This season sees 2019 title-holders Saracens make their return to the top flight, after suffering relegation due to salary cap breaches the following yearAlasdair Massie/Flickr

Premiership Rugby is back. After restarting on 17th September, the campaign has already seen its familiar thrills, spills, and upsets. Reigning champions Harlequins started where they left off with two consecutive victories, while last season’s table-toppers Bristol Bears have so far disappointed with straight losses. Leicester Tigers and Northampton Saints both look dangerous in the wake of undefeated openings.

Last season, Harlequins pulled off one of the greatest upsets in Premiership history, winning the Championship after finishing fourth-placed in the regular season. Their semi-final win away at Bristol, coming back from 28-0 down to win 36-43 after extra time, was the largest deficit in a comeback win that the league has ever seen. They subsequently topped this off with a free-flowing victory over then English and European champions Exeter Chiefs in June’s final (26/06).

“Quins play exhilarating, high-scoring, stylish rugby. They are the perfect antidote to international rugby’s recent slump”

It’s no secret that rugby currently has an image problem. Recent research has revealed that playing can lead to significant brain injury and early onset dementia post-retirement, something very worrying for the future of the game. On the field too, rugby has lately suffered. This summer’s Lions tour of South Africa yielded boring rugby, dominated by kicking and very few highlights. It was hardly a good advert for a team that plays just once every four years. Closer to home, problems are the same; England have found patches of superb form over the last three years and yet have still been accused of playing rugby that fails to captivate. In short, rugby is desperate for a spark.

Harlequins have and can provide that spark this season. With their game plan often ‘however many you score, we’ll just score more’, Quins play exhilarating, high-scoring, stylish rugby. They are the perfect antidote to international rugby’s recent slump. Expect big things from Harlequins this season; they’ve picked up where they left off with two high scoring victories of 20-26 and 35-29 over Newcastle and Worcester respectively.

Quins fans may worry that many of last year’s elites will miss games for international rugby, and this is justified. Star man Marcus Smith must feature for England, while back rowers Alex Dombrandt and Jack Kenningham may too. Fortunately, Quins have good depth. The newly-arrived, Italian fly half Tommaso Allan is top pick of the newcomers, looking to be a great bit of business after notching up 16 points in his first two games. Although Newcastle and Worcester are not the most decisive games for Quins if they are to challenge for the title, the side will face their first real test against Bristol in round four at The Stoop.

“After years with no creative spark, Leicester fans will be hoping George Ford’s England omission for Marcus Smith will act in their favour”

Bristol, however, seem a shell of the team that topped the league last season. Perhaps still reeling from their comeback defeat at the hands of Quins, the Bears have fared dismally in their first two games, losing 9-26 to resurgent Saracens and 44-8 to Wasps. Fans will hope this is just early season rustiness and can hope for better from a team whose attacking options are simply mouth-watering, with Semi Radradra, Calum Sheedy, and Charles Piutau appearing dangerous from just about anywhere on the pitch. Don’t right off Bristol just yet and expect them to bounce back strongly, maybe as soon as this evening (01/10) against a Bath outfit who have endured a similarly slow start and seem destined for mid-table obscurity, despite the unexpected signing of Danny Cipriani to combine with stars Anthony Watson and Sam Underhill.

Another of English Rugby’s recent juggernauts, Saracens, played excellently in their only game thus far and will certainly challenge for silverware this year. Beating Bristol 9-26 with their characteristically suffocating defence, Saracens emphatically announced a strong return to the Premiership. After a year of exile in the second tier following relegation for salary cap breaches, an air of uncertainty naturally hangs over them this season; will they perform without recent practice at the top level? However, with a host of international talent at their disposal, and both current and perhaps future England captains Owen Farrell and Maro Itoje respectively in their ranks, Saracens will surely find themselves fighting for pole position come the end of this season.


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Away from the leading team’s of last year, Leicester and Northampton could well break into this season’s semi-finals. Leicester, who once ruled English Rugby, look to be a serious prospect following several seasons of frustration, and have shone in their opening matches with victories over both Exeter and Gloucester. After years with no creative spark, Leicester fans will be hoping George Ford’s England omission for Marcus Smith will act in their favour. With his dizzying spiral kicking, he undoubtedly has the ability to propel Leicester up the table.

Northampton are also shaping up to be a strong contender this season, shining as they too overcame Gloucester and Exeter in their starting fixtures. With Dan Biggar pulling the strings, Northampton are a serious threat. What’s more, their reserve fly-half James Grayson, currently holding the most points this season in the league, is a young, talented backup option for when Biggar is away playing for Wales.

Although Saracens seem the team to beat this year, the league is in fact mouth-wateringly open. Any mentioned team has a chance at taking home the silverware, as do Wasps, Sale Sharks, and even Exeter in spite of their shaky start. As all eyes turn to coverage of the Premiership, the competition will hopefully provide rugby with a much-needed boost of excitement, and it looks unlikely to disappoint.