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Rupert Wyman 3rd Sep 2010 - 17:58

The Aviva Premiership opening matches

Sale v Newcastle

Sale face Newcastle at Edgely Park in the curtain raiser for the English Premiership this Friday evening. Sale are 4/9 to win at home and it is 7/4 for the away victory.

Both sides will be looking to improve on last season's indifferent form, where they were both part of a four-way relegation dog-fight.

They each have a new coaches at the helm and for Sale Mike Brewer will be looking to improve on last season's poor disciplinary form. Both teams have recruited well and from a punting perspective, they are two new-look teams.

Sale started last season by beating Leicester but they failed to build on the momentum.

The Sharks cannot afford a poor start to the season and Mike Brewer a former All Black player will have brought renewed confidence to the club.

Newcastle have plenty of injury problems but Sale have their fair share as well. Three of the hosts international backs - Cueto, Tait and Hodgson are all on the casualty list.

There may be new faces involved in the match but Sale should still be too strong for the Tyneside club who struggle on their travels. I would back them pre-match at -5 points to overcome the handicap at 10/11.


Saturday's London Double header

On Saturday afternoon ESPN are showing a cracking Aviva Premiership London double-header, there could barely be a better game to kick off the day than the London Irish versus Saracens, followed by Wasps against Harlequins.

London Irish v Saracens

The London Irish were Premiership finalists two years ago but injury problems and poor form hampered them at the end of last season.  They still look worryingly short of numbers in the forwards department and only Leinster's Brian Blaney has been recruited.

London Irish's winger Sailosi Tagicakibau was fantastic at the start of last season and in the Premiership Sevens. He scored six tries in four games. He could be worth a punt at (11/1) to score first in front of a crowd of more than 70,000 at Twickenham.

London Irish will be hoping that the Saracens are still dwelling over what could have been and that they have a Premiership Grand Final hangover tomorrow. In last season's final, with just three minutes left it looked like they were on the brink of a famous victory but it was cruelly snatched from them by Leicester's Dan Hipkiss from the kick-off.

Saracens have made a few great signings and the likes of the former Quins player Strettle and Wigglesworth can only complement their fantastic squad.

The key for the Sarries this year will be how the Saxons player Alex Goode fares in replacing the retired kicker Glen Jackson.  With the talent on display and the exciting brand of attacking rugby the Saracens offer, it could be an attacking affair.

However, I think it will be a tight affair but Saracens will win by a narrow margin of 6-10 points at 6/1. The Sarries are 4/6 to win in 80 minutes and London irish are priced at 6/5.



Wasps v Harlequins

These two great rivals take on each other in the final live televised match.  Wasps should be a far more settled side than last season, there is no longer any media banter or controversy surrounding the now departed Cipriani and they will have some familiar faces involved against the Quins.

England international Riki Flutey has returned to the club after a spell in France and he will add real class to their set of backs. Vickery is back to full fitness and he will want to help push Wasps further up the league this year.

For those who are on the periphery of rugby union, Harlequins will forever be known for the 'bloodgate' scandal. The fake blood scandal has been back in the headlines this week and had it not been for the controversy surrounding Pakistan cricket team, it would probably have had more airtime.

I am biased towards Harlequins but they could be the surprise package of the season and without the pressure of the Heineken Cup, their league form should improve. They have made a marquee signing in Ollie Smith and there is a wealth of talent in the squad.

I would take on Wasps and back the Quins at 13/8, with the new Director of Rugby Conor O'Shea's guidance, they can only improve and they should be well drilled. With talents such as Monye, Danny Care and Easter, they must be worth a small punt at a value price!








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