Complete club by club guide to the English rugby season
Bath continues to be hot and cold, a lot depends on how quickly Danny Cipriani settles into berth No 10 in place of the more stable Rhys Priestland who has returned home to Wales. Bath will be missed by forwards Zach Mercer and Henry Thomas who have both joined Montpellier, but No 8 Stormers Jaco Coetzee should provide vital bullet-carrying power. Joe Cokanasiga has given a glimpse of his former form and it will be a key season for the forgotten England wing.
Jaco Coetzee. Stuart Hooper.
How the Bears are recovering from the trauma of losing that play-off semi-final to the Harlequins after finishing the regular season at the top of the standings will be instructive and we may be able to get a feel for their progress when they meet. of the weakened Saracens in their opening match on Friday evening. Bristol will be among the challengers again, but they will miss Ben Earl and Max Malins. The atmosphere of Ashton Gate should inspire them and any team with Semi Radradra and Charles Piutau on the back is a threat.
Semi Radradra. Pat Lam.
1st (beaten in the play-offs). 6th.
The Chiefs will be scratching their heads again thinking about their final play-off loss. Nothing has changed much at Sandy Park and there has been no rush to recruit, but Exeter still looks like the most powerful team in the country and once that squad gets ahead he is difficult to stop it.
Tomas Francis is back in Wales, but Waikato’s Josh Iosefa-Scott and former Bath mainstay Sam Nixon will provide solid front row coverage. A fit Jack Nowell will be vital for the Chiefs and England.
Joe Simmonds. Rob Baxter.
2nd (beaten in the final). 1st.
Any team with a potential fullback from Louis Rees-Zammit, Ollie Thorley and Jonny May can go wild, but the big question mark hangs over the effectiveness of forwards, at this traditionally forward-loving club for their provide a quick balloon.
The arrival of Adam Hastings is welcome and on new plastic ground George Skivington’s side will be looking to move the ball quickly, but his team can struggle, especially when traveling.
Chris Harris. George Skivington.
This epic final victory makes Quins unlikely champions and, if a repeat feels unlikely, they’ll continue to play a cape-and-sword style of rugby with Marcus Smith offering the flair behind an underrated pack. Tommaso Allan has joined Treviso to cover the opening half and Danny Care continues to show why Eddie Jones put him on the grass was premature. Scottish center Huw Jones is a handy Glasgow Warriors signing.
Danny Care. Tabai Matson.
4th (final winner). 4th.
Something is finally moving in the East Midlands where Steve Borthwick is building a pack of attackers in his own image of steel. A hardened group of South African forwards have been bolstered by the signing of Marco van Staden from the Bulls while George Martin and Harry Wells are two young forwards who will soon find their way to the England side. Australian rookie Bryce Hegarty could be an important signing. He can play at the back or at the opening and fill a void left by Zack Henry’s move to France.
Bryce Hegarty. Steve Borthwick.
The Exiles have a new home in Brentford, which is one of the best venues in the Premiership, but they can struggle to keep their crowds happy. Blair Cowan, their last row talisman, has left for Japan and although Albert Tuisue and Sean O’Brien provide rich experience, their team lacks depth. Ollie Hassell-Collins is one of the best of a generation of young English wings for the side who also has opening half Paddy Jackson on the books.
Marcel van der Merwe. Declan Rein.
The Falcons left like a train last season, but no Premiership team has missed more crowds. Dean Richards looked to his former club the Harlequins for a few key signings with veteran Mike Brown and, perhaps more importantly, winger Nathan Earle. Earle hasn’t had much luck with the injuries, but he and Adam Radwan, with his breakneck pace, can be a threat and Newcastle have a strong, mobile pack that can help them thrive on the plastic pitch at Kingston Park.
Nathan Earle. Dean Richards.
The Saints had a streak of home losses last season and Chris Boyd’s side can be insanely inconsistent. The signing of Courtnall Skosan, a wing of the Sigma Golden Lions, is interesting and the Saints should be entertaining. But a lot rests on their former heads, Courtney Lawes and Dan Biggar, who have played such an important role with the Lions this summer. Another Stormers signing, young No 8 Juarno Augustus, will help put the Saints in the spotlight.
Courtnall Skosan. Chris Boyd.
Sale’s new signings Tommy Taylor, Simon McIntyre and Nick Schonert show where the Sharks are at. All are uncompromising frontline forwards who will bolster a field that few will have the upper hand. Alex Sanderson transformed the club after the ill-fated departure of Steve Diamond and their group of South Africans along with the Curry brothers will make them hard to beat. The sale will be in the mix of titles in the spring.
Tom Curry. Alex Sanderson.
The Saracens are back from their league exile and will once again be Premiership challengers. There are few new faces but a few important returning players, Ben Earl, Max Malins, Nick Tompkins and Alex Lozowski from his Montpellier loan.
It may be a while before their Lions are back in the first team, but the Saracens, especially if Billy Vunipola finds his mojo, will be keen to put some noses out. Expect to see them in another Premiership final.
Billy Vunipola. Mark McCall.
Championship champions. 3rd.
One of the key signings of the summer was that of John Mitchell who turned his back on Eddie Jones to return to the technical staff of his former club. The Wasps will be without injured Joe Launchbury, Jack Willis and Paolo Odogwu for the first part of the season. These will be key absences. Hopefully the return after a spate of Alfie Barbeary injuries will help make up for it. Barbeary is the raw gem of English rugby, a home runner in the heel or back row. Nizaam Carr’s return to last row is a bonus.
Alfie Barbeary. Lee Blackett.
The Warriors didn’t live up to their name last season, somewhat of the worst team in the division. But no club has recruited and dismissed players so dramatically. Duncan Weir is back in Scotland, but two of the most eye-catching signings travel the other way, recent Lions Rory Sutherland and Duhan van der Merwe, while Gloucester mainstays Willi Heinz and Matt Garvey are other big catches. . 19-year-old Fin Smith is a prodigiously talented No 10 and should fill Weir’s boots before long. Winter may still be long at Sixways, but the only way is to go up.
Duhan van der Merwe. Alan Salomons.