LONDON, ENGLAND – With the Autumn Internationals done and dusted, England’s rugby community will turn its attention back to the Aviva Premiership. English sides kept in shape with two rounds of action in the LV=Cup, running out youngsters and sharpening certain combinations. This weekend will see some fascinating match-ups on the field, and potentially some chaos off of it. RugbyWrapUp has your Aviva Premiership Preview this week and every week, so let’s get to it!
O’Shea Signed to New Contract
Connor O’Shea was rewarded for bringing Harlequins back to the ranks of England’s elite, with a contract extension that will run through 2015-16. O’Shea was supposedly in the running for the Leinster and/or Ireland job at the end of last year, but elected to stay on at The Stoop. Despite Quins difficulties early in the season, the board has shown faith with the man who brought the team a championship in 2012. O’Shea reiterated his desire to build a legacy at Harlequins, stating: “We are ambitious to ensure that what we are building here is a lasting legacy, that we play rugby in a style that our supporters enjoy and is true to the tradition of this club, a club that will celebrate its 150th anniversary in 2016.”
English Clubs Isolated
With the promise of a 2 million Euro reward per club to rejoin the Heineken Cup, Top 14 sides have hurried back to the table, leaving Premiership sides holding the bag on a Rugby Champions Cup which may no longer have any participants. As of yesterday, people had begun to discuss the very real possibility that England will be frozen out of European competition next year, as the PRL has yet to send any representatives to talks. In point of fact, the PRL was not invited to join the other unions, demonstrating that hard feelings remain from the confrontational stance clubs took in negotiations last month, which seemed a wise strategy at the time. This saga surely has twists and turns yet to come, but this week, English clubs look to be the loser.
This Friday, Sale are set to face Worcester, with the Warriors still searching for a first win in all competitions this year. Unfortunate Worcester almost managed to take the Tigers in the LV=Cup, only to fall short at the last hurdle. If they don’t begin to put points on the board, and soon, it may be a very bleak New Year at the Sixways… Exeter take on Saracens in the pick of the weekend, as two in form sides face each other. Sarries may let their internationals rest, while Exeter should have their full starting complement, making for an even better match. A slightly understrength Saracens is still formidable, and it should be a match well worth watching… Gloucester will travel to London to take on Harlequins in a game pitting two underachieving sides against one another. The Cherry and Whites will be looking to move up a few positions, while Quins need to stop the bleeding to stay comfortably in the playoff picture… In less competitive fixtures, London Irish head to Welford Road to face Leicester, while Northampton will host Newcastle… Sunday sees London Wasps round out the weekend’s action with an encounter against Bath, who hope to put Kyle Eastmond’s bizarre antics well behind them.
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