Aviva Premiership Preview
For the followers of the English Premiership, there may be a new sponsor in Aviva but the anticipation and excitement at what the season may hold remains the same.
Can the reigning champions Leicester (15/8) make it four wins from seven consecutive Grand Finals? Can the Quins prove that last season was a one-off and under Conor O'Shea's leadership, the only way is up? Some punters may feel that the now financially flush Bath (9/2), can win the Grand Final this year!
Bath recovered from a single win in their opening ten matches last year to reach the play-offs and they are my team to watch! If they can continue in the vein of form they displayed in the second half of last season, their regular season points could definitely pass 64.5 at 5/6.
With a millionaire owner and a former Lions legend Ian McGeechan as a Performance Director to aid Steve Meehan, the structure is in place.
They have recruited well and their key man is Olly Barkley, he has been omitted from the England squad and he was one of the best players in the Premiership last season. He could be a big price at 6/1 to be the top points scorer in the Premiership this season, he will not give up his England spot without fighting.
New boys Exeter are 1/3 to be relegated and they were inconsistent last season. Due to their participation in the play-offs they were weeks behind the other Premiership teams in terms of recruitment and as a promoted club they received less funding than the established clubs.
It really would be a miraculous escape if they were to stay-up this season. The Premiership is a world away in terms of the standard of play in the Championship.
My bet of the season is the Quins to make the play-offs at 4/1, they have brought in some fantastic young players and they have the experience with the likes of Monye, Ollie Smith and Easter to call upon.
Harlequins struggled to cope with the 'bloodgate' scandal last season, they finished eighth and failed to qualify for the Heineken Cup. They did not seem the same when Dean Richards left Quins and it will be up to the new director of rugby Conor O'Shea to inject some passion and fight into the side.
David Strettle will add some cutting edge to a Saracens side that were a whisker away from winning last year's Grand Slam. They will want to avenge the loss this season and Brendan Venter will no doubt get the squad fit and on their toes. They switched off at Twickenham in May and it would not be surprising to see them lead from the front this season. They are 5/1 to win the Grand Final.
Only Saracens were good enough last season to beat Northampton Saints on their own turf and Leicester may struggle on Sunday in-front of the Sky TV cameras. Leicester lost at Sale on the opening day of last season if Northampton improve on the road this season, they could have an immense year.