LONDON, ENGLAND – Though we like to think every weekend of Aviva Premiership action is full of heart-pounding action, some rounds are more eventful than others. As we near the halfway mark, Round 9 was one of those hectic affairs that can begin to make or break a season. With a two week break coming up for European actions, it’s time for RugbyWrapUp’s weekly Aviva Premiership Review.
Yarde, Wade Pick Up Long Term Injuries
England supporters who aren’t wild about Chris Ashton’s tenure on the wing will have to hold on until at least June, as his main competition picked up major injuries which will keep them out at least through March. A mere two weeks after both players were ruled out of international action due to nagging injury, Christian Wade and Marland Yarde’s respective club sides selected them for duty. As a result, Wade will be missing for six months with “specific ligament damage” requiring surgery. The news is scarcely better for Yarde, who is sidelined for at least three months after picking up a hip injury last weekend, ruling both up and coming wingers out of the Six Nations campaign facing England in two months’ time. Brian Smith was on the defensive over the call to play Yarde, as he claimed that the wing was properly monitored in the week leading up to London Irish’s clash with the Leicester Tigers. Stuart Lancaster cannot be happy, as England will potentially start the Northern Hemisphere’s annual tournament missing Geoff Parling, Manu Tuilangi, Ben Foden, and with Brad Barritt likely sidelined until Christmas.
English Clubs Left in the Cold?
The PRL is attempting to play hardball with an increasingly untenable hand, as they are now isolated among European leagues with the Top 14’s agreement to play in the Heineken Cup next year. Chief Executive Mark McCafferty now claims that English clubs missing out on European competition entirely is “the most likely outcome,” an unacceptable turn of events. There was always a chance that things would turn upside down on English clubs, particularly given their arrogant and standoffish negotiating tactics. Now that it has happened, McCafferty seems hopelessly devoted to a losing strategy, and will cost English fans that chance to see their clubs play against Europe’s best sides next year. The PRL makes the ludicrous claim that the influx of money from BT Sport will cover financial losses. Even if that were true, the argument demonstrates that England’s club structure has systemically failed the supporters who hold up the sport, valuing money over all else. If rugby is to become a business, then the Premiership would be well served by finding a chief executive who knows how to negotiate, and when to cut his losses.
Weekend Wrap Up
Bath and Exeter played absolutely breathtaking rugby in the first half, producing a display of astounding ferocity. The match served as a much-needed reminder that no matter the nonsense off the pitch, the Premiership remains the home of some fantastic club sides. George Ford’s star continues to rise, scoring all of Bath’s points in their 21-16 victory. The young fly-half may yet find his way into the Elite Player Squad if he keeps producing at such a clip.
Elsewhere, Saracens got a scare from Sale, as they only topped the Sharks 24-19, with Danny Cipriani standing out after scoring a try, a conversion, and a drop-goal for the losing side. On Friday, Gloucester almost found their way back against Leicester, giving the Tigers a late scare by running out of their half and into the 22 after time expired, only to concede an obstruction penalty, losing by a final score of 22-17. The Cherry and Whites were undone by horrendous goal-kicking, cycling through three penalty takers on a tough day for Freddy Burns. London Irish fell to the Wasps, 19-12, scoring only 3 points during the second half in a rather turgid affair. Northampton were the victors over Worcester, though the Warriors made the Saints work in a 33-10 contest that was closer than the scoreline would indicate. Samu Manoa backed up his player of the month award with yet another try. The Warriors may take heart in the fact that they went into halftime with a lead, but once again let the match slip from their grasp in the final quarter of an hour, conceding three tries in that time.
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