The Rugby Premiership returns this weekend, under the new guise the Gallagher Premiership.
The usual suspects, Saracens and Exeter, will hope to be competing at Twickenham again when the season ends, but with some exciting additions to teams up and down the country, it is sure to be one of the most competitive seasons we have seen since the game turned professional.
Grosvenorsport.com‘s rugby union expert takes you through the best bets for the upcoming season.
The last four Premiership titles have been won by either Saracens or Exeter Chiefs, with Sarries outlasting the Chiefs in the final last year.
Both teams have excellent academies and contribute to the England team in a big way, so it is no surprise to see these two outstanding teams enter the season as favourites to lift the trophy again.
Neither team has been overly active in their recruitment, preferring to rely on the talent in house. Saracens enter the season as slight favourites over Exeter, and can be backed at 13/8, whereas the Chiefs can be found at 5/2.
The dark horses
Wasps were in the final as recently as 2017, and made the semi finals last season too, so calling them a dark horse does them a bit of injustice.
The arrival of three Southern Hemisphere superstars in Nizaam Carr, Brad Shields and All Black Lima Sopoaga hints at a real push, and Wasps play an incredibly exciting brand of rugby that appeals to the neutral.
It will be tough for them to overcome the pragmatism of Exeter or the ferocity of Saracens, but at 11/2 it wouldn’t be the biggest shock to see them win it all come the end of the season.
Gloucester have staged a minor renaissance under Johan Ackermann, and the recruitment of big South African forwards hasn’t stopped this summer, with Franco Mostert and Jaco Kriel joining English bad boy Danny Cipriani as the marquee arrivals.
A strong platform from the forwards should give Cipriani plenty of time to pick holes in defences, and I think Gloucester will have a really good season. I don’t think they will be lifting silverware this season, but making the playoffs should be their aim. Gloucester to finish in the top 4 is available at 5/4.
Northampton Saints have endured a torrid few seasons recently, however I think that is all going to change this season.
Dan Biggar adds a real talent at fly half, and James Haskell has seen a lot in his long career, and will add veteran leadership.
The addition of Taqele Naiyaravoro is a move I cannot talk highly enough of; how many wingers will fancy facing off against a 6’ft 5’ 123kg opposite number? I think Naiyaravoro will be in the conversation for top try scorer, and presents excellent value at 14/1, and a revitalised Saints squad, littered with international talent, could pose a real threat to teams.
Unusually for the Premiership, three teams have a real chance to be relegated this year. Bristol will have to deal with a large leap in class from the Championship to the Premiership, however some big-name recruits in George Smith and Charles Piutau may help adjust.
Worcester have been poor recently, and Ben Te’o is injured yet again, and the Warriors will have to really rely on their home form to carry them to safety.
I think this season will be one of misery for another storied London club, Harlequins. Last season ended awfully, and despite the addition of Paul Gustard in the management team, they haven’t strengthened their squad enough and I fear it could be a tough season for Quins. They are 14/1 to finish bottom and ultimately relegated with grosvenorsport.com.