Wasps 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.
With 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.
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.
While rugby spent the past week looking back on the glorious careers of two of its departing heroes, Jonny Wilkinson and Brian O’Driscoll, there was forensic analysis of a very different kind going on elsewhere close to the game.
Last Tuesday morning, at the Coroners Court in Dublin, it was found that a former amateur rugby player, whose family had donated his brain for research, had died prematurely because of repeated blows to the head on the field during his rugby years.
The coroner, Dr Brian Farrell, accepted evidence from two neuropathology experts, one of whom was Dr Willie Stewart, a consultant neuropathologist at Glasgow’s Southern General Hospital and a world leader in the examination of head trauma of sport.
The findings were that Kenny Nuzum, a prop forward with the Lansdowne club in Dublin and a former team-mate of the legendary Moss Keane, passed away in March last year because of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). In layman’s terms, punch-drunk syndrome.
Ian Humphreys is back at Ulster after the fly-half left London Irish to sign a two-year deal with his home province.
The 32-year-old former Leicester Tigers player moved from Ulster to the Exiles in 2012.
“I have loved my time at London Irish but when the unexpected opportunity to come home arose, it was a very easy decision to make,” said Humphreys. ” It’s exciting to be part of a squad that’s challenging in Europe and is at the top of the Pro12 every year.”
London Irish have signed flyhalf Chris Noakes from Super Rugby franchise, the Blues, on a two-year contract, the English Premiership side announced Thursday.
The 28-year-old, who has also appeared for the Highlanders, is eligible to play for England.
Australia international James O’Connor will leave London Irish after completing his six-month contract at the end of the season, the English Premiership club announced.
Wallaby James O’Connor is hot property in Europe at the moment, but it has been confirmed he will return home to Australia next January.
O’Connor went into a self-imposed exile last year after being dumped from the Wallaby squad by coach Ewen McKenzie and had his contract torn up by the Australian Rugby Union over his ongoing alcohol-related transgressions.
Australian back James O’Connor is poised to join French Top 14 side Toulon next season, according to reports in France.
Springbok World Cup-winning prop CJ van der Linde has signed for Premiership club London Irish for the remainder of the season.
London Irish are set to announce a takeover of the club by a group of Irish businessmen on Thursday. The club have called a news conference at their training ground in Sunbury for 10:30 GMT, where they will announce further details of the takeover.
Bath director of rugby Gary Gold has left the Premiership club. The 46-year-old South African took over at the Rec in May 2012, replacing Sir Ian McGeechan.
James O’Connor has been seen at Toulon in a meeting with Toulon owner Mourad Boudjellal.
O’Connor who made his debut appearance for London Irish over the past weekend is already linked with a move to Toulon.
London Irish confirmed that the club has signed Australian international James O’Connor on a short-term deal until the end of the season.
James O’Connor is expected to make a decision on his future in the “next 24 or 48 hours”, according to London Irish coach Brian Smith.
O’Connor has been linked with a move to the English Premiership side after the Australian Rugby Union terminated his contract following a string of embarrassing off-field incidents earlier this month, culminating with the talented 23-year-old being escorted from Perth airport for drunken behaviour.
Kieran Low is not one to beat about the bush. The 22-year-old was born in the south of England and grew up in Chichester with a Welsh-born father and mother who hails from Scunthorpe, but if he is handed an opportunity to stride out on to Murrayfield this autumn, one that he never grew up dreaming of, it will be the highlight of his life so far.
London Irish scored nine tries as they romped to a 60-11 victory over Cavalieri in the Amlin Challenge Cup at the Madejski Stadium.
Exeter Chiefs might have just got one over local rivals Gloucester Rugby in their own back yard, but head coach Rob Baxter insists there is plenty more to come from his side this Aviva Premiership season.
Newcastle 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.
Scotland international centre Joe Ansbro has announced his retirement from rugby today following the neck injury he sustained at the start of this season. The 11-times-capped London Irish back suffered a C1 fracture in his club’s pre-season friendly with Munster in Cork last August.
This weekend sees action in the penultimate round of the league stage of the Aviva Premiership with the first match of the round being between Gary Gold’s Bath and Leicester Tigers. The final match of the weekend is scheduled for Sunday afternoon with London Wasps at home to Exeter Chiefs.
As pointed out by Scrumdown, one of our knowledgeable contributors, yesterday Saracens played their first Premiership game at their new home ground, the Allianz Park, in Barnet Copthall. The match was played on an artificial surface and although it is the second game that has been played there it was the first one that they played in front of ten thousand people which is a capacity crowd for the stadium.
The second round of Aviva Premiership games take places this weekend and while it may only be Round Two, Saracens have laid down an early marker in the 2012/13 Premiership season.
Scotland and London Irish centre Joe Ansbro has suffered a broken neck while playing in a pre-season match against Munster. This news follows that of fellow Scotland star backline player Stuart Hogg also being ruled out of rugby for a while, having undergone a foot operation.