The Aviva Premiership season is just days away. Leicester Tigers begin their quest to retain their title at home to Worcester Warriors whilst new boys Newcastle Falcons host Bath.
Here we predict how the first week of action will pan out.
|Date and Kickoff Time||Fixtures||Prediction|
|Friday September 6, 7.45 p.m. (BST) / 2.45 p.m. (ET)||Newcastle Falcons vs. Bath Rugby||21-16|
|Saturday September 7, 2 p.m. (BST) / 9 a.m. (ET)||London Irish vs. Saracens||12-26|
|Saturday September 7, 3 p.m. (BST) / 10 a.m. (ET)||Gloucester Rugby vs. Sale Sharks||31-17|
|Saturday September 7, 3 p.m. (BST) / 10 a.m. (ET)||Northampton Saints vs. Exeter Chiefs||25-18|
|Saturday September 7, 4 p.m. (BST) / 11 a.m. (ET)||London Wasps vs. Harlequins||21-27|
|Sunday September 8, 2 p.m. (BST) / 9 a.m. (ET)||Leicester Tigers vs. Worcester Warriors||35-9|
Newcastle Falcons vs. Bath Rugby
Newcastle face an intriguing opening fixture against Bath on their return to the Premiership after earning promotion from the Championship last season.
They blitzed their way through that league, topping it with an impressive return of 21 wins from 22 matches, before beating Bedford Blues 49-33 on aggregate in the final.
But Newcastle have lost influential fly-half Jimmy Gopperth—comfortably the division’s top scorer last campaign—and may now struggle for points.
Phil Godman and Rory Clegg have returned to the North East to battle over the vacant No. 10 shirt and Dean Richards must now decide which man can kick them towards the victories they need to remain in the Premiership.
Bath were impressive in front of their own fans last year but struggled on the road with their only away win coming in September.
Given Newcastle are likely to be pumped for their return to the top flight they should have enough to win this one—even without Leinster-bound Gopperth.
London Irish vs. Saracens
It was all looking so bright for Saracens last season: top of the Premiership and semi-finalists in the Heineken Cup. But it all came crashing down as they were eliminated from both competitions in the space of two weeks.
Now they must motivate themselves for their clash against London Irish in what is the first match of the traditional double-header at Twickenham on the Premiership's opening weekend.
Saracens ran in 61 points against the Cornish Pirates in preseason with Chris Ashton proving particularly potent, suggesting they have put the disappointment of last season firmly behind them.
They suffered defeat the last time they met London Irish in the league. But the kicking of former England international Charlie Hodgson, and free-scoring abilities of backs Ashton and David Strettle, should be enough to see them start the season with a victory.
Leicester Tigers vs. Worcester Warriors
After finishing second from bottom last season, the one fixture Worcester would have wanted to avoid on the opening day is a trip to Premiership champions Leicester.
This looks a nailed on home win, but the visitors can draw strength from their 19-14 defeat at Sixways last season when they were denied victory only by a last-minute penalty try.
The Warriors have to make the short trip to Leicester in the knowledge that the last time they had a team outing the bus caught fire. This could prove a hindrance if talk on the bus is about the fire and not the match.
Leicester kicker Toby Flood will hope to recover in time from a nasty collision suffered in a preseason game with Ulster.
The fly-half has a point to prove after being left out the British and Irish Lions squad, and he will be hoping to regain his England place with a strong start to the season.
Tigers wing Adam Thompstone will look to carry on his impressive try-scoring form from last year.