The temptation is to put Exeter’s name on the trophy right now
With Saracens almost certainly out of top-four mix, Chiefs look the ones to beat after three Premiership rounds
Battered in round one on a Friday night at Bristol. That may happen to a few teams. Dogfight in a swimming pool at home to Exeter in round two to deliver Stuart Hooper his first victory as director of rugby. The road was their enemy again at Wasps.
Star man Tom Ellis. Proper unit at six. Tough line-out man. Big tackler. Carries a heavy ball.
Friday night at Ashton Gate will be their friend. Took Bath to cleaners in round one. These boys will be in the mix at the higher end of the table. Coach Pat Lam has filled all his players with the confidence not only that they belong, they should also be top four.
Star man Chris Vui. Athletic, dynamic, ball-handling hybrid.
Saracens will surely find it impossible to make the top four and the temptation is to engrave Exeter on the trophy now. Rob Baxter’s management is exemplary. They have spluttered this season, but still have two wins under their belt. Nine points and nowhere near their best. Exeter will be top four, no question.
Star man Jack Yeandle. Captain who epitomises everything good.
Round one nearly served up a cracking win at Exeter. Relief was spread across the Stoop when the final whistle went at home to Bristol, then outplayed at Northampton. Paul Gustard needs to sort the defence out.
Star man Alex Dombrandt (right). Most likely to give some thrust.
Huge things are expected of these boys. The back line is orchestrated by Danny Cipriani. Sale should have been 20 clear by half-time in round one up north and snatched defeat from the jaws of victory. Bullied Wasps off the park at
home, then blew it when they should have won at Leicester. Have “top four” written all over them.
Star man Joe Simpson. Looks as happy as a pig in muck.
Desperate to get five lads back who played in a World Cup final. George Ford rode to their rescue last season and will need to do it again. Tomas Lavanini – sent off for the high challenge on Owen Farrell in Japan – will be big for them. The reinforcements cannot arrive soon enough.
Star man Tom Hardwick. Head up, plays what is in front of him.
Won their opener, but then lost the next two. I do not think London Irish are in the same state as last time they failed to stay up. Some huge signings, such as Waisake Naholo. Consistency the key for a newly promoted team.
Star man Ruan Botha. Big lump who can run and handle as well.
Balance of the team looks great. Desire to play if space is on. Happy to roll up their sleeves if needed. How was Taqele Naiyaravoro (right) not playing in the World Cup for Australia? Can someone tell me how Rory Hutchinson was not in the Scotland midfield in Japan? He is going to tear it up this year, a proper ball-handling running centre with some real wheels. Round-one win at Saracens, then destroyed Worcester and Quins in rounds two and three. Proper team.
Star man Naiyaravoro. Huge man with balance and soft hands.
Steve Diamond’s players snatched defeat in round one against Gloucester. Then London Irish bore the brunt. Sale deserved a point at Bristol in round three. If they can sort out their line-out, they will take some big scalps.
Star man Coenie Oosthuizen. Massive South African tighthead.
There is a temptation to leave a blank section. But, rugby-wise, three rounds of mixed quality from Mark Mccall’s men. Not surprising when you have so many unbelievable players away at the World Cup. Nine points with all their stars away was a tidy return. But the tectonic plates have shifted. Mccall now has his greatest challenge.
Star Man Ben Earl. A dynamo in the back row.
The suspicion is these boys will be in the relegation dogfight after one win from three. No English superstars to return, but that could be a blessing after the toll the World Cup may have taken on some. They have something about them I like: tough, tenacious, happy to play with ball in hand. One-man show in round one as Ted Hill beat Leicester on his own. Blown away in round two by Northampton. Had Exeter where they wanted them in round three before a sucker punch just before half-time.
Star man Hill. Bossed the game in Worcester’s one win so far.
I get the feeling this year will be tough for Wasps. They do not have the strike power to score 20 points quickly like they had. Poor performance at home to London Irish, then beaten up at Gloucester. Backs against the wall against Bath at home. Collective effort to win will please Dai Young.
Star man Zurab Zhvania. Prop forward who is huge in the scrum.