May saw the end of the 2011-2012 season of the Aviva Premiership, and WOW, what a season! Things started tough for the top teams back in September, having seen the major talent flown to New Zealand for world cup duty- a tour that would end disastrously for England, and shake the game to its seemingly rotten core. Light was, however, at the end of the tunnel. Harlequins, a team familiar with controversy itself, built on their early lead to take control of the table and ultimately win the title for the first time- only to be threatened in the final stages by a solid late recovery by Leicester Tigers, as well as the usual onslaught of Saracens. The examples set by these teams, having been built on long-term commitment and teamwork, were refreshingly incorporated in the new England setup, helping the latter half of the season really feel like a new dawn for English rugby.
There were, of course, losers this year too. Newcastle Falcons found themselves at the wrong end of the table, a late surge not being quite enough to put Wasps in the firing line. Disappointing seasons for Bath, London Irish and Gloucester will surely fire these teams up, setting the stage for an incredibly competitive season in 2012-2013. With the decision to allow the promotion of London Welsh from the Championship (and therefore the relegation of Newcastle), the stakes are higher than ever, with the threat of relegation ever real, and ever looming (it was previously thought unlikely any team could be promoted/relegated due to the standard of facilities at championship clubs).
With a massive Summer of sport in the UK there’s plenty of Rugby to watch, the JP Morgan Sevens tournament is in full swing and there are loads of warmup matches in August. The Premiership all starts again on the 1st September, so over the next 4 weeks we’ll be taking a look at each of the clubs; their history, their players and their chances of success this year. Next week we’ll look towards the final of the Sevens championships and what clues there are (if any) about the teams for the new season, as well as three teams (Leicester Tigers, Exeter Chiefs and London Wasps). This week, though, we meet the Premiership new boys London Welsh, last years champions Harlequins, and Gloucester- one of the teams looking to make a significant improvement in this years campaign.
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