Gallagher Premiership Rugby Preview. 29th August 2018
Gallagher Premiership 2018/19 Preview
By Peter Moore
The 2018/19 Gallagher Premiership season is almost here, with 11 sides intent on knocking current champions Saracens of their perch.
All clubs have strengthened over the summer months, with players coming in from abroad. Some clubs have brought in new coaches, with a high percentage of clubs promoting several promising players to their senior sides.
Let’s take a look at all 12 sides.
The West Country outfit have made some interesting additions to their squad for the forthcoming campaign. Wearing a Bath shirt will be former Chief Will Chudley, Ex Quin Jamie Roberts and what could prove to be an inspirational signing, Joe Cokanasiga from London Irish.
The arrival of Cokanasiga couldn’t have come at a better time for Bath, having lost Matt Banahan to west country rivals Gloucester. With both England players Anthony Watson and Jonathan Joseph injured, Cokanasiga has a good chance to cement a place in the Bath backline this season.
It seems to be a constant fact that whoever gets promoted from the Championship, normally will spend just one season in the Premiership. However,Bristol may be the exception this season.
Pat Lam, will have this Bristol side playing fast, high intensity rugby, and looks on paper to have a side that will survive.
The Bears have signed a host of players for the coming campaign in the top flight of English Rugby, including the star signing of Charles Piutau from Ulster.
Piutau, oozes class, with the potential to be a big scorer in the try department this season. He is the type of player that will also create opportunities for other players. Yes, he is being paid a substantial amount of money, but if you want class, you need to pay for it. Piutau, is also the type of player that has that certain bit of magic and x appeal.
The Bears have also brought in scrum-half Harry Randall from Gloucester. Randall, has impressed when wearing an England U20 shirt, and has electric pace. Could well be used mostly from the bench, but will make an impact when introduced into the action.
As always, the Chiefs will be one of the sides to beat once again this campaign. Unlike most sides, Exeter have stayed with the same side that were successful last season, with one exception. Rob Baxter has made just one signing ahead of the forthcoming campaign, by signing former Cardiff Blue Alex Cuthbert.
Cuthbert is a British Lion and is just shy of 50 caps for Wales. A winger who has the potential to cross many times this season, he is a player to look out for. Despite the loss of the consistent Thomas Waldrom- who has moved back to New Zealand- Exeter should have the strength of squad and consistency of selection to once again mount a serious challenge at the top of the table.
With the addition of star man Danny Cipriani from Wasps, Matt Banahan from Bath, South African Franco Mostert and Jacko Kriel, the West Country side have compensated in a big way for the loss of a host of players released by the club.
The Cherry and Whites snapped up Cipriani ahead of other clubs who wanted the signature of a player that still warrants a return to the England set up. With the list of signings that Gloucester have made, you would expect them to push on from mid-table mediocrity to a real play off push.
It has been all change at the South West London club, during a busy off season.
Former England Defence Coach Paul Gustard has been named Head of Rugby, with Alex Codling-formerly Ealing Head Coach joining as Forwards Coach. Former player and fans favourite Nick Evans will take up the role of Skills and off the ball Coach.
The club have added to their squad by bringing in the likes of Nick Auterac from Bath, alongside Nathan Earle ex Saracens, Paul Lasike from Utah Warriors, Matt Symons from Bath, amongst others.
The club will be looking for another excellent season from the impressive fly-half Marcus Smith. The youngster was an instant hit in the Premiership last season and is destined for another fine season. Alongside Smith, Quins have bought through a selection of youngsters including Dino Lamb and Gabriel Ibitoye, who can certainly make the step up this season. The club have also announced James Horwill and Chris Robshaw will be co captains for the season ahead.
Tigers, who in the past have started the season slowly, but come April are knocking on the play offs, have made a significant summer signing in the shape of Kyle Eastmond.
The Lock looks to be a wise investment for the East Midland club, with the opportunity to see him and George Ford link up again is far too good to miss.
Expect Tigers once again to be pushing up the business end of the table come May.
Surely the surprise package of last season. Dean Richards had a side that never knew when they were beaten and were terrific throughout the season.
The Falcons have recruited in the summer by bringing in two players from Leicester, George McGuigan and Logovi Mulipola. Hooker McGuigan looks a player who can once again see Falcons proving to be a tough nut to crack.
Whever they can improve on last seasons fourth place finish remains to be seen, as the pressure will be on them to fly the flag for the North East once again and continue to build on the progress they have achieved so far.
After a disappointing 2017/18 campaign, Saints were in the market for a key signing for the campaign ahead. In the form of fly-half Dan Biggar, the Saints have signed a world class player. The club have also added former Wasps player James Haskell and Quins Joe Gray to their squad.
With the signing of Biggar, expect a better showing this season from Northampton.
There were times last season when Sharks looked a match for anybody, yet on other times they struggled in games they should have won. Inconsistency is the key word, which this season they will be looking to improve on.
They have made tracks to do so already by signing Chris Ashton from Toulon. Ashton, who has been playing his rugby in France recently, has decided to make the switch back across the water, and will surely benefit Sharks this season.
Expect a good season from a fine young player by the name of Sam Moore. Injury prevented him from going to the World Rugby U20 Championship in France in the summer. But now a fully fit Moore could have a very big season.
Sharks will be hampered early on by the loss of both Ashton and Faf de Klerk due to suspensions but expect Sharks to upset a few teams along the way.
As always reigning Champions Saracens look the side that everybody will have to beat.
During the summer break Sarries recruited just four players, including Alex Lewington and Tom Woolstencroft from London Irish along with Viliami Hakalo from Nottingham, but the major key signing must be David Strettle. Strettle has made the move to Sarries from Clermont to boost an impressive Saracens squad.
International call-ups could cost Saracens top spot again this season, but when it comes to the play-offs you would expect Saracens to retain their title.
Wasps have made two key additions to their squad, after suffering the loss of both Haskell and Cipriani, replacing them with Lima Sopoage from Highlanders and Brad Shield from the Hurricanes.
Wasps will be looking to Sopoaga to pull the strings and run Wasps back line. The evergreen Jimmy Gopperth turned 35 this summer but picked up a knee injury against Connacht last season. Wasps will be hoping that the injury wont return as he is a key part of the team.
Closing the gap on the top two of Sarries and Chiefs may be what to expect from the Coventry based outfit this season.
Worcester avoided relegation last season at the expense of London Irish, but will be one of the favourites to go down this season.
Bristol look to have a better squad than Warriors for the campaign ahead, so expect a season of struggle for the Midlanders.
The club have strengthened their squad by recruiting a number of players including Ashley Beck from ospreys, Callum Black ex Ulster and a key player in former Cheetah Francois Venter.
Playing at 13, Venter is one of the most adept centres around. He is also an attacking outside centre and with him and Ben Te’o in midfield will be one of the big strengths of Worcester for the season ahead.
So gentlemen, let battle commence and lets all enjoy another thrilling season of Premiership Rugby ahead of us.