|Posted on November 3, 2013 at 8:55 AM|
Written by Nick White
Predicted finish: As a Bath fan, I am inclined to be biased when I discuss my teams’ prospects for the season. Just four games in and Bath are sitting in a very comfortable 4th place, having won three out of the four opening games of this season. I would like to remain optimistic and predict a 5th place finish for the west-country boys, two places better off than last season’s average 7th place finish.
Key Players: Newcomers George Forde, a very promising young fly-half who seems to be a real steal from Leicester and the experienced Gavin Henson will be important men if kept fit. Kyle Eastmond and Francois Louw will also be essential as Eastmond provides great pace out wide while the South African flanker’s experience will be crucial at the break down.
Predicted Finish: After having a fairly successful campaign last season, finishing 6th, I see Exeter finishing in the same position this season. They are currently in 8th having won two and lost two. This average start to the season puts them in good stead to finish in 6th place.
Key Players: Having lost key man Richie Baxter and his brother Rob to retirement, this season could prove more difficult than last. Richie led from the front and it is hard to see where such great leadership and courage will emerge from the Chiefs' ranks. However Fetu'u Vainikolo, the new winger is likely to cause some problems out wide with his great power and strength.
Predicted Finish: Bath’s west-country rivals finished 5th last season but due to their weak pack and Bath’s good form, which I can only hope continues, I am predicting that the Cherry and Whites remain in their current position of 7th.
Key Players: Freddie Burns and Billy Twelvetrees are on the radar for England starting places. The young fly-half and versatile centre will most certainly be at the forefront of the Gloucester attack.
Predicted Finish: Currently sitting in a decent 5th position after a wobbly start, I predict the Quins to finish in the last playoff position of 4th. After finishing in a very impressive 3rd last season, but falling short in both the playoffs and in Europe, I am sure there will be great passion shown from both players and fans at the Stoop.
Key Players: England captain and flanker Chris Robshaw will lead the way for the Quins and be vital; at the breakdown, in lineouts and at the scrum. Alongside Robshaw, young forwards Luke Wallace and No8 Jack Clifford are showing a lot of promise and this could be their year to shine.
Predicted Finish: Four games into the season and Leicester have made a good start with three wins and a deserved loss to Bath. After winning the Aviva Premiership last season they have to be confident this year, but I just cannot see a repeat performance from the Tigers on this occasion.
Key Players: Manu Tuilagi will obviously be a key player for Leicester this season. Alongside Tuilagi, Ben Youngs will play an important role at scrum half providing good service for Manu and company to latch on to.
Predicted Finish: Currently in 9th place, I see Irish finishing in 10th, a place lower than the 2012-2013 season. Irish could have a tough season after the departure of some big names and only time will tell if this new look team will succeed.
Key Players: If Irish can get their England winger Marland Yarde on the ball he will undoubtedly produce tries for them. He is the danger man for Irish and if he is in good form my prediction may be proved wrong. However, the loss of prop Alex Corbisiero will be a big blow and I wonder whether Irish can cope without the influential front row.
Predicted Finish: Wasps finished 8th last season and are currently in 9th place after a poor start with only one win from four. London Wasps have lost form over the last few seasons and are struggling to hit the heights of the glory days. I think they will repeat last season’s performance and finish in 8th once again.
Key Players: After losing a few promising players in the summer, especially Billy Vunipola, Wasps have done well to bring in some key players. At the head of the new signings has to be Andy Goode, whose experience and kicking ability could make the difference this season.
Predicted Finish: The Falcons sit in 11th place after a win and three losses so far. Coming up from the Championship and surviving the physical and mental challenges of the Premiership is often too much for the newcomers to the league. I predict a season finish of 11th.
Key Players: Franck Montanella and Kieran Brookes make for a strong front row, but the key man is Mike Blair. Arriving from the sunny Brive in the summer, Blair will be very influential in controlling the game and providing good ball for the backs to feed off.
Predicted Finish: The Saints have set themselves up for a good season. They sit in 2nd and I feel that is where they will end up come next summer. Three wins and a loss so far for Northampton, but despite that early loss they are looking very dangerous.
Key Players: The addition of England’s prop Alex Corbisiero should prove a great signing as he links up with fellow England teammate Dylan Hartley in the front row. Although this has caused some excitement amongst the Saints fans, George North is proving to be an even better signing. The powerful, quick and unpredictable Welshman is going to cause havoc amongst many a Premiership defence.
Predicted finish: Sale have had a surprisingly good start, sitting in 6th place after two solid wins in the opening four rounds. I predict a 9th place finish for the Sharks; a position higher than last season. I cannot see them keeping up with the good start they have made so far this season.
Key Players: Cipriani and Cueto are the key men. The very experienced international fly-half and winger will be at the heart of Sale’s attack this season. They are the main threats the Shark’s carry, especially the boot of Cipriani.
Predicted finish: Saracens are the only team in the Premiership who remain unbeaten going into round five. They are my firm favourites to finish 1st in the Aviva Premiership, after being unlucky in the playoff final despite finishing top of the tree last season.
Key Players: There are a number of stars in Saracens young squad. Farrell is going to be so important to Sarries season. He is in fine form and the England fly-half is currently the top point scorer in the Premiership with 67 points. To wingers, although Ashton is a big threat Strettle is looking increasingly dangerous and could be more important to the success of Sarries season than Chris Ashton. He has already run in four tries and this form looks set to continue.
Predicted Finish: I can’t see much hope for the Warriors this season, as the competition is just too fierce. I predict a poor season for Worcester and I think their time in the Premiership could be up. A very disappointing 12th is where is see them finishing.
Key Players: Paul Warwick is out for six weeks which could affect the Warriors season as a poor start will most likely mean a poor finish. Argentine duo Agustín Creevy and Leonardo Senatore will not arrive at the club until after the Four Nations but I’m sure they will spice things up on pitch Worcester.
Image © Fearless Fred, under creative commons liscence. (https://www.flickr.com/photos/fearless_fred/7278230334/)