Last season finish: 8th
Losing Head Coach Simon Amor so close the opening weekend of the season is a massive blow after his appointment as England 7s boss. The signing of Neil Best from Worcester bolsters an already impressive pack. Hooker Ted Stagg and winger Peter Homan are two of a quartet of signings from fellow Championship outfit Rotherham Titans and both have quietly gone about their business the past couple of years but could prove real coups. A top half finish would have been a real possibility but for the departure of Simon Amor.
Last season finish: Relegation from Premiership
Losing captain Jon Mills and Head Coach Lyn Jones could hamper London Welsh’s quest for an immediate return to the Premiership but the signings of Tom May, who will captain the side, and Andy Titterell, among others, are certainly going to help their cause. New Head Coach Justin Burnell is respected among the Welsh regions and got the job amongst a strong three-man shortlist. Many believe this season may develop into a two horse race between Bristol and Welsh and with the undoubted quality in the Exiles squad, you can see why.
Last season finish: 10th
Having never finished outside of the bottom three of the Championship doesn’t make pretty reading and things don’t look likely to change this year. The recruitment of former Bristol back Matt Williams and Edinburgh’s Mike Penn add some pace but a thin squad, particularly at 10, creates a nervous atmosphere ahead of the new season. They may survive should Ealing struggle to find their feet but they could be embroiled in a scrap at the bottom for much of the season.
Last season finish: 2nd
This will be a season of consolidation for the green and whites. Martin Haag has a threadbare squad to work with and with the retirement of influential fly-half James Arlidge and 2012-13 Championship Player of the Year Tim Streather joining Saracens serve only to hamper their prospects for play-off rugby further. Financial restraints have led to little recruitment over the summer but Kiwi captain Brent Wilson was pivotal in Nottingham’s second place finish last year and will be looked upon to lead from the front again.
Last season finish: 9th
New Head Coach James Shanahan has a good reputation among the lower leagues and his appointment represents a good platform for him to prove his mettle at a higher level. In regards to recruitment among the playing squad, Pale Nonu’s arrival from Rotherham will add some experience among the backs. A bottom half finish will be expected as Shanahan looks to build for the future.
Last season finish: 7th
The return of Juan Pablo Socino has Titans fans excited at the partnership he can build with fly-half Garry Law. Socino, who holds Rotherham’s club record of most points in a season, left Rotherham for Nottingham in April 2011 but left a year later. Now back at Rotherham, the 10-12 axis he will share with Law will be the spearhead for the Titans this season. Elsewhere, prop Colin Quigley arriving from London Scottish adds some steel to the pack while a cluster of young players have been added to bolster Lee Blackett’s squad. The play-offs may be a touch optimistic for the Titans but they won’t be far off.
By Rich Elkins (@richelkins)
Photo by: Patrick Khachfe / Onside Images