Northampton Saints might finally have a side to win a title
Looking at the Saints team that started the Aviva Premiership final last season, it was hard to see where their X Factor was coming from. Where was that person who could change a game in their favour? Well, this summer, they bought three of them. Alex Corbisiero came of age on the British & Irish Lions tour and will probably be a stronger cog that Soane Tonga’huia was last season. Welshman George North has all the power, strength and pace of a Samoan and should light up the Premiership. And, finally, talking of Samoans, scrum-half Kahn Fotuali’i could have more X Factor than the other two put together – he really is that good. The Saints squad may still be a bit light in depth but they certainly have the resources to win a final if they can get there.
Bath may finally break free from years of underachievement
Since Bruce Craig brought his millions to The Rec, Bath fans have started every year with great hope at their expensively assembled side. Every year, however, they have finished disappointed. But this season, they have a host of fast young backs and, crucially, a pack that looks like it may give them the ball they need to make the most of their talents. With the likes of Dave Attwood, Francois Louw and Paul James in the Bath front eight, they have the sort of grunt they have lacked in the past and no excuse not to test the top four places this time.
Dean Richards may lose his customary laid-back calmness
‘Deano’ has done it all as a player and a coach. And that comes across in his public persona. Here is a man completely as ease with his job and the task at hand. But a return to the Premiership with a relatively cheaply-assembled side that is many people’s tip for an immediate drop back down to the Championship, will test even his resolve. If Newcastle get off on the wrong foot and they find themselves in a hole around Christmas, will Richards’ unflappable public image show chinks in the armour?
Rugby’s laws may not get amended at the end of the season
Wouldn’t it be nice for supporters – and especially head coaches – if the laws of the game we went into the summer recess with, were the same laws we began the 2014/15 season with? At the start of last season it seemed that every try ever scored would be referred to the TMO. This year, it’s the controversial new scrum engagement sequence, straight put in and hooker hooking directives. In some ways, it is good that the game’s law-makers keep trying to make things better. But please, just for once, could things be left just as they are?
The Heineken Cup may die
It’s one of those things that people always think: “Oh, that will never happen!” But there has been such little progress from the various parties negotiating this wonderful competition’s future, it is now a very real possibility that this will be the last year of the Heineken Cup in its current guise. Neither party is budging and all parties have too much to lose by backing down. English clubs have spoken openly about what they might do instead. It has reached a stage where a year away with all clubs suffering as a result, may be a necessity to get them back around the table actually working together towards its eventual return. Sad times.
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