The World Cup is Over: Domestic Rugby Gets Down to Serious Business

   Predictions   

As the Rugby World Cup reached its thrilling climax last weekend, most rugby fanatics could be forgiven for forgetting that the domestic rugby seasons across Europe are already under away.

Both the Guinness Pro12 and the Top 14 are into their stride, whilst the English Premiership season is three games old. That said, in England in particular, a pattern is already emerging.

So here is a guide to how things stand at this relatively early stage.

The Aviva Premiership

Fresh from lifting the Premiership title last season following  pulsating final against Bath, Saracens have started where they left off with three wins out of three so far this campaign; admittedly against three of the weaker sides in the competition in London Irish, Gloucester and Sale Sharks.

It’s also three from three for Leicester Tigers; the pick of which was last Sunday’s bruising 24-16 win over Wasps.

The other two teams who made last year’s play offs – the powerful pack of Northampton Saints and the dazzling attacking play of Bath – have endured rather more difficult starts, with both losing two of their opening three matches. After capturing the signature of the Fijian scrum half Niko Matawalu, Bath in particular were expected to flourish in 2015/16, so it will be interesting to see how they bounce back from here.

A lot of attention has been on Exeter Chiefs, who have brought in the exceptional pairing of Geoff Parling and Julian Salvi to compliment what is already a fine pack that includes the likes of Thomas Waldrom and Dave Ewers. Over the course of a lengthy season, pack strength is a vital component of a successful tilt at the play off places, and after missing out on the last day of the season in 2014/15, Exeter will be hoping to go one better this. They have picked up two wins from their three games to date, and they look great value at 9.00 each way to top the table come the end of the league stage.

At the other end of the table, newly promoted Worcester will be happy with their stat after defeating Northampton on the opening night before going down 24-22 in a narrow loss at Gloucester. Instead, it is Newcastle who look the most vulnerable in these early stages having shipped 122 points in just a trio of matches. With such generosity in defence, it could be a long old campaign for the team from the North East.

Guinness Pro 12

Despite a mediocre campaign in 2014/15, Scarlets have started this season like a house on fire with six wins from their six games, and so their current market price of 9.00 with most bookmakers is incredibly long and slightly bizarre. Of course, there is a long way to go – each team plays 22 matches in the league format – but Wayne Pivac’s side are playing some good rugby based on discipline and organisation. If they can keep this level up, they will go close.

Last year’s Pro 12 champions, Glasgow Warriors, have yet to hit their stride and are in danger of being left behind by the top three teams having won just half of their six matches to date. Their defeat to Scarlets on the opening weekend of the season set the tone for both of those team’s efforts thus far.

Last year’s runners up Munster head the bookmakers’ odds at 3.75, and the Irish side have started the campaign in strong fashion. Defeat to the Scarlets was an eye-opener, and in four of their five victories so far they have won by just five points or less.

Top 14

France’s top flight rugby competition is already seven games old this season, and last year’s beaten finalists Clermont have powered their way to the summit of the Top 14 table with five wins, a draw and a solitary loss (in dramatic fashion) to Montpellier.

Last year’s champions Stade Francais have started the season in woeful fashion, and already look out of the running in their bid to defend their crown. They have already suffered five defeats in their seven outings – some spectacularly heavy – and so they remain unbackable even at prices as long as 67.00.

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