Tag Archives: Rugby

New Zealand Australia game ruined by Poite

New Zealand v australia ruined by Poite’

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

How does Poite still have a job?

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

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

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

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

Aviva Premiership Rugby Preview 2016/17

Premiership Rugby Preview 2016/17

By Wazza 23 Aug 2016

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

Key Statistics: 

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

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

Premiership rugby Team by team analysis:

Bath Rugby

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

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


Sept 3 Northampton A

Sept 10 Newcastle H

Sept 17 Worcester H

Sept 25 Leicester A

Oct 1 Gloucester A

Oct 7 Sale H

Oct 30 Exeter A

Nov 18 Bristol H

Nov 26 Harlequins A

Dec 3 Saracens H

Dec 23/24/26 Wasps A

Dec 30/31/Jan 1 2017 Exeter H

Jan 8 Newcastle A

Feb 11 Northampton H

Feb 18 Harlequins H

Feb 24 Bristol A

March 4 Wasps H

March 25 Saracens A

April 8 Leicester H (Twickenham Stadium)

April 15 Worcester A

April 29 Gloucester H

May 6 Sale A

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

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

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

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


Bristol Rugby

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

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


Sept 3 Harlequins A (Twickenham Stadium)

Sept 11 Northampton H

Sept 18 Wasps A

Sept 23 Exeter H

Sept 30 Saracens H

Oct 8 Newcastle A

Oct 30 Sale H

Nov 18 Bath A

Nov 25 Leicester H

Dec 3 Gloucester A

Dec 23/24/26 Worcester H

Dec 30/31/Jan 1 2017 Sale A

Jan 7 Northampton A

Feb 10 Harlequins H

Feb 18 Leicester A

Feb 24 Bath H

March 4 Worcester A

March 26 Gloucester H

April 8 Exeter A

April 16 Wasps H

April 29 Saracens A

May 6 Newcastle H

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

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

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


Exeter Rugby

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

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


Sept 4 Wasps A

Sept 11 Saracens H

Sept 17 Harlequins H

Sept 23 Bristol A

Sept 30 Northampton A

Oct 8 Gloucester H

Oct 30 Bath H

Nov 18 Newcastle A

Nov 26 Worcester H

Dec 2 Sale A

Dec 23/24/26 Leicester H

Dec 30/31/Jan 1 2017 Bath A

Jan 7 Saracens A

Feb 11 Wasps H

Feb 18 Worcester A

Feb 25 Newcastle H

March 4 Leicester A

March 25 Sale H

April 8 Bristol H

April 15 Harlequins A

April 29 Northampton H

May 6 Gloucester A

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

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

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

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


Gloucester Rugby

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

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


Sept 2 Leicester H

Sept 9 Worcester A

Sept 16 Sale A

Sept 24 Newcastle H

Oct 1 Bath H

Oct 8 Exeter A

Oct 28 Northampton A

Nov 19 Wasps H

Nov 26 Saracens A

Dec 3 Bristol H

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

Dec 30/31/Jan 1 2017 Northampton H

Jan 7 Worcester H

Feb 11 Leicester A

Feb 18 Saracens H

Feb 26 Wasps A

March 4 Harlequins H

March 26 Bristol A

April 7 Newcastle A

April 15 Sale H

April 29 Bath A

May 6 Exeter H

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

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

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

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


Harlequins Rugby

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

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


Sept 3 Bristol H (Twickenham Stadium)

Sept 9 Sale A

Sept 17 Exeter A

Sept 24 Saracens H

Oct 2 Wasps A

Oct 8 Northampton H

Oct 29 Worcester H

Nov 20 Leicester A

Nov 26 Bath H

Dec 4 Newcastle A

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

Dec 30/31/Jan 1 2017 Worcester A

Jan 7 Sale H

Feb 10 Bristol A

Feb 18 Bath A

Feb 25 Leicester H

March 4 Gloucester A

March 25 Newcastle H

April 8 Saracens A (Wembley Stadium)

April 15 Exeter H

April 29 Wasps H

May 6 Northampton A

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

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

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

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


Leicester Tigers Rugby

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

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


Sept 2 Gloucester A

Sept 10 Wasps H

Sept 18 Newcastle A

Sept 25 Bath H

Oct 1 Sale A

Oct 8 Worcester H

Oct 29 Saracens A

Nov 20 Harlequins H

Nov 25 Bristol A

Dec 3 Northampton H

Dec 23/24/26 Exeter A

Dec 30/31/Jan 1 2017 Saracens H

Jan 8 Wasps A

Feb 11 Gloucester H

Feb 18 Bristol H

Feb 25 Harlequins A

March 4 Exeter H

March 25 Northampton A

April 8 Bath A (Twickenham Stadium)

April 15 Newcastle H

April 29 Sale H

May 6 Worcester A

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

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

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


Newcastle Rugby

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

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


Sept 2 Sale H

Sept 10 Bath A

Sept 18 Leicester H

Sept 24 Gloucester A

Oct 2 Worcester A

Oct 8 Bristol H

Oct 30 Wasps A

Nov 18 Exeter H

Nov 26 Northampton A

Dec 4 Harlequins H

Dec 23/24/26 Saracens A

Dec 30/31/Jan 1 2017 Wasps H

Jan 8 Bath H

Feb 10 Sale A

Feb 19 Northampton H

Feb 25 Exeter A

March 5 Saracens H

March 25 Harlequins A

April 7 Gloucester H

April 15 Leicester A

April 28 Worcester H

May 6 Bristol A

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

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

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


Northampton Rugby

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

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


Sept 3 Bath H

Sept 11 Bristol A

Sept 17 Saracens A

Sept 24 Wasps H

Sept 30 Exeter H

Oct 8 Harlequins A

Oct 28 Gloucester H

Nov 18 Worcester A

Nov 26 Newcastle H

Dec 3 Leicester A

Dec 23/24/26 Sale H

Dec 30/31/Jan 1 2017 Gloucester A

Jan 7 Bristol H

Feb 11 Bath A

Feb 19 Newcastle A

Feb 25 Worcester H

March 3 Sale A

March 25 Leicester H

April 9 Wasps A

April 15 Saracens H

April 29 Exeter A

May 6 Harlequins H

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

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

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


Sale Rugby

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

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


Sept 2 Newcastle A

Sept 9 Harlequins H

Sept 16 Gloucester H

Sept 24 Worcester A

Oct 1 Leicester H

Oct 7 Bath A

Oct 30 Bristol A

Nov 20 Saracens H

Nov 27 Wasps A

Dec 2 Exeter H

Dec 23/24/26 Northampton A

Dec 30/31/Jan 1 2017 Bristol H

Jan 7 Harlequins A

Feb 10 Newcastle H

Feb 17 Wasps H

Feb 25 Saracens A

March 3 Northampton H

March 25 Exeter A

April 7 Worcester H

April 15 Gloucester A

April 29 Leicester A

May 6 Bath H

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

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

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


Saracens Rugby

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

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


Sept 3 Worcester H (Twickenham Stadium)

Sept 11 Exeter A

Sept 17 Northampton H

Sept 24 Harlequins A

Sept 30 Bristol A

Oct 9 Wasps H

Oct 29 Leicester H

Nov 20 Sale A

Nov 26 Gloucester H

Dec 3 Bath A

Dec 23/24/26 Newcastle H

Dec 30/31/Jan 1 2017 Leicester A

Jan 7 Exeter H

Feb 11 Worcester A

Feb 18 Gloucester A

Feb 25 Sale H

March 5 Newcastle A

March 25 Bath H

April 8 Harlequins H (Wembley Stadium)

April 15 Northampton A

April 29 Bristol H

May 6 Wasps A

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

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

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


Wasps Rugby

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

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


Sept 4 Exeter H

Sept 10 Leicester A

Sept 18 Bristol H

Sept 24 Northampton A

Oct 2 Harlequins H

Oct 9 Saracens A

Oct 30 Newcastle H

Nov 19 Gloucester A

Nov 27 Sale H

Dec 3 Worcester A

Dec 23/24/26 Bath H

Dec 30/31/Jan 1 2017 Newcastle A

Jan 8 Leicester H

Feb 11 Exeter A

Feb 17 Sale A

Feb 26 Gloucester H

March 4 Bath A

March 26 Worcester H

April 9 Northampton H

April 16 Bristol A

April 29 Harlequins A

May 6 Saracens H

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

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

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


Worcester Rugby

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

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


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.


Betting Angles:

Aviva Premiership Odds

Aviva Premiership Odds

Aviva Premiership Relegation Odds

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

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