LONDON, ENGLAND – I am here, in the land that made Tea and Fish-n-Chips part of the international vocabulary, to do a proper preview of the Aviva Premiership. In this era of sponsors on steroids, the Premier Division in England is called Aviva… after its sponsor. But enough of the marketing talk. Let’s get down to business with our Aviva Premiership Preview. The 12 teams are grouped and listed them in order of their projected finish.
Eyes on the Prize
Northampton: The Saints have long been bridesmaids but never the bride. They have made consecutive Semi-finals and lost. This year the Saints change all of that. Led by Dylan “Finger Nibbler” Hartley, the Saints will win it all.
Harlequins: Heavy is the head of he who wears the crown. Quins will know what it feels like to play with a bulls-eye on them this season. Expect them to be prepared, led by England Captain Chris Robshaw. They will be in the final again.
Leicester: Leicester have played in 9 straight finals. It would be absurd for someone not to look at them think they won’t be there… or thereabouts. Call me absurd then, because I see this streak ending at 9. The Tigers will make the Semi-Finals and lose.
Saracens: The Sarries have this ability to cook the books and dodge the salary cap like nobody else. (We’d like their accounting firm’s number, they’d have us scot-free in taxes). Yet, while their team is star-laden, their tactics are positively medieval. Defense wins championships but you also need an attacking style. Because the Sarries are somewhat lacking in that department, they will make the Semis at best.
Sale: With some big additions like Richie Gray, Sale are looking to take a huge step forward and be a threat for the top four. I can’t see it happening but if they sneak in, I won’t be surprised.
Exeter: Every time I think the Chiefs I am puzzled why an English team has a Native American as their logo. Beyond that, the Chiefs have been building solid winning season after another since they won promotion a couple of years back. They will push for Top four but likely come up short.
Middle of the Pack
Gloucester: They have made some key acquisitions and genuinely believe they can push for the top four. Unfortunately, reality is not going to be kind. Expect them to play well… but the top four? That is a bridge too far.
Bath: They have added Garry Gold and a whole new backroom staff. They will play better rugby and do the club proud, but middle of the pack is the best they will do.
London Irish: Loads of changes to the squad in the off-season. This will make them slightly better but they may not settle in time for them to make the top four.
Worcester: They are now an established Premiership club and they are building to something. They may surprise, but they will remain in the middle of the pack.
London Wasps: With new owners, one would think they’d spur things forward. That will happen but there is a lot of rot to get rid off first. The Wasps will escape relegation again but it fortunately for their fans – it won’t be a last weekend, heart-in-the-mouth pressure-cooker.
London Welsh: I want them to succeed so very badly but I just can’t see it. Too much against them, including the court case that won them promotion but cost them a month in off-season prep time.
TWO FINAL PREDICTIONS: My two final predictions is that the leading point scorer of this season will be Nick Evans of Harlequins. The Player of the Year will be Ben Foden.
That is it for me for now. Please feel free to comment below, look for and “Like” our Facebook Rugby Wrap Up Page and follow us on Twitter @RugbyWrapUp, @JunoirBlaber, @Declan Yeats and @Mathew Drew Turner, respectively.
And as always, stay low and keep pumping those legs.