By Edward Cope
Wasps and Harlequins got the 2012-2013 season off to an explosive start with an 82-point thriller at Twickenham and now the dust has settled, RW takes a look at five Premiership players who have done their reputations no harm.
1. George Robson
George ‘The Goat’ Robson has been firing on all cylinders in the opening rounds for Quins. Partnered by Olly Kohn in the engine room, the lock has showcased his all-round game. Dynamic in the tight and tireless in the loose, Robson has already picked up three tries in the first four games. However, it is the more subtleties of the big man’s play that have impressed, against the Tigers, his awareness and deft handling enabled Tom Williams to sail through the Leicester defence. His willingness to buy-in to the high tempo, free-flowing rugby adopted by the Quins has given him an outside chance at earning his first full England cap in the Autumn Series.
2. Luther Burrell
The 6ft 3in, 17st centre has only started in two matches so far, but he has certainly laid down a marker to permanent tenancy of the No 12 shirt. Fans openly fretted over the lack of physicality in the Saints midfield when James Downey announced his move back to former club Munster, but Burrell’s exhibition of direct running and handling against Exeter and Worcester will have gone some way to reassuring them. His three tries are testament to the havoc he can cause in the outside channels and if Northampton can find an effective fly-half, he and the Pisi brothers will form a razor-sharp offensive trio.
3. Nick Evans
Harlequins attractive brand of free-flowing rugby squad hinges upon one man’s slender shoulders, Nick Evans. The team has been carefully been shaped around the Kiwi for good reason. His decision making, distribution and ability to exploit defensive mismatches make him one of the best creators in the World game and this year he has not lost any of his mercurial powers. An ever-reliable boot – save for a temporary off-day against Saracens – both out of hand and off the tee, only add to his arsenal. Surrounded by talented young players, and back-to-back championships a distinct possibility, he will continue to enhance the Premiership.
4. Matt Jess
Four scores make Matt Jess, the Premiership’s top try scorer this season. His brand of uncomplicated, hardworking wing play is proving very effective. Some defenders seem to underestimate him, but with an electric turn of pace and a physicality not reflected on paper, Jess often leaves them clasping at thin air. His consistency and durability make him an excellent team player and an asset to Exeter. In a world of Wades, Varndells and Simpson-Daniels, Jess is more than punching his weight.
5. Samu Manoa
The Northampton pack is one of the most respected in the Premiership and Manoa exemplifies the raw power and work ethic behind it. After a massive performance against Exeter, where Saints’ rolling maul was integral to the win, the American lock upped the intensity again, duly receiving the Man of the Match award. Joining Northampton last year, his upbeat and friendly demeanour have seen him made a favourite with fans and players alike and with Courtney Lawes coming back from injury, Jim Mallinder may have some uncomfortable decisions to make.