It has been a breath-taking start to the season. It is anticipated that will be one of the most highly competitive seasons in recent years and the first couple of rounds are great evidence of that. Five key talking points from the first two rounds are:
The Cipriani Factor: It is only appropriate to start with Danny Cipriani. The enigmatic playmaker has begun his season with two great Man Of The Match performances in his first couple of appearances for Gloucester. He is controlling his back-line in brilliant fashion, through clinical passing, smart short kicking and great decision making under pressure. He is the conductor of a great backline linking well with centre Billy Twelvetrees and winger Matt Banahan. If Cipriani’s form continues there is no doubt that Gloucester will be in the play-off positions come the end of the season.
These performances have definitely caught the attention of England Coach Eddie Jones and it wouldn’t be surprising if he was to wear the no. 10 shirt in the Autumn Internationals this November, but it can be questioned whether or not Ciprani would perform well alongside fellow English playmaker Owen Farrell. He relishes being the main star in a backline and with his massive personality, I don’t know if himself and Farrell will work well as a unit for Eddie Jones. Will this combination at 10/12 be a stroke of Genius or a Dilemma for England?
The Situation At Leicester: The Tigers had a far from ideal start to their season when coach Matt O’Connor was sacked after the first match humiliation against Exeter Chiefs. Geordan Murphy was appointed the new coach on a temporary basis. Murphy has been involved with the club for over two decades both as a player and in a managerial capacity and it is only fitting to gift him this opportunity to prove himself as head coach.
Murphy began his reign with an impressive victory at home against Newcastle Falcons this past Saturday. It was a spirited performance that saw the Tigers come out of the blocks fast as they accumulated an impressive early lead. They won the game relatively comfortably with Manu Tuilagi returning on the score sheet. This is still a challenging period for the club and the game this Sunday against Wasps is massive. It will be interesting to see if Murphy can return them to success or will it be another difficult season for his men?
The Competition at N0. 8: The number 8 position is decorated with talent in English Rugby currently and Eddie Jones is spoilt for choice. He will be delighted with the performances by some of his options at No. 8 so far. His predicted first-choice Billy Vunipola made a try scoring return from Injury to help his side Saracens defeat 14 man Bristol last Saturday. He managed to put in a hard-working 36 minutes performance that will delight Eddie Jones ahead of the Autumn Internationals.
It cannot be argued that Sam Simmonds of Exeter Chiefs has begun his season in tremendous style making his own claims for that No. 8 shirt. He has been one of the standout performers for Exeter with a couple of tries and big important carries. He must be heavily noted by Jones. Nathan Hughes is also an option for England, also impressing last Saturday. Vunipola, Hughes and Simmonds are all great options and we will have to wait and see who is chosen this autumn!
Exeter And Saracens Demonstrating Their Class: Exeter and Saracens have enjoyed great success in the premiership in recent years. Both clubs have claimed maximum points in their opening games with two very professional performances. Saracens look as good as ever and Exeter look top-class and these two teams have to be favourites to win the competition at this stage.
Plenty Of Tries: We have been privileged to watch open, fast and expansive rugby. We’ve seen over 40 tries this weekend all of an exceptional standard and there are plenty more tries to come.
Who will be lifting that trophy come the end of the season?..
Written by Ciaron Noble – 11/09/18