How the teams stack up for the restart

The Daily Telegraph - Business - - Sport Rugby Union - Austin Healey


The more sta­ble squads are most likely to be suc­cess­ful. Rob Bax­ter has a lot of guys such as Henry Slade and Jack Now­ell fully fit again and I think Exeter will fin­ish top. But will they go all the way? You would not want to be trav­el­ling down to Sandy Park for a semi-fi­nal, that is for sure. Must be favourites.

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Mas­sive sign­ings. Sale al­ready have real qual­ity in mid­field, but Manu Tuilagi is a step up, so the ques­tion is how quickly he will gel into that back line. The pack is enor­mous, with Lood de Jager now avail­able. This is their best chance to win it all. I could see them go­ing to Twick­en­ham and beat­ing Exeter, but it would be a coin toss. Pre­dic­tion 2nd Cur­rently 2nd


Prob­a­bly the best sign­ings of any club. They had good young tal­ent, but were not go­ing to win the ti­tle be­fore with that squad. Now there is a chance they can. Max Malins is ex­cit­ing, Kyle Sinck­ler will re­ally help them, Ben Earl is fan­tas­tic in the back row and there is Semi Radradra. Do they have enough ex­pe­ri­ence at half-back though?

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Lon­don Ir­ish

You will see some of their acad­emy kids get­ting an op­por­tu­nity over the rest of the season. In their first cam­paign back they have been im­pres­sive in fits and starts, though not al­ways for a full 80 min­utes. Tom Homer was play­ing well for Bath, but there are no new names who im­me­di­ately jump out at you.

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Fourth in the ta­ble at the mo­ment, but I am not sure they will stay there. Nick Isiekwe is a good sign­ing for them, but they have lost Cobus Reinach, who was im­mense. Purely on the fact that Reinach is now in France, and given how he turned games on their head all on his own, I could see Northamp­ton slip­ping out of the top four.

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If you be­lieve the ru­mours, there were a lot of knives out and peo­ple try­ing to get their own way. If you get your own way as a player, you have to per­form. There will be a huge amount of pres­sure on Danny Cipri­ani to de­liver, but we all know how good he can be. With the play­ers they have, there is an op­por­tu­nity.

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On a hell of a run be­fore lock­down un­der Lee Black­ett, scor­ing plenty of points, with Malakai Fek­i­toa im­prov­ing. Some­times when you lose a coach you get an im­me­di­ate re­sponse, and Wasps were the one team who did not want lock­down. If they can re­dis­cover that free­dom, they can force their way into fourth.

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You just do not know what to ex­pect with Worces­ter. Some­times they are bril­liant and then they lose con­cen­tra­tion. Ryan Mills is a loss, as he was an in­flu­ence for them in mid­field, but Matt Kvesic is a good sign­ing and the pos­i­tives af­ter lock­down out­weigh the neg­a­tives, mean­ing they could climb up the ta­ble.

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Ben Spencer and Will Spencer are both very good play­ers and ex­cel­lent sign­ings, but there have been a lot of out­go­ings and it feels like a new team. Bath were not a par­tic­u­larly ex­cit­ing team to watch be­fore lock­down and need to change their style. Top four feels be­yond them, hav­ing been suited stylis­ti­cally more to wet-weather rugby.

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If there was ever a good season for an­other club to break the salary cap... Le­ices­ter have lost a boat­load of play­ers, more than 20, while mak­ing good sign­ings. I hope head coach Steve Borth­wick per­forms won­ders, but I can­not see it yet. Ne­mani Nadolo is at the end of his ca­reer but will score tries, and ex­pect some magic from Harry Pot­ter...

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A tough one to pre­dict, as they lost a lot of play­ers. They have gone down the South African route, sign­ing prop Wilco Louw and cen­tre Andre Ester­huizen, but have lost some se­nior guys and will miss Kyle Sinck­ler. The sum­mer weather and the way that they play might suit Quins, but I can see them los­ing out phys­i­cally in tight games.

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Their whole season hinges on Europe, with the Lions tour al­ready on the minds of some play­ers. It is al­most an empty season oth­er­wise. What else do you have to play for but pride? It is a good op­por­tu­nity to give some young­sters ex­pe­ri­ence, so when they prob­a­bly come back from the Cham­pi­onship in 2021 the young guys will be ready.

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