The Saints will be looking to reach the heights they achieved in 2014. However, they have missed the play-offs every season since they won the championship fours years ago. Nevertheless, with Chris Boyd. Nevertheless, with Chris Boyd becoming the director of rugby in 2018, this may be the season where the Saints may push for fourth place in order to reach the play-offs. Also, in terms of signings, it has been a good summer for the Saints.
First, we must acknowledge the significant losses of George North (moving back to Wales to play for the Ospreys), Saints veteran Ben Foden and Rob Horne who has been forced to retire due to an unfortunate injury, leaving his arm paralysed. That being said, Saints have brought in experienced test players in the form of Double World cup winner Ben Franks, and Lions internationals James Haskell and Dan Biggar. Speaking of Lions’ internationals, Springbok Henrich Brussow who was involved in the South African victory in the 2009 Lions series, joined Saints back in January. Furthermore, Boyd has named Dylan Hartley as captain once more for the club. With a Wales and lions’ international pulling the strings in the backline and an experienced pack, the Saints may be a force to reckon with this season.
Northampton Saints will open their season with an away game at Kingsholm Stadium against Gloucester this Saturday. Kick-off at 2pm
It’s sad to see how Harlequins have continued declined since they won the league back in 2012. With quite a few notable English internationals within their squad, it’s not for a lack of talent. Certainly when Conor O’Shea left for the Italian job, things proceeded to go downhill. Nevertheless, it my be the international experience within the squad that will keep them up from the RFU Championship. Furthermore, this may be helped with the introduction of the former England defence coach, Paul Gustard. He has already worked with the English internationals in the squad and therefore, would already have a good relationship with them. Also with his experience in the defense coach role, and the departure of Nick Easter from the coaching staff, he may be able to prevent Harlequins from “leaking” points within matches.
In terms of England internationals, there is the English captain, Chris Robshaw, Danny Care, Mike Brown and Joe Marler. These players are experienced at international test level and have all been involved in Eddie Jones’ squad during one of England’s most successful spells. There is also with former Wallabies captain, James Horwill, in the squad. Harlequins also have brought in some exciting talent this year with Fiji Sevens Olympics Gold medalist Semi Kunatani going into the back row and USA rugby and former Utah Warriors’ centre,
Paul Lasike, will be a handy replacement for Jamie Roberts as he goes of to Bath. Last, but not least, is the signing of up and coming Nathan Earle who’s pace will be had to deal with for other teams. Nevertheless, these signings may be not enough to reach the Play-offs.
Harlequins play home to Sale Sharks in Twickenham Stoop with Kick-off at 3pm. I expect Harlequins to get the W in their opening match of the season.
The warriors barely avoided relegation last season with a forgettable 11th place finish in the league. They will be looking to change that this season as they have brought in a new head coach in the form of Rory Duncan from the Cheetahs. Duncan will be looking to make an improvement on the warriors winning record after only claiming 7 Ws last season. I believe this season will end pretty much the same as last season and the season before, a 10th or 11th place finish, with a possible fight to avoid relegation.
Warriors have built a formidable back line with Francois Hougaard at 9, Duncan Weir at 10, the wrecking ball that is Ben Te’o, alongside Francois Venter from South Africa, in the centre, Wales international Josh Adams out on the wing and Jono Lance from the Queensland Reds at full back and possibly, another option at 10. However, in the pack, there are not many notable names with the departure of Donnacha O’Callaghan and Dave Denton. The only notable transfer for the forwards was South African Scottish International, Cornell Du Preez. This may be where the Warriors will struggle. Not having a dominant forward back, may not give this exciting backline a whole lot of ball to work with.
Worcester Warriors will have difficult opening game at home in Sixways Stadium against Wasps this Saturday, 3pm.
Replacing the regulated London Irish, Bristol Bears will be looking to avoid another demotion back into the RFU championship. Although the Bristol Bears finished 20 points ahead of the second place team in the championship, I believe this year, they will be more than capable of finishing mid-table within the Gallagher premiership. There are two reasons for my prediction. The first one is Pat Lam. As seen with the Irish Western team, Connacht, Lam was able to implement a system that saw Connacht take down one of the strongest teams in Europe, Leinster, to win the Pro 12 in 2016. This, of course, took three years to achieve. Lam has already been successful in getting Bristol promoted to the Premiership. I believe this year he will look for a mid-table finish this year. Next year? We may be in a for a surprise.
The second reason is that Connacht have quite a few leaders within their squad. The likes of Ian Madigan, John Afoa, Steven Luatua and Wallabies veteran, George Smith, brings much needed leadership to the squad. Not to mention, there is the “x-factor” signing from Ulster, Charles Piutau, who will make teams think twice before kicking the ball down field. Unfortunately, he will miss the opener against Bath and possibly more games after.
Bristol will play in the first competitive match of the season at home at Asthon Gate to Bath. Kick off at 19:45.
Written by James O’Connor – 31/08/18