After 3 months and 6 days, the Aviva Premiership will be back on our screens. Exeter Chiefs are the reigning champions after a stunning performance over Wasps in last season’s final back in May.
Can The Chiefs win back-to-back titles?
Depending on how many players Eddie Jones picks from Exeter for his England squads for the Autumn Internationals and the Six Nations, Exeter may well be able to keep the majority of their squad during those periods. They still possess a threatening backline with the likes of British and Irish Lion Jack Nowell, Henry Slade and Gareth Steenson which will look to punch holes through every team’s defences.
Along with new additions such as Nic White and Matt Kvesic, they look well placed to defend their title. However, in a league containing some of Europe’s best teams, it will be a big ask to expect Chiefs to defend their title.
Saracens – who were favourites to lift the title last term – seem only to be getting stronger. The loss of Chris Ashton has been softened with the arrival of Liam Williams, who started all three Tests on the Lions tour of New Zealand earlier this summer.
It is quite something that the European champions are undeniably stronger this season considering they lost one of Europe’s most potent finishers. The thing is though is that they replaced Ashton with possibly the most lethal finisher in Europe. The addition of Calum Clark and the retention of Will Skelton adds even more depth to a squad which will look to launch a challenge for both the European Champions Cup and the Aviva Premiership.
In addition to Williams, Saracens possess five other British and Irish Test Lions in Owen Farrell, Jamie George, Maro Itoje, George Kruis and Mako Vunipola. The total number would probably have been higher had Billy Vunipola been fit, but it just goes to show the class and talent that the European champions have at their disposal.
Then there’s Wasps – a team filled with talent, skill, and plenty of pace. They will be disappointed to have not picked up any silverware last year and will look to avenge their Premiership final loss to Chiefs.
The loss of Kurtley Beale is a loss but perhaps not hugely significant – Christian Wade, Willie le Roux and Josh Bassett as a back three are still perhaps the most dangerous back three in the league. If Danny Cipriani fires on all cylinders, then the pace and skill of that backline will be unleashed and it will be tough for any side to contain the threat that Wasps pose. Much rests on Cipriani’s shoulders as he also tries to force himself into Eddie Jones’ England squad.
The recruitment of Marcus Watson from Newcastle Falcons is an exciting addition to the team which provides further options for Dai Young. The winger is very much on Eddie Jones’ radar so he is certainly one to look out for.
It is these three teams that will fight out it out to be crowned Aviva Premiership champions. The other teams in the league simply do not have the strength and depth to compete with them. Leicester Tigers, Northampton Saints and Harlequins have lots of quality players between them, but they do not currently possess that clinical edge that Saracens, Wasps and Chiefs have.
So who will go down?
The league as a whole is strong but it will be an almighty task for London Irish to avoid relegation – even with teenage sensation Joe Cokanasiga who will surely feature in the England set-up sooner rather than later. The Exiles will be scrapping for every point to avoid an immediate return to the second tier of English rugby.
The question this season is not who can challenge Saracens, Wasps and Chiefs in the Premiership – but who in Europe can challenge them?