Aviva Premiership: Alex Corbisiero ‘ready’ for Saints’s Gloucester opener
Aviva Premiership: Alex Corbisiero is relishing the start to the season, with Saints starting their campaign against Gloucester
Last year’s Aviva Premiership finished with a flourish and round one of the new season promises just as many twists and turns as champions Northampton Saints open up their campaign against Gloucester Rugby.
A try by Alex Waller in the dying seconds of extra-time saw the Saints clinch their first Aviva Premiership title – and their first game in defence of that crown is certainly an intriguing one.
I am sure they will come with the mentality of wanting to prove something but we back ourselves at home in front of Franklin’s Gardens, that’s where you want to be
By their own lofty standards, Gloucester finished a disappointing ninth last season but after an overhaul both on and off the pitch, led by new director of rugby David Humphreys, optimism is high at Kingsholm.
Saints prop Alex Corbisiero will also have a point to prove this season – much of his debut year at Franklin’s Gardens was disrupted by injury – and he can’t wait to start afresh on 5 September.
Corbisiero said: “It was awesome to win the Premiership, after coming back from injury fresh and on a high. I’ve had a bit of time off to feel rested and ready to go.
“I feel good, I was getting back to playing a handful of games at the end of the season and I’ m pretty happy with where I am right now.
“(Gloucester) is massively exciting, us against their set piece is always going to be a challenge and you always want to take teams on.
“I am sure they will come with the mentality of wanting to prove something but we back ourselves at home in front of Franklin’s Gardens, that’s where you want to be.”
London Welsh made a swift return to the Aviva Premiership and lying in wait on 7 September is Rob Baxter’s Exeter Chiefs, who earned their first slice of major silverware in the LV= Cup last season.
Exiles boss Justin Burnell has brought in a raft of new faces – including former England fly-half Olly Barkley – and he believes his side can go toe-to-toe with the Premiership’s best right from the off.
Burnell said: “It’s not a case of nerves, it’s a case of excitement. A home game is what every coach wants first up and we’ll show people at the Kassam Stadium what Premiership Rugby is all about again.
“I simply believe it’s the best club competition in the world and to be part of it is a great spectacle.
“The recruitment drive is still ongoing, we’ve got another five or six coming in – the standard gets higher and the competition gets better. We’re coming in ready to compete.”
The London Double Header is also returning to Twickenham in front of more than 65,000 fans who are in for a treat with Wasps against Saracens followed by London Irish and Harlequins on Saturday September 6.
Just as the Premiership final’s drama rounded out the season at Rugby HQ Andy Goode’s last-gasp conversion miss helped to kick it off, as Wasps lost to Harlequins at the death.
Their first challenge this year will be a wounded tiger in Saracens, who had one hand on the title before Northampton’s heroics.
Wasps will also be looking to get back into the top six after securing European qualification by beating Stade Francais last season, and director of rugby Dai Young is expecting improvement.
“There’s a good buzz around the camp, the major challenge is to gel everybody together,” he said. “We’ve had something like 12 players out and 13 come in – we’re a far better squad than we were last season.
“Our form at the end of the season was a little bit of a false dawn, overall it was a pretty average season for us. We’re no different than anyone else – we want to get into that top six.”
Elsewhere two teams on an upsurge in Sale Sharks and Bath Rugby – who were denied a play-off berth by Quins on the last day of the regular season – will battle it out in their opening fixture at the AJ Bell Stadium.
And Leicester Tigers, who failed to appear in the final for the first time in ten years last May, will welcome Dean Richards’ Newcastle Falcons to Welford Road.