2022/23 Gallagher Premiership: Who peaks prior to the RWC?

2022/23 Gallagher Premiership begins in less than 14 days
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The 2022/23 Gallagher Premiership kicks off in September, with the first round of pre-season fixtures completing an off-season full of change and some disruption. David Jones brings you all you need to know ahead of the season kick-off.

2022/23 Gallagher Premiership is more competitive than ever

The season will start on Friday 9th September with two kick-offs at 19:45 pm GMT, with all remaining games following on the weekend. The curtain raisers are a feisty local derby between Bath and Bristol. Alongside is a tussle between Sale and Northampton with lots of new faces and a new coach for the latter.

Let’s take a look at all 13 clubs involved in what may be the most difficult to predict season yet. Comment

Bath

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Director of Rugby: Stuart Hooper

Last season: 13th

Players to Watch: Beno Obano, Sam Underhill, Orlando Bailey, Max Ojomoh

Notable Signings: Quinn Roux (Toulon), Piers Francis (Northampton), Dave Attwood (Bristol)

Bath will be keen to put the 2021/2022 campaign firmly into the past. A playing roster packed full of international quality and excellent facilities often leads to better positions than the basement of the table. Bath has a number of young backs who will look to progress and impose their attacking game alongside a heavily re-enforced pack that should guide Bath higher up the table

If they can shake off last season’s demons. Bath has a squad that should be closer to the top half of the table this time around.

Bristol Bears

Director of Rugby: Pat Lam

Last season:  10th

Players to Watch: Semi Radrada, Ellis Genge, Harry Randall, Charles Piutau

Notable Signings: Ellis Genge (Leicester), AJ MacGinty (Sale), Magnus Bradbury (Edinburgh)

Bristol underperformed in the last campaign. Home of the highest paid player in the league in Charles Piutau and packed full of world-class players. Bristol should be knocking on the door of the top four if their big names find their form. Bristol arguably will have the most feared front row the league has seen in some years.

Bristol’s success may be decided on their ability to manage when their big-name players are away for international duty. I suspect Bristol will better last year’s campaign but could fall just short of the top four.

Exeter Chiefs

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Director of Rugby: Rob Baxter

Last season: 7th

Players to Watch: Sam Simmonds, Henry Slade, Stuart Hogg, Jonny Gray

Notable Signings: Scott Sio (Brumbies), Jack Dunne (Leinster)

Exeter will be disappointed with their showing last campaign, having been a regular top two team since the 2015-2016 season falling to seventh will have stung. Exeter has lost a couple of first-team regulars in Jonny Hill and Tom O’Flaherty but has recruited well. Time will tell if the Exeter style has been found out or if last season was just a hiccup

I suspect Exeter will have found that other clubs have improved around them and will make a push for the top four difficult, but not impossible.

Gloucester

Director of Rugby: George Skivington

Last season: 5th

Players to Watch: Louis Rees-Zammit, Mark Atkinson, Jake Polledri, Lewis Ludlow

Notable Signings: Albert Tuisue (London Irish)

The off-season for Gloucester has been quiet with minimal incomings or outgoings. This may reflect that Skivington is happy with where his squad is. With the most exciting stable of wingers at their expense, it will be a case of the same again from the Cherry and Whites.

Gloucester hopes that consistency will give them the edge to get into the top four this time. However, with the sides around them strengthening I think they may fall just short again.

Harlequins

Head Coach: Tabai Matson

Last season: 3rd

Players to Watch: Marcus Smith, Alex Dombrandt, Andre Esterhuizen, Tyrone Green

Notable Signings: Irne Herbst (Benetton), Charlie Matthews (Kamaishi Seawaves)

Harlequins made a strong effort to defend its title from the 2020-2021 campaign. Continuing to be spearheaded by the style of Marcus Smith and the brawn of Andre Esterhuizen it will be a case of more of the same.

I suspect Harlequins will make the top four once again this season but unsure if they have the physicality in the pack to go all the way.

Leicester Tigers

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Head Coach: Steve Borthwick

Last season: 1st (Champions)

Players to Watch: Freddie Steward, Ollie Chessum, Jasper Wiese, Anthony Watson

Notable Signings: Handre Pollard (Montpellier), Anthony Watson (Bath), Jimmy Gopperth (Wasps)

Leicester surprised many with their run to the title last campaign. They represent hope for every side this year and last year means nothing. With a few key outgoings in George Ford and Ellis Genge, the Tigers have recruited well. Bringing in World Cup-winning Pollard is a strong statement.

If Leicester can keep up the strong form until Pollard returns from missing the first part of the season. I suspect he will be able to steer Leicester to a top two position once again this season

London Irish

Director of Rugby: Declan Kidney

Last season: 8th

Players to Watch: Henry Arundell, Will Joseph, Juan Martin Gonzalez

Notable Signings: Api Ratuniyawara (Northampton), Danilo Fischetti (Zebre), Joe Powell (Melbourne Rebels)

London Irish are consistently scoring tries and are no longer whipping boys of the league. They are almost certainly going to finish higher than most people will put in their predictions. With a very young and exciting collection of backs, they have that enviable ability to score from anywhere, exemplified no more than up-and-coming star in Arundell.

London Irish have the firepower to make the top half of the table. Their ability to prevent tries rather than scoring them will dictate how far up the table they may end up

Newcastle Falcons

Director of Rugby: Dean Richards

Last season: 12th

Players to Watch: Callum Chick, Adam Radwan, Matias Moroni, George McGuigan

Notable Signings: Matias Moroni (Leicester), Sebastian de Chaves (Austin Gilgronis)

The Falcons were a side that often showed spells of brilliance followed by spells of less brilliance in the league last year. They have a fearsome pack, shown by having the near-top try scorer George McGuigan benefitting from the back of a well-coached and well-drilled lineout and maul. However, quite often leak too many tries to be able to take advantage of that

Newcastle will likely be near the bottom half of the table once more, they have lost a number of squad depth in the off-season and may struggle with the intensity of the premiership over the full campaign

Northampton Saints

Director of Rugby: Phil Dowson

Last season: 4th

Players to Watch: Courtney Lawes, Dan Biggar, Alex Mitchell, Tommy Freeman

Notable Signings: Lukhan Salakaia-Loto (Queensland Reds), James Ramm (NSW Waratahs), Sam Graham (Doncaster Knights)

Northampton was arguably the most exciting team to watch last season, with the ethos of the side being geared towards expansive running rugby. They have recruited smartly and have replaced all of the key departures with high-quality replacements. The key to Northampton’s success is whether Phil Dowson can continue the work done by Chris Boyd in the Director of Rugby position this year

The Saints have a style, it works and they will score tries for fun again this year. Marshaled by the underappreciated Alex Mitchell at scum half I see this side making the top four once more this year

Sale Sharks

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Director of Rugby: Pat Sanderson

Last season: 6th

Players to Watch: Tom Curry, Jean-Luc du Preez, George Ford, Manu Tuilagi

Notable Signings: Jonny Hill (Exeter), George Ford (Leicester), Tom O’Flaherty (Exeter)

Sale Sharks have a fearsome pack, made only more fearsome by the addition of Jonny Hill. They have the forwards to match the physicality of any other side in the league. This season will be a good test of how much Sale will miss Faf de Klerk. In Raffi Quirke, they have an exciting young prospect to fill those rather large boots.

Sale has all the makings of a side that could spring a surprise and make the top four, however, they also have a skill of getting sin bins and having to play matches out with 14 men. This could see them ending up anywhere between the top four or the bottom half of the table.

Saracens

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Director of Rugby: Mark McCall

Last season: 2nd

Players to Watch: Maro Itoje, Owen Farrell, Billy Vunipola, Elliott Daly

Notable Signings: Hugh Tizard (Harlequins), Eduardo Bello (Zebre)

The bad boys of the league, returning from their season in the championship wanted to make a big impression. They stumbled into an excellent Tigers side at Twickenham last year and will use that as inspiration for going one better this season. Packed full of world-class players, and a Saracens style that grinds results out for fun they will continue to be hard to stop this year

Injuries and managing the international window will be key to the Saracens season. However, I think their experience last year will be the motivation they need to go and claim the top spot and ultimately the title this year,

Wasps

Head Coach: Lee Blackett

Last season: 9th

Players to Watch: Jack Willis, Paolo Odogwu, Alfie Barbeary, Gabriel Oghre

Notable Signings: Vincent Koch (Saracens), Burger Odendaal (Lions), John Ryan (Munster)

Wasps’ offseason has been dominated by question marks as one of the two teams embroiled in speculation of financial mismanagement. However, Lee Blackett will have the team firmly focused on delivering on the field and letting the rugby do the talking. Now with one of the best props in the world securing what was a stuttering scrum and some exciting back row talents. Wasps have the ability to push on.

However, the question marks loom large and with a huge loss of experience in Jimmy Gopperth, I can see Wasps battling near the bottom of the table this season.

Worcester Warriors

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Director of Rugby: Steve Diamond

Last season: 11th

Players to Watch: Ollie Lawrence, Ted Hill, Duhan van der Merwe, Matt Kvesic

Notable Signings: Curtis Langdon (Sale), Cameron Neild (Sale), Santiago Medrano (Western Force)

The Warriors have been the second team being caught up in both the front and back pages of newspapers. Unpaid tax bills and stories of Academy Houses being repossessed have undoubtedly occupied the clubs’ staff and players. In the event that the Warriors are able to get past this tricky period, they have a squad that has a few gems that can carry them to some good results. They have recruited smartly in the forwards to try and provide more competitiveness in the pack.

Worcester will likely be towards the bottom of the table. Their pre-season is full of distractions and will likely start slowly. It will be a struggle to recover and will probably occupy the bottom part of the table.

Not long to wait for the 2022/23 Gallagher Premiership season

This 2022/23 Gallagher Premiership season promises to be just as unpredictable as any before it. With clubs focussing on their finances and making every penny count most squads have seen turnover in the off-season. With a Rugby World Cup around the corner, players will be keen to showcase their talents. These are all parts of the recipe for a fantastic season for the rugby fanatic or rugby casual. Who do you think will shine this season? Will there be another surprise champion? Let us know on our social media channels.

Photo Credit: Premiership Rugby on August 29, 2022.