Gallagher Premiership Rugby Preview 15th October 2019
Gallagher Rugby Premiership Season Preview
By Peter Moore as at 15th October 2019
Despite all eyes on the current Rugby World Cup, this weekend will see the start of another Gallagher Premiership season.
Over the coming months, twelve sides will battle through twenty-two rounds of pulsating and intense rugby, with the top four sides at the end of the regulation season hoping to emulate Saracens as Gallagher Premiership Champions.
Time to look and analysis all twelve sides ahead of the big kick off this weekend.
Stuart Hooper’s reign as head coach gets under way this weekend with a huge West country derby against Bristol. Bath will be looking to improve on their sixth-place finish of last season. The west country outfit were decimated by losing key players to long term injuries. Losing the likes of Anthony Watson, Jonathan Joseph and Semesa Rokoduguni for most of last season almost certainly cost Bath a chance to maintain a push for the top four. One consolation for the west country men was that they did at least qualify for this seasons Champions Cup after defeating Leicester in the final round to sneak into sixth spot.
Bath will be hampered early on this season by losing six players on World Cup duty, however the west countryside have recruited well in the summer by bringing in six new faces, including ex Quin Lewis Boyce alongside Will Stuart ex Wasps and Mike Williams, formally of Leicester Tigers.
Two key players for Bath this season will be forward Zach Mercer and England Under 20 back Tom de Glanville.
After a promising first season back in the Premiership- 9th place finish- Bear will certainly be targeting the possibility of a top sixth finish.
Pat lam’s side finished a comfortable 20 points clear of relegation last season and only five points away from European qualification- not bad for a side that many people tipped to go straight back down.
Bears have already made their intentions perfectly clear ahead of the new season by signing former Wasps number eight Nathan Hughes. The giant back rower who has made 20 appearances for England, looks set to make his debut for Bristol against Bath on Friday.
The arrival of Hughes- who had six seasons at Wasps- will give Bears a mixture of experience and youth, with young players George Kloska and Jack Bates likely to feature at the top flight of rugby for the first time. Bristol will look to the exciting New Zealand back Charles Piutau to fire once again, despite missing a chunk of last season through an Achilles injury. Bristol can also expect another fine season from former Gloucester player Harry Randall. The rookie scrum-half proved a fans favourite last campaign after scoring spectacular solo tries against Leicester and Newcastle Falcons.
After a narrow defeat in the Premiership final to Saracens, Chiefs will be looking for revenge and to retain their crown from Saracens.
This season Chiefs will be looking to juggle European and domestic ambitions for the campaign ahead of them.
Head Coach Rob Baxter has made one quite significant signing during the summer by recruiting new arrival Stuart Hogg. After nine years with Glasgow, Hogg decided to make the move to England with high hopes of silverware.
Key Man for Chiefs is Matt Kvesic. The former Gloucester back rower deservedly earned himself a nomination for the Gallagher Premiership 2018/19 player of the season for his outstanding contributions in a Chiefs shirt. Ignored by Eddie Jones in his World Cup squad, it surely can’t be to long before his name crops up once again for England honours.
After an impressive top three finish last campaign, the Cherry and Whites will be after another top four finish this season.
Having lost just five players to the Rugby World Cup, the Cherry and Whites will be looking for early victories to get their campaign of to the perfect start. The West Country outfit will also be entering their first Champions Cup campaign for seven years.
Gloucester have added five new players to their squad ahead of the current campaign, with Joe Simpson of Wasps, the biggest signing. Once again Gloucester will look to the outstanding Danny Cipriani to spearhead their campaign. Last seasons Premiership player of the year in just his first season with the club, will be the key player for the west country outfit. The number 10 who is loved by the country, but not Eddie Jones, will look to have another outstanding season for the Cherry and Whites. Watch out also for back rower Jake Polledri. The 23-year-old showed immense promise in two of Italy’s three World Cup matches and is certainly a player to watch out for this season.
After a disappointing end to last season in both the Gallagher Premiership and the European Challenge Cup, Harlequins will be out to set the record straight after a summer of change at the Stoop.
Head Coach Paul Gustard has overhauled his playing staff in the summer, with no less than 18 players leaving Quins and 16 new faces in. One of those is the experienced Argentinian scrum half Martin Landajo, who has put pen to paper alongside Italian centre Michele Campagnaro, who have joined the South West London outfit alongside new faces which include Scott Baldwin, Will Evans and Tom Lawday.
Despite the addition of so many new faces, quins will look for the ever reliable and experience faces of Danny Care, Chris Robshaw and Mike Brown as well as upcoming young stars Marcus Smith and Joe Marchant for their quest for silverware. Marchant, despite being left out of England’s World Cup squad, is a key player for Quins. Last season he crossed 14 times in all competitions to be Harlequins leading try scorer of the season. Quins will also look to the excellent Alex Dombrandt to enhance his ever-glowing reputation from last season. The back rower made 24 appearances for the club since joining from Cardiff Metropolitan University and is very much under the England radar.
Irish were promoted back to the Premiership after just one season with a game to spare after defeating strugglers Richmond 46-7.
The Exiles topped the Championship by 13 points, after suffering just two losses all season. Irish’s second promotion in three seasons, will also see them play their rugby at the Madejski Stadium for the final time this season.
For the forthcoming season in the top flight, survival will be Irish’s primary objective. Two years ago on their previous return back to the Premiership, it turned out to be a season to forget after winning only three games.
London Irish have been on a high spending recruitment campaign, with eleven players signed, including marquee signing Waisake Naholo leading the way. All Blacks wing Naholo is also a huge coup for Irish, who have also signed Paddy Jackson, Scotland prop Allan Dell, Ireland flanker Sean O’Brien and Australia Internationals Curtis Rona, Nick Phipps and Sekope Kepu.
After a season to forget, Geordan Murphy will be hoping to inspire the East Midland outfit back to former glories as the ten times English Champions look to bounce back from last season’s relegation threatened campaign.
In a busy summer for Tigers, Murphy has made wholesale changes by signing 14 new arrivals with 22 shown the door. Among the new additions to a Tigers shirt are Jordan Taufua from Crusaders and Noel Reid who has signed from Leinster. Jaco Taute has also made the move across the water alongside Callum Green from Newcastle Falcons.
Key man for Tigers this season must be Guy Thompson. The former Waps player was named Tigers fans newcomer of the season. Expect more fine showings once again this campaign.
After an encouraging 2018/19 campaign- finishing fourth, Saints will have high hopes of pushing on and making a successful campaign in both domestic and Europe competitions this season.
Northampton will be looking to start the new campaign as they finished last season. Saints have promoted a cluster of young academy players including Ehren Painter, Fraser Dingwall and James Grayson. Northampton have also signed double World Cup winning All Black Owen Franks, who has joined from Crusaders.
A host of International players will be missing for the start of the season, so it will only give the up and coming youngsters a chance to make an early impression.
Key player to look out for once again has to be South African scrum half Cobus Reinach, who was Saints outstanding performer last term.
Double winning Sarries will once again be the side that everybody will have to beat. Question is ahead of the new season; can Saracens replicate their incredible 2018/19 season after winning both the Premiership and Champions Cup.
The North London side have contested no less than four of the last five finals, winning on each occasion.
The acquisition of England full back Elliot Daly is a signing of true intent from the current champions. Daly will link up with a star studded back three that contains Internationals Liam Williams, Alex Goode and Sean Maitland. Sarries only real concern will be how quickly they will be able to get back all 15 of their internationals back from World Cup duty, and what shape will they be in.
Key man for Saracens is the very talented Ben Spencer. The young srum half could consider himself very unlucky not to be picked for England’s World Cup squad, but England’s loss is Saracens gain.
Sale will be looking to continue their fine form from 2018/19 into the forthcoming season. Sharks narrowly missed out on a top six finish but were rewarded with European Cup action returning to Manchester this season.
Boosted by several new arrivals including Jake Cooper- Wooley from Wasps, Robert du Preez from Sale and Mark Wilson from Falcons, Steve Diamond will be looking for a big push to nudge into the top six.
Key to getting into the elite six must be their form on the road. Last season a poor return of just two wins needs to be rectified.
Key Man must be the outstanding Faf de Klerk. The South African Scrum half has been a revolution since signing for Sharks and has certainly been their best player for the past two seasons.
The Coventry based outfit will be looking to put aside a very disappointing 2018/19 campaign which saw the side finish a very lowly eighth place and focusing on a much-improved campaign.
Fans of Wasps has seen the side have a big summer overhaul with Dai Young bringing in 11 new faces including Malakai Fekitoa from Toulon, Jack Owlett from Exeter, Ben Vellacott from Gloucester and Jeff Toomaga-Allen from Hurricanes.
For success in 2019/20, Wasps will be hoping that big signing Fekitoa will be a major player. The New Zealand centre has scored eight tries in 24 games for the All Blacks since joining from French side Toulon.
After an encouraging 2018/19 campaign, Warriors will be intent on securing their Premiership campaign for a sixth successive season.
Once again Worcester will be looking to avoid the dreaded drop into the championship. They will have to cope without several of last seasons top players including top try scorer Josh Adams. Warriors have made nine new additions to last seasons squad, including Graham Kitchener from Leicester, Conor Carey from Connacht, Jono Kitto from Northland and Caleb Montgomery from Ulster.
Key man to watch for Worcester this season will once again be South African scrum half Francois Hougaard. The 31-year-old is known for his searing pace on the wing, and is a true fans favourite.