Guide to the Aviva Premiership 2013/14-Part 2

Leicester Tigers-

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Ground: Welford Road

Capacity: 24,000

Last Season Finish: Champions

Captain: Toby Flood

 

The Tigers victorious 2012/13 season seems to be overshadowed by the banning of boss Richard Cockerill after his outburst in last years Final. As is his character, he has begun the season in his moany, critical manner, however I’m pretty sure his early season absence won’t affect the Tigers campaign. Recruitment again has been successful for the East Midlands side, with experienced heads like Jerome Schuster and Gonzalo Camacho, along with the potential stars Owen Williams and Jamie Gibson joining the title holders. Now that ex-player Murphy has been added to the coaching fold and after his notable overseeing of Leicester best 7s performance yet, maybe he can maintain Leicester’s ever majestic try scoring record.

 

Transfers In-

Owen Williams-Fly Half

Gonzalo Camacho-Wing

Jerome Schuster-Prop

Ryan Lamb-Fly Half

Jamie Gibson-Flanker

David Mele-Scrum Half

Neil Briggs-Hooker/Flanker

Sebastian de Chaves-Lock

Tom Bristow-Prop

 

Pre Season Fixtures & Results-

Montpellier 52-15 Leicester Tigers

Jersey 7-69 Leicester Tigers

Leicester Tigers 30-10 Ulster

 

High Expectations- Matthew Tait:

It feels like Tait has been around for a while having featured in the 2007 World Cup Final. With England blessed for top class Full Back’s like Goode, Brown, Daly, Miller, Foden and Abendanon, Tait can regain that 15 jersey if he continues his outstanding form from last year. Dynamic in attack, he always managed to break the first line of defence, and alongside his safe hands in the air, Tait is definitely a competitor with Brown and Goode.

Big Impact- Ryan Lamb:

Not renowned for stability or consistency, Lamb was certainly second string to Myler at Saints. Yet, on occasion, his brilliance and ability to create space is unique. Therefore, if Murphy especially can provoke such brilliance on a regular basis, with Flood now injured, Lamb will need to take the reigns at 10 and help steady the Tigers to secure a top 4 finish.

No Pressure- Dan Cole:

Outshone by the ever-caveman like Adam Jones Down Under, and not as powerful in the Scrum and as mobile around the park, Dan Cole needs to regain that form that propelled him onto the England scene. Thankfully for him, it doesn’t look likely that he will receive any major challenges from English Tight-Heads with David Wilson still very much behind Cole.

 

Predicted Finish-

If Leicester don’t lose to many to injury and International duty, then they should be able to secure a top 4 spot for the Play-Offs. Murphy will make an impact for the backline. Still a solid Set Piece- 2nd in the table, and Champions.

 

London Irish-

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Ground: Madejski Stadium

Capacity: 24,161

Last Season Finish: 9th

Captain: Declan Danaher

 

The departures from Irish must be excruciating reading for hard-core fans. Having lost some of England’s best and youngest potential alongside some of its more experienced players, London Irish’s recruitment for the new season has been tough. Lions hero Corbisiero, Centre come Fly Half Steven Shingler, English youth stars Sisi, Gibson, Watson and Joseph have all left the Reading based club in search of fresher pastures. With a total loss of 16 players plus Scotland International Joe Ansbro due to his unfortunate retirement, it is now up to the likes of Brian Smith and Glenn Delaney to ensure Irish come out on the more handsome side of the relegation battle.

 

Transfers In-

Andy Fenby-Wing/Full Back

Blair Cowan-Number 8

Jamie Hagan-Prop

Eamonn Sheridan-Centre

Fergus Mulchrone-Wing

Michael Mayhew-Hooker

Myles Dorrian-Fly Half

Jimmy Stevens-Hooker

Nic Rouse-Lock

Matt Parr-Prop

Jonny Harris-Prop

Alex Lewington-Wing

 

Pre Season Fixtures & Results-

Nottingham 10-44 London Irish

London Wasps 30-12 London Irish

Munster 27-13 London Irish

 

High Expectations- Marland Yarde & Setaimata Sa:

The St Lucian born Yarde has been pipped by pundits to be a consistent starter on England’s Wing alongside Wasps pace merchant, Christian Wade. With incredible ability to evade tackles and finish scoring opportunities, if Yarde can continue his fine form and aim to go into 2014 and the 2015 RWC on a high, he has a huge future ahead of him. Teammate Sa only signed for Irish last year after being the latest League-Union Cross Coder. With an intimidating presence in attack and an astonishing offloading ability, Sa will be one to keep an eye on for this year.

Big Impact- Myles Dorrian:

Not the biggest name by any shadow of a doubt, however Dorrian’s swift drop into the Championship from Exeter allowed him to showcase his creativity in attack and solid boot. With Humphreys the only other out and out 10, Dorrian will need to remind critics of his talents and illustrate why Chiefs were in the wrong to lose him.

No Pressure- Tom Homer

The versatile 23 year old from Salisbury has stated his intent to get involved much more with the attacking aspects of the game rather than being known as the soul responsible for the kicking duties. If Homer hits the heights of the 75% with the boot and picks some gaps on the move, I’m sure he can move up the standings of potential England Full Backs. When he is fully fit, I look on fondly to see what he can contribute this season.

 

Predicted Finish-

Sorry Irish fans, it’s the drop. The relegation battle will be won by those teams with the stronger forward packs, Irish just lack the depth of experience. 12th.

 

London Wasps-

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Ground: Adams Park

Capacity: 10,516

Last Season Finish: 8th

Captain: Chris Bell

 

Wasps have had the busiest summer. With arrivals amounting to 17 after the most recent addition of 51 capped Italian Carlo Festuccia. A squad size of 40 should surely give Dai Young a entertaining and refreshing mix of youth and experience. Ranging from veterans of the game like Andy Goode, Masi and Varndell to ever-growing adolescence like Josh Bassett and Sam Jones. With the foundations of a march back towards the upper end of the table now firmly set, Wasps can regain their title of old as one of the Premiership’s dominant force.

 

Transfers In-

Joe Carlisle-Fly Half

Andy Goode-Fly Half

Matt Mullan-Prop

Kearnan Myall-Lock

Jack Moates-Scrum Half

Nathan Hughes-Number 8

Rory Pitman-Number 8

Josh Bassett-Wing

Ed Jackson-Number 8

Guy Thompson-Number 8

Ricky Reeves-Prop

Jake Cooper-Woolley-Prop

William Helu-Wing/Centre

Taione Vea-Prop

Ben Jacobs-Centre

Esteban Lozada-Lock

Carlo Festuccia-Hooker

 

Pre Season Fixtures & Results-

Clermont Auvergne 36-27 London Wasps

Connacht 7-31 London Wasps

London Wasps 30-12 London Irish

 

High Expectations-Andrea Masi & Guy Thompson:

The Italian is consistently picked for his country for good reason. A professional athlete who creates, and is aware of space when on the ball, Masi can part the best of defensive lines. If he continues in the same vain, Masi will put last years top-try scorers Wade and Varndell through for plenty more 5 pointers. 26 year old Thompson, who decided to sign for Wasps after earlier committing his future to the island outfit Jersey, looks a huge prospect. After seeing a few clips of his ball carrying ability online, Thompson is at the perfect age to reach his peak. However with a good 5 Number 8s in the squad, it takes competition for places to a whole new level!

Big Impact-Andy Goode:

The Bear. At the ripe old age of only 33, Goode is still a handsome age and parallel to that, still an extraordinary player. Worcester fans were in uproar when news of his departure rang around Sixways. He may not be everyone’s cup of tea, some may see him as a tactical, territorial option rather than a creative, unpredictable one, yet his ball carrying, kicking and defence are up there with the world’s best. Wasps just need to play a style that fits around Andy’s game.

No Pressure-Dai Young:

Having just penned a new contract with the club, boss man Young may be feeling the pressure after starting Pre-Season early and bringing a huge haul of players from across the globe. He has proven his metal in seasons gone by and now needs to prove to fans that the time has given a breathe of fresh air to the club and resultantly they can now aim for top 6 status.

 

Predicted Finish-

8th. The likes of Gloucester, Bath and Exeter are too strong and will maintain those mid-table spots. However with the talent on board Young’s mixed outfit will have a positive, sturdy season.

 

Newcastle Falcons-

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Ground- Kingston Park

Capacity- 10,200

Last Season Finish- Championship Champions-Promoted

Captain- Will Welch

 

The biggest negative that could have possibly come out of the back-end of last season and over the summer is the departure of New Zealander Jimmy Gopperth. Gopperth, now with Leinster, wished fans, players and the club as a whole all the best for the coming season after a great two-legged battle that ended in victory over the Blues in the Final. The Fly Half mantle now falls to either former Quins man Rory Clegg, experienced Scotsman Phil Godman, young Joel Hodgson who demonstrated his attacking flair in the 7s and also Fijian International Luveniyali. With no obvious pecking order, it’s hard to predict who will grasp the opportunity and spark the Falcons midfield. With Dean Richards a known recruitment master, he has a certain ability to draw quality players into his side. This alone will let the Falcons stay the brighter side of the drop.

 

Transfers In-

Nahuel Lobo-Prop

Dominic Barrow-Lock

Kieran Brookes-Prop

Noah Cato-Wing

Rory Clegg-Fly Half

Adam Powell-Centre

Andy Saull-Flanker

Franck Montanella-Prop

Danny Barnes-Wing/Centre

Mike Blair-Scrum Half

Phil Godman-Fly Half

Scott Lawson-Hooker

Fraser McKenzie-Lock/Flanker

 

Pre Season Fixtures & Results-

Newcastle 21-21 Bath

Newcastle 23-10 Connacht

Edinburgh 15-5 Newcastle

 

High Expectations-Ally Hogg & Mike Blair:

A Falcons side with a hugely Scottish feel is blessed with two Scotland greats. The first, Hogg who has been at the club since 2010, has been a constant rock in the Back Row. A tremendous ball carrier with a superior work-rate, he leads by example. Scotland’s most capped 9, Mike Blair said he has something to offer to the youngsters at the club. With such unrivalled experience, these men and others will help encourage each and every player to maintain maximum intensity for each game.

Big Impact-Phil Godman:

With Godman’s rounded game, I think he is first choice 10 for Richards. Having played against Newcastle last season, he can hopefully give that added impetus that will help keep the scoreboard ticking over.

No Pressure-Andy Saull:

After being surpassed by top Flankers at Sarries and falling down the pecking order, Saull can relight his career if he cuts out mistakes from his game when in the black of the Tyneside club. He has an outstanding ability to get round the park, with the added footwork ability. If he makes more first up tackles and wins some ball, he will be one of the players to watch, if not, he again might risk minimal game time.

 

Predicted Finish-

10th. Richards is so smart. He will have a long-term plan for the club that will see them slowly back up the table.

 

Part 3 will end the predictions looking at Saints’ big arrivals, Sarries hopes, Diamonds plan for Sale and the long-term goals of new Worcester DOR Dean Ryan.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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