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Leicester Tigers

Aviva PremiershipWasps have set the standard and now they must recreate it, says director of rugby Dai Young after watching his side battle to a 20-16 victory over reigning Aviva Premiership Rugby champions Northampton Saints.

A low-scoring first half saw the sides locked at 3-3 going into the break but tries from Ashley Johnson and Tom Varndell meant Ben Foden’s late score for Northampton was nothing more than consolation

And after their heartbreaking 34-28 loss to Saracens at Twickenham in last weekend’s opener, Young admitted he was delighted with Wasps’ response at Adams Park.

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Aviva PremiershipWith the new English domestic season kicking off on Friday, we take a look at the prospects of each of the 12 clubs competing for the Premiership title. Let’s get started.

Saracens:

The pioneers of modern English rugby, Saracens have established themselves as one of Europe’s leading teams over the last few years.

Making three Premiership Finals in the last five years along with contesting Europe’s showpiece last season underlines their rise to the top of the game. Unafraid to experiment off the field, 2013/2014 saw Saracens revolutionise their play on it by throwing off the shackles and producing attacking rugby that was hard to resist. More of the same please.

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EdinburghHead coach Alan Solomons will start five of his new Edinburgh Rugby recruits in the club’s first pre-season match against Leicester Tigers at The Greenyards tomorrow (23 August, kick-off 14:00 BST, 15:00 SA Time).

With the exclusion of lock Fraser McKenzie – who returns from Newcastle Falcons to start the game alongside Ollie Atkins – four of the five signings will make their debut for the capital club.

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Brad Thorn

Brad Thorn: Still going strong at 39

Leicester Tigers have confirmed the arrival of World Cup-winning former All Black second row Brad Thorn.

39-year-old New Zealander was referred to by Tigers director of rugby Richard Cockerill as “one of the great all-time rugby players the world has ever seen.” He is expected at the club at the end of September.

Thorn became the first player to win World Cup, Super Rugby and Heineken Cup titles and arrives from the Highlanders having previously represented the Crusaders and Leinster.

“He is a very driven individual,” Cockerill told the Leicester Mercury.

“He wants to play in the Premiership and he wants to win the Premiership.”

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Edinburgh vs LeicesterEdinburgh Rugby’s pre-season clash with Leicester Tigers at the Greenyards on Saturday 23 August (kick-off 2pm) will be followed match between two of Scotland’s top clubs, to herald the start of the 2014/15 campaign.

Melrose, Scotland’s champion club, and Heriot’s, holders of the National Cup, will meet later this month in the inaugural BT Scottish Rugby Charity Shield. Richard Mill (left) and Jack Turley fromt he respective clubs are pictured above at today’s launch.

The game will crown a feast of rugby at The Greenyards on Saturday 23 August, the week before the new BT Premiership season kicks-off.

Starting the action on 23 August will be a pre-season clash between Edinburgh Rugby and Leicester Tigers, which will kick-off at 2pm.

Then the BT Scottish Rugby Charity Shield will follow with a 5pm kick-off.

The initiative came from Melrose and was discussed with Scottish Rugby and the Premiership Forum.

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Aviva PremiershipSaracens will contest the red card shown to flanker Justin Melck during their 31-27 Premiership defeat by Leicester Tigers on Saturday.

The 31-year-old South African was dismissed on 44 minutes by referee Greg Garner for appearing to eye-gouge Tigers hooker Neil Briggs, who said the official had made a mistake.

“We are hugely disappointed,” said Sarries director of rugby Mark McCall.  “We will look to have it overturned. It was a dreadful decision.”

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George ChuterEnglandFormer England and Leicester Tigers hooker George Chuter has announced that he will retire from playing professional rugby with immediate effect.

The first man to make 250 appearances in Premiership Rugby action and a Rugby World Cup Finalist with England in 2007, Chuter has played 292 first-team games in 13 seasons with Leicester Tigers.

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Heineken CupThe tug of war regarding the premier club competition in European rugby has been conducted very publicly for a long time and a week ago it was reported that an announcement on the structure of future competitions was imminent. However, it all seems to have gone quiet and no final announcement has been forthcoming.

There are rumours that the Italian clubs and their representative bodies were needing to discuss a few details of what should otherwise be a done deal. Furthermore there is the question of the broadcasting battle between Sky and BT Sport which is apparently in the process of being sorted out with a joint broadcast agreement likely for next season. The final rumour is that the parties involved may not have wanted to make any announcements this week in the lead up to the quarter finals of the current Heineken Cup competition.

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Heineken CupAmlin Challenge CupRound 6 of the European Cup, which includes the Heineken Cup (Premier Competition) and Amlin Challenge Cup (secondary Qualification Competition) happened this past weekend and there was high drama and lots of action!

Sunday evening the full puzzle of who plays where in the Play-Off’s of both the Heineken Cup and Amlin Challenge cup was revealed.

In the Heineken Cup, Ulster will host Saracens, ASM Clermont Auvergne will host Leicester Tigers, whilst the defending champions Toulon will host Leinster and Munster will host Toulouse at Thomond Park. The Quarter-finals will take place on the weekend of 4 to 6 April.

In the Amlin Challenge Cup Northampton Saints, Harlequins and Gloucester have booked their spots in the Quarter-finals along with the amlin Challenge Cup Pool winners Bath, London Wasps, Stade Francais, Sale Sharks and Brive.

Bath will host Brive, London Wasps will host Gloucester, Stade Francais host Harlequins and Sale Sharks will host Northampton Saints.

The race to these Cup winners will be interrupted by the Six Nations tournament, which takes place from 1 February 2014.

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Aviva PremiershipAussie flank Ben White says Exeter Chiefs cannot wait to get stuck into Leicester Tigers in their latest Premiership encounter this Sunday.

Buoyed by back-to-back league wins over London Wasps and London Irish, the Chiefs are now busy preparing themselves for the visit of the defending champions to Sandy Park.

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avivalogo2Newcastle Falcons will be keen to prove they are worthy when they get the 2013/14 Premiership season underway against Bath at Kingston Park tonight.  While the opening round has a number of intriguing fixtures – London Irish v Saracens, Gloucester v Sale Sharks, Northampton Saints v Exeter Chiefs, London Wasps v Harlequins and Leicester Tigers v Worcester Warriors – it is the Falcons that will hog most of the early limelight.

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avivalogo2Bath second row Dominic Day admits that it is win at all costs when they welcome West Country rivals Gloucester to the Rec on Friday.  Day and co will be itching to return to winning ways after their run of six straight victories in all competitions came to an end with their narrow 23-25 defeat at Northampton Saints.

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heinekencupUndefeated Harlequins and Clermont can book European Cup quarterfinals this weekend with Toulon also close to securing their spot in the last eight. English champions Harlequins, bidding to make the knock-out stages for just the fifth time, already have 19 points from four Pool Three wins and on Saturday tackle Connacht where just a losing bonus point will be enough to see them through.

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heinekencupTwo-time defending European Cup champions Leinster host Clermont in the fourth round of the competition this weekend in the knowledge that they will have to dig deep for a “vital” bonus-point victory.

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The second round of the 2012/2013 season’s Aviva Premiership was completed this weekend. In the first match of the weekend London Welsh were comprehensively beaten by Harlequins, who scored six tries to none. In the last game, which was played on Sunday, Northampton Saints managed to scrape through against a brave Exeter Chiefs outfit.

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The regular rugby season officially kicks off  in the UK and Ireland in just over two weeks time when the Aviva Premiership and RaboDirect Pro12 league games start. However, the clubs have been busy with their pre-season preparations and a number of friendly matches were played this past weekend.

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Harlequins captain Chris Robshaw was the proud man who was able to hoist the Aviva Premiership trophy following Harlequins victory over Leicester in the final not long completed at Twickenham. England captain Robshaw played a big part in the win and was good value for the super try he scored.

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It seems at the moment as if we are reaching saturation point with the amount of knockout rugby that we have had of late on these shores. This coming weekend is no exception as we look forward to the finals of the Aviva Premiership and RaboDirect Pro 12 as well as the Barbarians game against England.

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