With the return to of Premiership rugby so close we can almost taste the first tackle, thoughts turn away from off-field issues and back onto the rugby itself. With that in mind, it becomes a job to remember the state of play for the league.
So much has happened since the season was suspended back in March. We have seen many transfers completed, contracts altered and mascots retired. Somehow we will have to piece it back together on August 14th when Premiership rugby does return.
David Challis will take you through five key stories to keep in mind as the season restarts. This hopefully encompasses what has gone before March with reference to all the changes over the last few months.
New Look Squads
One of the most unique things about this season is that we have had the equivalent of a mid-season transfer window. With players’ contracts expiring at the end of June this paved the way for transfers from inside and outside the league.
This has, in turn, refreshed club squads and given the season a new look. Most sides have made significant changes to their wider squad which will have a big impact on the field.
Integration of the new players will be a big part of how the rest of the season plays out. The sides that do this best will likely succeed. Big squad changes may work to the detriment of some sides. However, with the likes of Nadolo, Radradra and Johnny Gray joining the league their impact could decide the fate of so much.
Wasps’ Resurgence – Will it Continue?
Before the season was suspended Wasps were on an inspired run of form. A club that was languishing at one stage won four of its last five games and now sits in fifth place upon the return of Premiership Rugby.
Of any of the Premiership clubs, Wasps would have been the last to want the season to stop from a purely playing perspective. The question now is whether they can continue this run of form to end the season.
Wasps have managed to keep their squad pretty much intact. Nizaam Carr and Ashley Johnson are the only notable departures. However, Wasps have also not really strengthened. Could this comparative continuity be a stroke of genius or have the Coventry club stood still whilst others have moved on?
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Leicester Tigers New Coaching Set-Up
Following the curtailed 2020 Six Nations Steve Borthwick joined up with Leicester Tigers. Since then he has had a turbulent ride with the club. Contract bust-ups and rumours of player revolt have marred his opening months at Tigers.
However, this time off may have given Leicester a chance to rebuild under his tutelage. He is a much-lauded coach given his achievements on the international stage. Could his arrival be the start of something new for Leicester?
The club has had a high turnover of players in the last month or so. Big names have departed but that has made for salary cap space which has been wisely spent. No one is expecting a world-beating Tigers side but this could be a much-needed turning point for the club
Gloucester in Rebuild
The other big story of the last few months was the departure of the Gloucester coaching staff as well as much of their squad. Mostert, Marais, Grobler, Braley and Williams have all left the club. Replacements have arrived in the shape of May, Garvey and Singleton.
A new coaching set up is also in place which seems to have been moulded in the image of Danny Cipriani. This could be a worrying time for Gloucester. With many of their star forwards out the onus will fall on an inexperienced coaching team to create a new culture in months.
The amount of stock Gloucester has invested in Cipriani is also frightening. The club has put all their eggs in building the club around one man and if that does not come off it could be a disaster.
Bristol and Sale set to Topple Chiefs?
When it was announced Saracens were to be relegated, many thought this season would be a six-month-long procession to Exeter’s second title. However, sterner challengers have emerged and suddenly Chiefs are no longer clear favourites.
Sale’s squad looked frightening before the break but then Tuilagi and Sam Hill arrived. Then we turn to Bristol who have Earl and Malins in from Saracens for the season. As well as new signings Radradra and Sinckler.
Exeter beware, this really should be your year but this is going to be one hell of a fight for the title. Bristol and Sale see this as a big chance for silverware and they will be coming for the champions-elect.
💬| “(My aim is) to keep pushing international wise, but first and foremost I’ve got to get into this Bears team.” 🐻@BenEarlba says he is relishing his spell at #BristolBears after linking up with his new teammates. 💥
Read the full interview 👇
— Bristol Bears (@BristolBears) July 17, 2020
So many narratives are playing themselves out in this Premiership season. We have yet to even touch on midweek games and the lack of crowds.
It has been a long wait for rugby to come back but given what we are about to witness I dare say that it may well have been worth the wait.
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