Tag Archive: Richard Cockerill

By Laurie Fitzgerald

The new Aviva Premiership season got underway last weekend, as rugby fans across the country prepare for another epic and thrilling campaign ahead.

In terms of an introduction to the new season, there could hardly have been a better one; it may have been the first game of the season, but Harlequins and Wasps produced 80 minutes of entertainment that may not be bettered in the following 134 matches.

After enduring the season from hell last time out, Wasps looked to have shaken off the shackles that saw them almost go out of the Premiership and close to administration as their pace and precision tore apart the defending champions.     Continue reading


By Laurie Fitzgerald

After 22 pulsating rounds, we now know which are the four teams that have earnt a crack at lifting the Aviva Premiership title and being crowned champions of England in 2012.

Harlequins, Leicester, Saracens and Northampton have emerged as the country’s elite over the past nine months, and this weekend’s semi-finals are finely poised as they battle for a place in the final at Twickenham on the 26th May.

The bookies are backing Leicester to emerge as champions; Richard Cockerill‘s side are looking to reach their eighth consecutive Premiership final, and are the form team going into the knockout stages having beaten the other three semi-finalists away from home in recent months.

But as this season has already shown, we could be set for more twists and turns as we prepare for two titanic tussles as England’s finest prepare to get a shot at the title.     Continue reading

By Laurie Fitzgerald

It has been a hugely disappointing Heineken Cup campaign for the Aviva Premiership sides as the pool stages concluded last weekend.

From the seven representatives from England, only Saracens reached the quarter-finals of Europe‘s elite competition, the same number as Scotland and Wales, who only had two and four entrants into the tournament respectively.

While Sarries secured top spot in Pool five and gained home advantage in the knockout stages, the rest of England’s top teams had campaigns to forget. Continue reading

Heineken Cup Week Five Preview

By Laurie Fitzgerald

This weekend the penultimate matches in the Heineken Cup take place, with many permutations still to resolve.

Many sides know their chances of reaching the last eight are already beyond them, but there are games that will prove decisive for some of Europe’s heavyweights.

On Friday night Ulster face Leicester, while Edinburgh go to Racing Metro knowing that a win could be imperative. Continue reading

By Laurie Fitzgerald

Now that the Rugby World Cup is over, full focus returns on domestic matters and looking at an Aviva Premiership campaign that is already  a third of the way complete.

Some teams have found the going tough with many of their established stars away on international duty in New Zealand, especially the likes of Leicester and Northampton.

The Tigers have had horrendous luck not only losing more players to the World Cup than any other side, but also suffering serious injuries to the likes of Steve Mafi and Jordan Crane.

It was a combination of problems that saw Director of Rugby Richard Cockerill having to delve deep into the resources, but after six games Leicester found themselves in 11th position going into the LV Cup break.

Only now from the return of their World Cup players have Leicester started to build momentum, and Northampton know how their big rivals feel.

With the absence of the likes of Chris Ashton, Ben Foden, Soane Tonga’uiha, Courtney Lawes and Tom Wood,  the Saints also struggled to build any momentum, and their return was marked with a thumping win over Newcastle last weekend.

While both teams should be in the reckoning come the end of the season, there is no doubt which team are setting the standard this season.

Harlequins have made the perfect start with seven wins from seven, playing some fantastic attacking rugby anchored by one of the world’s best fly-halves in Nick Evans.

Conor O’Shea’s side underlined their potential by winning the European Challenge Cup last season, and they have found the consistency that was missing domestically last time around.

Ominously though, just behind them with six wins from seven are the champions Saracens. They have an incredible mental resolve and have already won at Gloucester as well as putting fifty points on Leicester at Welford Road. Their ability to win whatever the situation means they will once again be there or thereabouts come May.

Steve Diamond deserves credit for the job he’s done at Sale; over 40 players either came or went from Edgeley Park in the summer, and he’s managed to gel the squad together quickly and find themselves currently in the play-off places – although their defeat to Leicester will be a wake-up call that much work still needs to be done if they are to stay there.

Sir Ian McGeechan has also settled back into the managerial hotseat well at Bath. They have been solid if unspectacular so far but are building momentum with key players coming back, such as the injured Olly Barkley, Lewis Moody and World-Cup winning fly-half Stephen Donald.

Wasps look a far better side than the one that were hugely disappointing last year. They’ve become a lot tougher to beat under Dai Young, and have one of the most dangerous back three combinations in the Premiership with Richard Haughton, Tom Varndell and the electric Christian Wade, one of the best youngsters in the game.

London Irish continue to frustrate as much as they delight. For me they are the best attacking team in England, but the other side of their game – being able to grind out results when they need to – carries on disappointing. Until they figure a way of doing that consistently they won’t be able to turn top six into top four.

Exeter got their season off to a flyer with back-to-back wins, but four defeats from five means they now find themselves in mid-table. But the aim was always to build on their brilliant first season in the top flight, and if Rob Baxter carries on getting the best from his squad then they will be an outside bet to push for a Heineken Cup spot.

Gloucester continue to be the Jekyll and Hyde team of the Premiership; phenomenal in an attacking sense as well as in their defensive intensity at Kingsholm, they are a pale imitation of the side that has made the Shed a fortress over the last two years. If they can replicate at least half of what they produce at home, they will be in play-off contention.

Newly-promoted Worcester have settled back in well to Premiership life and apart from an away thumping at London Irish they have not been overawed by anyone. But they are the only team not to break the century-point barrier and rely too much on the boot of Andy Goode. This shouldn’t be the case when you have the likes of Miles Benjamin, Marcel Garvey and Errie Claassens in the back division.

The team I fear for are Newcastle. The Falcons were viewed by many going into the season as the team favourites for relegation, and despite their weekly opposition weakened over the last couple of months, they have still stood out as a struggling outfit. Now with teams back to full strength, Alan Tait has his work cut out in keeping the squad above the trap door.

However the rest of the season pans out, all signs point to the Premiership being as tight as ever, and with the big boys all back from Down Under we should be set for a cracking several months ahead!

So what do you think? Will Harlequins continue to set the pace in the coming months? Who look set to push for the play-offs? Which teams will struggle against the drop? Leave a comment and let us know your views.

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