Living Rugby looks at the 12 Aviva Premiership clubs and picks out one player from each of them who has a serious point to prove this season.
First up: Bath to London Irish…..
The easiest pick of any player from any club. Gavin Henson used to polarise opinion. Nowadays, most people just think he is a lost cause. The Welsh international has taken permanent residence in the Last Chance Saloon. Yet, in a Bath back line riddled with young talent, Henson could have a cracking season if his forwards pack produce good ball. Henson has lovely balance, a nice pass, a big boot and reads the game well. If he could showcase those talents for a whole season, people would remember just how good he can be. Nobody needs a good season more than Gavin Henson because this is his last chance...now where have I heard that before?
The Chiefs back-rower looked a permanent fixture in the England set-up until a torn ligament against Leinster in the Heineken Cup last season saw him sidelined for months. He battled back to make the England tour of Argentina but with competition like Tom Croft, Tom Wood and Calum Clark around, this is a big start to the season for Johnson.
Kiwi scrum-half Jimmy Cowan came to England at the start of last season with a big reputation which he struggled to live up to. The link between Gloucester’s pack and their lightning-fast backs is key to the clubs success and Cowan’s inconsistencies hurt them in the six months he played before a knee ligament injury ended his season in February. With 51 All Black caps and aged just 31, Cowan needs to step up this season and prove how good he can be.
Having moved from Northampton where he played second fiddle to the likes of Brian Mutaji and Soane Tonga’huia, Doran-Jones now has a great chance to show he is a Test quality prop after moving to Harlequins. The 28-year-old has a great build for a modern-day front-rower at 6’ 2” and 18 stone and he also has plenty of ability. Will Doran-Jones remain a very good club player or can he produce consistent form to add to his six England caps?
Lamb lit up the Premiership when he came onto the scene at Gloucester as a youngster and he looked to have a long-term England future ahead of him. But he never really got a good run in the team at either London Irish or Northampton and he arrives at Leicester this season hoping to hone his undoubted talent in an environment that has got the very best out of numerous players in recent seasons. Lamb has skills that can win games for teams. At Leicester, he will have the ammunition in both forwards and backs to make the most of what he has to offer.
The flamed-haired full-back has far too much talent not to get national recognition. But he is 23 now and time is running out for him to force his way into the national set-up. Homer has a huge boot on him and good kicking percentages in the Premiership. He also forms a crucial part of the Exiles’ rapid back three that love to attack. But the Salisbury-born back needs consistency from the word ‘go’ in a position that is largely up from grabs within the England squad. An Irish squad that needs its best players to produce consistently well will also look to him as a senior player this season.
And coming on Sunday, who will be the players with a point to prove from Northampton to Worcester……