath, Gloucs, Quins)

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