Back Bath for Premiership Glory
This weekend sees the return of domestic Rugby Union as the Aviva Premiership hits our screens, and this season has the potential to be the best in the history of the competition. With nine months of pulsating action, hard hits, scorching tries and gut wrenching tension in store as the major powers try to wrestle the title away from Northampton. Here is my betting guide to the 2014/15 season.
It is likely to be a similar scenario at the top of the table this season to the one we have seen for the last five years. Saracens, Northampton and Leicester will all be strong candidates to take home silverware. They are the powerhouses of English rugby and have the proven pedigree to last the long trip of an Aviva Premiership season.
But for my money Bath look a great value bet to claim their first premiership title since 1996. Last year they missed out on the play-offs in agonising fashion on the final day of the season. Owner Bruce Craig has once again splashed the cash in an effort to bring the glory days back to the Rec. England prop Henry Thomas has arrived from Sale and full-back Luke Arscott has arrived from the Exeter Chiefs.
But the biggest signing of them all is Rugby League superstar Sam Burgess who will arrive from the NRL in October. Burgess has been smashing down defences in Australia for the past five seasons but has switched to Bath in a bid to help England win the 2015 Rugby World Cup. His sheer size and power aligned with his deft hands and sharp rugby brain will make him a star in union both domestically and internationally.
Burgess can lead Bath to glory (source www.skysports.com)
He will be joining a team full of other exciting English talent including George Ford, Anthony Watson, Kyle Eastmond and Jonathan Joseph who have all the attributes required to take on the likes of Saracens, Leicester and Northampton. With the disappointment of last season still fresh in the mind and the recruitments made in the off-season I can see Bath being a force to be reckoned with this season. At a juicy 10/1 they are a great value bet to go all the way, for the more cautious of you I’d still advise a top four finish at 11/8.
The top tryscorer market is littered with a number of players who could light up grounds up and down the country. Leicester Tigers back Niki Goneva claimed the award last season with 12 tries and he is currently 7/1 favourite to regain his crown. But with all the talent in the league it is better to look for some larger prices.
Fijian flyer Asaeli Tikoirotuma was snapped up by Harlequins after spells with the Chiefs and Manawatu in New Zealand. His raw pace and finishing ability will be a real asset to Quins and with Marland Yarde almost certain to be away with England for long periods of the season, Tikoirotuma will feature heavily and could be one of the stars of the season.
Mark Cueto is one of the greatest players in the history of the Aviva Premiership,his tally of 86 career tries make him the top scorer in the history of the competition. Last season the veteran winger finished the season with eight tries to his name leaving him joint fourth on the list. Despite his age Cueto remains one of the best finishers in the land, and will be a key player for his beloved Sale Sharks and at a big price he could be worth taking an each-way punt on.
Jonny May is another finisher with a proven record at this level, while it may not have always worked for him with England his predatory instincts at Gloucester have never been in question. Last season he registered nine tries in a team that performed well below its best, but with powerful signings in the pack I expect the Cherry and Whites to have a much better platform to release May and it would be no surprise to see him to top the charts come the end of the season.
Bath to win outright 10/1 (Paddy Power) 2pt win
Bath top four finish 11/8 (Bet Victor)4pt win
Asaeli Tikoirotuma top try scorer 20/1 (Ladbrokes) 2pt win
Jonny May top try scorer 10/1 (Bet365)2pt win
Mark Cueto top try scorer 66/1 (Hills)0.5pt e/w