Rugby Union: Club-by-club guide to Premier League

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Look weak in the front five, but have some real talent behind the scrum. The Wales centre Gareth Thomas will lead the side for the first time and will be the man everyone will be looking to for inspiration - and tries. Will miss Dafydd James, but the arrival of Stuart Evans up front could cause a few sparks to fly.

Director of rugby: John Phillips.

Coaches: John Phelps, Alun Donovan.

Captain: Gareth Thomas.

In: Stuart Evans (Swansea), Jonathan Dodd (Dunvant), Gareth Cull (Kenfig Hill), Carl Hammans (Treorchy), Owain Lloyd (North Harbour).

Out: Dafydd James (Pontypridd), Gareth Rowlands (Newport), Kevin Ellis (Rugby League), John Graf (Canada), Chris Bradshaw (Retired), Jason Forster (Bedford), Aled Jones (Llanelli), Kevin Walker (Caerphilly).

Prediction: 6th.


WHICHEVER of Rob Howley or Jonathan Humphreys becomes captain will have a team of all-stars at their command following the recruitment of three more internationals. The return of Alex Evans to the role of director of coaching could make the crucial difference. If they click they could be the best team in Europe, but Evans and his new captain will have to alter the attitude. The introduction of the Brive duo Gregory Kacala and Tony Rees, allied to the Welsh caps Steve Williams and Spencer John, means they will have a giant pack.

Director of rugby: Alex Evans.

Coaches: Terry Holmes, Tony Faulkner, Geraint John.

Captain: TBC.

In: Gregory Kacala (Brive), Tony Rees (Brive), Steve Williams (Neath), Spencer John (Llanelli), Steve Wake (Dunvant).

Out: John Wakeford (Bristol), Chris Mills (TBC).

Prediction: 2nd.

Ebbw Vale

TURNED their Eugene Cross Park ground into something of a fortress and should be an even better side away from home this winter. Expertly led by Kingsley Jones, their success is dependent on the form of their half- backs, David Llewellyn and points machine Byron Hayward. Dark horses for a top-four finish.

Director of rugby: Leigh Jones.

Coach: Nigel Way.

Captain: Kingsley Jones.

In: John Funnell (Neath).

Out: Lyndon Lewis (Vardre), Craig Bonnell (Bonymaen).

Prediction: 5th


LOOKED fragile both on and off the field last season. The club cleared up the financial mess by selling Stradey Park, but they have not been able to recruit heavily during the summer. Big performances are needed from their Welsh forwards Mike Voyle and Andrew Gibbs if they are to win anything. The Scarlets still have the potential behind the scrum to shock a few.

Director of rugby: Gareth Jenkins.

Coaches: Nigel Davies, Peter Herbert.

Captain: Robin McBryde.

In: Darril Williams (Bonymaen), Aled Jones (), Ceri Davies (Dunvant).

Out: Spencer John (Cardiff).

Prediction: 4th


NEATH have lost the guts of their once feared pack and have tried to shore up their gaps with a couple of French journeymen and a Fijian flanker. Unless they get a quality goalkicker they look dead and buried. Candidates for relegation, but certain to make a supreme effort to avoid the drop.

Director of rugby: Darryl Jones.

Coaches: Bryan Nicholas, Mike Budd.

Captain: Geraint Evans.

In: Thierry Devergie (Montpelier), Fabrice Landrau (Grenoble), Tomasi Tananuvalu (Queensland), Adam Palfrey (Newport), Richard Wintle (Treorchy), Ben Evans (UWIC).

Out: Barry Williams (Richmond), John Davies (Richmond), Steve Williams (Cardiff), John Funnell (Ebbw Vale), Barry Grabham (Pyle), Chris Scott (Worcester), Darren Morris (Maesteg).

Prediction: 8th.


SLEEPING or fallen giants of Welsh rugby? Take your pick, but do not expect them to win anything this season. They have picked up a few useful players, although not enough to make a significant difference. Expect them to give teams a tough ride at Rodney Parade, but to be battling to stave off relegation at the end of the campaign.

Director of rugby: Tommy David.

Coaches: Steve Jones, Steve Fenwick.

Captain: Ian Jones.

In: Gareth Rowlands (), Nathan Jones (Taffs Well), Andrew Lewis (Treorchy), Chris John (West Hartlepool).

Out: John Colderley (Moseley), James Alvis (Exeter), Adam Palfrey (Neath), Ben Atkins (Rumney).

Prediction: 7th


THE champions look even stronger than last season thanks to shrewd recruitment and the rapid development of youngsters such as Kevin Morgan and Gareth Wyatt. Dafydd James will provide an added dimension to the back line and there is always Neil Jenkins to kick them out of trouble. They seem to have the mark of champions stamped all over them.

Head coach: Dennis John.

Assistants: Lyn Howells, Huw Wiltshire.

Captain: Neil Jenkins.

In: Dafydd James (), Mike Griffiths (Wasps), Andre Barnard (Natal), Geraint Lewis (UWIC), Sean Bundy (Beddau), Matthew Kennedy (West Hartlepool).

Out: Ioan Jones (Caerphilly), Richie Collins (Bristol), Gavin Jones (Treorchy), Owen Robbins (Caerphilly), Mark Edwards (Retired).

Prediction: Champions.


RUNNERS-UP in both major competitions last year, the All Whites will again be a difficult side to beat. Scott Gibbs should provide more of an influence behind the scrum this winter following his brilliant Lions tour and the pack looks to be shaping nicely. The main question marks surround the tactical brains and mental toughness of the half-backs.

Coaching director: John Plumtree.

Coaches: Kevin Hopkins, Richard Moriarty, Keith Colclough, Trevor Cheesman.

Captain: Garin Jenkins.

In: Tyrone Maullin (Natal).

Out: Stuart Evans (), Mark Evans (Aberavon), Keith Colclough (Retired), Luc Evans (Plymouth).

Prediction: 3rd.