Rugby Union: Aviva Premiership 2012/13 Round 1 Predictions

Kicking off the new season with our first round of predictions, the action starts with the amazing London double header at Twickenham where last year’s relegation dodgers Wasps take on champs’ Harlequins and Saracens take on London Irish.

Jeff Ball

Contributor

Kicking off the new season with our first round of predictions, the action starts with the amazing London double header at Twickenham where last year’s relegation dodgers Wasps take on champs’ Harlequins and Saracens take on London Irish. Let us know your predictions either in the comments below or on Twitter @Ballintouch

For this season on Whatculture, we will be providing previews and predictions for every single Aviva Premiership game. Also watch out for our new “Rugby Round-up” after every weekend’s action to summarise for your convenience what exactly happened.

For Round 1, the fixture generator has already thrown up some interesting match ups. The double header at Twickenham between the London sides will revive some local rivalries whilst the match up of new boys London Welsh against Leicester will be a baptism of fire and put a marker down for how they will fare this season. In another new development to our rugby coverage, both our rugby writers will be giving their predictions this season for each game. Therefore you can see who knows their stuff and also compete against us in the comments below. Needless to say we’ll be keeping track behind the scenes for bragging rights as the season progresses.

 

Key:       Jeff Ball predictions (JB), Simon Humphries predictions (SH)

London Wasps vs. Harlequins, Saturday 14:00, ESPN

After having completed the final action of last season, lifting the Premiership trophy, Harlequins get us back under way against a Wasps side that will simply be happy to still be here. Relegation threatened for most of last year, Wasps will be keen to put that behind them and rebuild their reputation. They have added well to their squad with James Haskell, Stephen Jones and Tom Palmer notable new faces. Barring another horrific run of injuries they should be more competitive this year. Harlequins however will be keen to keep their winning record at Twickenham and have held on to the core of the squad. Realistically they should be challenging at the top once again and will be expecting to make a winning start.  Predictions: Harlequins by 10 (JB), Harlequins by 10 (SH)

 

Exeter Chiefs vs. Sale Sharks, Saturday 15:00

Exeter have continued to surprise everyone since they came up from the Championship a couple of seasons ago. Last year in particular was impressive as they almost sneaked into the top 4 and had a mighty if unsuccessful trip to Stade Francais in the European Cup that caught the eye. No massive names have been brought in, but that fits in with the kind of team they are, where the collective effort brings them through. Sale meanwhile have brought in one of the most well know individuals in the modern game in the form of Danny Cipriani to guide them from fly half. Coupled with the blond locks of Scottish giant Richie Gray, they certainly have stand out individuals to draw the crowds. Nonetheless, things haven’t always went to plan on the field and their grand ambitions to being a northern rugby superpower are yet take off. Exeter are a hard side to beat at home and will be brimming with confidence thanks to past experience. It remains to be seen if Sale have sorted out their defence and I can’t see past a home win. Predictions: Exeter by 8 (JB), Sale by 3 (SH)

 

Gloucester Rugby vs. Northampton Saints, Saturday 15:00

Northampton Saints will be getting sick of just missing out on the top table and will be determined to push on this season. A strong and well supported side, the biggest name to leave was Chris Ashton along with one or two other good players for them. The capture of Dominic Waldouck and Ken Pisi should fill some gaps, but whether the quality is there to challenge for places in this year’s finals, I’m not so sure. Gloucester meanwhile had a bit of a clear out and with a new coaching set up things will be like a breath of fresh air around Kingsholm. Jimmy Cowan, Ben Morgan and Billy Twelvetrees are quality new signings and the speed and skill of the backline as demonstrated at the JPMorgan 7s should mean they at least get some tries scored. The ‘Holm is notoriously difficult to travel to and with so much optimism around the Shed, the Cherry and Whites will probably just edge it. Prediction: Gloucester by 5 (JB), Northampton by 15 (SH)

 

Worcester Warriors vs. Bath Rugby, Saturday 15:00

Worcester managed to stay out of trouble last year, the form of Newcastle and Wasps meaning they didn’t have the stress of getting sucked into a relegation dogfight. This year the will be keen to build on that and, another year wiser, have made some astute acquisitions, Paul Hodgson, Dean Schofield (who has already been made captain) and David Lemi just three experienced heads to guide them out of trouble. The loss of Miles Benjamin and Marcel Garvey will be felt and the boot of Andy Goode will have to come, er good to keep the scoreboard ticking along. Bath start life under new boss gary Gold who almost performed a miracle at Kingston Park last year. Things are a lot less dire at the Rec and they will be hoping he can get the most out of a talented squad that underperformed last year. They have lost some of their leaders, the likes of Moody, Bell and Flatman, so it will be up to the next generation to take over. If they can get things to click then they are a threat to anyone on their day. And it could start against Worcester. Prediction: Bath by 12 (JB), Bath by 12 (SH)

 

Saracens vs. London Irish, Saturday 16:30, ESPN

Like Harlequins, contenders Saracens haven’t made too many changes. But given the amount paid for Chris Ashton, that may be understandable! The ambitious Saracens are very good at squeezing the life out of games and with an almost all England international backline on the teamsheet, they will undoubtedly be a threat to everyone. Shane Geharty has been welcomed back at London Irish and is partnered by Thomas O’Leary in the halfbacks meaning there is potential for points there. London Irish have diminished as a side in the last few years as money has gotten tight but remain a side that will outscore you if not closely guarded. Nevertheless, the defence of Saracens is watertight and should be able to squeeze the life out of them, especially in front of their home fans. Prediction: Saracens by 8 (JB), London Irish by 6 (SH)

 

London Welsh vs. Leicester Tigers, 14:00, SKY

Possibly the hardest to call, maybe not in the winner, but in the margin, mainly because London Welsh are such an unknown quantity, even to themselves. They have confessed to being several months behind the curve thanks to the late June appeal decision that let them up and they have added new faces where there were players available. Gavin Henson proved himself unable to catch a break except in the literal sense after fracturing his cheekbone in pre-season so they go into the game without any big names. A solid squad, happy to arm wrestle other forwards thanks to their years in the Championship, the step up against the masters of arm wrestles may be too big. Leicester seem only to know how to add quality to their squad whenever anyone leaves, Dan Bowden and Miles Benjamin add youth and energy to an already talented back line whilst  Brett Deacon adds the ballast. A Tigers victory looks inevitable so the main thing everyone will be wondering is, by how much? Prediction: Leicester by 19 (JB, Leicester by 20 (SH)