Guinness Pro12 Rugby Preview 2016/17

Pro12 Rugby is back! Welcome to my preview of the 2016/17 Guinness Pro 12. Last season saw Connacht play some outstanding rugby and be crowned champions – will they repeat that feat this season or will someone else rise from the pack to challenge them?

 

There’s a team by team analysis below the fixtures.

Guinness Pro12

Friday 2 September
19:35
Leinster
v.
Benetton Treviso
19:35
Ospreys
v.
Zebre
19:35
Ulster
v.
Newport Gwent Dragons
Saturday 3 September
15:00
Scarlets
v.
Munster
17:15
Connacht
v.
Glasgow Warriors
19:35
Cardiff Blues
v.
Edinburgh
Friday 9 September
19:15
Newport Gwent Dragons
v.
Zebre
19:35
Edinburgh
v.
Scarlets
19:35
Munster
v.
Cardiff Blues
Saturday 10 September
15:00
Glasgow Warriors
v.
Leinster
19:05
Benetton Treviso
v.
Ulster
19:35
Connacht
v.
Ospreys
Friday 16 September
19:00
Cardiff Blues
v.
Glasgow Warriors
19:05
Ulster
v.
Scarlets
19:35
Edinburgh
v.
Leinster
Saturday 17 September
17:05
Zebre
v.
Connacht
17:15
Newport Gwent Dragons
v.
Munster
19:35
Ospreys
v.
Benetton Treviso
Friday 23 September
19:05
Benetton Treviso
v.
Newport Gwent Dragons
19:35
Glasgow Warriors
v.
Ulster
19:35
Leinster
v.
Ospreys
Saturday 24 September
15:00
Munster
v.
Edinburgh
16:05
Zebre
v.
Cardiff Blues
19:35
Scarlets
v.
Connacht
Friday 30 September
19:35
Connacht
v.
Edinburgh
19:35
Newport Gwent Dragons
v.
Glasgow Warriors
Saturday 1 October
17:00
Munster
v.
Zebre
18:30
Ulster
v.
Ospreys
19:05
Benetton Treviso
v.
Scarlets
19:35
Cardiff Blues
v.
Leinster
Friday 7 October
19:35
Connacht
v.
Ulster
19:35
Edinburgh
v.
Benetton Treviso
19:35
Ospreys
v.
Cardiff Blues
Saturday 8 October
14:05
Leinster
v.
Munster
16:05
Zebre
v.
Glasgow Warriors
19:35
Scarlets
v.
Newport Gwent Dragons
Friday 28 October
19:35
Cardiff Blues
v.
Scarlets
19:35
Edinburgh
v.
Zebre
19:35
Glasgow Warriors
v.
Benetton Treviso
19:35
Ulster
v.
Munster
Saturday 29 October
15:00
Ospreys
v.
Newport Gwent Dragons
17:15
Leinster
v.
Connacht
Friday 4 November
19:15
Benetton Treviso
v.
Cardiff Blues
19:15
Newport Gwent Dragons
v.
Connacht
19:35
Edinburgh
v.
Ulster
19:35
Munster
v.
Ospreys
Saturday 5 November
16:05
Zebre
v.
Leinster
19:35
Scarlets
v.
Glasgow Warriors
Friday 25 November
19:35
Connacht
v.
Cardiff Blues
19:35
Glasgow Warriors
v.
Ospreys
19:35
Scarlets
v.
Leinster
19:35
Ulster
v.
Zebre
Saturday 26 November
17:00
Munster
v.
Benetton Treviso
Sunday 27 November
15:30
Newport Gwent Dragons
v.
Edinburgh
Friday 2 December
19:35
Glasgow Warriors
v.
Munster
19:35
Ospreys
v.
Edinburgh
Saturday 3 December
14:05
Zebre
v.
Scarlets
15:00
Connacht
v.
Benetton Treviso
17:15
Cardiff Blues
v.
Ulster
19:35
Leinster
v.
Newport Gwent Dragons
Friday 23 December
18:35
Benetton Treviso
v.
Zebre
19:35
Ulster
v.
Connacht
Monday 26 December
14:05
Cardiff Blues
v.
Newport Gwent Dragons
16:05
Edinburgh
v.
Glasgow Warriors
17:30
Munster
v.
Leinster
Tuesday 27 December
15:00
Ospreys
v.
Scarlets
Saturday 31 December
00:00
Zebre
v.
Edinburgh
13:00
Benetton Treviso
v.
Glasgow Warriors
15:00
Leinster
v.
Ulster
17:30
Connacht
v.
Munster
Sunday 1 January
15:00
Scarlets
v.
Cardiff Blues
17:05
Newport Gwent Dragons
v.
Ospreys
Friday 6 January
19:15
Newport Gwent Dragons
v.
Benetton Treviso
19:35
Leinster
v.
Zebre
19:35
Scarlets
v.
Ulster
Saturday 7 January
00:00
Ospreys
v.
Connacht
15:00
Edinburgh
v.
Munster
19:35
Glasgow Warriors
v.
Cardiff Blues
Saturday 11 February
00:00
Benetton Treviso
v.
Leinster
00:00
Cardiff Blues
v.
Connacht
00:00
Glasgow Warriors
v.
Scarlets
00:00
Munster
v.
Newport Gwent Dragons
00:00
Ulster
v.
Edinburgh
00:00
Zebre
v.
Ospreys
Saturday 18 February
00:00
Cardiff Blues
v.
Benetton Treviso
00:00
Connacht
v.
Newport Gwent Dragons
00:00
Leinster
v.
Edinburgh
00:00
Ospreys
v.
Munster
00:00
Scarlets
v.
Zebre
00:00
Ulster
v.
Glasgow Warriors
Saturday 25 February
00:00
Benetton Treviso
v.
Connacht
00:00
Edinburgh
v.
Cardiff Blues
00:00
Munster
v.
Scarlets
00:00
Newport Gwent Dragons
v.
Leinster
00:00
Ospreys
v.
Glasgow Warriors
00:00
Zebre
v.
Ulster
Saturday 4 March
00:00
Cardiff Blues
v.
Munster
00:00
Connacht
v.
Zebre
00:00
Edinburgh
v.
Ospreys
00:00
Glasgow Warriors
v.
Newport Gwent Dragons
00:00
Leinster
v.
Scarlets
00:00
Ulster
v.
Benetton Treviso
Saturday 25 March
00:00
Benetton Treviso
v.
Ospreys
00:00
Glasgow Warriors
v.
Connacht
00:00
Leinster
v.
Cardiff Blues
00:00
Newport Gwent Dragons
v.
Ulster
00:00
Scarlets
v.
Edinburgh
00:00
Zebre
v.
Munster
Saturday 8 April
00:00
Edinburgh
v.
Connacht
00:00
Munster
v.
Glasgow Warriors
00:00
Ospreys
v.
Leinster
00:00
Scarlets
v.
Benetton Treviso
00:00
Ulster
v.
Cardiff Blues
00:00
Zebre
v.
Newport Gwent Dragons
Friday 14 April
19:35
Connacht
v.
Leinster
19:35
Glasgow Warriors
v.
Zebre
Saturday 15 April
14:45
Cardiff Blues
v.
Ospreys
15:00
Munster
v.
Ulster
17:15
Newport Gwent Dragons
v.
Scarlets
19:05
Benetton Treviso
v.
Edinburgh
Saturday 29 April
00:00
Benetton Treviso
v.
Munster
00:00
Cardiff Blues
v.
Zebre
00:00
Connacht
v.
Scarlets
00:00
Edinburgh
v.
Newport Gwent Dragons
00:00
Leinster
v.
Glasgow Warriors
00:00
Ospreys
v.
Ulster
Saturday 6 May
17:15
Glasgow Warriors
v.
Edinburgh
17:15
Munster
v.
Connacht
17:15
Newport Gwent Dragons
v.
Cardiff Blues
17:15
Scarlets
v.
Ospreys
17:15
Ulster
v.
Leinster
17:15
Zebre
v.
Benetton Treviso
Friday 19 May
00:00
TBC
v.
TBC
00:00
TBC
v.
TBC
Saturday 27 May
00:00
TBC
v.
TBC

Pro12 Rugby Team by team analysis:

 

Cardiff Blues Rugby

Players In

Nick Williams (Ulster), Matthew Morgan (Bristol), Willis Halaholo (Hurricanes), Rhys Gill (Saracens), Steven Shingler (Scarlets), Kirby Myhill (Scarlets), George Earle (Scarlets) ,Rhun Williams (RGC 1404)

Players Out

Rhys Patchell (Scarlets), Sam Hobbs (Dragons), Craig Mitchell (Dragons), Chris Dicomidis (Pontypridd), Tom Williams (Scarlets), Miles Normandale (Rotherham), Harry Davies (Bath), Manoa Vosawai (RC Vannes), Lou Reed (Sale), Richard Smith (Scarlets), Tom Isaacs (Hong Kong Football Club), Tom Davies (Dragons), Gavin Evans (Neath), Gareth Davies (Merthyr), Elis Wyn Benham (released)

ANALYSIS – A team that has flattered to deceive in recent seasons, but under Danny Wilson’s leadership they seem to be on an upward trajectory and the second half of last season in particular was excellent. Nick Williams will bring some much needed go forward at number 8, whilst Halaholo and Morgan add some dancing feet to an already exciting backline.

Their 7th place finish last season saw them have a very strong home record with 8 wins and 3 losses, but away from home they had the reverse record (joint 4th worst in the whole league) where they suffered the indignity of away defeats to both Italian teams.

They were the highest points scorers at home by a considerable margin (335 points, next highest was Leinster on 296), which equated to an average of 30 points per home game but matched that to a poor defensive record – an average of 19 points conceded per game – the 4th worst record in the league. If they are to have a real go at the top 4 this season they will need to tighten up defensively, as they also conceded an average of 23 points per away game.

Their disciplinary record was outstanding, the best in the league in fact with only 5 yellow cards awarded against them in the whole season.

 

Connaght Rugby

Players In

Marnitz Boshoff (Lions), Eoin Griffin (London Irish), Conor Carey (Nottingham), Cian Kelleher (Leinster), Dominic Robertson-McCoy (Northland), Josh Rowland (Ireland Sevens)

Players Out

Robbie Henshaw (Leinster), Rodney Ah You (Ulster), AJ MacGinty (Sale), Aly Muldowney (Grenoble), Api Pewhairangi (London Broncos RL), George Naoupu (Harlequins), Fionn Carr (released), Jason Harris-Wright (released), Ian Porter (released)

ANALYSIS – Last season’s surprise champions, Connaght made friends the world over with their never-say-die attitude and willingness to run the ball.  Repeating the triumph will be a supremely difficult feat but Pat Lam will keep expectations high and if they can finish in the top 4 again then anything is possible in the playoffs.

With 10 home wins and only 1 defeat they had the second best home record in the league last season. They only won 5 away though and that perhaps in an area for improvement that they will be targeting. Their home record was built on defence – with an average of only 14 points conceded per game (3rd best in the league).

How they cope with the loss of both MacGinty and Henshaw from the backs in particular will have a big impact on how their season goes, but Connaght has never been about the big names, it has been about the collective.

 

Edinburgh Rugby

Players In

Duncan Weir (Glasgow), Junior Rasolea (Western Force), Viliami Fihaki (Sale), Rory Scholes (Ulster), Glenn Bryce (Glasgow), Kevin Bryce (Glasgow), Nick Beavon (Melrose), Jason Tovey (Dragons), Alex Northam (North Harbour Rays), Sasa Tofilau (Kirkcaldy), Lewis Carmichael (Melrose), Viliame Mata (Fiji Sevens)

Players Out

Matt Scott (Gloucester), Mike Coman (London Irish), Sam Beard (Dragons), Greig Tonks (London Irish), John Andress (Munster, Jack Cuthbert (Jersey Reds), Andries Strauss (retired), Nick McLennan (Scotland Sevens), Grant Shiells (London Scottish), Alex Toolis (Melbourne Rebels), Jade Te Rure (Manawatu)

ANALYSIS – A 9th placed finish last season probably disappointed lots involved at the club, although to be fair they were a long way clear of the bottom three. There has been quite a large turnover of players since the end of last season and although Duncan Weir will undoubtedly provided a steady hand to run the back division, Matt Scott will be a big miss in midfield.

They were decent at home last season, with 8 wins and 3 defeats, but only won 3 times away from home (Treviso, Zebre & Dragons), and if they want to challenge for a top 4 place they will need to win more away games.

They did struggle for points both at home and away, only averaging 22 points per home game and 14 points per away game. Their defensive record on the whole though was excellent, only conceding an average of 14 points per home game (only Leinster and Ulster had better records) and an average of 19 points per away game (4th best in the league). With that solid foundation to build on, if they can improve their attack they should have high hopes of finishing much higher this time around.

Their disciplinary record was also strong, with only 8 yellow card received all season (4th best record in the league).

 

Glasgow Warriors

Players In

Corey Flynn (Toulouse), Leonardo Sarto (Zebre), Rory Clegg (Oyonnax), Nemia Kenatale (Farul Constanța), Tjiuee Uanivi (Sharks), Hagen Schulte (Canterbury), Jarrod Firth (Counties Manukau)

Players Out

Duncan Weir (Edinburgh), Glenn Bryce (Edinburgh), Robbie Fergusson (London Scottish), Mike Blair (retired), James Eddie (retired), Kevin Bryce (Edinburgh), Leone Nakarawa (Racing 92), Jason Hill (Bedford Blues), Taqele Naiyaravoro (NSW Waratahs), Michael Cusack (Yorkshire Carnegie), Gregor Hunter (Gala), Fergus Scott (Currie), Will Bordill (Ayr), Javan Sebastian (released), Jerry Yanuyanutawa (released), Tyrone Holmes (released), Shalva Mamukashvili (released)

ANALYSIS – Leone Nakarawa is the standout name on the transfers out list for the beaten semi-finalists from last season, who performed superbly for much of it. Replacing what he brought to the side will be difficult, but Corey Flynn is a good player, and Kenatale is a similar type of 2nd row to Nakarawa

They won 9 and lost 2 at home, scoring an average of 24 points per game and conceding 18. Their away record was excellent also, winning 5, drawing 1 game and losing 5. They were the leagues highest average scorers away from home (24 points per game) and also had the joint second best away defensive record (18 points per game).

One area they will want to improve on is their disciplinary record; they had the 3rd worst in the league last season with 15 yellow cards and this is surely something that Gregor Townsend will want to work on before he takes over the Scotland job at the end of the season.

 

Leinster Rugby

Players In

Robbie Henshaw (Connacht), Jamison Gibson-Park (Hurricanes), Ian Nagle (London Irish), Niall Morris (Leicester)

Players Out

Ben Te’o (Worcester), Ian Madigan (Bordeaux Begles), Marty Moore (Wasps), Darragh Fanning (retired), Cian Kelleher (Connacht), Tom Farrell (Bedford Blues), Tom Denton (Gloucester), Isaac Boss (Waikato), Tadhg Beirne (Scarlets), Eoin Reddan (retired), Luke Fitzgerald (retired), Aaron Dundon (retired), Mick McGrath (Ireland Sevens), Royce Burke-Flynn (released), Kevin McLaughlin (retired), Collie O’Shea (released), Tony Ryan (released)

ANALYSIS – With only 4 players coming in to join last season’s beaten finalists, Leinster obviously have faith in the existing depth of their excellent squad and the youngsters coming through the system. To be fair, Henshaw in the centre and Gibson-Park at scrum-half will seriously strengthen a back-line packed with quality. Madigan and Te’o though will be missed.

Leinster had such a good season overall that they will have been seriously disappointed to fall at the final hurdle against Connaght. They had a 100% home record, winning 11 out of 11, with both the second best attacking record (27 points per game) and the second best defensive record (12 points per game).

They will though have been disappointed to lose 6 times on the road where their excellent defensive record continued (average of 14 points per game conceded) but their attack was blunt, with only 167 points scored in total, only better than the bottom four in the league. 10 yellow cards will also be disappointing, although 9 of these did come away from home.

 

Munster Rugby

Players In

Sam Arnold (Ulster), John Andress (Edinburgh), Darren O’Shea (Worcester), Jean Kleyn (Stormers)

Players Out

Jordan Coghlan (Nottingham), Gearoid Lyons (Nottingham), Shane Buckley (Nottingham), Jack Cullen (London Scottish), BJ Botha (released), Gerhard van den Heever (released), Cathal Sheridan (released), Denis Hurley (released)

ANALYSIS – There is a school of thought that by far the best signing Munster have made this season is their new director of rugby Rassie Erasmus. He has brought defence coach Jacques Nienaber with him from the Stormers, and the Munster fans will be keen to see an instant impact, as a 6th place finish is not what they are used to.

They were strong at home last season with 8 wins and 3 losses, with decent attack and defence averages (25 points per game and 17 points per game respectively), and a 5-1-5 record away from home is very respectable in the league overall – only the Scarlets and the Ospreys had better records. They did struggle for points away from home though, only scoring an average of 17 per game.

Erasmus will almost certainly be looking to build on last season’s strong defence, but look to build a more effective attacking game plan to target a top 4 finish.

 

Newport Gwent Dragons Rugby

Players In

Sam Hobbs (Cardiff Blues), Sam Beard (Edinburgh), Nick Macleod (Sale), Craig Mitchell (Cardiff Blues), Patrick Howard (Northampton), Darran Harris (Rotherham), Tom Davies (Cardiff Blues), Ashley Sweet (Ebbw Vale)

Players Out

Taulupe Faletau (Bath), Hugh Gustafson (Ospreys), Jason Tovey (Edinburgh), Andrew Coombs (retired), Matthew Pewtner (retired)

ANALYSIS – Fans of the Dragons are probably correct to be apprehensive about the season ahead. Their stand-out player in Faletau has gone to Bath, and although they do have some talented youngsters in Amos, Dixon and Morgan, the squad does look short on talent and depth. However, as their progress in the Challenge Cup last seasons showed, on their day they are capable of some outstanding performances.

Last season’s 10th place finish saw them only 2 points ahead of Zebre and a huge 28 points behind Edinburgh in 9th. They only won 4 games all season, all at home, losing all eleven games on the road. Scoring points was a real issue for them, with the second lowest average points score at home (18) and the second lowest average points score away (14). Whilst they were strong defensively at home they were terrible away, conceding an average of 27 points per game. They will have to do something about this if this season is to go any better.

Discipline has been an on-going concern for the Dragons – they had the 4th worst record in the league last season with 12 yellow cards received.

 

Ospreys Rugby

Players In

Bradley Davies (Wasps), Rhodri Jones (Scarlets), Hugh Gustafson (Dragons), Kieron Fonotia (Crusaders)

Players Out

Aaron Jarvis (Clermont Auvergne), Kristian Phillips (London Welsh), Marc Thomas (Jersey Reds), Ifereimi Boladau (London Scottish), Rynier Bernardo (Scarlets), Jordan Collier (released), Matthew Dwyer (released), Lloyd Evans (released), Richard Fussell (backs skills coach), Rhodri Hughes (released), Aled Jenkins (released), Gareth Delve (released)

ANALYSIS – An 8th placed finish last season was disappointing, considering the wealth of talent they have in their squad. The world cup did play havoc with their internationals though, Alun Wyn-Jones for example only started 4 games for them, however on the flip side one could argue that Leinster coped with the impact that the world cup had on their internationals pretty well to finish 2nd. Bradley Davies and Kieron Fonotia are both excellent additions to the 2nd row and centre respectively and will add something extra for sure.

The Ospreys were poor at home last season, only winning 5 games, but actually had the best away record in the whole league – winning 6 games. That away success was built on an average of 23 points scored in each game away from home and they will surely be looking to maintain that attacking game-plan. Doubts though still linger about Dan Biggar’s suitability to play an attacking game, although their is no-one better in Wales at managing a game at present.

Their disciplinary record was excellent, only receiving 6 yellow cards all season – the joint second best record in the league.

 

Scarlets Rugby

Players In

Jonathan Davies (Clermont Auvergne), Rhys Patchell (Cardiff Blues), Johnny McNicholl (Crusaders), Werner Kruger (Bulls), Jonathan Evans (Bath), Tom Williams (Cardiff Blues), Rynier Bernardo (Ospreys), Tadhg Beirne (Leinster), Richard Smith (Cardiff Blues)

Players Out

Rhodri Williams (Bristol), Rhodri Jones (Ospreys), Steven Shingler (Cardiff Blues), Maselino Paulino (Lyon), George Earle (Cardiff Blues), Kirby Myhill (Cardiff Blues), Jordan Williams (Bristol), Harry Robinson (retired), Kieran Hardy (Jersey Reds), Regan King (Jersey Reds), Michael Tagicakibau (Treviso), Josh Lewis (Ebbw Vale), Ben Leung (Cardiff), Connor Lloyd (Carmarthen Quins), Jack Jones (Llanelli), Torin Myhill (Carmarthen Quins), Phil John (released), Michael Collins (released), Jack Payne (released)

ANALYSIS – A season that promised much petered out disappointingly last time around as the Scarlets could only finish 5th. They have attempted to build on the progress made last season though with some extremely exciting signings. The additions of Patchell, McNicoll and Davies give them arguably the best backline in the league. Their success or failure as a team though will depend on the strength of their forward pack as a unit though.

They won 8 games at home last season, were defensively poor, conceding an average of 21 points each game (only Treviso and Zebre had worse records). They did have the joint best away record in the league (with the Ospreys), winning 6 and losing 5 but again will feel that they conceded too many points.

If they can tighten up defensively, especially at home, their backline could and should cause everyone serious problems. Their discipline was atrocious last season – and this is one area that they will surely be looking to improve on. They had the worst record in the whole league with a total of 18 yellow cards received in 22 games.

 

Treviso Rugby

Players In

Marty Banks (Highlanders), Tommaso Allan (Perpignan), Tommaso Benvenuti (Bristol), Tito Tebaldi (Harlequins), Michael Tagicakibau (Scarlets), Andrea Buondonno (Mogliano), David Odiete (Mogliano), Ian McKinley (Viadana), Guglielmo Zanini (Rovigo), Giorgio Bronzini (Rovigo), Nicola Quaglio (Rovigo), Filippo Gerosa (Viadana), Tiziano Pasquali (Leicester), Federico Zani (Mogliano), Luca Sperandio (Mogliano)

Players Out

Matteo Muccignat (Rovigo), Ludovico Nitoglia (retired), Enrico Bacchin (Padova), Simone Ragusi (Padova), Alberto Lucchese (Padova), Salesi Manu (Honda Heat), Andrea De Marchi (Rovigo), Duncan Naude (Limoges), Sam Christie (Waikato), James Ambrosini (Amatori), Chris Smylie (North Harbour), Rupert Harden (released), Tom Palmer (released)

ANALYSIS – Last season was very poor for Treviso. They finished bottom, missing out on Champions Cup qualification to Zebre. There has been a huge turnover of players with Marty Banks coming from the Highlanders the standout signing at fly half. Whether they have the depth required over a long season to make any further progress remains open to question.

They only won 3 games last season, all at home. Their average points scored at home (16 per game) was the worst in the league. They also had the fifth worst defensive record, picking up 11 yellow cards. It is hard to know where they go from here – if they can finish above Zebre again they will see it as a successful season.

 

Ulster Rugby

Players In

Charles Piutau (Wasps), Marcell Coetzee (Sharks), Rodney Ah You (Connacht), Kieran Treadwell (Harlequins), Brett Herron (Bath), Angus Lloyd (Trinity College Dublin)

Players Out

Nick Williams (Cardiff Blues), Sam Arnold (Munster), Rory Scholes (Edinburgh Rugby), Ian Humphreys (retired), Willie Faloon (released), Paul Jackson (released), Ruaidhri Murphy (released), Bronson Ross (released), Paul Rowley (released), Frank Taggart (released)

ANALYSIS – Last season’s 4th placed finish was a great achievement for the Ulstermen, and in Charles Piutau they have undoubtedly the most exciting signing in the whole league.

Ulster were very strong at home, winning 9 and only losing 2 games, and their defensive record was immense, only conceding 108 points at an average of 10 per game (the best record in the league by far). They won 5 games away from home, and their defensive solidity was transported to their away games as they had the second best record away from home, with an average of 18 points per game conceded.

They will also be looking to maintain their excellent disciplinary record; their 6 yellow cards last season was the joint second best in the whole league.

 

Zebre Rugby

Players In

Joshua Furno (Newcastle), Carlo Festuccia (Wasps), Giovanbattista Venditti (Newcastle), Kurt Baker (New Zealand Sevens), Lloyd Greeff (Golden Lions), Derick Minnie (Golden Lions), Bart le Roux (Leopards), Carlo Engelbrecht (Blue Bulls), Gabriele Di Giulio (Calvisano), Mattia Bellini (Padova), Tommaso Castello (Calvisano), Maxime Mbandà (Calvisano)

Players Out

Leonardo Sarto (Glasgow), Mirco Bergamasco (Sacramento Express), Filippo Ferrarini (Ohio Aviators), Mils Muliaina (San Diego Breakers), Marco Bortolami (retired), Emiliano Caffini (Fiamme Oro), Filippo Cristiano (Fiamme Oro), Kelly Haimona (Bay of Plenty), Giulio Toniolatti (Lazio), Jean Cook (Kintetsu Liners), Michele Visentin (Mogliano), Paul Derbyshire (Amatori), Emiliano Coria (Nevers), Gonzalo Garcia (Cahors), Ulrich Beyers (released), Luke Burgess (retired), Bruno Mercanti (released)

ANALYSIS – 2015/16 was as successful a season as they are ever likely to have, finishing 11th and qualifying for the Champions Cup. There has again been though a huge turnover of players – they look to have made some interesting signings, Kurt Baker in particular is a very good 7s player, but whether they can be moulded into an effective team remains to be seen.

They won 4 home games in the league last season,and beat Treviso away. Statistically though they have a huge amount of work to do. They conceded an average of 29 points per home game (the worst in the league) and an average of 37 points per away game (again the worst in the league). They also only scored 71 points in their eleven away games at an average of only 6 per game. This is surely something that must be improved.

They also had the second worst disciplinary record in the league, picking up 16 yellow cards in their 22 games.

 

Betting Angles:

Pro 12 Betting Odds

Not a huge amount of value in the long-term market as far as I can see. Leinster and Glasgow are worthy favourites. Connaght seem a big price if they are anywhere near as good as last season.

New Zealand Australia game ruined by Poite

New Zealand v australia ruined by Poite’

Forty thousand people paid good money to see this in New Zealand. Millions of people around the world looked forward to it. I got up early with a hangover. And we were rewarded by the IRB with le buffoon.

How does Poite still have a job?

Aside from the fact Australia were offside on nearly every kiwi attacking phase ( which destroys the spectacle with space at a premium already) Poite also never stopped the clock for substitutions or restarts. He showed a surprising eagerness however when play had stopped due to injury to start the clock again when both sides were far away from ready for the restart scrum or lineout.

Cheika may have visibly cursed Poite at one point up in the Andy Robinson crucible *( and i salute him for it) but he should be thanking the Poite, because this was very much about saving face for Aus rugby and under Sanzar’s auspices. They need this to look like a competitive championship. Either that, or Poite is unfit and wants to slow it down as much as the top 14 slop he eats with his bread and butter.

If the IRB reffing panel mandarins sit down and review the game ( they wont) there was at least ten minutes burned off the clock on substitutions. Questions have to be asked. Why did he not say time off? He does it immediately in France. Poite gave pens incessantly. He stopped quick tap penalties and quick lineouts. This was policy.

He’s an unmitigated disaster as a ref and paying ticket holders and subsciption holders are being treated with utter contempt by rugby’s ruling bodies.

Aviva Premiership Rugby Preview 2016/17

Premiership Rugby Preview 2016/17

By Wazza 23 Aug 2016

Premiership Rugby is back! Welcome to my preview of the 2016/17 Aviva Premiership. Last season saw Saracens play some outstanding rugby and be crowned champions – will they repeat that feat this season or will someone else rise from the pack to challenge them?

Key Statistics: 

I’ve put together the following tables to assist with our analysis of last season:

Aviva Premiership 2015/16 Stats
Aviva Premiership 2015/16 Stats
Aviva Premiership 2015/16 Kicking Percentages
Aviva Premiership 2015/16 Kicking Percentages
Aviva Premiership 2015/16 Yellow Cards
Aviva Premiership 2015/16 Yellow Cards
Aviva Premiership 2015/16 Try Scorers
Aviva Premiership 2015/16 Try Scorers I
Aviva Premiership 2015/16 Try Scorers II
Aviva Premiership 2015/16 Try Scorers II

Premiership rugby Team by team analysis:

Bath Rugby

IN: Luke Charteris (from Racing 92), Taulupe Faletau (from Dragons), Elliott Stooke (from Gloucester), Michael van Vuuren (from Leicester Tigers), Harry Davies (from Cardiff Blues), Kahn Fotuali’i (from Northampton Saints), Jack Walker (from Yorkshire Carnegie).

OUT: Will Spencer (to Worcester Warriors), Ollie Devoto (to Exeter Chiefs), Rob Webber (to Sale Sharks), Jonathan Evans (to Scarlets), Luke Arscott (to Bristol), Max Northcote-Green (to London Irish), Brett Herron (to Ulster), Stuart Hooper (retired), Dominic Day (to Toyota Verblitz), Amanaki Mafi (to NTT Shining Arcs), Tom Woolstencroft (to Wasps), Leroy Houston (to Queensland Reds), Horacio Agulla (to Castres), Kyle Eastmond (to Wasps), Alafoti Fa’osiliva (released).

FIXTURES

Sept 3 Northampton A

Sept 10 Newcastle H

Sept 17 Worcester H

Sept 25 Leicester A

Oct 1 Gloucester A

Oct 7 Sale H

Oct 30 Exeter A

Nov 18 Bristol H

Nov 26 Harlequins A

Dec 3 Saracens H

Dec 23/24/26 Wasps A

Dec 30/31/Jan 1 2017 Exeter H

Jan 8 Newcastle A

Feb 11 Northampton H

Feb 18 Harlequins H

Feb 24 Bristol A

March 4 Wasps H

March 25 Saracens A

April 8 Leicester H (Twickenham Stadium)

April 15 Worcester A

April 29 Gloucester H

May 6 Sale A

ANALYSIS – Last season was a really tough one for Bath. Finishing 9th was a significant downturn given the previous season’s performance and the amount of quality in the squad. Mike Ford has gone, to be replaced by Todd Blackadder from the Crusaders along with his assistant Tabai Matson. Undoubtedly they are excellent coaches but it will almost certainly take them a good while to get to grips with English rugby.

In terms of the playing squad, there are lots of questions that still need answering. Personally I think George Ford is outstanding, but he was a long way below form last season. Devoto and Eastmond leaving are losses, especially as they look really short in the centres. Mafi, Houston and Webber are all losses in the forwards, but Charteris and Faletau are both excellent and should improve them. Scrum half has been a real issue over the past couple of seasons, with Chris Cook in particular struggling last season. Fotuali’i should make a big difference.

Blackadder will be aiming to finish top 4 for sure, but it is difficult to see where enough improvement comes from to achieve this aim, given that this would require some others to underachieve also. Top 6 looks more realistic. They will need to score more points that last season, averaging only 21 points per game at home and only 19 points away from home. They also lost 5 games at home last season, something again that they will have to address.

Rokodugani aside (who scored 12 tries), the next highest scorers included Mafi and Devoto on 4 tries and they have both left. Consistent try scoring has to be high on Blackadder’s list of improvements. Bath also had the worst disciplinary record in the league last season, collecting a total of 17 yellow cards. They will need to cut down significantly on this if they are to have a chance of success.

 

Bristol Rugby

INS: Martin Roberts (from Ospreys), Rhodri Williams (from Scarlets), Luke Arscott (from Bath), Tusi Pisi (from Sunwolves), Jordan Williams (from Scarlets), Nick Fenton-Wells (from Bedford Blues), Jordan Crane (from Leicester Tigers), Thretton Palamo (from Saracens), Jon Fisher (from Northampton Saints), Soane Tonga’uiha (from Oyonnax), Will Hurrell (from Doncaster Knights), Giorgi Nemsadze (from Tarbes).

OUTS: Matthew Morgan (to Cardiff Blues), Marco Mama (to Worcester Warriors), Dwayne Peel (retired), Craig Hampson (to Wasps), George Watkins (to Jersey Reds), Ellis Genge (to Leicester Tigers), Tommaso Benvenuti (to   Benetton Treviso), Josh Ovens (released), Darren Hudson (released), James Stephenson (released).

FIXTURES

Sept 3 Harlequins A (Twickenham Stadium)

Sept 11 Northampton H

Sept 18 Wasps A

Sept 23 Exeter H

Sept 30 Saracens H

Oct 8 Newcastle A

Oct 30 Sale H

Nov 18 Bath A

Nov 25 Leicester H

Dec 3 Gloucester A

Dec 23/24/26 Worcester H

Dec 30/31/Jan 1 2017 Sale A

Jan 7 Northampton A

Feb 10 Harlequins H

Feb 18 Leicester A

Feb 24 Bath H

March 4 Worcester A

March 26 Gloucester H

April 8 Exeter A

April 16 Wasps H

April 29 Saracens A

May 6 Newcastle H

ANALYSIS – The new additions to the league, having finally gained promotion after two or three close failures in recent years. 11th will be success for them but the question remains who are they good enough to finish above?

They have made a couple of decent additions, and people like Jordan Crane and Soane Tonga’uiha with their experience will be important. Matthew Morgan is a loss, but Tusi Pisi coming in at 10 will help significantly as he was often the stand-out player for the Sunwolves in my opinion. Ian Evans will be invaluable in the pack if he can stay fit, and if you look at their backs, there are enough good players like Tom Varndell, Callum Sheedy, David Lemi and Gavin Henson to win them games if their pack can win enough ball.

They have also been dealt a bad hand with the fixture list, having to play possibly the best 5 teams in the league in Harlequins, Northampton, Wasps, Exeter and Saracens in their first 5 games. They could conceivably still be pointless by the time they travel to Newcastle on October 8th, which will make that an even more important game.

 

Exeter Rugby

INS: Greg Holmes (from Queensland Reds), Ollie Devoto (from Bath), Dave Dennis (from NSW Waratahs), Lachlan Turner (from Toulon).

OUTS: Adam Hughes (to Dragons), Josh Jones (to Salford Red Devils), Alex Brown (to USA Perpignan), Brett Sturgess (to Ampthill), Jerry Sexton (to London Irish), Chrysander Botha (released), Byron McGuigan (released), Lewis Stevenson (to Connacht).

FIXTURES

Sept 4 Wasps A

Sept 11 Saracens H

Sept 17 Harlequins H

Sept 23 Bristol A

Sept 30 Northampton A

Oct 8 Gloucester H

Oct 30 Bath H

Nov 18 Newcastle A

Nov 26 Worcester H

Dec 2 Sale A

Dec 23/24/26 Leicester H

Dec 30/31/Jan 1 2017 Bath A

Jan 7 Saracens A

Feb 11 Wasps H

Feb 18 Worcester A

Feb 25 Newcastle H

March 4 Leicester A

March 25 Sale H

April 8 Bristol H

April 15 Harlequins A

April 29 Northampton H

May 6 Gloucester A

ANALYSIS – Great season last time around – reaching the quarter finals of the European Cup and the final of the Premiership. On paper they always seem to punch above their weight, but Stuart Baxter is a great coach and seems to specialise in maximising the potential of every player.

The good news for this season is that they have lost pretty much no-one who played a big role last season, and all four signings will add to the squad in a good way. You have to think that they are nailed on for the top 4 again, and should give Saracens a real run for their money again. The fixture list has paired them against their two main rivals first up, away to Wasps in the first week and then at home to Saracens the week after.

They had the joint best home record in the league last season, so expect them to be strong at home again, where they scored and average of 27 points per game, only conceding an average of 13 points per game. They did lose 6 away games in total, although most were by narrow margins.

In terms of discipline Exeter were one of the best behaved teams in the league, only receiving a total of 6 yellow cards. Thomas Waldrom was top tryscorer with a remarkable 13 tries, and if he can hit double figures again I am sure he will be delighted. It remains to be seen how the new maul laws impact on Exeter’s extremely powerful maul from last season – if it is anywhere near as strong again they are bound to do well.

 

Gloucester Rugby

INS: Lewis Ludlow (promoted from academy), Matt Scott (from Edinburgh), Motu Matu’u (from Hurricanes), Josh Hohneck (from Highlanders), Tom Denton (from Leinster), Andy Symons (from Worcester Warriors), Dan Thomas (promoted from academy), Ollie Thorley (promoted from academy), Cameron Orr (from Greater Sydney Rams).

OUTS: Elliott Stooke (to Bath), Steve McColl (to Yorkshire Carnegie), Luke Cole (to Rotherham Titans), Tom Hicks (to Rotherham Titans), James Gibbons (to Ealing Trailfinders), Rob Cook (retired), Nick Wood (retired), Bill Meakes (to Western Force), Steph Reynolds (released), Dan Murphy (released).

FIXTURES

Sept 2 Leicester H

Sept 9 Worcester A

Sept 16 Sale A

Sept 24 Newcastle H

Oct 1 Bath H

Oct 8 Exeter A

Oct 28 Northampton A

Nov 19 Wasps H

Nov 26 Saracens A

Dec 3 Bristol H

Dec 23/24/26 Harlequins A (Twickenham Stadium)

Dec 30/31/Jan 1 2017 Northampton H

Jan 7 Worcester H

Feb 11 Leicester A

Feb 18 Saracens H

Feb 26 Wasps A

March 4 Harlequins H

March 26 Bristol A

April 7 Newcastle A

April 15 Sale H

April 29 Bath A

May 6 Exeter H

ANALYSIS – My hometown club and I probably know them better than any other team in the league. Last season was very frustrating, no real progress appeared to have been made, and the team mixed some outstanding performances (Wasps at home) with some genuinely terrible ones (Dragons at home). Their home form ended up being decent enough in the end but away from home they were terrible again.

Defensively last season was much better, only conceding an average of 15 points per game at home (2nd best in the league) and 23 points per game away (7th best in the league)

In terms of recruitment, I can’t say I’m massively enthused that things will be any better. Matt Scott will improve things in the centre no end but apart from that things are much of a muchness. Johnny May is badly needed fit again to spark the backline. I would be suprised to see them improve much on last season’s performance – I can see them being decent at home but struggling on the road again.

They simply need to score more tries – when your 10 is your highest try scorer (Hook with 5 tries) you know you have issues. They have got rid of the highly rated Nick Walshe as backs coach and replaced him with ex-player Tim Taylor in an attempt to address this. It will be interesting to see how Taylor gets on with this challenge.

 

Harlequins Rugby

INS: Charlie Mulchrone (from Worcester Warriors), Ruaridh Jackson (from Wasps), Aaron Morris (from Saracens), Mark Reddish (from Highlanders), George Naoupu (from Connacht), Cameron Holstein (from Pau).

OUTS: Kieran Treadwell (to Ulster), Tito Tebaldi (to Benetton Treviso), Ben Botica (to Montpellier), Beau Robinson (released), Nick Easter (retired).

FIXTURES

Sept 3 Bristol H (Twickenham Stadium)

Sept 9 Sale A

Sept 17 Exeter A

Sept 24 Saracens H

Oct 2 Wasps A

Oct 8 Northampton H

Oct 29 Worcester H

Nov 20 Leicester A

Nov 26 Bath H

Dec 4 Newcastle A

Dec 23/24/26 Gloucester H (Twickenham Stadium)

Dec 30/31/Jan 1 2017 Worcester A

Jan 7 Sale H

Feb 10 Bristol A

Feb 18 Bath A

Feb 25 Leicester H

March 4 Gloucester A

March 25 Newcastle H

April 8 Saracens A (Wembley Stadium)

April 15 Exeter H

April 29 Wasps H

May 6 Northampton A

ANALYSIS – The league was disappointing for Quins last year, only finishing in 7th. They did well in the Challenge Cup, losing in the final to Montpellier and will be hoping for some improvements in form this season now things are more stable. Connor O’Shea’s decision to announce his leaving part-way through the season probably did them no favours at all. John Kingston has taken over, and he knows he ropes there as well as anyone.

Not a huge amount has changed personnel wise, Botica and Evans have gone but Ruaridh Jackson is a perfectly capable replacement. You look at the internationals that Quins have got and wonder why they didn’t finish higher. They will feel that they should be pushing for a top 4 place and they will undoubtedly be targeting that this year.

They had no problem scoring points last season – averaging 29 per game at home and 21 per game away, but will want to tighten up defensively – they conceded an average of 26 per game at home (the worst in the whole league) and an average of 25 per game away (only London Irish and Newcastle had worse records).

Wingers Walker and Visser were top try scorers last season with 10 and 9 tries respectively, which demonstrates that width that Quins try and play with (especially at home).

 

Leicester Tigers Rugby

INS: Matt Toomua (from Brumbies), JP Pietersen (from Sharks), Tom Brady (from Sale Sharks), George McGuigan (from Newcastle Falcons), Pat Cilliers (from Montpellier), Luke Hamilton (from Agen), Ellis Genge (from Bristol).

OUTS: Leonardo Ghiraldini (to Toulouse), Tommy Bell (to London Irish), Laurence Pearce (to Sale Sharks), Vereniki Goneva (to Newcastle Falcons), Miles Benjamin (retired), Seremaia Bai (retired), Sebastian De Chaves (to London Irish), Michael van Vuuren (to Bath), Jean de Villiers (retired/released), George Tresidder (to Rotherham Titans), Jordan Crane (to Bristol), Tiziano Pasquali (to Benetton Treviso), Matías Agüero (to Provence), Christian Loamanu (to Provence), Niall Morris (to Leinster), Sam Yawayawa (to Nottingham), Opeti Fonua (to Newcastle Falcons).

FIXTURES

Sept 2 Gloucester A

Sept 10 Wasps H

Sept 18 Newcastle A

Sept 25 Bath H

Oct 1 Sale A

Oct 8 Worcester H

Oct 29 Saracens A

Nov 20 Harlequins H

Nov 25 Bristol A

Dec 3 Northampton H

Dec 23/24/26 Exeter A

Dec 30/31/Jan 1 2017 Saracens H

Jan 8 Wasps A

Feb 11 Gloucester H

Feb 18 Bristol H

Feb 25 Harlequins A

March 4 Exeter H

March 25 Northampton A

April 8 Bath A (Twickenham Stadium)

April 15 Newcastle H

April 29 Sale H

May 6 Worcester A

Analysis – Last season was a strange one in many ways for Leicester. They flattered to deceive in my opinion at points and completely failed to turn up in the first half of the Premiership play-off semi-final at Saracens. Having said that they did very nearly make the Champions Cup final, losing narrowly to Racing in the semi-final at the City Ground.

They have a strong squad, have no-one of any huge consequence, and in Toomua and Pietersen they have two international backs of huge experience. The fitness of Manu Tuilagi will be the main squad based issue that needs addressing, as when fit he is a powerful weapon. Pietersen has been brought in to replace Goneva (8 tries last season). Strong at home, having the joint best home record in the league last season, they were poor away, losing 8 times and only winning 3. That will be a major target for improvement this time around I am sure.

They also averaged the most points scored per game at home (30) whilst being defensively poor away from home, conceding on average 25 points (joint 3rd worst record in the league). They also came an unwanted 3rd in the yellow cards table.


 

Newcastle Rugby

INS: Joshua Chisanga (from Kenya Sevens), Vereniki Goneva (from Leicester Tigers), Sam Lockwood (from Jersey), Sam Egerton (from England Sevens), Harrison Orr (from Ealing Trailfinders), Joel Hodgson (from Yorkshire Carnegie), Ben Sowrey (from Worcester Warriors), Evan Olmstead (from London Scottish), David Tameilau (from San Francisco Rush), Nick Civetta (from RC I Medicei), Andrew Davidson (from Glasgow Hawks), Kyle Cooper (from Sharks), Tyrone Holmes (from Glasgow Warriors), Opeti Fonua (from Leicester Tigers).

OUTS: George McGuigan (to Leicester Tigers), Todd Clever (released), Andy Goode (retired), Rob Hawkins (retired), Richard Mayhew (to Yorkshire Carnegie), Joshua Furno (to Zebre), Kensuke Hatakeyama (to Suntory Sungoliath), Giovanbattista Venditti (to Zebre), Kane Thompson (to Manawatu), Eric Fry (to Sacramento Express), Ruki Tipuna (to Bay of Plenty), Jamie Booth (to Manawatu), Scott MacLeod (retired), Gonzalo Tiesi (retired), Alesana Tuilagi (released), Anitelea Tuilagi (released), Michael Cusack (to Yorkshire Carnegie).

FIXTURES

Sept 2 Sale H

Sept 10 Bath A

Sept 18 Leicester H

Sept 24 Gloucester A

Oct 2 Worcester A

Oct 8 Bristol H

Oct 30 Wasps A

Nov 18 Exeter H

Nov 26 Northampton A

Dec 4 Harlequins H

Dec 23/24/26 Saracens A

Dec 30/31/Jan 1 2017 Wasps H

Jan 8 Bath H

Feb 10 Sale A

Feb 19 Northampton H

Feb 25 Exeter A

March 5 Saracens H

March 25 Harlequins A

April 7 Gloucester H

April 15 Leicester A

April 28 Worcester H

May 6 Bristol A

ANALYSIS – Last season has to go down as a success for Newcastle given that they avoided relegation. Their survival was essentially founded on solid home form, winning five home games on their new artificial surface. They were poor away only drawing one game and losing ten. Their success relied on a strong forward pack, collectively one of the strongest in the league despite a lack of star names. Dean Richards has moulded the pack in his own image.

In terms of ins and outs there has been quite a high turnover. Goneva from Leicester is the biggest name coming in and they will be hoping that he can improve their try scoring capacity. Newcastle had the lowest average points score per game both at home (17) and away (16) in the whole league. The move to an artificial surface has not yet seen a wholesale change in their playing style or point scoring. There are a couple of interesting signings from the 7s circuit though.

You would have to be concerned for them again this season, on paper Bristol look a stronger outfit, so they could well be scrapping for their lives again. Their last two games of the season at home to Worcester and then away to Bristol on the last weekend could prove crucial.

 

Northampton Rugby

INS: Louis Picamoles (from Toulouse), Campese Ma’afu (from Provence), Charlie Clare (from Bedford Blues), Nic Groom (from Stormers), Juan Pablo Estelles (from Club Atletico del Rosario).

OUTS: Alex Corbisiero (sabbatical), Matt Williams (to Worcester Warriors), Danny Hobbs-Awoyemi (to London Irish), Patrick Howard (to Dragons), Kahn Fotuali’i (to Bath), Jon Fisher (to Bristol).

FIXTURES

Sept 3 Bath H

Sept 11 Bristol A

Sept 17 Saracens A

Sept 24 Wasps H

Sept 30 Exeter H

Oct 8 Harlequins A

Oct 28 Gloucester H

Nov 18 Worcester A

Nov 26 Newcastle H

Dec 3 Leicester A

Dec 23/24/26 Sale H

Dec 30/31/Jan 1 2017 Gloucester A

Jan 7 Bristol H

Feb 11 Bath A

Feb 19 Newcastle A

Feb 25 Worcester H

March 3 Sale A

March 25 Leicester H

April 9 Wasps A

April 15 Saracens H

April 29 Exeter A

May 6 Harlequins H

ANALYSIS – A frustrating season overall for the Saints last time around, with a 5th place finish in the league and losing to Saracens in the Champions Cup quarter-final. They have brought in Louis Picamoles who is undoubtedly a class act and will give them serious go-forward up front.

They were strong at home again, winning 8 and losing 3, but were not particularly high scoring, with an average of 23 points per game which only puts them 7th overall. They were strong defensively though, with the 2nd best defensive home record (average of 15 points conceded). The fact that Lee Dickson (scrum half) was their top tryscorer with 6 tries tells it’s own story.

They are another team who will be targeting a top 4 finish this time around.

 

Sale Rugby

INS: Rob Webber (from Bath), Laurence Pearce (from Leicester Tigers), Kieran Longbottom (from Saracens), Josh Charnley (from Wigan Warriors), AJ MacGinty (from Connacht), Dan Mugford (from Nottingham), Mike Phillips (from Racing 92), Halani Aulika (from London Irish), Lou Reed (from Cardiff Blues), Byron McGuigan (from Exeter Chiefs), Curtis Langdon (from London Irish).

OUTS: Vadim Cobilas (to Bordeaux Begles), Tommy Taylor (to Wasps), Danny Cipriani (to Wasps), Tom Brady (to Leicester Tigers), Phil Mackenzie (to San Diego Breakers), Nick Macleod (to Dragons), Joe Ford (to Yorkshire Carnegie), Chris Cusiter (retired), Mark Easter (retired), Viliami Fihaki (to Edinburgh Rugby).

FIXTURES

Sept 2 Newcastle A

Sept 9 Harlequins H

Sept 16 Gloucester H

Sept 24 Worcester A

Oct 1 Leicester H

Oct 7 Bath A

Oct 30 Bristol A

Nov 20 Saracens H

Nov 27 Wasps A

Dec 2 Exeter H

Dec 23/24/26 Northampton A

Dec 30/31/Jan 1 2017 Bristol H

Jan 7 Harlequins A

Feb 10 Newcastle H

Feb 17 Wasps H

Feb 25 Saracens A

March 3 Northampton H

March 25 Exeter A

April 7 Worcester H

April 15 Gloucester A

April 29 Leicester A

May 6 Bath H

ANALYSIS – Sale had a great season last time around, reaching the quarter-finals of the Challenge Cup and finishing 6th and securing qualification for the Champions Cup. Danny Cipriani has gone to Wasps, but in his place they have made a range of decent signings in the form of McGinty, Webber, Charnley and Phillips.

They were very strong at home, only losing 1 game, but really struggled away from home, only picking up two wins. If they can maintain their strength at home and improve away, they will fancy their chances of maintaining their top 6 position. Lots will be made of Cipriani’s absence, but his kicking % was only 62%.

Sale had the best disciplinary record in the whole league last season, picking up just 5 yellow cards (just 1 at home). They have some good young players and it will be interesting to see their development continue this season.

 

Saracens Rugby

INS: Schalk Burger (from Stormers), Alex Lozowski (from Wasps), Savenaca Rawaca (from Fiji Sevens), Mark Flanagan (from Bedford Blues), Sean Maitland (from London Irish), Vincent Koch (from Stormers).

OUTS: Charlie Hodgson (retired), Rhys Gill (to Cardiff Blues), Catalin Fercu (to Timisoara Saracens), Kieran Longbottom (to Sale Sharks), Dave Porecki (to London Irish), Jacques Burger (retired), Aaron Morris (to Harlequins), Thretton Palamo (to Bristol), Biyi Alo (to Worcester Warriors), Ben Ransom (to London Irish).

FIXTURES

Sept 3 Worcester H (Twickenham Stadium)

Sept 11 Exeter A

Sept 17 Northampton H

Sept 24 Harlequins A

Sept 30 Bristol A

Oct 9 Wasps H

Oct 29 Leicester H

Nov 20 Sale A

Nov 26 Gloucester H

Dec 3 Bath A

Dec 23/24/26 Newcastle H

Dec 30/31/Jan 1 2017 Leicester A

Jan 7 Exeter H

Feb 11 Worcester A

Feb 18 Gloucester A

Feb 25 Sale H

March 5 Newcastle A

March 25 Bath H

April 8 Harlequins H (Wembley Stadium)

April 15 Northampton A

April 29 Bristol H

May 6 Wasps A

ANALYSIS – The all-conquering double winners from last season look just as strong this time around. They have lost Hodgson and Burger, but look to have actually strengthened the squad overall. They really tweaked their playing style to add some expansive play to their more traditional steam-roller.

They were very strong again at home, losing just twice and had by far the best away record in the league, winning 8 and drawing 1. This away record was based on an outstanding defence, with just an average of 17 points conceded per game.

Their disciplinary record was again excellent – they had the third best record with just 6 yellow cards all season. I can’t see anything other than them having a real go at repeating last season. They have the best squad depth, the best game plan and now have the confidence that they can win the double.

 

Wasps Rugby

INS: Marty Moore (from Leinster), Tommy Taylor (from Sale Sharks), Danny Cipriani (from Sale Sharks), Tom Cruse (from London Irish), Guy Armitage (from London Welsh), Craig Hampson (from Bristol), Tom Woolstencroft (from Bath), Marcus Garratt (from Cornish Pirates), Kurtley Beale (from NSW Waratahs), Matt Symons (from London Irish), Nick de Luca (from Biarritz), Kyle Eastmond (from Bath), Willie le Roux (from Sharks).

OUTS: Charles Piutau (to Ulster), Alex Lozowski (to Saracens), George Smith (to Suntory Sungoliath/Queensland Reds), Jamie Stevenson (to London Scottish), Ed Shervington (retired), Ruaridh Jackson (to Harlequins), Bradley Davies (to Ospreys), James Downey (retired), Ben Jacobs (retired), Carlo Festuccia (to Zebre), Andrea Masi (retired), Lorenzo Cittadini (to Bayonne).

FIXTURES

Sept 4 Exeter H

Sept 10 Leicester A

Sept 18 Bristol H

Sept 24 Northampton A

Oct 2 Harlequins H

Oct 9 Saracens A

Oct 30 Newcastle H

Nov 19 Gloucester A

Nov 27 Sale H

Dec 3 Worcester A

Dec 23/24/26 Bath H

Dec 30/31/Jan 1 2017 Newcastle A

Jan 8 Leicester H

Feb 11 Exeter A

Feb 17 Sale A

Feb 26 Gloucester H

March 4 Bath A

March 26 Worcester H

April 9 Northampton H

April 16 Bristol A

April 29 Harlequins A

May 6 Saracens H

ANALYSIS – A season that promised so much eventually ended in disappointment for Wasps. They lost in both the semi-final of the Premiership and the semi-final of the Champions Cup. They did however play some outstanding rugby and on their day have the ability to blow anyone  away as their destruction of Saracens in the league at Allianz Park demonstrates.

Charles Piutau and George Smith will be missed, but Wasps have probably made the best set of signings in the entire league. Cipriani, Beale (when fit), Eastmond and Le Roux will take an already exciting backline to the next level, and their forwards still look a strong unit.

They had the second best home record in the league last season, losing just twice, and the second best away record. They also had the joint best disciplinary record, receiving only 5 yellow cards all season. I can’t see anything other than a really strong year from them again.

 

Worcester Rugby

INS: Ben Te’o (from Leinster), Jackson Willison (from Grenoble), Will Spencer (from Bath), Marco Mama (from Bristol), Perry Humphreys (promoted from Academy), Dewald Potgieter (from Yamaha Júbilo), Matt Williams (from Northampton Saints), Francois Hougaard (from South Africa Sevens), Biyi Alo (from Saracens), Alafoti Fa’osiliva (from Bath).

OUTS: Darren O’Shea (to Munster), Charlie Mulchrone (to Harlequins), Jean-Baptiste Bruzulier (to Nevers), Ben Sowrey (to Newcastle Falcons), Heath Stevens (to London Welsh), Joe Rees (to Rotherham Titans), Andy Symons (to Gloucester), Alex Grove (to Birmingham Moseley), Ravai Fatiaki (released), Dan George (released), Matt Gilbert (to Hartpury College RFC), Dan Sanderson (to Yorkshire Carnegie), Sam Smith (retired).

FIXTURES

Sept 3 Saracens A (Twickenham Stadium)

Sept 9 Gloucester H

Sept 17 Bath A

Sept 24 Sale H

Oct 2 Newcastle H

Oct 8 Leicester A

Oct 29 Harlequins A

Nov 18 Northampton H

Nov 26 Exeter A

Dec 3 Wasps H

Dec 23/24/26 Bristol A

Dec 30/31/Jan 1 2017 Harlequins H

Jan 7 Gloucester A

Feb 11 Saracens H

Feb 18 Exeter H

Feb 25 Northampton A

March 4 Bristol H

March 26 Wasps A

April 7 Sale A

April 15 Bath H

April 28 Newcastle A

May 6 Leicester H

WORCESTER

Sept 3 Saracens A (Twickenham Stadium)

Sept 9 Gloucester H

Sept 17 Bath A

Sept 24 Sale H

Oct 2 Newcastle H

Oct 8 Leicester A

Oct 29 Harlequins A

Nov 18 Northampton H

Nov 26 Exeter A

Dec 3 Wasps H

Dec 23/24/26 Bristol A

Dec 30/31/Jan 1 2017 Harlequins H

Jan 7 Gloucester A

Feb 11 Saracens H

Feb 18 Exeter H

Feb 25 Northampton A

March 4 Bristol H

March 26 Wasps A

April 7 Sale A

April 15 Bath H

April 28 Newcastle A

May 6 Leicester H

ANALYSIS – Another team I know well, who were disappointed with how last season turned out. They recruited well, and I know Dean Ryan was disappointed that they got themselves into a relegation scrap. He has now left the club and Carl Hogg has been promoted as his replacement.

I think they are better on paper than their finishing position showed and have recruited well again. Ben Te’o is excellent, Mama is good, and Hougaard made a real impact last season. The Worcester academy is outstanding I know they have some really well thought of youngsters coming through.

Hogg will undoubtedly want to change a few things this season. His first priority will be the defence; Worcester conceded an average of 25 points a game at home (2nd worst in the league) and an average of 29 points a game away (the worst in the league). They also had the second worst disciplinary record, collecting a total of 14 yellow cards over the season.

They have joined Saracens and Newcastle in installing an artificial pitch at Sixways for the new season – theirs is an upgrade on the surface used at Saracens and Newcastle though, being based on an organic infill rather than rubber crumb. You would expect their backs to enjoy playing on it rather more than the old Sixways turf. Wingers Vuna and Heem (top scorers last season with 9 and 7 respectively) will be relishing it.

 

Betting Angles:

Aviva Premiership Odds

Aviva Premiership Odds

Aviva Premiership Relegation Odds

Saracens to win again does seem a decent bet at 2.6, however it’s a long time to tie up your money for. If you have a lump sum in a savings account I can’t think of a better place to make 5% interest between now and May by backing them to finish in the top 4.

The relegation odds are interesting for me. I have Worcester as the third worst team this year. Bristol will find it tough but I have it between them and Newcastle, and Newcastle at 4/1 jumps off the page at me, although tactically it might be worth seeing how Bristol get on in their first five games and getting much bigger odds on Newcastle if Bristol have a bad start.

Premiership Singha Sevens – Rugby preview

Premiership Singha Sevens – Rugby Betting preview

7Aug 2016 Coventry

14:00     Cardiff Blues 7s vSale Sharks 7s    Ricoh Arena
14:25     Exeter Chiefs 7svNorthampton Saints 7s
14:50     Harlequins 7s v Wasps 7s
15:15     Newcastle Falcons 7svOspreys 7s
http://www.premiershiprugby.com/singha7s
Image taken from BetterRugbyCoaching.com

Assume teams are the same as last week unless mentioned below.

Having watched all four of the group stages for the sevens this year, I was very aware that the bookies were way off on their prices on multiple games. On the live chat here, we were nailing it in running, particularly the game where they had Sale at +5 in the game they won by 50 points.

Without giving too much away to them, there is still money to be made judging by the prices they’ve come out with. And the real opportunity here will be in the second and final round of games.

The main contenders are Wasps, Exeter, and Harlequins – no other team are capable of winning this from the eight finalists.

In order of the games;

Premiership rugby Sevens Quarter 1 preview – Cardiff v Sale

Cardiff were lucky enough to come through to top the group at the last minute v the Dragons. There is no doubt that the referee 100% favoured Cardiff, handing the Dragons two yellow cards, the first of which was a complete sham, and just when the Dragons were about to put them to bed. The second card was merited. In this instance (bizarrely for me) I was glad to see a spot of buggery  from the ref, they deserved it – the ref was no doubt disgusted at some of the twat behaviour of one or two of the Dragons lads. To summarise – Cardiff were fortunate to top the group after scraping past the Ospreys.

Sale sharks had an easy enough group. They possess two or three quality players, and  they definitely eased off against Newcastle to ensure they had reserves to come second in the group. They had a nice schedule which helped. The result against Leicester of over fifty points is best taken with a pinch of salt as Leicester had a couple of yellows in their previous game which was back to back before this one. And they received a yellow in this one too – they were completely out on their feet basically.

Despite the above, and the presence of Odogwu the tryscorer for Sale, I slightly fancy Cardiff here to take this – they have more Sevens players, and were that bit more consistent. Sale are a bit more disorganised. This is the hardest of the games to call and probably best left in running.

Premiership rugby Sevens Quarter 2 preview – Exeter v Northampton

Northampton have removed three or four lads bizarrely from the side that got them here, a ridiculous decision by management when they could have competed – with Collins and Pacman in partiular being standouts last week. Pacman and Collins are out, which means there is NO question that Exeter will win this. And there’s no point in me going into Saints and what they did/how they played – they’re now the worst side and will more than likely finish bottom in the shield too.

Exeter should win well – they won’t go nuts because they’ll be trying to keep energy for the next two games. Expect Exeter to ease up after putting them away early. The Exeter key man is Simmonds, pure quality – and Bodily is also key. If they can keep them fit for all the games, they have an outside shot of winning this tournament – I have no interest in the 7/2 available though, it’s no value. I have Ex even with Wasps in terms of quality for this final day, even with Wasps’ additions.

Premiership rugby Sevens Quarter 3 Preview – Harlequins 7s  v Wasps 7s

The clash of the Heavyweights.  Wasps have brought in Wade and Guy Thompson, Umaga also who was due to play last week but was injured. Rob Miller though, who was so key to stringing play together for them, is out. No Simpson or Robson like last year either. Halai is playing well but he did look tired from preseason. De Luca is a good sevens player.

Looking at the Wasps side you can see why the bookies have cut them with those big names, and Wade’s elusiveness is of course a huge asset.

Quins on the other hand, are basically a sevens side. All serious athletes. Cam Cowell and Mikalcius are absolute beasts and international sevens players.  Cheesman and all of the young lads are involved in the sevens too. And they’ve made one change and brought in another sevens junior.

Quins are the better side, better organised, better drilled, better ball skills and they have a fundamental understanding of Sevens. Versus a few sevens player for Wasps and the three Premiership players.

Things like clearing out rucks, ball presentation, the right and wrong lines of running, will all come into play as instinct for the Quins lads in the final five minutes of this game, and that will be where the game is won and lost. Defensively once they can keep Wade shut down, they should be fine with a far superior defensive structure. Watch out for Mikalcius, he’s an absolute horse.

It’s no secret in the forum that I believe Quins have the better side and I make them favourites for this whole tournament. We had them at 7 to 1 for the group in the qualifiers and it waltzed in. If you’re interested in the odds that are …ahem…fairly decent for Quins (and too big), check here.

This is of course a knockout and a game of sevens, and anything can happen – and Wasps are at home (although it is Coventry…) the ref may feel in true Union fashion that he needs to keep the big names like Wade in the main cup final knockouts by buggering Quins and fixing this game with some bizarre decisions, but LET’S HOPE my cynicism is not merited, and we will all see a FAIR REFEREEING performance, and not one that looks after commercial interests and hoping to keep Wade in the headlines so they get good copy in the media afterwards.

So if we get that, Quins should win, and likely it’s them and Exeter in the final once they avoid each other. Quins are the better side by far in this tournament.

Premiership rugby Sevens Quarter 4 Newcastle Falcons 7s v Ospreys 7s

Newcastle are not as good as they were last year and are a fair bit off the pace. They do have some game changers like Pampers, but he’s prone to error and they don’t have enough good all-rounders bar the two premiership lads.
The Ospreys are depleted – have brought in a few, one sevens player from Wales, so they might win a game if they come up against Northampton, otherwise it’s bottom of the pile more than likely.

Newcastle will win this game, but an Exeter/wasps/or Quins would wipe the floor with them. They might make a final but won’t win.
And that’s your lot for now – if you’re interested in joining the forum it’s free – and I can’t stress enough that you should check out that price on Quins for a tournament in which they are undoubted favourites once we get fair refereeing.