Aviva Premiership: Round 1 Preview

The 2017/18 Aviva Premiership season gets underway on Friday the 1st of September.

The Aviva Premiership makes a return this weekend and while this particular tournament isn’t every ones’ cup of tea, it does offer some terrific value for the shrewd rugby punter out there. There will also be an added interest for South African’s this year with Golden Lions father and son duo Johan and Ruan Ackermann linking up at Gloucester. The Ackermann clan enjoyed great success with the Lions and if Johan can turn Gloucester’s fortunes around a la the Gauteng Union's, then he will add to what is becoming a very impressive coaching CV.

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Gloucester Rugby v Exeter Chiefs | Friday 1 September | Kingsholm Stadium |20:35

To Win (80 Mins)
Gloucester 16/10 | Draw 18/1 | Exeter 11/20
Gloucester (+4.5) | Exeter (-4.5)

Johan Ackermann begins life as Gloucester head coach with a tie against the defending champions Exeter. The visitors were deserved champions last season with their power game blowing most opponents out the water.

This is where Ackermann’s experience of coaching in South Africa will come in extremely handy. The former Lions mentor knows how to get one over a side that’s reliant on power runners. He also has a rather brutish pack at his disposal and they could well mix it with the Exeter heavies.

Verdict: Gloucester 16/10 
I’ve gone for the home side here as I think they’re primed for a magnificent season. They’ve brought in some top draw players who will add another dynamic to both the backline and pack. Get on the home win at 16/10.

Newcastle Falcons v Worcester Warriors | Friday 1 September | Kingston Park | 20:45

To Win (80 Mins)
Newcastle 7/20 | Draw 20/1 | Worcester 23/10
Newcastle (-6.5) | Worcester (+6.5)

Another South African coach will be involved in Friday night’s double-bill with Gary Gold’s Worcester Warriors travelling north to take on the Newcastle Falcons. The former Sharks boss pulled off a minor miracle last year as he guided a struggling Warriors outfit to safety.

Newcastle fared a lot better during the 2016/17 season and managed to claim a creditable eighth place. The Falcons have also done some smart business during the off season bringing in Canadian international DTH van der Merve and veteran Englishman Toby Flood

Verdict: Newcastle 7/20 
Worcester have seen a whole host of their star men leave during the off season. They look undercooked and under strength. As such, I’m sweet on the Falcons win.

London Saracens v Northampton Saints | Saturday 2 September | Allianz Park | 15:00

To Win (80 Mins)
Saracens 1/5 | Draw 23/1 | Northampton 15/4

The tournament favourites play host to Northampton in Saturday’s opener. Saracens had a brilliant season again last year as they claimed their second consecutive European Rugby Champions Cup title. And while they will have been slightly disappointed at bowing out of the Aviva Premiership at the semi-final stage, they still had a solid domestic campaign.

Conversely, Northampton had an absolute stinker of a season last term and were lucky to finish mid-table. They have made some smart signings during the off-season, however, and should be much more of a threat this term.

Verdict: Saracens 1/5
I think ‘Saries will be going hard from the offset due to the fact that they will want to pick up as many points as possible before the Six Nations kicks off and their English internationals going missing. As such, my money is on the hosts making a fast start to the season by getting one over what will be a more competitive Northampton outfit.

 London Wasps v Sale Sharks | Saturday 2 September | Ricoh Arena | 16:00

To Win (80 Mins)
Wasps 2/13 | Draw 28/1 | 9/2

Last year’s defeated finalists, the London Wasps, get their 2017/18 Premiership campaign underway against a Sale Sharks side that only avoided relegation by seven points last term. The hosts have lost a few big guns in the off season including Wallaby utility back Kurtley Beale who has returned to the Waratahs. With Beale having gone back home, Springbok Willie le Roux will be tasked with providing those game changing moments of magic.

Speaking of game changers, Sale signed former Aussie wonderboy James O’Connor during the off-season. The ex-Wallaby had a tough time of it in France and will be looking to revive a once promising career.

Verdict: Wasps 2/13
One swallow does not make a season and one James O’Connor does not change the fortunes of a team. Wasps will take this one comfortably.

London Irish v Harlequins | Saturday 2 September | Madejski Stadium | 17:45

To Win (80 Mins)
London Irish 33/10 | Draw 23/1 | Harlequins 2/9

London Irish will mark their return to the top tier of English rugby when they take on Harlequins this Saturday evening. The visitors had a decent campaign last term as they finished in sixth place. They will need to be more consistent this time around if they are to push for a semi-final berth.

Verdict: London Irish 33/10
I think we’re in for an upset here. Irish have made some smart signings during the off-season and they certainly do not look a bad side on paper. They have home ground advantage and if the players are on the same page, then I can see them getting one over ‘Quins this Saturday.

Leicester Tigers v Bath Rugby | Sunday 3 September | Welford Road Stadium | 16:00

To Win (80 Mins)
Leicester 7/20 | Draw 20/1 | Bath 23/10

We close out the opening round of the 2017/18 Aviva Premiership with a tie between Leicester and Bath. The Tigers enjoyed a solid campaign last year and advanced all the way to the semi-finals. Bath, while not making the semis, also enjoyed a good showing on the domestic front, finishing the season in fifth place.

Leicester have made some smart signings during the off season, particularly the dual capture of England internationals George Ford and Johnny May. Ford will add a lot of control to the Tigers backline, while May will provide power off the wing.

Verdict: Leicester 7/20
The Tigers should be able to see off  Bath outfit that will be talisman missing George Ford, who will ironically line up against them in their first game of the season.

Written by Darry Worthington for @Hollywoodbets.net

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