It’s the end of week four in the UK and Ireland and a few things are becoming apparent as the new season gets into full swing;
Looking at the premiership teams and the Pro 12, the depth of talent is reducing all the time. Whether this is due to increased injury concerns across the sport, or a natural cycle of rebuilding, it’s hard to tell. But it is happening.
Take for example Bath, with the money they have spent in the past two years their bench was abysmal, save for the underrated Lahiff leading a late charge. Then there’s Connacht, Champions last year, now under serious pressure – unable to make ground against a woeful Scarlets team. Leinster’s depth isn’t what is once was (though they’re rebuilding with youth), Munster’s is diabolical, Leicester’s pack is pish…the list goes on. Yes there’s injuries everywhere, but we are seeing the bare bones now, benches everywhere have less impact than a BT-Sport metaphor. The best are in France or down under, and it will continue like that for the foreseeable.
When the European Cups get underway we are going to see some skewed results involving the top teams in their domestic leagues. And it’s hard to see anything but a French winner this year in the Champions cup, Saracens won’t get lucky twice.
As an aside, what happened to Saracens at Quins? This one was a surprise. The only thing we can take from this is that a combination of Quins having far more intensity, and Sarries being overrated, sealed the win for them. Indeed, it’s something we see every year – Saracens have a patch, and when challenged they can go to pieces. Personally my own thoughts are that during the year most teams don’t give Saracens their best game in the Premiership, and save it for the playoffs – with their excellent defensive structure the impact can be too high on tight enough squads.
Fair play to Quins anyway, who have been really cack for three games – the fronted up and did what every side needs to do to beat Sarries, instead of most of them lying down and giving it 50%. I do think this was a one off, Wasps should give them a right going-over (Quins).
As another aside, there were an awful lot of kicks missed at the weekend across both British and Irish leagues. That wind really had an impact. Gusting to 30kmph means take a long hard look at tries in future from a punting perspective.
As yet another aside – Cockerill cost his side a bonus point. 17 points ahead and with bath reeling, he called from the stands for Williams to kick a tough penalty instead of putting them in the corner and having a shot at a bonus point. This says to me one thing in particular – Cockerill still has no faith in this squad’s abilities, and more importantly, their fitness. Worth bearing in mind.
And how in God’s name is Ben Young’s getting standing ovations?! He’s brutal! Or were the crowd at Welford road clapping Matt Carley?
Referees continue to bugger away sides. Ok ok… we all understand – they are minding home teams to keep the crowds there. But there were two incidents in particular (among many this weekend – like Sale being crucified at Worcester) that home fans will even see are reducing many games to unfair contests.
Premiership rugby – Matt Carly- Tigers v Bath (He did this fixture last year too).
There was a series of scrums on the Bath 22 on around 20 minutes. Ayerza (as he has done for the past 18 months, since before the world cup) dropped the scrum twice and the linesman said nothing. Then Carly came around and watched the third. Despite a clear sequence of Ayerza dropping his shoulder and pulling it down, he blew hard and fast for Leicester. Carley did a number on Bath here in 2015 too. Is he the new Wayne Barnes for Leicester? Probably. On a serious note, this continued throughout the game, and despite George Ford having a stinker in general, Bath had no chance of winning this game with the subconsciously biased refereeing on show.
Top 14 rugby – Laurent Cardona – Montpellier v Brive
I’m not even going to go into the absolute buggering Clermont were given away at Toulon. Or Parisse’s red card at Toulouse (which Toulouse wouldn’t have won without).
But let’s look at Montpellier’s second try. It was at a point in the game when a depleted Brive were still well in the game, playing well. A turnover and kick through on 20 odd minutes resulted in Nadolo’s second try.
The ref (Cardona) who shafted Brive for 80 minutes was 30 metres behind the play, when there was a turnover, then some ping pong on half way before Nadolo got the ball and ran it in. This was the turning point that made it a blow out (41-13 in the end, a win that Monty weren’t worth).
He didn’t even check the try. Had he done so, he would have seen a clear knock on by the world’s most handless fullback Benjamin Fall) and also the fact that Nadolo was ahead of the kicker.
More shenanigans turning the sport into semi-farce. In both instances, these decisions took the game away from the oppositions at key points when it hung in the balance. They came at crucial times…as they always do. I had money on Montpellier and Leicester tries so I’m not complaining.
Ulster look very good in the early running and the Pro 12 is wide open, are they playing for Pienaar? I think they want to send him off with a title. Cardiff hopefully keep it lit for the forum 12 to 1 top Welsh team bet.
No doubt Saracens will be in the playoffs and the Chiefs again, the other two spots are between four other sides, and standards have definitely dropped.
Pau will go close to French playoffs, the old lady Toulouse will continue to fester this year, like your mother in law on a Sunday afternoon.
The European games are going to be a blast this year; so many teams are looking absolute gash, the lines will be well off.
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?
I’ve put together the following tables to assist with our analysis of last season:
Premiership rugby Team by team analysis:
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).
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.
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).
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.
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).
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.
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).
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.
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).
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).
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).
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.
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).
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.
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).
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.
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).
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.
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).
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.
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).
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 anyoneaway 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.
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).
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Sale v Newcastle
Gloucester v London Irish
Saints v London Welsh
Wasps v Leicester
Sunday 10th May
Saracens v Exeter
Pressure. Who is going to cope with it the best? Players with experience tend to, so teams who have been in these high pressure games, internationally and at club level, should fare better. Youngsters can often be better at coping as they tend to be more fearless in these situations. However, players or teams who get in these positions and then tend to fall at the last hurdle have demons that hang over them and cause below par performances. This weekend will be interesting as there is a lot at stake for those three teams chasing a play off spot. Also the battle for a home play off game is also in the balance.
The first game on Friday screams back Bath -3 (early line from Unibet, etc..) but if you look a little deeper at their record at the Stoop, it doesn’t make pleasant reading for a Bath supporter. They haven’t won a Premiership game there in their last 6 meetings. But a factor to take in to those games though was that Quins were the favourites. They were at those times in a better place than Bath. If you look back Quins have been a top 4 team for a while now or considered one. Bath have been a work in progress and are in a far better place than Quins now I think we would all agree. So the question is….. will Bath now push on and secure that second spot?
I will put up cap stats but I must admit I think in some cases they become a little irrelevant at this stage of the season, as funny things can happen. I believe patterns tend to form after a few rounds in and stop with a few rounds to go. So I wouldn’t read too much in to them.
Quins have had a poor season covering at home (3-7, 1-1 on a positive cap at home) and they have lost to 4 teams above them in the table but have beaten Leicester and Wasps. They have won their last two games at home against Gloucester and Irish, so recent form is better. It’s not phenomenal but it is better. Bath on the other hand have been good away from home. Their W/L record away is 5-5 and is exactly the same on the caps 5-5. But interestingly when they have been dogged with the favourite tag they have achieved a 4-1 record on a negative cap below 7. They seem to get over the line when they are perceived the favourite in a one score cap. I like that in a team. It’s when they keep losing these ones that worries me. This is a good sign for Bath backers but as I said earlier tis is a funny stage of the season where strange things can happen.
This game is difficult and I keep swinging from one thought to the other. I think it’s a Bath 1-12 market for this with very low stakes or nothing at all. Another angle would be to hope the Bath cap gets bigger and that the Quins team points total gets lower and back that. I think Quins will get a few points in this game.
Sale and Newcastle is a tricky one, as you need to know the attitude of these two teams as neither have anything to play for. Sale can’t qualify for Europe and Newcastle can’t finish higher than 11th. Do they fight passionately to preserve home records or noticeable progress and development, or do they down tools and call it a day to a hard season. From what I have seen from these two teams in the past it would seem Sale tend to take their foot off the pedal, particularly at home for some reason. In the last five times Sale have met Newcastle at home the Falcons have won 3 out of the 5. Slightly surprising. Not as far to travel? Sale taking their eye off the ball against weaker opposition?
Anyway on the caps it’s incredibly even. Sale are 7-3 at home and Newcastle are 7-3 away. On a negative home cap Sale are 5-1 after giving up their 100% record to Quins last week (4-1 on negative caps 7 or below). Newcastle are 6-3 on positive caps away from home. So there is not a lot we can take from that really. Both look good. I think a good healthy cap on Newcastle would be the only option for this one.
Gloucester v London Irish. Now this has potential. What will be the mentality of Gloucester? They are poor at home only covering 3 of their 10 home games. Alright some teams only look to win games they are not interested in covering caps for the betting man, so we need to look a bit deeper. Their W/L record is equally bad with 5-1-4 record and it seems they only bring out the performances when they play a big name. The only trouble is Irish have not got a very impressive record at Kingsholme winning 1 out of the last 6. They played each other at a similar stage of the season last year and the score was 38-30.
Gloucester will they open up now the shackles are off them and relax and play their open attacking rugby or will they, as teams often do after a big game, switch off and think of the games coming ahead for European qualification? That is the one to decipher. If it is the latter, which I tend to think will be the case, there is a great chance with a healthy positive cap on the Irish. As the Irish tend to finish their season strongly as I said last week. Although last week they struggled to stay with Bath after a decent start.
I would be looking closely at the Irish cap for this one.
Saints should secure the bonus point win and then rest up I would imagine. I can’t believe they will look to amass a huge score. They might do I suppose, throw the ball around, use it as a training exercise. But I’d be surprised if players are going to be feeling full of life and energy and wanting to go hell for leather in this one. There is a good chance of a massive cap for Welsh as Saints, as Champions, have been hit very hard with their home caps. They also have had a tendency to just get the job done apart from that first game of the season against Gloucester.
The Wasps game should be a belter along with the one on Sunday at Saracens. These two games are massive.
Wasps are the better team in comparison to Leicester at the moment. The only thing that isn’t is their respective league positions. But that could change on Saturday. Whoever wins this game will be, in my opinion, in the box seat to take the final play off spot. I’m struggling to see anything but a Wasps win in this game. The only thing that could go against them is the lack of big game experience, but they have had a season that has involved some big games, as they were competing right to the end in their Heineken Group stage and battled hard with players missing at Toulon, the eventual winners. So they have experience in some respects.
It’s just the nagging feeling that Leicester always make the play offs. However this has to end some day doesn’t it? Is there a shift from Quins and Leicester in the top four to teams like Bath, Wasps and Exeter now? You can just see a typical massive Leicester performance that sees them to victory. You wouldn’t rule it out. They did beat Toulon, so there is that glimmer of possibility.
I don’t think their record on the caps is very relevant here, but Wasps are 8-2 at home and Leicester are 3-7. Worse than that for the Tigers is that they have been given 5 positive away caps and only covered 1. Extraordinary really that firstly they have received so many and then only covering 1 suggests a drop off from their usual standards. Wasps are 6-2 on the negative home caps.
I would say Wasps on a small negative would be the only route or perhaps a 1-12.
Finally the Sunday game. Saracens have all to play for and so do Exeter. It’s a known fact that home semi-finals are crucial to reaching a final spot, so I’d expect an all guns blazing performance from the Wolf pack here. In which case I’d find it difficult to make a case for Exeter. All their hopes went last week I’m afraid. They needed to beat Wasps and then hoped Wasps did them a favour against Leicester and then all they had to do was win against Sale to make the play offs. Now they are not going to think that of course that’s just how I see it.
The Chiefs played far better than I expected last week and it was only a piece of opportunist brilliance by Simpson sunk them. However, Wasps really should have put them away. Away from home they have covered 4 from 10 and they have failed to do so in their last 2. They are 2-6 outside the International windows as well being 1-4 with positive caps.
Saracens on the other hand have been gaining momentum. Good European performances and recent home league performances have put them in decent form coming in to the latter stages of the league season. They had before that looked a bit vulnerable and out of sorts. They have covered 3 of their last 4 league games at home and I would be looking at Saracens pushing for a bonus point win in this one so that they can sneak that second spot from Bath. Due to the big game situation I would be hoping for a cap in single figures, but fear it will be bigger than that which would make a bet very difficult as I see Saracens winning this well.
There’s only two games left for each of the teams vying for playoff and European places in both the Rabo and Premiership. Friday nights can be unpredictable sods to back at times during the year but we’ve a few situations tonight that should re-enforce our betting logic that can so often go astray on nights like these. So let’s take a quick look at tonight’s most interesting games.
Premiership Rugby – Bath v Northampton 745 Bt Sport
Bath have floundered in these kind of games all season and they struggled to put Wasps away in the Challenge cup last week, despite dominating for most of the game. There’s a mental block in this side and I was tempted to fear for them tonight against a Saints side with nothing to really play for. Saints are second in the table and 7 points ahead of both Tigers and bath with just two games to go. Theoretically Bath or Tigers could catch them for the second home semi final spot but it’s very unlikely due to the fact Northampton have Wasps at home in the final round, and it’s very hard to see a light enough Wasps pack winning that.
On the other hand Bath have to win this game at all costs, as if they don’t , Quins will go away to a hapless and bottling Exeter side on Sunday and beat them, knowing they have Bath at home in the final round to take the final playoff spot and destroy a promising season for Bath (keep an eye on this result and betting odds regarding Exeter- If Bath win tonight, Quins are out of the reckoning and have no motivation to win at Exeter on Sunday, while Exeter still have a hope of a European playoff spot in 7th if they win and Wasps get hammered at Saints next week).
Thus, we have a home side tonight who need to win at all costs, and a Saints side coming away with no pressure on them and a few England Internationals looking for a healthy run out. While it has been tempting to look at Saints here due to slightly better form, the fact is they have no need to put bodies on the line and Bath do, and in rugby that’s all important. Saints have a better backrow with Bath missing both Garvey and Luow, but the backs for Bath are better once they concentrate and click, the second row overall is evens enough with Attwood back for bath (despite Lawes’ fantastic form), and the bath front row is far better than the Saints opposition (who are missing Hartley of course, amongst others). It’s David Wilson, Rob Webber, & Paul James for Bath versus Salesi Ma’afu, Ross McMillan, & Alex Waller and that’s all in favour of Bath.
I think Bath win this out of necessity and though they’ll do their best to shag it up as they so often do, they should fall over the line and secure the playoff spot with home advantage and a Saints side who will definitely show up, but who have absolutely no need of a win with top spot in the Premiership well out of sight. It’s also in the league’s interests for some new blood to be in the top 4 after recent years, so I can’t see the referee Matt Carley being anything but sympathetic to them.
Premiership Rugby Bets for tonight – bath are 10/11 to win in Paddypower and that’s a solid enough pick. If you’re on lower stakes the 1-12 is 13/8 in Bet365 and Coral, and it’s hard to see them winning by more than 10. Rob Webber is 10/1 anytime try in skybet and 5s elsewhere, get some of that for small money before it disappears, he got two last week and is always a threat.
Rabo Pro 12 betting tips
Ulster v Leinster, BBC and RTE 730pm
Thanks to the Ospreys and the utterly uncommitted and arrogant garbage they coughed up in last night’s loss to Zebre, Ulster now only need a point from their remaining games to get a playoff spot. They play Leinster at home this week and then Munster away in the final round, and they only have to get one point out of both of those games; tonight is obviously the best one to target. Leinster meanwhile do not have top spot secured just yet ( and thus a home final if they win their semi), and are only five points ahead of Glasgow. Glasgow have treviso away this week, and Zebre at home next week – so nine points are very attainable for them. Leinster meanwhile have Edinburgh away in the final round after Ulster tonight.
You can follow the logic; Leinster need a win, and Ulster need a losing bonus point at least. Leinster to win anyone? The teams named stack up in Leinster’s favour, with a strong starting 15 and a strong bench, with front row starters and replacements particularly strong for Leinster. Ulster are still missing Pienaar and Best of course, and without those key men they’re two thirds the side they can be. Indeed if Joe Schmidt started the entire Leinster 15 playing tonight for Ireland in a six nations game (bar Kirchner of course) not too many eyebrows would be raised bar some big hairy Munster one’s (teams listed at the bottom of this post). Ulster could of course win tonight with a side that’s still full of quality, particularly in the backs, but Leinster need this win more, and have sent their main men North for victory. Watch out for an interesting battle between the incumbent Ireland centre BOD and the future 13 Jared Payne.
Rabo Pro 12 betting Tip for tonight – back Leinster to win at evens in skybet, they’re shorter everywhere else. Personally I’m on the 1-12 but I wouldn’t recommend it due to the fact that if Leinster got a bonus point win here they’d be almost set for home semi and final. Don’t back the 13+ either though because the odds are rubbish at 5/1. There’s a niggle in the back of my head though this may happen, thanks to Sportscompiler in the forum pointing out that this is an opportunity for Leinster to help get rid of a dangerous playoff opponent in Ulster potentially. Leinster should win this barring any brainfarts either way, with a solid no risk gameplan in the first half- Ulster are not great chasers.
Also rans – I also like Glasgow to pip Treviso by 1-12 points away from home (best 6/4 in ladbrokes). Glasgow need the win to keep their home semi final on course ahead of Munster and Treviso need at least a point to make sure they get Europe ahead of Zebre. Again, two dovetailing ambitions that should lead to the 1-12 coming in – fingers crossed for a logical night
Ulster: 15 Ricky Andrew, 14 Andrew Trimble, 13 Jared Payne, 12 Luke Marshall, 11 Tommy Bowe, 10 Paddy Jackson, 9 Paul Marshall, 8 Nick Williams, 7 Chris Henry, 6 Roger Wilson, 5 Iain Henderson, 4 Johann Muller (capt), 3 Andrew Warwick, 2 Rob Herring, 1 Tom Court.
Replacements: 16 Niall Annett, 17 Callum Black, 18 Adam Macklin, 19 Dan Tuohy, 20 Sean Doyle, 21 Michael Heaney, 22 James McKinney, 23 Darren Cave.
Leinster 15 Rob Kearney, 14 Zane Kirchner, 13 Brian O’Driscoll, 12 Gordon D’Arcy, 11 Dave Kearney, 10 Ian Madigan, 9 Isaac Boss, 8 Jamie Heaslip (capt), 7 Shane Jennings, 6 Rhys Ruddock, 5 Mike McCarthy, 4 Devin Toner, 3 Martin Moore, 2 Sean Cronin, 1 Cian Healy.
Replacements: 16 Richardt Strauss, 17 Jack McGrath, 18 Mike Ross, 19 Leo Cullen, 20 Jordi Murphy, 21 Luke McGrath, 22 Jimmy Gopperth, 23 Luke Fitzgerald.
After a good friday night below, with two tryscorers and a handicap bet win (just about mind you -lord knows how Quins lost this game with the chances they had) let’s see if we can win some more this afternoon.
Bath (-14)v London Welsh betting, 215pm, not televised
Not one to get too involved in as it’s not on the tellybox, but Bath should beat the handicap despite the fact they can be a nightmare to back. I have a feeling London Welsh gave everything they had last week in the one point loss to Gloucester, and they’ve rested the poor lad at the heart of the controversy tomorrow, Tyson Keats.
Bath name a full side virtually, and have no excuse if they can’t put Welsh away here. Their heavy forward orientated game should succeed where Gloucester’s lighter weights failed last week.
Bath are 11 points off Northampton in 4th, and despite the fact that they look about as motivated as a stoned sloth at times this season, a bonus point win will see then within two wins of the playoffs, and closer to Heineken cup rugby next year.
Premiership rugby betting verdict
Bath to beat the cap well in the end, but don’t go nuts on it. Also, Stephen Donald is starting at ten, and if there’s one thing the Donald does well, it’s score tries. He’s a measly 3/1 anytime try in Paddypower tomorrow, but keep an eye out for better prices elsewhre a few hours befroe the game. Just to re-iterate – it’s Bath, so don’t bet big.
Northampton -1 v Leicester betting, 3pm, skysports
Despite being totally on top of Wasps last week, Northampton still needed an injury time try to nick it at the death. That was a must win game for them and it means they’re now in with a realistic shout of a home semi if they can win this game and then a few more after it. Leicester will know this too of course, and will want a win here to keep the gap between them and the others, knowing it would see them most likely into a home semi with the fixtures that remain.
I think Leicester are the better side here with a far better defence, and I think Tuilagi will have a big game against the Northampton centres Pisi and May (Waldouck has been solid and will be missed), despite being quiet recently. There were two questions for me trying to work this one out, and i’ll go through them one by one.
1. Will Leicester have one eye on next week’s game against Toulon?
Funnily enough, I don’t think they will. They’ll know they’re in with a shout but at the same time they’ll know full well that they fluked the win against Toulouse, and that they’re likely on a hiding to nothing away in Toulon. No, I think they’ll be focussed on the bread and butter of the league here, and a win here would go a long way to cementing the home semi. They would also be able to approach that Heineken cup game with a little more freedom.
2. Were Leicester really that bad against Exeter, and were Northampton really that bad against Wasps?
Yes and no for Leicester. Yes, they may have squeaked it, but they were playing within themselves I think, that being game one of three huge away games. Northampton on the other hand scored four tries off of mauls, and they won’t have that kind of lineout and mauling dominance against Leicester tomorrow. Also, Saints fell off tackle after tackle (two missed tackles for Varndell’s try, and in the lead up to Elliot Daly’s try they missed about eight if you factor in the initial drive aswell up the middle). Saints have conceded 4 more tries than Leicester in the league so far (they’ve both scored 40), and they’ve conceded 80 more points.
Two final considerations are the bench and Wayne Barnes. Leicester’s bench is superior here, and that could make the difference in a tight game where Northampton are bound to tire after last week’s slog in the mud. Wayne Barnes in my eyes has never been an enemy of Leicester either.
Teams Northampton Saints: 15 Ben Foden, 14 James Wilson, 13 George Pisi, 12 Tom May, 11 Jamie Elliott, 10 Stephen Myler, 9 Lee Dickson, 8 Tom Wood, 7 Phil Dowson, 6 Samu Manoa, 5 Christian Day, 4 Courtney Lawes, 3 Tom Mercey, 2 Dylan Hartley (c), 1 Soane Tonga’uiha.
Replacements:16 Ross McMillan, 17 Alex Waller, 18 Brian Mujati, 19 GJ van Velze, 20 Ben Nutley, 21 Martin Roberts, 22 Ryan Lamb, 23 Luther Burrell.
Leicester Tigers: 15 Mathew Tait, 14 Niall Morris, 13 Manusamoa Tuilagi, 12 Anthony Allen, 11 Adam Thompstone, 10 Toby Flood (c), 9 Ben Youngs, 8 Jordan Crane, 7 Julian Salvi, 6 Tom Croft, 5 Geoff Parling, 4 Ed Slater, 3 Dan Cole, 2 Tom Youngs, 1 Marcos Ayerza.
Replacements:16 Rob Hawkins, 17 Logovi’i Mulipola, 18 Martin Castrogiovanni, 19 Thomas Waldrom, 20 Graham Kitchener, 21 Sam Harrison, 22 George Ford, 23 Matt Smith.
Premiership rugby betting verdict
Leicester +2 at 10/11 looks like good value in a game they should edge by 1-12 points. You can get +2 in Ladbrokes and Boyles; it’s +1 elsewhere. If you want extra insurance, the no draw handicap is +2.5 in ladbrokes for 10% less on the price (4/5).
When you ake a look at Gloucester’s last three results, things are starting to look like last season when they threatened in the early weeks of the year to make the playoffs, before fizzling out when things got to crunch time.
Three games ago, it took an injury time decision by the TMO (illegally suggesting to the ref to award a penalty try) for them to beat lowly Worcester at home. Then Bath beat them at the Rec, followed by last weeks 1 point victory over basement club London Welsh, who haven’t won a game since November. It took a penalty in the final 4 minutes for Gloucester to win that game.
Overall Gloucester don’t look good enough for the top 4 to me – I don’t see where the leaders are, they’ve a weak enough scrum and pack, and they have a ten in Burns who has lost all confidence in front of the posts since injury – missing a shedload of his kicks last week. They’re having problems scoring tries too, with the lowest amount of tries (30) scored in the top eight after Sarries on 28. They also have only one try bonus all season (one) and only Sale and London Welsh are on zero try bonus points. The point i’m trying to make here is that it’s hard to see where enough scores will come from for Gloucester tonight.
Quins haven’t had stellar form themselves (winning away at Sale, losing at home to Exeter, and expectedly not turning up v Sarries last week), but they’re still by far the better side here for me. Robshaw is on a break this week (one he has looked like needing since the France game), but most of the side is there, and the backups have performed brilliantly in the LV cup. I make the Quins lineout even, and the scrum, goalkicking, and general open play superior on recent form.
Mike Brown is in brilliant form and Nick Easter seems to have come through a recent poor period, doing well last week v Sarries. Quins also have Botica on the bench, and that’s a huge plus coming into the last 30 minutes – this guy has a huge future ahead of him and he’ll make every one of his kicks and exploit the gaps Gloucester will leave. Rob Buchanan has been lethal in the loose when i’ve seen him this season and he starts here tonight – Welsh made a few breaks up the middle where he’ll be targetting.
For me this game is about hunger and need, and Glocuester have hardly shown much of that over the past three weeks. If Quins lose here they not only say goodbye to any hope of a home semifinal (currently three behind Leicester), but they also run a real risk of missing out on the playoffs if they give a sucker an even break here. This is must-win for Quins as far as I can see and O’Shea will know that. You pick your battles at this time of the season; last week they really weren’t arsed against Sarries. This week should be a different ball game, and in good weather the dynamic game Quins have pulled out when needed all season should be enough to beat Gloucester here. I just don’t see how a non-tryscoring, low penalty converting side like Gloucester, thats’s struggling to beat basement sides will have enough to stop a Quins side that is most definitely boxing smart and managing a busy season end.
Premiership rugby betting verdict
Take Quins on the plus start in a game they should win. +3 currently in Coral and stanjames. Sam Smith on the QUins left wing looks full of potential and I can see him coming close here tonight (10/3 anytime in ladbrokes & Coral). Buchanan is biggest 12/1 in paddypower and is worth small money I think – Gloucester are weak up front and he should go close in a loose game.
More later on the rest of the weekend’s games
IF you disagree (or agree), head over to the rugby betting forum and contribute. Plenty of winning tips so far this weekend, and membership is free until 2046.
Bath v London Irish 2.15pm, Bath -7, Not televised
Since the arrival of Peter Stringer Bath have been on a big upswing, and after a couple of good wins in the lv cup, and a hammering for Worcester last week, things are suddenly looking rosy at the Rec. However, if you look past those three results to two games beyond when Classens was there, they were well beaten away to Wasps and drew at Exeter (who should have won). While Stringer has definitely been a huge plus, it would be very easy to get carried away and back Bath to beat the 8 point handicap tomorrow; but I’m not convinced that I should back them based solely on Stringer’s influence. Irish are on a bit of an upswing themselves, and despite missing a few players like wantaway Jonathan Joseph they have a competent side out. They beat Saracens well in the end last week, and I was hoping the bookies might have forgotten the fact two of their tries were interceptions and award them more respect here down around the +4 or +5 mark (so I could maybe back Bath), but they’ve put the handicap right where I didn’t want it.
Neither handicap appeals then and while I think Bath will win, and probably beat the handicap, I’m not willing to put my money on either side. One market does interest me for small money, and that’s London Irish Half time, Bath full time at 7/1 biggest in Skybet. Homer is back in good form with the boot, kicking 18 points last week, and London Irish could easily get in ahead at half time for bath to come back in the second half. David Rose is refereeing in good weather (don’t back Irish if it’s raining ever), and he may be a pain in the arse for Bath at the breakdown throughout this game. Small money, as not on tv. Incidentally Stronger is a whopping 11/1 in skybet for anytime try, (13/2 in paddypower). He scored two in an lv game and one last week against Worcester, so that looks maybe worth a whirl too.
Premiership rugby Betting verdict; Irish half time/ bath fulltime, 7/1 skybet, very small money for interest and value as it’s not televised.
Worcester +3 biggest Coral v Northampton, 3pm. Not televised
Northampton have been truly atrocious lately and you just couldn’t back them, the coaches Mallinder & co. don’t seem to have a clue and the player don’t look arsed. Hartley and Lawes are back from England bench-fodder duty last week, and Foden returns from a post-injury break but it’s not enough to get my money on them. Worcester were well beaten by Bath last week but the score was probably a little flattering on Bath. Worcester also lost talisman Andy Goode immediately before kick-off, who curiously cried off with the pukes, so it never looked good for them right from the start with them not having much of a backup ten……
I’d say it will be a different story this week once Goode doesn’t pull another last minute sicky, and the 1-12 available at 2/1 would appeal if this was televised. However, Northampton seem to play best when nothing is expected of them, and it would be typical of them to come back from the dead and win this. Worcester’s home games tend to be quite low scoring when decent sides come to town so if you must have a bet on this game for some reason, unders on points would be the way to go if you can get anything under 41/42. I’m leaving this alone though.
Premiership rugby Betting verdict; Betting Verdict; save your money
Saracens -9 v Exeter, 3pm, Sky Sports
Exeter have been the masters lately of screwing up try scoring chances. It’s been going on for a few months now but the amount of chances they blow in the opposition 22 has got to be some kind of record at this point. Knock-ons with the line gaping, forward passes under no pressure – it’s a real problem for them and I can’t see any reason for it to stop this week. They name a decent side but are missing some key men like Camacho and Naquelevuki in particular who has been in excellent form, getting them an awful lot of places whenever he gets the ball. There’s four changes and I get the feeling they’re not travelling expecting too much here.
Saracens are still missing their England contingent but get some key men back from the international second sides, particularly Fraser and Botha. Last week’s loss at London Irish was a blip as far as I’m concerned, and I think Saracens look too good here with a nice looking pack, for an Exeter side at something of a low ebb who haven’t won a game in the league in four games. In all those games they’ve been pretty poor in the second half too.
Saracens also have one large mitigating factor in their favour this weekend – their new plastic pitch. I can’t say I’m crazy about it as a spectator but it’s here, and Sarries will have been training on it since completion where no one else has. They’ll know how it feels under foot, how balls react when they bounce on it, how it feels when you hit it hard, how it feels when you touch down for a try, how it feels when you smoke it, and how it feel when you lean on it with one leg and kick for goal with the other. They also owe Exeter a revenge beating after they hung on at home to win grimly earlier in the season. Saracens should win this comfortably all things considered, and I’ve backed them to beat the handicap of -9.
Premiership rugby Betting verdict; We’ve backed Saracens -9 available in Paddypower and Boylesports at 10/11.
Two players also interest me for tries anytime for small money; Strettle is biggest 3/1 in skybet and has been scoring lately. On the wing here, on a dry day with the ref no doubt sympathetic to Sarries on their big corporate day he should see plenty of chances. Tomkins is biggest 7/2, also in Skybet, and in plenty of space tomorrow the rugby league man should get a few chances against an Exeter centre partnership that I wouldn’t be too confident in defensively.
Harlequins -1 v Leicester +3, 5.15pm, Sky Sports
The second big game of the day for Sky is the theoretical match of the weekend with Quins hosting Tigers, and both in joint first place on 47 points. The bookies have been see-sawing on this one since prices come out, and there’s a wide discrepancy with some offering Quins -1 and others offering -3. Whenever you see that big of a difference there’s probably a bit of opportunity around.
Leicester see the return of key man Tuilagi and also Toby Flood into ten. Both men haven’t had a lot of rugby since being away with the England camp and you wonder how up to speed they’ll be. They’ll be fresh if nothing else. Aside from that Leicester have a slow looking backrow, and Waldrom hasn’t had much rugby either. Besides Tuilagi I see nothing special in the backs with Hamilton possibly being done for pace by an improving Ugo Monye. The four Leicester men still with the England camp are four key guys – Cole, Parling, Ben Youngs, and angry-Youngs. That’s a key cog in every facet of their game plan gone for this weekend, playing away from home against the champions. Also, Leicester have done nothing in the past 2 months to say they should be favourites here. Leicester fluked a win against Toulouse in the Cup (who missed seven kicks and had a try disallowed, and had to deal with George Clancy’s bizarre interpretations) and were really lucky agasint Worcester and Gloucester in the league, nicking tight squeaky-bum wins. Several members of this side were also beaten by half a Scarlets side (is hammering too strong a word?) a few weeks ago in the nothing-cup (lv). There’s a few punter’s tipping Leicester to win this, but I’m not one of them.
Quins are missing a few too, but mainly Robshaw and Brown. They’ve gotten Care back who is the number one scrum half in England right now (after peter Stringer*) and should have been starting for England’s two six nations games so far. George Lowe is back on the bench which really should have been the call last week, as easy as he is to turn against Varndell and Wade. Quins are a form side excepting last week; on a double digit winning streak before last weeks 1 point slip up at home to Wasps when Evans missed a late penalty. For me Quins are even enough with Leicester in most areas of the field apart from two key areas that will win this game on a dry day – the half backs, and the backrows.
Care and Evans have the beating of their opposite numbers Flood and Harrison all day long. And Quins have picked Easter in the second row with Guest, Wallace and Fa’asavalu in the backrow. That’s four backrows, very mobile, all able ball carriers on a dry day playing offloading rugby against a Leicester side that has been conceding a lot of tries out wide, and who are missing four of their five key men this season. This is something Leinster do for big games on dry days and it usually works a treat for them. Wayne Barnes is refereeing and as long as he doesn’t start acting the bollox for his chums in green Quins should win this well.
Premiership rugby betting verdict; Quins are -1 only in Williamhill right now (everywhere else is -2/3). And we’re on it. Quins 1-12 I don’t like, as this Leicester side have given me no reason to think they can live with Quins if they play well, and plus, the prices are truly Craig Joubert (shit) at best 6/4. 11-20 on Quins at biggest 9/2 is something I might get involved with before kick off for small money as it looks value to me over the 6/4 going on the 1-12 winning margin.
If you’re looking for an anytime try scorer punt, I really like Tom Williams of bloodgate fame on the right wing for Quins at 4/1 biggest again in Skybet (as low as 15/8 elsewhere). An exciting, underrated, intelligent player who always has me saying ‘he is quality’ every time I see him play. Also, if you want something small for interest, Leicester half time/Quins full time at 7/1 biggest in Skybet merits consideration. I feel like Quins have been serial slow starters this year (last week being a case in point), and they are well able to reel anyone in on dry ground with four flankers waring Leicester down.
IF you disagree (or agree), head over to the rugby betting forum and kick up a stink and contribute. Plenty of winning tips so far this weekend, and membership is free until 2046.
There were quite a few games last weekend in which teams that were fairly dominant failed to find reward on the scoreboard for much of the game. December in general has been a poor month for conventional punters, and one of the main culprits has most definitely been the poor state of many grounds around Britain and Ireland. Looking at the weather for this weekend it has been generally ok in the run up, with the rain easing off slightly and Friday night looking clear overall. Still, grounds are still soft underfoot and if we’ve learned anything from December it’s that handicaps are proving to be dicey affairs, with an inordinate amount falling right on (or one point either side of), the bookies’ handicaps. With this in mind we’re taking a different trail this Friday evening with two thoroughbreds on patchy form.
Worcester v Leicester Premiership rugby betting, 20:00 GMT ESPN. Tigers -4 general
Leicester head to Worcester for their Round thirteen showdown after barely sneaking off with a home win against Gloucester last weekend. It was a strange game that found Leicester defending their own line with seconds to go, having owned the scrums and dominating overall for about 70 minutes. There were two reasons why Leicester didn’t put this game away – woeful refereeing of a non-existant Gloucester front row (as Richard Cockerill complained about early in the week), and an abysmal George Ford at ten (who replaced an ill Toby Flood just before kick-off, and who has been dropped from the squad entirely for this Friday’s clash).
Ford missing handy penalty kicks (the word ‘missing’ is actually a kindness – more like ‘butchering’ or maybe ‘mangling’) and the non-refereeing overall of the Gloucester scrum allowed Glaws to roll with the muddy punches when this game should have been well beyond them. Credit to them, they almost took their opportunity as they surged up-field through their excellent workhorse Monahan ( Irish squad call-up anyone? Mr. Kidney? Bueller ?..) for an attempted late mugging at the death.
The Warriors name a side with a few injury returnees and a few notable absentees – Hodgson at scrum half will be missed particularly. There’s six changes to the team that went to Sale and you can bet they were targeting that game more than this one at home to Leicester. This simply means that logically they’re not as strong as they were last week when they lost at bottom-of-table Sale Sharks, who were unlucky not to get a try bonus. Taking a look at Worcester’s home form, despite losing only once there (to Bath) this season the quality of the opposition they beat means their home form is not as daunting as it is at first glance. Home wins against the three relegation battlers London Irish, London Welsh, and Sale (that they were lucky not to draw), and a home win v Saracens. That Saracens team lost 12-3 but missed five penalties, were missing lots of players to the England camp, and they blew umpteen red-zone opportunities. Worcester deserve credit for the wins, but it’s no reason to assume they’ll win on Friday night.
You get what I’m saying here then – Worcester weakened, form not as amazing as it looks, and Leicester with a far stronger starting fifteen and squad. The handicap is -4 for Tigers and while I expect them to beat it well, boggy ground isn’t mugging us this week.
Part one of Friday’s Rugby Betting double – Tigers, 8/15 to win.
Edinburgh v Leinster, Rabo Pro12 Rugby Betting, 19:35 GMT BBC Alba. Leinster -9 general
Edinburgh have been truly woeful this year and there’s no reason to assume that won’t continue on Friday night against the European champions as they try to ramp it up before they chase Heineken cup survival and go after a bonus point against Scarlets next week. Edinburgh have won three games this season and all morale is gone from the squad with coach Micheal Bradley undoubtedly on the way out soon.
New man Piers Francis at ten has had a series of bad performances, with many fans calling for him to be dropped, and even captain Laidlaw is in the doldrums. There’s nowhere this Edinburgh side has the upper hand here tomorrow bar the fact they’re at home, and Edinburgh have suffered plenty of big defeats here so far. Their recent form off their most recent two games against Glasgow ( it has been awful before that) was essentially Glasgow getting well ahead on the scoreboard as they pleased, and then easing off and letting Edinburgh lose respectably.
I’m expecting them to take a beating up front first and foremost, with Nel and Murray in the front row for Edinburgh up against Mike Ross and Cian Healy – I just can’t see Leinster losing this head to head. Sidenote; It’s important when assessing a Rabo Pro12 game, to look at the referee as the standard is often dire. However, it’s reasonable to have faith in the referee Ian Davies on Friday night, who generally seems to be fair, clear, and unbiased from when I’ve watched him. Once he refs the scrums right Leinster should have haggis-loads of penalty ball on Friday.
Moving onto the backrows and you have an all international had hitting unit of Sean O’Brien, Heaslip and McLaughlin against Denton, Basilaia and McINally. I only see this battle going one way- Leinster’s. Brian O’Driscoll returns alongside Darcy and from 10-15 I’d only take Visser from Edinburgh in place of Carr. In fact, from the whole starting fifteen I’d only take Visser and Laidlaw onto the leinster side to replace Carr and Reddan.
Will Leinster be up for it is the final question? Yes, most definitely. They’re drifting in the league and in need of points, and need a good performance before the Heineken cup kicks back in. Since their poor Heineken Cup games Schmidt has gone back to basics and that kind of simple direct style is perfect for Edinburgh. BOD is back to guide them, they have a proper full back with Kearney back from injury, and they have plenty of motivation to make their dominance tell and win well. There has been a lot of money for the Leinster handicap, which started at -7 and is now up to -9 in most places but again, we’re steering clear of handicaps this Friday night as Leinster are not in amazing form and you couldn’t be confident on a minus nine away from home. leinster have a good bench but it’s not stunning, so the likes of Talei coming on for Edinburgh could help ruin a Leinster handicap bet with a late score. (Incidentally Tim Visser is 10/3 in Ladbrokes for anytime try, and he’s as low as 13/8 elsewhere. Leinster or not, Visser almost always seems to get a chance for a score and the 10/3 in ladbrokes should be taken for a small interest- we have).
Part two of Friday’s Rugby Betting double- Leinster to win at 2/7.
Friday’s Rugby Betting Pick
Combined into a win double, Leinster and Leicester at 8/15 and 2/7 (both best combo prices in Paddypower) returns just under evens (1.97). You’re dodging the handicap risk (which has been very high of late), and backing two teams that are far superior to their opposition and with plenty of motivation. That’s our main Friday night bet.
Don’t forget to head over and join in the forum if you haven’t already, for plenty more chat about the rest of this weekends Premiership, Rabo Pro 12, and TOP14 betting
Leicester v Gloucester, Sat 29th December, 1700 GMT Sky Sports one. Tigers -6 Paddypower, Gloucester +8 Stanjames
Gloucester are only six point underdogs with most bookies coming into this game off the back of a better-than-expected run of form. Looking back at their last five games they’ve lost both away games and won three at home. All five of those games have a story to tell when it comes to tomorrow’s clash at Welford road.
They beat Leicester at home after a try in the opening two minutes from the first phase of play. They grimly held on despite being down to 13 men towards the end, and last season’s 36-3 hammering at Welford road was a big motivator here in helping them secure the win against a strong-ish Tigers side. Following this they’ve had a big home win against Sale (where it must be noted they left a bonus point behind, seeming more interested in showing off Freddie Burn’s boot than scoring tries) and snuck past Exeter at home last week by two points with a penalty in the dying minutes.
The two away games were losses against Quins and Saracens, and are interesting results for some unobvious reasons. Gloucester managed to pick up two losing bonus points, and at first glance it’s it makes the start of +6 tomorrow look more attractive. However, it must be remembered that both Quins and Saracens were disrupted by international call-ups for both of these games.
Tomorrow’s game swings the revenge motivation back around to Leicester again, and there are some notable changes from the side that lost at the shed five rounds ago. Hamilton isn’t on the wing (despite scoring a try in that game his lack of pace was costly) and Ben Youngs comes back in to partner Toby Flood (Harrison started there five rounds ago, and he’s nowhere near the player Youngs is).
There are a lot of similarities between this game and the aforementioned hammering that Leicester gave Gloucester last March. Firstly, leading up to that game Gloucester were on a fantastic run of form and were expected to run Leicester extremely close, yet they were beaten off the park in the muck and wet – tomorrow’s weather will be almost identical.. Secondly, Youngs and Flood had just been re-united at half back as they are tomorrow, and with Flood recently stating he’s not bothered about international call-ups and more interested in the Aviva Premiership, he’ll be delighted his favourite dance partner Youngs is back to give him good ball. Thirdly, before last march’s game both teams were neck and neck in the table, just as they are for tomorrow (third and fourth). And finally, the guts of that Gloucester side that lost here last year are either starting or on the bench tomorrow.
There are changes in the backrow for the better but it’s still a side that is yet to be really tested this season. Jimmy Cowan is another change at scrum half but for me Cowan is a liability in attritional games and he will be targeted tomorrow by the Leicester backrow and a sniping Ben Youngs. Rob Cook has been excellent recently for Gloucester at full back, but he misses out through injury tomorrow and is replaced by former Dragons full back Martyn Thomas. This enforced change could be crucial in the weather conditions and he’s unlikely to have an easy ride tomorrow.
Main Premiership rugby bet
– We’ve taken Leicester -6 at 10/11 in Paddypower (as big as -8 elsewhere). Gloucester have definitely improved from last season, particularly in the back row, but for us that won’t be enough to hold Leicester back tomorrow. There’s huge impact on the Tiger’s bench, and Gloucester’s scrum will come under plenty of pressure in foul weather. Tigers will be up for revenge in a major way, and morale in the club should be sky high with plenty of players signing new contracts this week, and class players like Parling and the excellent Steve Mafi deciding to stay at the club. We’ve also learned our betting lesson from last March; foolishly I had a big bet on Gloucester on the plus handicap, believing in their form leading up to the game. Tomorrow I’m fairly confident we’ll be taking back that loss with interest. (Teams below)
Side bets- The alternate handicap is interesting in Ladbrokes if you expect a repeat of that game last March and a bonus point for Leicester ( as I do), with Tigers -22 at 11/2, small stakes only of course. Toby Flood is also interesting for anytime try – he’ll secretly want to prove a point against Freddie Burns and he’ll see plenty of chances, and knows where the tryline is. Prices not out everywhere so hold fire on this until tomorrow, small money again.
Leicester:15 Geordan Murphy, 14 Niall Morris, 13 Manusamoa Tuilagi, 12 Anthony Allen, 11 Adam Thompstone, 10 Toby Flood, 9 Ben Youngs, 8 Jordan Crane, 7 Julian Salvi, 6 Brett Deacon, 5 Geoff Parling, 4 Louis Deacon (c), 3 Dan Cole, 2 Tom Youngs, 1 Marcos Ayerza.
Replacements: 16 George Chuter, 17 Logovi’i Mulipola, 18 Martin Castrogiovanni, 19 Ed Slater, 20 Steve Mafi, 21 Sam Harrison, 22 George Ford23 Matt Smith
Gloucester: 15 Martyn Thomas, 14 Charlie Sharples, 13 Mike Tindall, 12 Billy Twelvetrees, 11 Shane Monahan, 10 Freddie Burns, 9 Jimmy Cowan, 8 Ben Morgan, 7 Akapusi Qera,6 Sione Kalamafoni, 5 Jim Hamilton (c),4 Will James,3 Shaun Knight, 2 Huia Edmonds, 1 Nick Wood.
Replacements: 16 Darren Dawidiuk, 17 Dan Murphy, 18 Dario Chistolini, 19 Tom Savage, 20 Matt Cox, 21 Dan Robson, 22 Tim Molenaar, 23 Drew Locke.
Sale beat welsh today, all tables and posts updated later.
Update 7/1/2013, week 3
As you can see from our updated spreadsheet, Sale’s odds have again increased to be relegated, meaning the bookies are seeing it as increasingly less likely. The weekend’s results saw London Welsh get a losing bonus point at home to Quins (Quinsfan at the game in the forum said they were lucky to do so), as expected. Irish shocked alot of people and beat Gloucester away and that will be a huge boost to them, with the bookies pushing their odds out to 4/1. Sale were slightly unlucky to pick up nothing away at Saracens, and they were well in the hunt for a losing bonus point until the 61 minute mark when they were cut open off a Sarries lineout move (helped by some obstruction).
With the favourable run of fixtures, at this point Irish look very likely to stay up and it’s a head to head battle now between Sale (evens) and Welsh (6/4) to go down (or stay up!). The next fixtures are not until the 9th of February and if Sale can pick up a win at home to a stuttering Exeter side, they’ll be only six points behind Welsh who are unlikely to get anything away at Leicester.
One thing’s for sure, that 33/1 initially pointed out is long long gone!
Update 2/1/2013, week 2
Current points after last week – Sale 11, Irish 12, Welsh 20. Last weekend we got two right and one wrong – with Sale getting four points, Irish getting zero and Welsh getting zero (we expected a losing bonus for them). Odds on Sale have been slashed as we anticipated originally (original post below), dropping from 33/1 to 8/1 now. Directions on how to use the table are on the document itself or at the bottom of this post.
We’re almost at the midpoint of the Premiership season and it is now clear that there will likely be just three teams battling to stay afloat in the Premiership for the rest of the year; Sale, London Irish, and London Welsh.
The current situation has Sale favourites to go down on seven points, London Irish on 12 points, and London Welsh on 20 points. The purpose of this table is to compare possibilities and try to find some value in the betting for relegation.
Sale are favourites with most Bookies to go down, with the biggest price available at 1/4 in bet365. At first glance it looks as though the bookies have already condemned Sale to the Championship for next season but we’re not so sure. London Welsh have a series of tricky fixtures to come and Sale undoubtedly have enough talent to stay up if they can get their coaching act together. For us, Irish are the most likely to stay up of the three, having decent fixtures and the most quality in their squad.
Moving onto the table below, we have entered our estimated table-point outcomes after each fixture. These are of course very subjective and we’ve provided you access to this table yourself so you can enter your own score predictions and total point outcomes (more on that below).
So in brief- Green colouring on the fixtures means winnable, Orange means tricky, and Red means very difficult. The teams in white are expected to be affected by International call-ups (and therefore may give more hope of a result to our three relegation contenders)
As you can see (click on the image above to isolate it if you like), we currently have London Welsh finishing equal on points with Sale after our own estimated results. Should this occur, then the least number of overall wins will be the deciding factor in who gets relegated.
You may have noticed that the Odds on london Welsh to go down are very big – at 33/1 in Bet365 and Sportingbet. We think this is overpriced and we’ve had a small bet ourselves on London Welsh to go down for a number of reasons. First, they are new to this division and while we’ve been hugely impressed with their commitment so far (and it has been serious bodies on the line stuff at times) it will be difficult for them to keep that going and manage to keep their squad fully fit. Second, they have a horrendous run of fixtures from the end of February onwards that the likes of Sale will have to take advantage of. If Sale can get their act together and start picking up some wins, the 33/1 will look like a steal.
Sale showed on Sunday at Wasps that there’s life in them yet – with an injury time try by Johnny Leota to earn a losing bonus point. They’re a club with alot of history and sooner or later they’ll kick into gear and make a run at staying up. The crucial fixture will be the virtual eight-pointer on the 16th of february, and that’s a game we have penned in as a tight win for Sale assuming they’ll have developed more coherence by then ( and big Tony Buckley keeps up his AWESOME offloading game!).
Another crucial set of games is this coming week, when Sale host Worcester (who they were unlucky not to draw with away from home, butchering a try chance at the death) and Welsh play Wasps at home. If Wasps beat London Welsh away, and Sale win at home, that 33/1 will vanish quicker than a Steve Diamond smile.
How to input your own match-result values on the table
You can substitute your own values into the points columns by clicking the link to the google document below, and then Clicking ‘FILE’ and then ‘Download as’.
If you don’t have Gmail, we recommend downloading as an Excel spreadsheet. Then just open the download and play around with the points columns – the totals will change automatically once you enable editing. It’s better if you have Gmail. Just login to your Gmail account, then click the link just above to open the google document (or refresh this page after you’ve logged in), then hit ‘File, and MAKE A COPY’. You can then edit the columns as you please in your own time, the totals will change as you enter your expected match points. The original Spreadsheet will be updated weekly by us until the end of the season.