After a month’s break the Aviva Premiership returned last weekend and Round 14 saw victories for Leicester Tigers, Northampton Saints, Exeter Chiefs, Sale Sharks, Saracens and Wasps. Here are my Top 5 Talking Points After Round 14.
Five Talking Points After Round Fourteen of The Aviva Premiership
1: Who Needs International Players?
In reality every club needs them but in the Saracens v Bath game we saw an absolute cracker of a while the International players were on Six Nations duty. Alex Goode’s late penalty denied Bath a bonus point which would have been richly deserved after a storming second half comeback.
Speaking of Goode, with Mike Brown’s horrendous concussion against Italy, Goode put his hand up for selection with a busy performance last Sunday. Along with Brown he is a week in week out performer and has been unlucky not play more for England.
For their part Bath, missing at least four of their starting 15 due to England commitments, showed their strength of squad and that have quality players beyond their much vaunted and talented regular starters. Dominic Day and Olly Devoto in particular impressing For Saracens, Maro Itoje added to his growing reputation with an excellent performance.
2: Cipriani To Stay At Sale
Danny Cipriani has decided to stay at Sale Sharks after signing a two year contract. This puts an end to the rumours linking him with a big money move to France. This is a wise move from Cipriani who has clearly chosen to fight for an England spot over the lure of French rugby.
Cipriani is a mercurial talent and a very divisive figure in English rugby. Since he joined Sale he has matured a great deal but inconsistency still plagues him at times. When on form he is as talented as any out half in European and indeed world rugby.
Stuart Lancaster has given Cipriani a vote of confidence by including him in the Six Nations squad but Cipriani now has to repay the coach’s trust. He is in the setup due to Owen Farrell’s injury but he is there on merit and if Cipriani gets a starting chance in the tournament odds are that he will take it.
3: Wasps Move To Coventry Already a Success?
Wasps moved back in to the Aviva Premiership top four with a convincing win over Harlequins. A crowd of over 16,000 turned up to the Ricoh Arena to witness the game and it is now clear that the initial move to Coventry has been a success.
The fans have responded and with players of the calibre of Jimmy Gopperth and Frank Halai already signed up for next season, Wasps are clearly a club on an upward curve. Add these signings to players already at Wasps like Christian Wade, Nathan Hughes, James Haskell and Elliot Daly you have a potentially title challenging squad.
They are still a long way off Northampton and Bath but there is a lot to be admired about this team. I said at the start of this season that it was a make or break year for head coach Dai Young and he has done very well to get this team where it currently is. A place in the playoffs this season would surprise nobody.
4: Goode Extends His Career with Irish While Decaon Has To Retire
Veteran out half Andy Goode has decided to forgo his retirement and has signed for London Irish. Goode was offered a coaching role at Wasps once his contract finished at the end of this season but has decided to extend his career with The Exiles.
He has already had a very successful career at Leicester Tigers, Saracens, Brive, Sharks, Worcester Warriors and Wasps. Goode also has 17 England caps and scored over 100 points. He has been a key cog in Wasps revival this season but will be 35 by the end of the season and was not offered another playing contract.
Goode should be celebrated for his decision to keep playing. His form this season has shown that he still has plenty to offer to a team like London Irish who are looking for a player to direct the team. Andy Goode is exactly that type of player and this could be a fantastic signing for Irish.
While Goode is extending his career, a former Leicester Tigers colleague Louis Deacon has had to hang up his boots. He retires after 15 successful years at the Tigers winning Six Premierships and Two Heineken Cups.
5: Game of The Weekend: Bath V Northampton Saints
Any time the top two in the league play against each other it is always the game of the weekend. Both Bath and Northampton Saints will have depleted squads due to International commitments but that takes absolutely nothing away from this titanic game.
The Saints won this season’s early season match against Bath but it was clear from that game that Mike Ford’s side would be a force to be reckoned with this season. A bonus point win would put them level at the top of the table with the Saints but Bath would be happy with any type of win.
Steven Myler’s play was key to Northampton’s win last weekend against London Irish and he will have to be at his best against Bath if they want to take anything from the game. This match means more to Bath and I expect that they will be victorious with home advantage influential
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