THE AVIVA Premiership is back after a fortnight of Heineken Cup and Amlin Challenge Cup where the English clubs involved may have had an alright time of it, verging into a pretty good time.
So forgetting our absolute howlers so far in the prediction stakes, we jump back on the horse, break out the whip and hit ourselves over the head with it. More clairvoyant than us? Bring on your predictions…
Bath v Gloucester
Our prediction: West is best, we are told, and if ever there was a good-natured-but-really-not-that-good-natured-but-not-malicious-really game this is it. Bath have fared much better so far and while both have match winners and silky runners the issue is the pack for Gloucester. This one should come down to set-piece power. Bath by 4
Exeter Chiefs v Worcester Warriors
Our prediction: Chiefs have been mixing it up with gritty play and break-out, blockbusting stuff and poor Worcester – and pity is a terrible thing to throw at a professional sports team – just can’t manufacture a great result for themselves. Chiefs by 16
Harlequins v Sale Sharks
Our prediction: Written off already and not winning games in the tight final exchanges like seasons of old, Harlequins have not looked strong enough to deal with knocks and set-backs. However they stuck to their task manfully in Clermont last week and may have a little confidence, even if they have lost captain Chris Robshaw to England. Sale, in contrast, look strong and full of a team spirit that was missing last season. This will be close. Quins by 4
Northampton Saints v Saracens
Our prediction: This should be another teeth-rattler, but Saints are at home and even without George North, they face a big challenge of a Saracens team hunting a sixth straight win. Normally we would suggest Saracens would nip by in this, but logic be damned. Saints by 3
London Wasps v Leicester Tigers
Our prediction: Marcos Ayerza returns any impressive young fly-half Owen Williams is brought in for Tigers to face Wasps who are boosted by returns for Eliot Daly, Tom Palmer and Ashley Johnson. Shame that nothing looks likely to change in Tigers’ mindset. Expect Wasps to start spectacularly and Tigers to claw it back. Leicester by 13
Newcastle Falcons v London Irish
Our prediction: Will the Exiles’ best player Marland Yarde being snuggly wrapped in cotton wool for England purposes knock Irish off their gait? Perhaps, though they have some individuals still capable of a madcap scramble. Instead expect Falcons half-backs Rory Clegg and Mike Blair to keep sending the ball back down into the corners where the home side’s back-row will want to snuffle anything too long, too short or on the floor. Falcons by 8Like Rugby World? Subscribe to the magazine for the latest comprehensive content.