August 14, 2020 4 min read
Harlequins vs Sale Sharks
The reopening takes place at the home of Rugby, Twickenham stadium. Will we see the exciting Ashton, Landajo, Smith, Marchant, Brown, Lasakie and the rest of the Quins backs inspired by their surroundings? Rising up against a powerful Sale Sharks team?
Faf de Klerk will be itching to make some hits and will be reassured by the knowledge that AJ Macginty is on the bench, should the game come down to a tight finish.
Is Lasike going to get the upper hand over Manu when he comes on later in the game? Interestingly, no sign of Rohan Janse van Rensberg. If Manu and Rohan ever do link up in the centres together it could be the most hard hitting centre combination the world has ever seen.
Then there's a massive battle in the pack. There are 5 Springoks, 1 Curry and 1 Jono Ross in the Sharks starting pack. If Robshaw is ever going to prove his worth, its this evening. Then there's the Premiership wonder-boy, Alex Dombrant, if Quins are going to win we will certainly see a big game from Alex.
Worcester vs Gloucester
There's been a lot of controversy about the coaching team at Gloucester during lockdown. The Cherry and Whites will certainly be wanting to move up from 9th.
The team have some big names. Joe Simpson, Danny Cipriani, Johnny May and Rees-Zammit from the bench. Interestingly Willie Heinz isn't in the team, even after his excellent performances with England. Jack Singleton starts for Gloucester after having moved from Saracens. Then there's the Italian powerhouse, Jake Polledri, at the base of the scrum. Gloucester are looking good, but what do Worcester have to offer?
Watch out for Hougaard, Melani Nani and of course their great and powerful captain Ted Hill.
The fact this is a bottom of the table clash speaks of the wonders of this league.
Bristol Bears vs Saracens
(Vunipola and Hughes, The battle of the 8s)
This is the pick of the weekend's game. Ben Earl has changed allegiances for the season and will be up against his old teammates at Saracens. Bears have a new lot of start signings and will be looking to prove a point. Max Mallins hasn't made the squad this week, but lets hope we see him in the next Saracens derby.
Bears to watch: Radradra and Piatau linking up in the backs. Up front, Sinckler and future England hooker Harry Thacker in the front row. Of course the the Bears have got some serious power in the back Row too. The battle of the 8s will certainly be immense.
Sarries are always just so tidy and crisp on the field. Even without Farrell, many will back them as favourites, especially as Ashton Gate will be extra quiet this weekend. This game could really have some extraordinary moments.
Exeter Chiefs vs Leicester Tigers
If Quins don't win, this could be the first upset since Covid. Tigers have got some serious firepower and their new head coach has got quite the rep of being a miracle maker, especially in the forwards. This will be needed against the mighty chiefs pack. If the Tigers can hold out the Chiefs forwards then we could be in for a real game.
Tigers pack has XP to burn. Their front 3 will all be pushing for places in the England team come 6 Nations. Then some foreign spice is added by 130kg Lavanini and Taufua. Never underestimate the Chiefs though, what a cohesive unit they are.
Bath vs London Irish
Bath always seem to have such an array of great players who have the ability to put some classy performances together. Increased consistency will be needed in order to make the play-offs this season, but they certainly have the team to do so.
Perhaps the Bath back-row sums up best the potential of the team. This could easily be the starting back row for the B&I lions next year and no-one would bat an eyelid. Well some people may, but doesn't everyone bat their eyelids at everything?
Then lets look at Bath's backline. Again, full of international starters. Truly Dangerous. In the past they have struggled to find a tradesman 9, lets hope the arrival of Ben Spencer calms things down and gives them the consistency they need. Bath are much like the Stormers, they have a fantastic starting team, but often fall victim to a long backlog of injuries. Theoretically the players will be prehabbed like never before, so injuries will stay to a minimum.
London Irish is littered with Australians who will be looking to ruin the party, and they certainly have the ability to do so. Nick Phipps may pull a performance out of his largely varied performance bag. Lastly, we look forward to seeing how veteran Seán O'Brien fairs with his new team. He's got quite a lot to compete against, but the freakishly strong flank certainly will put a challenge forward to Bath.
Its going to be fantastic to hear Nick Mullins and the squad chatting rugby during the sunniest season we may ever see.
(Thanks to Ultimate Rugby for the team graphics)
March 09, 2022 4 min read
As far as I'm concerned this last weekend's Heineken Cup encounters will be remembered primarily for confirming one thing – that Stade Toulousain are the true aristocrats of European rugby.