The Aviva Premiership gets under way on Friday evening, barely three months since the 2012 season ended at Twickenham in May. Since then most of the leading players have been involved in overseas tours, either with the British & Irish Lions or their own nations – and indeed some teams still have overseas players away competing in the Rugby Championship in the southern hemisphere. With such a short break for such a physically demanding sport (think how long NFL and NHL players get off) the big issue is going to be just who can hit the playing field feeling the freshest.
Newcastle Falcons vs. Bath
Newcastle return after a season in the Championship and face a daunting task, opening the season at home to one of the strongest sides in the division. Bath have only ever lost one opening fixture since the Premiership came into being and haven’t lost in Newcastle in a league game since 2003. That statistic does have to be balanced by the fact that they only won away from home once last year, but don’t read too much into that, they are too good a side to repeat that form this time around.
Bath are 8/11 sports betting favourites with Sportingbet to win this. That is the best price you are likely to get on them as they bring their array of talent, including new England star Kyle Eastmond, to Kingston Park.
London Irish vs. Saracens
Saturday sees a double header of games between London sides played at Twickenham Stadium. This is bad news for the nominal hosts, London Irish, who have won only two games in the last six of these double headers.
Irish are one of the weaker teams in the Premiership, indeed may people’s tip for relegation at season end. Saracens, on the other hand, were comfortable winners of the league stage of the tournament last year before slipping off in the playoffs. You’ll struggle to get better odds than 1/6 on them winning this game, but BetVictor offer 5/1 on it being a victory of between 11 and 15 points, which looks like a better option for this match.
Gloucester Rugby vs. Sale Sharks
Gloucester are the nearly men of the Premiership, usually hovering around mid-table but never likely to look like challenging for the top spot. They’ve lost on their last three opening weekends, but will fancy their chances against a Sharks side that will be looking to put a troubled 2012 season behind them which featured a coaching debacle and near-relegation. They have only won at Kingsholme once this century, although that was two visits ago in 2012.
The markets make the hosts firm favourites at 1/6 almost across the board, but that shaky opening day form is hard to ignore, it suggests that there’s a flaw somewhere in the pre-season build up, so go for Sale at 11/2 betting odds with Sportingbet.
Northampton Saints vs. Exeter Chiefs
Northampton finished as Premiership runners up last year, losing the final to Leicester after captain Dylan Hartley was sent off just before half time for abusing referee Wayne Barnes. Ban served, Hartley will be looking to get his side off to a flying start against a team who have lost all of their opening day games and all of their games at Franklin Gardens, too.
Exeter may be the surprise team of Premiership history, staying in the top flight despite the odds, but that record is hard to ignore. Saints are a best price 1/4 to win this game, so instead look to the winning margin again and back a 6-10 point win, again at 5/1 with BetVictor.
London Wasps vs. Harlequins
The other half of that London double header sees Wasps ‘host’ the Harlequins, who actually only play across the road from Twickenham anyway. It is a tough task for Wasps, who have only beaten Quins once in their last eight attempts and who will face a partisan crowd despite nominally being the home side.
That said, though, one of Wasps’ targets for this year was for their talented squad, which features England’s latest star winger Christian Wade among others, to start winning these big, high-profile, matches and at 2/1 with Bet365 they are certainly an attractive price.
Leicester Tigers vs. Worcester Warriors
The defending champions close out the opening weekend on Sunday as they host perennial strugglers Worcester. They will do so, though, without the aid of charismatic coach Richard Cockerill, who picked up a nine-game ban for his own antics in that Premiership final win over Northampton. In addition, club captain Toby Flood misses this game after picking up a concussion during a warm up game.
That probably won’t affect them too badly against a side whose opening day record is poor but who, more importantly, have never won at Welford Road – a record which stretches way back to 1895!
Finding a decent betting pick for this game is hard, so strongly are the Tigers favoured, but 5/2 on the first scoring play of the game being a Leicester try (offered by Skybet) looks to be the best of a bad bunch.
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