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Nic Ladds 31st Aug 2009 - 12:52

Guinness Premiership preview

The Guinness Premiership has yet to kick off and we have already been treated to scandal, controversy, big-name departures, international transfer and rising stars.

The season officially gets underway Friday September 4 with last year's champions Leicester Tigers in action against Sale Sharks and all teams will be hoping to let the rugby do the talking and not what happens off the field.

Here we give a brief preview of each team and see how they are likely to fare over the season.


Odds 13/2

Head Coach - Steve Meehan

Captain - Michael Claasens

Chances - Swamped in a mire of drug scandals pre-season which has seen them lose a further five players so the rest of the team can expect to be scrutinised all season. Luke Watson and Ben Skirving are fantastic additions to the squad, and if Olly Barkley recaptures some form now back where he belongs then they begin to look dangerous as long as the inevitable scrutiny doesn't get on top of them.

One to watch - New signing Watson could be exactly what the team needs but you can't help but watch 6ft7 winger Matt Banahan who looks a cert to score his fair share of tries.

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Odds - 5/1

Head Coach - Bryan Redpath

Captain - Gareth Delve and Mike Tindall

Chances - Looks to be a transition season for Gloucester with a host of changes both in the squad and the back room staff with former coach Dean Ryan departing along with a host of players who he put his faith in and failed to deliver. With a lack of cover for the backs should international call ups take their toll, the second favourites look like they will miss out on the play-offs again as the team find their feet.

One to watch - Carlos Spencer still has the ability to win a game single-handedly but needs to up his level of consistency this season to not go missing when it really matters.

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Odds - 9/1

Head Coach - John Kingston

Captain - Will Skinner

Chances - A team dogged by controversy after the 'bloodgate' scandal which has seen Dean Richards and others depart and Tom Williams get suspended with the possibility of more punishment to come. Quins were awesome last season and if they can avoid letting off-field antics affect them on the pitch, they still have a great chance of challenging for the title at a decent price.

One to watch - Ugo Monye should come on this season for his Lions experience but captain Will Skinner who has a huge task to restore pride to the Quins and ensure everyone is focused on the rugby.

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London Irish

Odds - 6/1

Head Coach - Toby Booth

Captain - Bob Casey

Chances - Last year's Premiership finalists look set to have another bold stab at the title and a lot will depend on whether new recruit Ryan Lamb can fill Mike Catt's shoes at fly-half. With the Armitage brothers leading the host of exciting young talent Irish have, it looks set to be an exciting season for the Exiles and they look the biggest threat to Leicester's crown.

One to watch - so many to pick from with Nick Kennedy, Topsy Ojo and best of a prop Alex Corbisiero all set for bright futures but if Delon Armitage continues in the form he was in at the end of last season, this will inspire the rest of the team to match his brilliant best.

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Leicester Tigers

Odds - 2/1

Head Coach - Richard Cockerill

Captain - Geordan Murphy

Chances - The Premiership Champions and Heineken Cup runners-up again look the team to beat. They haven't made any major signings but haven't lost anyone too crucial and providing losing a host of players for internationals doesn't affect them too much will be there or thereabouts again but at the odds of 2/1 the likes of Irish and Harlequins look a better betting proposition.

One to watch - so many international stars spread through the Tigers squad but Tom Croft made such an impact both domestically and internationally last season and his role will become even more prevalent this season.

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Leeds Carnegie

Odds - 250/1

Head Coach - Neil Back

Captain - Marco Wentzel

Chances - Very little chance and is can be safely assumed they will, as usual fight to survive. With Neil Back as coach they are bound to have some fight in them but will ultimately be overpowered by pretty much everyone.

One to watch - a couple of interesting recruits and perhaps Andy Gomarsall can roll back the years and use all his experience to get the team playing well from scrum-half.

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London Wasps

Odds - 11/1

Head Coach - Shaun Edwards

Captain - Tom Rees

Chances - Have lost a host of big names players to foreign shores but they have recruited well with Tom Varndell and David Lemi excellent additions on the wings. Should do better but really need to, otherwise these underachievers will have to settle for mid-table obscurity again.

One to watch - Danny Cipriani for all his problems can prove all his critics wrong, shake off this 'celebrity' tag that he has got himself and play the devastating rugby we know he is capable of.

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Newcastle Falcons

Odds - 66/1

Head Coach - Steve Bates

Captain - Carl Hayman

Chances -  Have changed nearly the whole squad in a bid to shake things up after a very poor season last year. If the squad can gel quickly then they could surprise a few people and prove that there is life after Jonny Wilkinson.

One to watch - Jimmy Gopperth, who steps in to fill Wilkinson's shoes at fly-half and this New Zealander, with all his skills learnt in the Super 14, can show the rugby world how Newcastle won't miss Jonny.

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Northampton Saints

Odds - 9/1

Head Coach - Jim Mallinder

Captain - Dylan Hartley

Chances - If Northampton can start winnings games away from home as well as at Franklin's Gardens then they look serious contenders. Are assembling a fantastic squad of both youth and experience and in Dylan Hartley, Ben Foden and Shane Geraghty, they have some of the most exciting English players around.

One to watch - Dylan Hartley who at the tender age of 23 has been handed the captaincy which could be the making of him. A cert for future England commitments and can drive the team to compete at the top of the Premiership - big chance at nice price.

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Odds - 16/1

Head Coach - Brendan Venter

Captain - Steve Borthwick

Chances - Their South African coach has brought in six Springboks this season taking Saracens tally up to ten and given their world dominance internationally this may not be the worst move. Did not have a particularly good season last year and this influx of Southern Hemisphere blood will either have the desired effect and boost them up the table or if it doesn't they will struggle again.

One to watch - fly-half Glenn Jackson who has been top Premiership scorer for the last two seasons. As long as he continues to fire they'll always be in with a shout.

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Sale Sharks

Odds - 14/1

Head Coach - Jason Robinson

Captain - Dean Schofield

Chances - Interesting to see how Jason Robinson gets on as coach in what could well be a season of rebuilding as the Sharks have lost a host of talented players. The backs aren't shaping up badly but there looks to be a lack of bite up front which could cost them as the season goes on.

One to watch - Dwayne Peel is a man who can find space where there isn't any and conjure something out of nothing. If he doesn't get selected for Wales because of the league he plays in then Sale keep him all season and that would be a massive coup for them.

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Worcester Warriors

Odds - 100/1

Head Coach - Mike Ruddock

Captain - Pat Sanderson

Chances - With Leeds in the line up Worcester look sure to survive and perhaps they will do a little better with Chris Latham a quality player and Pat Sanderson one of the best captains around they could have the tenacity to grind out some important results.

One to watch - Kai Horstmann is an exceptional talent up front and will work tirelessly in the forwards but if Rico Gear can stay fit, he is bound to weigh in with a hatful of tries which could be key to the side's progression.

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