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The Premiership - Rugby Union: Season preview

The 2022/23 Premiership Rugby season begins on Friday and after a summer of intrigue 13 sides are set to battle it out for glory.

(This article was originally published on 22.09.2022) 

More international stars have joined the competitor, while some inter-team transfers have certainly caught the eye.

It promises to be another outstanding campaign, but the usual suspects could prove hard to budge.

What2022/23 Premiership season
WhenFriday 9th September 2022 - Saturday 27th May 2023
How to watchSelected games on BT Sport and Channel 4
Odds (outright)Saracens 7/4, Leicester 4/1, Exeter 11/2, Harlequins 6/1, Sale 9/1

Impressive recruitment suggests Tigers can improve

After finishing bottom of the standings in 2020/21, Steve Borthwick's faith in Leicester's youngsters was repaid as they went on to win the Grand Final 12 months later.

A thrilling 15-12 victory over Saracens at Twickenham handed the Tigers their first title since 2012/13 and while they've lost George Ford and Ellis Genge, they have recruited Anthony Watson and Handre Pollard.

Both have something to prove, with Watson coming back from an Achilles injury, while Pollard has been plagued by inconsistency since steering South Africa to their series win over the British & Irish Lions in 2021.

However, their most important arrival could be the experienced Jimmy Gopperth.

The Kiwi still looks to have at least another season left in him and can ease some of the pressure on Pollard by taking over goal-kicking duties. Meanwhile, Borthwick also has the luxury of calling on Freddie Burns to fill in at fly-half when needed.

Leicester also appear to have an endless conveyor belt of talent coming through their ranks and the confidence gained from last season's success only boosts their chances of a 12th Premiership win at 4/1.

Sarries set to challenge again

Another club used to producing their own talent are Saracens, who are 7/4 to win a sixth Grand Final.

They're also rarely shy when it comes to investing in overseas stars, but their limited transfer action suggests Mark McCall is more than happy with what he has to work with.

Lock Hugh Tizard has been signed as a younger version of the departing Tim Swinson and has become more important with Nick Isiekwe set for a spell on the sidelines.

Meanwhile, Christian Judge and Eduardo Bello will battle it out for the departing Vincent Koch's place in the side.

Their lack of recruitment is understandable when you consider they have the Vunipolas, Maro Itoje and last year's Premiership Player of the Year, Ben Earl, up front.

Behind the scrum, they have Messers Farrell, Daly and Goode to call upon, as well as last year's top tryscorer, Max Malins, who needs another good season as he looks to cement his place in England's side ahead of next year's World Cup.

Quins all set to go again

Few teams are as delightful to watch in full flow as Harlequins, but they lost momentum after their Champions Cup exit to Montpellier, losing three of their final four Premiership matches, including in the semis against Sarries.

Charlie Matthews' return from a spell in Japan gives them hope of a second Grand Final win in three years at 6/1.

Meanwhile, England fly-half Marcus Smith is only getting better with time, especially with Andre Esthuizen happy to set him up in midfield.

Change of approach for Exeter?

Exeter - 11/2 to win the Grand Final - have reshuffled their coaching set-up, with Ali Hepher now head coach and Rob Baxter taking a less hands-on role as director of rugby.

The Chiefs have lost some big names but have also recruited well, with Australia prop Scott Sio their standout acquisition.

Jonny Hill's departure to Sale was a shock, while the Sharks have also taken Tom O'Flaherty. Both have had a hand in shaping the Chiefs' play in recent years and Hepher will need to find a solution if his team are to finish better than last season's seventh.

The Sharks, 11/8 for a top-four finish, also have Ford coming in from Leicester, but have lost the likes of World Cup winners Faf de Klerk and Lood de Jager among their South African contingent, suggesting they could take time to settle.

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Wasps hope injuries are behind them

Finalists two seasons ago, Wasps missed out on the play-offs last term, largely due to a mammoth injury list that at one stage saw them without 27 players

Joe Launchbury, Jack Willis and Thomas Young were amongst those and Lee Blackett will hope for more luck in the coming campaign.

An accusation aimed at Wasps in the past has been a lack of grunt up front, but the signing of South Africa World Cup-winning prop Koch should help alleviate some of the pressure on their tight five, while a fully fit Launchbury will also contribute to correcting that slight.

They begin their campaign on Sunday away at Gloucester, another team who had their injury issues in 2021/22.

However, the Cherry and Whites only missed out on the play-offs by a point and look set to have England's Jonny May fit to start the season alongside the likes of Ollie Thorley and Louis Rees-Zammit.

Their recruitment has been limited, with Fijian number eight Albert Tuisue their sole signing and he will add further power to their impressive driving maul.

Head coach George Skivington has made no secret of his confidence in those available to him and a top-four finish at 21/10 is believed to be his minimum expectation for the campaign.

New coaches for Bath, Saints and Falcons

The 2021/22 campaign was a disaster for Bath as they propped up the standings and they have since lost the likes of Anthony Watson, Taulupe Faletau and Semesa Rokoduguni.

Last season had the feeling of a changing of the guard at The Rec and new boss Johann van Graan's key signings could prove to be defence coach JP Ferreira, who came over with him from Munster, and former Bath wing Joe Maddock, who will lead the attack.

Northampton grabbed fourth place last year and will hope to emulate that at 11/5, with Phil Dowson now at the helm after Chris Boyd's departure.

They have the luxury of being able to call on two international captains in Dan Biggar and Courtney Lawes, while Australians Lukhan Salakaia-Loto, Angus Scott-Young and James Ramm will all add something extra at Franklin's Gardens.

Dowson's former Newcastle team-mate Dave Walder has been handed the reins at Kingston Park.

As ever, the Falcons seemed to have had their best talent picked off over the summer and it could be a baptism of fire for Walder in his first season as Dean Richards' replacement.

Exiles and Bears look to light up the league

London Irish's expansive play almost saw them crash the top four last season and, with England's Henry Arundell due a first full campaign, they only look set to improve.

Speaking of improvement, Bristol have beefed up their front row with the return of hometown hero Genge who will team up with England colleague Kyle Sinckler.

Pat Lam believes he has addressed the inconsistency issues which saw his team finish 10th last season, with them shipping an average of 32 points per game in 2021/22, and they could surprise at 20/1 to win the Grand Final.

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