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Thursday Sep 1, 2016

Aviva Premiership 2016/17 Season Preview club by club

Ahead of the 2016/17 Aviva Premiership season, we take a quick look at what the clubs have been up to over the summer, and how they look going into the season, with some key signings and big ambitions.

Bristol

Bristol are set to make their premiership return on the grandest of stages at the Twickenham double header on Friday night against Quins. 

After seven absent years, you’d be forgiven for falling out of touch with the squad. But many will be pleasantly surprised to see the return of some old faces from the premiership as well as some big names from around the world. 

 

Harlequins

150 years in the making, Harlequins have produced quite the outfit for this season – and that’s not just a reference to the snazzy new (old?) kit. 

Packed full of international experience and a fine balance of bulk and finnese, Quins will have high hopes for 16/17.

  

Gloucester

The West Country men seem to have been playing with lead boots recently but are keen to break free and return to their previous explosive form.

With the intense Captain Laidlaw at the helm, Gloucester will look to dominate throughout the season from the fabled shed, starting with a win over tough challengers Leicester.

 

Leicester

With big ambitions for a top two finish, Leicester have to shake off their uncertainties and put their threatening backline to good use against Gloucester in the opener. Big signing JP Pietersen will surely keep the cherry and whites on their toes.

Pulling the strings at fly half will be Freddie Burns who will line up directly opposite younger brother Billy to contend for brotherly bragging rights.

 

Newcastle

Whilst the world wipes away it’s tears at the departure of the illustrious Andy Goode, Newcastle fans can look forward to a new lease of life and renewed sense of energy for their team.

Evidentently eager to rack up the points, new signing Vereniki Goneva will partner Olympic 7s star Marcus Watson on the wing. Expect big things down the touchline from Falcons this season.

 

Sale

Steve Diamond’s men have lurked in the shadows long enough and are now looking to crack the big time once again and get hold of a top 4 finish. 

In a pivotal change-up, new introductions at hooker, scrum-half and fly-half see England-capped Rob Webber, Welsh supremo Mike Phillips and USA Eagle AJ MacGinty step in.

 

Northampton

The premiership’s enigmatic Northampton Saints fell short of expectations last season and will certainly feel obligated to put that right at Franklin’s Gardens on Saturday.

With workhorse Tom Wood leading from the blindside, England Captain Dylan Hartley at hooker, monstrous Frenchman Louis Picamoles at 8 and England U-20 kicking extraordinaire Harry Mallinder at 10, Saints can’t fall far wrong.

 

Bath

After a disappointing season of their own in 2016 having been finalists in 2015, Bath have gone in search of new direction; and found it in the shape of Todd Blackadder who takes over from Mike Ford in charge.

Boasting some serious brute up front and some real power in the backs, Bath should be one of the most entertaining teams to watch this year.

 

Wasps

With possibly the signings of the season, Wasps are looking to make good use of Australia’s energetic Kurtley Beale and SA superstar fullback Willie Le Roux once they become available.

Wasps will surely look to stick with last season’s hard-running attacking formula which took them as far as the semi-finals and should only be enhanced by old returning friend Danny Cipriani.

 

Exeter

Whether it’s revenge or redemption, Chiefs want it bad this season. Rob Baxter has pointed out that whilst there’s not much his team has to change, it’s important that they don’t under-react and expect the path to this year’s final to be an easy one.

With a squad boasting table-topping stats in points, tries and defence, Exeter are definitely a scalp to be had in 2016/17.

 

Worcester

Possibly looking to make the most of their new synthetic pitch at Sixways, all eyes will be on power runner Ben Te’o at inside centre this season. 

With a hefty challenge in the shape of reigning champs Saracens for their season opener, Warriors can only hope that new leadership from Carl Hogg has steered them in the right direction.

 

Saracens

The seemingly invincible double winners will be the team to beat this season, and given the wealth of star players in the prime of their careers, there won’t be many excuses for losing.

Mark McCall’s signings range from Springbok veteran Schalk Burger to young talent Alex Lowzowski who, despite being on the premiership scene for a few seasons now, hasn’t really been given the opportunity to shine.

Expect and enjoy the usual clinical performance from Sarries at the weekend and throughout the season.

A spectacle of the northern hemisphere for sure, but will this be the year that the almighty Saracens are put to the sword? Welcome to the season 2016/17.

Follow Sid on Twitter: @SidYoungRugby

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