After a break of 158 days, Gallagher Premiership rugby returns this weekend. The last Premiership match played before the lockdown featured Bath and Harlequins. On Friday it will be Harlequins who will restart Round 14, when they entertain Sale Sharks at the Stoop.
Before the enforced break Exeter lead the table by five points from Sale and Bristol. Six clubs were in the play-off mix only separated by just seven points.
Chiefs looking for their second title
Exeter look strong favourites to land their second title. Chiefs had made a big addition to the side by adding Scottish lock Jonny Gray. Before the break Chiefs had won three of their last five and will face Leicester Tigers on Saturday.
Second place Sharks look a side that can potentially push Exeter all the way. Have won four of their last five and have made two marquee signings, Manu Tuilagi and Sam Hill. Expect Steve Diamond’s side not to falter at the end of the campaign.
Bears proving to be the surprise package
Bristol Bears have certainly improved season by season since their return back to the top league. Currently sitting in a comfortable third place after winning their last five games.
If they can pick up from where they left off, they will certainly be in the mix come October. Bears surprised the rugby world by signing two world class operators in Semi Radradra and Kyle Sinkler.
Northampton Saints are hanging in there in fourth place at present. Before lockdown their form had dipped by winning only once in their last five games.
Saints have taken advantage of the loan system by recruiting Nick Isiekwe from Saracens. If they can get back to winning ways, still a chance for them to finish in the play-offs.
Plenty of sides in the play off mix
Despite Dai Young’s departure Wasps were beginning to start hitting form before the break with four wins out of five. New Head Coach Lee Blackett will be looking to maintain that form for them to be genuine play-off candidates.
A play-off place is certainly within Bath’s grasp after a decent mid-season run. Have made former Saracens player Ben Spencer their main addition for the play-off push ahead.
Only having only won five times this season, Quins find themselves in mid table congestion. The return of Joe Marchant from his spell with the Auckland Blues will lift the club. Returning from a serious knee injury Mike Brown will be relishing the battles that lie ahead. If Harlequins can find some consistency, then don’t rule out a late push from the South West London outfit.
London Irish will start the restart with an outside chance of making the play offs. The Exiles welcome back former favourite Tom Homer after a spell at Bath.
Gloucester Rugby’s campaign fell apart mid-season and it was no surprise when David Humphreys and Johan Ackerman left. The duo has been replaced by a coaching team of George Skivington, Alex King and Dominic Waldouk.
Despite losing their last five matches, Worcester have no relegation fears to concern them. The appointment of young flanker Ted Hill and return of Matt Kvesic is a big bonus for Warriors.
It is just as well that Saracens are pre-relegated otherwise you would fear for Leicester Tigers. Although a couple of wins in their last five will have done their confidence some good. The departures of Manu Tuilagi, Telusa Veaonu and Jonny May has hurt them badly.
Saracens have almost kept all their biggest names and negotiated loan deals for the stars of the future. Almost certain they will concentrate on the upcoming European Cup matches and use Premiership matches to blood new players.