Category Archive: Premiership Rugby

Premiership Rugby News

May 17

Geordan Murphy and Leicester Tigers navigate a path through season of chaos

Leicester have endured injuries, sacked coaches and heavy defeats rock their campaign but they are in the play-offs yet again and Wasps must beware

In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes – and Leicester reaching the Premiership play-offs, which they have done for the 13th consecutive year despite a season of turmoil at Welford Road.

Three coaches have been sacked, including Richard Cockerill as director of rugby at the start of the year and Aaron Mauger as head coach three months later; key players such as the centres Manu Tuilagi and Matt Toomua, a summer marquee signing, and the prop Marcos Ayerza have missed virtually all of the season through injury; and chastening defeats have been suffered, mainly away, although Glasgow won 43-0 at Welford Road in January.

Related: Eddie Jones expects England to turn Japanese for 2019 World Cup

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2017/may/17/geordan-murphy-leicester-tigers-wasps

May 16

Rob Baxter hopes for flat-out Exeter performance against sturdy Saracens | Paul Rees

The coach feels his side, unbeaten in 15 Premiership games, cleared their heads after a bad start to the season and is unfazed by their play-off opponents

When Exeter lost at home to Bath at the end of October they slipped to seventh in the Premiership, the memory of their Twickenham final against Saracens five months earlier fading. Rob Baxter, the head coach who guided them out of the Championship in 2010, was facing perhaps his most testing time since the Chiefs established themselves in the top flight.

“It is easy to say that our bad start was a hangover from the final but that is not how I would describe it,” Baxter says as he prepares for Saturday’s play-off semi-final against Saracens at Sandy Park. “I spoke to the players after we had lost by eight points to a very good team [at Twickenham] and probably went on too much about how well we had done in the season. What I should have said was that we had lost the final and what were we going to do about it.”

Related: Premiership, Pro12 and Top 14 rugby union play-off pointers | Michael Aylwin

Related: Dai Young challenges Wasps’ marquee players to deliver in play-offs

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2017/may/16/rob-baxter-exeter-saracens-play-off-premiership

May 15

Dai Young challenges Wasps’ marquee players to deliver in play-offs

• Wasps coach calls on Willie le Roux and Kurtley Beale to shine
• Young says Christian Wade can remind Eddie Jones of his talent

Wasps’ star overseas imports have been challenged to repay the club’s hefty outlay by propelling their team to a first Premiership final for nine years. Australia’s Kurtley Beale and South Africa’s Willie le Roux are both set to face Leicester in the semi-final on Saturday and Dai Young, their director of rugby, is looking to them to set the pace at the Ricoh Arena.

Beale is heading back to Australia at the end of the season while Le Roux has had a mixed start to his career in England, most notably when dropping the ball over the line under no pressure in the club’s European Champions Cup quarter-final defeat to Leinster in Dublin. Young, however, regards the pair as key men against the Tigers. “When you get to semi-finals and finals you need your big players to stand up and that’s why you bring marquee players in,” he said.

Related: Premiership, Pro12 and Top 14 rugby union play-off pointers | Michael Aylwin

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2017/may/15/dai-young-wasps-marquee-players-premiership-play-offs-rugby-union

May 15

Premiership, Pro12 and Top 14 rugby union play-off pointers | Michael Aylwin

Wasps and Exeter are the neutrals’ favourites, Leicester the underdogs, while Saracens need to maintain their intensity

There’s always that horrible, sceptical feeling when considering sides high on flair. Wasps have earned the right for us to wish them well as they chase down a first title since the era of Lawrence Dallaglio. Their attack is truly something to behold, layers of runners at any given time, most of whom, certainly among the backs, are capable of taking a turn as playmaker whenever required. It’s incredibly hard to defend against. They’ve averaged more than four tries a game but they’ve also conceded nearly three and more than anyone else in the top seven. Memories of Leinster in Dublin last month still haunt.

Catch Beale while you can before Wasps’ wonder returns to Australia

Related: Saracens fortify European aristocracy with Murrayfield masterclass | Robert Kitson

Match report: Worcester 23-28 Leicester

Premiership 2016-17: team-by-team review of the season
The house that Jack built: British & Irish Lion takes Lego on tour

Saracens’ collective force of will redrawing European rugby blueprint
Sarries fortify their European aristocracy with Murrayfield masterclass

Related: Eddie Jones out to unearth bigger England backs on tour of Argentina

How about a play-off between top two in the Premiership and Pro 12?

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/blog/2017/may/15/premiership-pro12-top-14-rugby-union-play-off-pointers

May 08

Premiership 2016-17: team-by-team review of the rugby union season

Bath fell short of their lofty aspirations, free-scoring Exeter have racked up record points, Leicester never cease to amaze and Bristol go down with regrets

On and off the field this has been another uneven season for a Bath squad with loftier aspirations. Injuries have been savage at times – the club have had to pick six different starting hookers – but, despite European qualification, there is still a sense all is not entirely right. Further repercussions of the squad’s evening of high jinks at the Rec last month are anticipated this week – some players streaked across the pitch, a fire extinguisher was let off and a kicking clinic for children was heckled – and England’s George Ford is off to Leicester. At their best Bath can beat anyone but they finished 25 points behind table-toppers Wasps. Robert Kitson

Related: Wasps and Exeter lead way as dizzying season reaches thrilling finale | Robert Kitson

Related: Mark McCall the role model for old pal David Humphreys at Gloucester

Related: New Zealand-born Jason Woodward included in England training squad

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/blog/2017/may/08/premiership-2016-17-team-by-team-review-rugby-union-season

May 07

Wasps and Exeter lead way as dizzying season reaches thrilling finale | Robert Kitson

Aviva Premiership campaign, which has seen try-scoring records tumble, reaches play-off stage with Wasps hosting Leicester and Saracens travelling to Exeter

A record-breaking 2016-17 Aviva Premiership season is looking set for an equally fast and furious finish as the four title rivals enter the final stretch. Already the two leading sides, Wasps and Exeter, have surged past the longstanding record for team tries scored in a season, previously held by Newcastle in 1997-98, and the play-offs this month are a good bet to produce more high-speed entertainment.

Only once before, in 1999-2000 when defences were much less organised, have more tries been scored overall during a 22-match regular season than the tally of 725 this year and more thrills and spills appear certain in the semi-finals on Saturday week. There will be sellout crowds, too: Wasps versus Leicester is increasingly a “must-see” Midlands derby while there will be a stampede in Devon for tickets to watch Exeter against Saracens at Sandy Park.

Related: Mark McCall the role model for old pal David Humphreys at Gloucester

Related: Premiership 2016-17 team of the season: Wasps and Saracens dominate

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/blog/2017/may/07/aviva-premiership-thrilling-finale-wasps-exeter-leicester-saracens-play-off-rugby-unions

May 06

Thomas Young hat-trick helps Wasps beat Saracens to gain home semi-final

• Wasps 35-15 Saracens
• Home semi-final against Leicester reward after topping table

Wasps used to win the Premiership play-offs despite not finishing top, but three tries in the final quarter kept them at the head of the table at the end of the regular season to set up a semi-final with Leicester, who finished a distant fourth, rather than a return bout with Saracens. Thomas Young scored three tries, but it was the home side’s two major close-season’s signings, Kurtley Beale and Willie le Roux, who had the means to puncture the meanest of defences.

Related: Exeter’s Will Chudley sets record in hard-fought win against Gloucester

Related: Harlequins cling on for Champions Cup spot after narrow defeat at Northampton

Related: Exeter’s Will Chudley sets record in hard-fought win against Gloucester

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2017/may/06/wasps-saracens-premiership-match-report

May 06

Harlequins cling on for Champions Cup spot after narrow defeat at Northampton

• Northampton 22-20 Harlequins
• Joe Marler leads resistance to see Quins finish sixth on matches won

A defiant defensive shift led by the indefatigable Joe Marler ensured that Harlequins hung on for the all-important losing bonus point to clinch a place in the European Champions Cup for the first time in three years.

Northampton sealed victory thanks to a try from the replacement lock Api Ratuniyarawa but their failure to either score a fourth or beat Harlequins by more than seven points means it is John Kingston’s side who finish sixth. Northampton may yet join them at Europe’s top table, having finished the season in seventh, but if Gloucester win the Challenge Cup they will take the Premiership’s place in the play-off.

Related: Freddie Burns kicks Leicester into play-offs after win at Worcester

Related: Exeter’s Will Chudley sets record in hard-fought win against Gloucester

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2017/may/06/northampton-harlequins-premiership-match-report

May 06

Freddie Burns kicks Leicester into play-offs with win at Worcester

• Worcester 23-28 Leicester
• Burns scores 23 points for Tigers in nervy victory

A thirteenth semi-final in a row for Leicester, still evidently at or near the top of the English game, but they march resolutely into the play-offs these days, rather than romp with confidence as of yore. Here was another win when they needed it, which they chiselled out in prosaic style, albeit that winning at Sixways is becoming an increasingly difficult assignment.

It won’t go unnoticed that Worcester outscored them three tries to one. If they’re still near the top of the English game, that peak is an ever more distant view. Had Freddie Burns not had his kicking boots – and Ryan Mills had brought his – Leicester would have lost. Burns is now finding some real form, just as he prepares to leave for Bath. Twenty-three points from his boot saw Tigers home, while Mills, who hardly kicked poorly, missed seven points’ worth.

Related: Thomas Young hat-trick helps Wasps beat Saracens to gain home semi-final

Related: Harlequins cling on for Champions Cup spot after narrow defeat at Northampton

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2017/may/06/worcester-leicester-premiership-match-report

May 06

Exeter’s Will Chudley sets record in hard-fought win against Gloucester

• Gloucester 20-34 Exeter
• Will Chudley gives Exeter eighth consecutive bonus point win

No trophies are dished out on the regular season’s final day but Exeter always play as if their sporting lives depend on it. There have been some breathless encounters in this season’s Premiership and this game of oval-shaped pinball was as fast and furious as any. Whether the Chiefs win the title or not, they will keep on entertaining people right to the end.

Sometimes they overdo it and Gloucester, not short of ambition themselves, really should have taken more advantage in the first half. In the end, though, this was another joyous trip into Devonian dreamland: a maximum bonus point win for a record eighth match in succession. No side in the country is finishing the season at more of a lick than Rob Baxter’s men.

Related: Harlequins cling on for Champions Cup spot after narrow defeat at Northampton

Related: Freddie Burns kicks Leicester into play-offs after win at Worcester

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2017/may/06/gloucester-exeter-premiership-match-report

May 05

Wasps’ Jimmy Gopperth ‘baffled’ by Lions and England snub for Christian Wade

• Kiwi cannot understand team-mate’s omission from tour squads
• Lions will miss winger’s X-factor in New Zealand, says Gopperth

Warren Gatland has let New Zealand off the hook by overlooking Christian Wade for the British & Irish Lions squad, according to the Kiwi fly-half Jimmy Gopperth, who is “baffled” his Wasps team-mate was also snubbed for England’s tour of Argentina.

Wade has scored 16 tries in 20 matches this season and needs one more to equal Dominic Chapman’s record set in the 1997-98 campaign. This week he was shortlisted for the Rugby Players’ Association player of the year award but was snubbed last month by Gatland and Eddie Jones for the summer tours of New Zealand and Argentina respectively.

Related: Christian Wade scores hat-trick and breaks records as Wasps beat Bath

Related: Premiership 2016-17 team of the season: Wasps and Saracens dominate

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2017/may/05/lions-england-squads-christian-wade-jimmy-gopperth

May 05

Saracens and Gloucester rest players with Premiership not the priority | Robert Kitson

Premiership officials may wince when they see the team-sheets but with European finals looming and domestic scheduling not ideal, Mick McCall and David Humphreys are making entirely understandable decisionsEven those officials who long ago opted to end…

Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/blog/2017/may/05/rugby-union-premiership-finale-saracens-gloucester-weakened-teams

May 05

Fabulous fifteen: my 2016-17 Premiership team of the team | Robert Kitson

As the campaign draws to a close, Saracens and their England contingent dominate the Guardian rugby union correspondent’s team of the 2016-17 Premiership season

Injury had threatened to wreck the Australian’s big-money move to England but, once fully fit again, he displayed fizzing class virtually every time he touched the ball. Could have made the team of the year at No12 or No15 and will be missed when he returns to Australia after only one season. Bristol’s Jason Woodward also deserves a mention.

Related: Who are the five best overseas players to grace the Premiership? | Robert Kitson

Related: How about a play-off between top two in Premiership and Pro 12? | The Breakdown

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/blog/2017/may/05/rugby-premiership-team-of-the-year-2017

May 04

Channel 5 to show live Premiership matches for first time on terrestrial TV

• Four-year deal agreed for five games to be simulcast alongside BT Sport
• ‘New agreement will provide a fantastic shop window’

Five Premiership matches are to be broadcast live on terrestrial TV for the first time next season.

Related: How about a play-off between top two in Premiership and Pro 12? | The Breakdown

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2017/may/04/channel-5-premiership-rugby-live-terrestrial-tv

May 04

How about a play-off between top two in Premiership and Pro 12? | The Breakdown

System would provide a link between the two leagues that supply the Lions with players and would certainly be welcomed by Pro12For once, the European club campaigns are aligned. The regular league seasons in England, France and the Pro12 finish this we…

Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2017/may/04/play-off-premiership-pro-12

May 02

Saracens to rest big names at Wasps with McCall prepared to risk away trip

• Billy Vunipola, Farrell and Itoje set to miss final regular Premiership game
• ‘If I thought the home semi-final was all-important we’d send a different side’

Saracens will rest a raft of key players including Billy Vunipola, Owen Farrell and Maro Itoje from Saturday’s final regular Premiership fixture against table-topping Wasps in Coventry but insist it will not diminish the club’s chances of retaining their title even if they end up playing away in the play-off semi-finals.

Related: Saracens reach Champions Cup final as Chris Wyles seals win over Munster

Related: ‘Phenomenal’ Maro Itoje relishing new role as lineout leader | Gerard Meagher

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2017/may/02/saracens-mark-mccall-wasps-premiership-maro-itoje

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