Aviva Premiership Season Preview – Part Two

By Sam Rogers
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(Photo: Neil Winton)

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Not all teams in the Aviva Premiership will have aspirations of winning the title.

The Sport Review takes a look at the sides whose focus will be on avoiding the drop this year.

Exeter

Premiership new boys Exeter will face a hard time of it this season – but then all involved are fully aware of that.

“We’re never going to know if we’re ready for the Premiership until we play in it,” said coach Rob Baxter. “I want us to get stuck into it and that’s the only way we’re going to know where we stand.”

With very little to draw the top players to the club, they have made some shrewd acquisitions most of all Luke Arscott, who re-signed from Bristol and will be instrumental in their attempts to avoid relegation

Verdict: Unsurprisingly, Exeter are the bookies’ favourites to go straight back down but with a number of other clubs in transition, the tight knit dressing room may prevent complete humiliation.

Sale

Sale had a season to forget last year and despite the wealth of talent, fans should be wary of a repeat this time around.

The loss of Richard Wigglesworth to Saracens, as well as Charlie Hodgson’s absence early on due to shoulder surgery leaves a massive gap in the half backs pairing.

Despite this however, Sale still boast a wealth of international talent including Dwayne Peel, Mark Cueto and Andrew Sheridan as well as former England winger Ben Cohen – and they will be keen to improve on their performance from last season.

Verdict: Expect Sale to be much improved, but unless they fill the gap left by Hodgson early on, they could find themselves being dragged into the relegation dog fight.

Leeds

The Carnegie were another side to disappoint last season as they narrowly avoided relegation.

Steve Thompson’s return to the Premiership from Brive will be the most exciting appointment for the Yorkshire side – as well as Wasps scrum half Warren Fury.

The loss of exciting youngster Tom Biggs to Bath and of Experienced utility back Seru Rabeni to La Rochelle in France are significant losses to Carnegie, who have a history of producing young talent but ultimately failing to retain them.

Danny Care, Tom Palmer and Jordan Crane are but three who began their careers at Headingly only to move onto pastures new.

Verdict: Despite a lot of positive talk from inside the club, a finish in the top half would be a good achievement.

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