Premiership rugby 2021-22: complete club-by-club guide to the season

Harlequins face competition from Bristol, Exeter and Saracens for the title while a season of struggle awaits Worcester

Bath

Bath continue to run hot and cold with much depending on how quickly Danny Cipriani settles into the No 10 berth in place of the steadier Rhys Priestland who has returned home to Wales. Bath will miss forwards Zach Mercer and Henry Thomas who have both joined Montpellier but the Stormers No 8 Jaco Coetzee should provide some vital ball-carrying power. Joe Cokanasiga has been showing glimpses of his old form and it will be a keynote season for England’s forgotten wing.
Key player Jaco Coetzee Man in charge Stuart Hooper
Last season 7th Prediction 7th

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Bristol

How the Bears recover from the trauma of losing that play-off semi-final to Harlequins after finishing the regular season on top of the pile will be instructive and we may get some idea of their progress when they meet a weakened Saracens in their opener on Friday night. Bristol will be among the challengers again but they will miss Saracens loanees Ben Earl and Max Malins. The Ashton Gate atmosphere should inspire them and any team with Semi Radradra and Charles Piutau in their backs are a threat.
Key player Semi Radradra Man in charge Pat Lam
Last season 1st (beaten in play-offs) Prediction 6th

Semi Radradra will always carry a threat for Bristol
Semi Radradra will always carry a threat for Bristol. Photograph: Patrick Khachfe/JMP/REX/Shutterstock

Exeter

The Chiefs will still be scratching their heads when they think about their play-off final defeat. Nothing much has changed at Sandy Park and there has been no rush to recruit but Exeter still look the most powerful squad in the land and once that pack rumbles forwards they are hard to stop. Tomas Francis has returned to Wales but Josh Iosefa-Scott from Waikato and former Bath prop Sam Nixon will provide strong front-row cover. A fit-again Jack Nowell will be vital for the Chiefs and England.
Key player Joe Simmonds Man in charge Rob Baxter
Last season 2nd (beaten in final) Prediction 1st

Gloucester

Any side with a potential back three of Louis Rees-Zammit, Ollie Thorley and Jonny May can run riot but the big question mark hangs over the effectiveness of the forwards, at this traditionally forward-loving club, to provide them with quick ball. Adam Hastings’ arrival is a welcome one and on a new plastic pitch George Skivington’s side will look to move the ball quickly but his side may struggle, particularly on their travels.
Key player Chris Harris Man in charge George Skivington
Last season 11th Prediction 11th

Louis Rees-Zammit can provide an attacking outlet for Gloucester
Louis Rees-Zammit can provide an attacking outlet for Gloucester. Photograph: Andy Watts/JMP/REX/Shutterstock

Harlequins

That epic final win makes Quins unlikely champions and, if a repeat looks unlikely, they will continue to play a style of swashbuckling rugby with Marcus Smith offering the flair behind an underrated pack. Tommaso Allan has joined from Treviso to provide cover for the fly-half and Danny Care continues to show why Eddie Jones putting him out to grass was premature. Huw Jones, the Scotland centre, is a very handy signing from Glasgow Warriors.
Key player Danny Care Man in charge Tabai Matson
Last season 4th (final winner) Prediction 4th

Leicester

Something is stirring at last in the east Midlands where Steve Borthwick is building a pack of forwards in his own steely image. A bunch of hard-nut South African forwards has been bolstered by the signing of Marco van Staden from the Bulls while George Martin and Harry Wells are two young forwards who will soon be forcing their way into the England side. Australian recruit Bryce Hegarty could be an important signing. He can play at full-back or fly-half and fill a gap left by Zack Henry’s move to France.
Key player Bryce Hegarty Man in charge Steve Borthwick
Last season 6th Prediction 2nd

London Irish

The Exiles have a new home in Brentford which is one of the best venues in the Premiership but they may struggle to keep their crowds happy. Blair Cowan, their talisman in the back row, has departed to Japan and while Albert Tuisue and Sean O’Brien provide a wealth of experience, there is a lack of depth to their squad. Ollie Hassell-Collins is one of the best of a crop of young English wings and Paddy Jackson a canny operator at fly-half.
Key player Marcel van der Merwe Man in charge Declan Kidney
Last season 9th Prediction 13th

Ollie Hassell-Collins is one of the brightest young English wings in the game
Ollie Hassell-Collins is one of the brightest young English wings in the game. Photograph: MI News/NurPhoto/REX/Shutterstock

Newcastle

The Falcons went off like a train last season but no side in the Premiership has missed a crowd more. Dean Richards has looked to his old club Harlequins for a couple of key signings in veteran Mike Brown and, perhaps more significantly, the wing Nathan Earle. Earle has been unlucky with injuries but he and Adam Radwan, with his searing pace, can be a threat and Newcastle have a strong, mobile pack that can help them prosper on the Kingston Park plastic pitch.
Key player Nathan Earle Man in charge Dean Richards
Last season 10th Prediction 10th

Northampton

The Saints had a doleful run of home defeats last season and Chris Boyd’s side can be madly inconsistent. The signing of Courtnall Skosan, a wing from the Sigma Golden Lions, is an interesting one and the Saints should be entertaining. But much rests on their old heads, Courtney Lawes and Dan Biggar, who played such a major role with the Lions this summer. Another signing from the Stormers, the young No 8 Juarno Augustus, will help put the Saints on the front foot.
Key player Courtnall Skosan Man in charge Chris Boyd
Last season 5th Prediction 9th

Northampton depend heavily on Courtney Lawes
Northampton depend heavily on Courtney Lawes. Photograph: David Rogers/Getty Images

Sale

Sale’s new signings Tommy Taylor, Simon McIntyre and Nick Schonert, show where the Sharks are at. All are uncompromising front-row forwards who will bolster a pack that few will get the better of. Alex Sanderson has transformed the club after the unhappy departure of Steve Diamond and their bunch of South Africans together with the likes of the Curry brothers will make them hard to beat. Sale will be in the title mix come the spring.
Key player Tom Curry Man in charge Alex Sanderson
Last season 3rd Prediction 5th

Saracens

Saracens are back after their Championship exile and will be Premiership challengers again. There are few new faces but some important returning players, Ben Earl, Max Malins, Nick Tompkins and Alex Lozowski from his loan at Montpellier. It may be a while before their Lions are back in the first team but Saracens, especially if Billy Vunipola finds his mojo, will be anxious to put a few noses out of joint. Expect to see them in another Premiership final.
Key player Billy Vunipola Man in charge Mark McCall
Last season Championship champions Prediction 3rd

Billy Vunipola
Can Billy Vunipola rediscover his mojo? Photograph: James Chance/Getty Images

Wasps

One of the key summer signings was that of John Mitchell who has turned his back on Eddie Jones to return to the coaching staff of his old club. Wasps will be without injured Joe Launchbury, Jack Willis and Paolo Odogwu for the first part of the season. They will be key absences. Hopefully, the return after a run of injuries of Alfie Barbeary will help compensate. Barbeary is the unpolished gem of English rugby, a ball-carrier at home at hooker or in the back row. The return of Nizaam Carr to the back row is a bonus.
Key player Alfie Barbeary Man in charge Lee Blackett
Last season 8th Prediction 8th

Worcester

The Warriors didn’t quite live up to their name last season, by some way the worst side in the division. But no club has recruited and discarded players so spectacularly. Duncan Weir has returned to Scotland but two of the most eye-catching signings travel the other way, recent Lions Rory Sutherland and Duhan van der Merwe, while Gloucester stalwarts Willi Heinz and Matt Garvey are other important captures. The 19-year-old Fin Smith is a prodigiously talented No 10 and should fill Weir’s boots before long. It may be another long winter at Sixways but the only way is up.
Key player Duhan van der Merwe Man in charge Alan Solomons
Last season 12th Prediction 12th

Contributor

Ian Malin

The GuardianTramp

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