London Wasps. Five or six season ago this probably wouldn’t have surprised many given their regular place at European rugby’s top table. In recent years though, the High Wycombe based club have seen a relegation battle, an uncertain future and a potential stadium move, but despite the rocky road, Dai Youngs’ men are finally putting it right on the field. A number of good solid signings will bolster an already experienced squad and they have also managed to retain a number of their exciting, young players that have already made a name for themselves in the Premiership to date, including Christian Wade and Eliot Daly. The addition of experienced internationals Lorenzo Cittadini from Treviso and Bradley Davies from Cardiff Blues will strengthen the front five, while Scotland fly-half Ruaridh Jackson and former Hurricanes centre Alapeti Leiua will add more dynamism in the midfield. While it’d be surprising if Wasps finish top of the pile in the regular season, they have the big game experience to battle through the playoffs. They already got through a massive two-leg fixture against Stade Francais to get to the European Champions Cup, and have plenty of players that have achieved at the highest international level.
Leicester, Wasps, Harlequins, Saracens. It should be a case of the usual suspects come playoff time with old stalwarts Leiester Tigers, Harlequins and Saracens who formed three-quarters of last year’s top four while Wasps will sneak in on momentum, edging out defending champions Northampton Saints. All four are looking strong in preseason and have all bolstered their squads well. The positive that will give Wasps the edge is the lack of regular internationals in the squad which means they will be at full strength for longer periods of the season which should give them the edge both in the November Tests and the Six Nations. In a world cup year as well, players will be looking to make a name for themselves, so there will be excitement and anticipation throughout as storylines unfold throughout the season.
Sale. Sale did well to finish in the top six last time out and while a top four finish is perhaps beyond themselves this season, they could have a big say on the final destination of the Premiership title. Some great signings in Nathan Hines, Chris Cusiter and Luke McLean will add experience and dynamism in the Sharks line-up and they will be looking to make the AJ Bell stadium a fortress unlike their ground-sharing rugby league counterparts Salford Red Devils who have struggled this year.
Sam Burgess at Bath and his push for a World Cup place. Since his move from rugby league’s NRL to union, Burgess has been the talk of the town. His move motivated by a desire to play in a world cup for England this time in union has meant the spotlight is on him as he looks to push himself into the squad. A lot wil hinge on whether he is included in the various squads for the Autumn internationals and Six Nations tournament but will hope he can put a performance in that will leave the selectors with no choice but to pick him.
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