The Players to look out for this season in Guinness Premiership.

Sean KellyAnalyst ISeptember 5, 2008

As you may or may not know this weekend is the start of the long awaited first games in the Guinness Premiership.

It is the first chance to see the new E.L.V's in action, promising to make our already enthralling game even faster. So finally we can argue with the southern hemisphere on who plays the more expansive rugby.

Also it is a chance to see our sides for the first time around this season - and see how the new members of certain squads will do.

Even though the new signings may be the main talking points, there are other things still on the mind for example, how Wasps will cope without Big Lol Dallaglio and Danny Cipriani? And who is this Rugby League star Bath have signed?

This time around I will go through who I think will be the players to look out for, for each club, starting with my local side Bath.

Butch Jamesthe bruising springbok will have a big say in how Bath do this season! Having returned from the Tri-Nations completely injury free he will have to stay this way to ensure Bath are title contenders once again.

The man behind the scrum Shaun Perry will help provide the fire power Bristol need to contend to stay up. Compared to most GP teams the west country outfit look fairly weak and will hope thee England international will be on his top sniping form.

As much as I hate to say it the Ex-Bath man Olly Barkley will be a key man for the Cherry and Whites in their search to lose the tag "the nearly men" after falling short again last season, even though they topped the GP all last season. His pin point kicking and his gameplay from 12 will give Gloucester the edge to attack they need.

After just missing out on the Play Offs last year Dean Richards was determind to make his Harlequins side stronger. Arguably making overall the best signings this off season aswell as one of the best. Nick Evans will prove to be a key member of their squad. A strong running Fly half who loves to play expansive rugby, and has already had a season of playing under the new E.L.V's.

Losing in the final of the GP is never easy for any team, let alone when a team like Leicester loose to their bitter rivals, but i'm sure they will be wanting to get revenge. Having getting signature of the likes of Toby Flood and Derek Hougaard, I can still see speedster Tom Varndell stealing the headlines after topping the try scoring charts last season. I'm sure he will be out to claim an England spot and continue to be one of the most exciting wingers in the GP.

Having made no key signings and also losing coach Brian Smith it could prove to be a difficult season for London Irish, but a man to keep thrilling crowds will be England international Topsy Ojo. The Irish winger proved last season against Toulouse and the All Blacks that he has some serious gas a great step, and can only carry on moving forward from here after making his England debut in the summer.

Retaining the GP can never be easy, but you only write London Wasps off at your peril. I have avoided picking the predicted Danny Cipriani and Riki Flutey and have gone with some steel from the front eight. James Haskell proved in the summer that internationally he can compete with anyone, and I will bet he continues his dominance in the Premiership. The E.L.V's will encourage him to run with the ball from the back of the scrum more and his link up play will improve ever more and he will continue to be a thorn in the side of his opposition.

Newcastle have lost a lot of big names including Matthew Tait, Toby Flood and Matt Burke, and they could find themselves staring down a relegation battle. Jonny Wilkinson will continue to be the Falcons key man, and they will need his kicking to be as accurate as ever. The likes of Carl Haymans will need to crush other forward packs to get Wilkinson in attacking positions.

The newly promoted Northampton Saints have been relishing getting back into the GP and will prove critics wrong to stay away from relegation. Rugby League convert Chris Ashton was scoring tries for fun in the first division and even though it will be a big step up for him, i'm sure he will continue to please the crowds with his jinking runs.

Dwayne Peel has chosen to leave his beloved Llanelli Scarlets and try and make it big in GP. With the new E.L.V's in place Peel will be sure to exploit weaknesses around the rucks, and take runs from the back of scrums, and really help Sale Sharks chances of lifting the Guinness Premiership crown once again.  

Eddie Jones starts his reign as Saracens coach and with it has brought in some good acquisitions, I feel it is up to one of them to help Saracens to glory. Steve Borthwick will be out to start his challenge winning and with that will need his experience and skill in the lineouts - so that with quick ball the likes of Glen Jackson can exploit wholes in defences. They will also need Steve's leadership skills to shine, as a new coach always needs a strong leader on the pitch.

Miles Benjaminlast season proved he is one for the future and will continue to score for Worcester. The young winger earned international duty with the U20's and looked to keep his exciting running style in U20's World Cup. With Worcester also nicking the signing of Chris Latham, they could have one of the most dangerous back threes in the GP.

That is my run through of who to watch out for, and as the season starts this weekend i'm sure it won't be long before they try and prove my predictions to be correct.