Aviva Premiership preview: 10 things to watch out for in the new season

Hugh Godwin marks your card as the players get set for the long haul

With the Aviva Premiership set to kick-off this Friday here are the 10 things to expect this season.

Read more: Captain Joe Marler set for new adventure
The rule changes the skippers want to see
 

The word of bod

From rugby legend to television pundit in a single summer: will the recently retired Brian O’Driscoll’s dry wit translate into listenable opinion? The great Irish centre begins co-presenting BT Sport’s European coverage with Leinster v Wasps in October. And if you liked Rugby Tonight on Wednesday nights, take note that it is now scheduled on Monday nights.

Welsh All Black

Former All Black scrum-half Piri Weepu is one of 26 signings at newly promoted London Welsh. A cult figure at home, Weepu has recovered from a minor stroke earlier this year. “A funny little fella,” is how the Exiles’ coach, Justin Burnell, describes him.

All change on TV

New batteries may be needed in your remote control. The Pro 12 lays claim to “the broadest range of broadcast options in the world” but the headline act is Sky showing the Celtic/Italian league for the first time – including, praise be, Saturday-afternoon kick-offs.

Missing in action

Among a few top faces missing on day one, Munster captain Peter O’Mahony and Edinburgh’s outstanding  centre Matt Scott are both recovering from shoulder surgery. England’s Owen Farrell, Dan Cole and Mako Vunipola are others in the recovery room, while the retirement of Jonny Wilkinson, Mike Tindall and Iain Balshaw has severed the last playing link with England’s 2003 World Cup team.

Heavy-duty Cardiff

On paper, Adam Jones’s transfer from Ospreys to Cardiff Blues will give the Blues a mighty front row, including Gethin Jenkins and Matthew Rees. The worry is they are all the wrong side of 30 and it is more than five years since they toured together for the Lions.

Political football

All quiet on the political front? Doubt it. There’s peace in Wales, possibly, but European club rugby is still settling into its new governance set-up, at the same time as England’s clubs are tip-toeing towards a new long-term contract for Test-player release.

Falcons grounded

It’s a long time since Newcastle’s 1998 Premiership title, but opponents rarely relish a trip to wet and windyKingston Park. Maybe that will change now the Falcons have ripped up their grass pitch for an artificial surface. It should be quicker and more predictable.

Strengths and weaknesses

Talking up the Premiership’s competitive nature, league chairman Quentin Smith promised: “No team can risk putting out a weakened team.” A brave pledge in a long season.

Step forward please

Test rugby will return with a bang in November when England host the All Blacks and Wales face Australia. Now is the time for Freddie Burns and Marland Yarde, newly arrived at Leicester and Harlequins respectively, to show their class. Wasps wing Christian Wade has a chance too, if he hits top form quickly.

My top tips

Tips for the top: in the Pro 12, Glasgow have finished successively fourth, third and second in the past three seasons but Munster may be resurgent. The Premiership champions, Northampton, have kept a settled squad, while Saracens’ strength in depth is daunting. Bath, with a young squad, and Gloucester, with a huge coaching overhaul, crave an overdue revival.

BUY RUGBY WORLD CUP TICKETS

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Sport
The Queen and the letter sent to Charlie
football
Arts and Entertainment
Eurovision Song Contest 2015
EurovisionGoogle marks the 2015 show
News
Two lesbians hold hands at a gay pride parade.
peopleIrish journalist shares moving story on day of referendum
Arts and Entertainment
<p>
<b>Kathryn Williams</b>
</p>
<p>
When I was supporting Ray La Montagne I was six months pregnant. He had been touring for a year and he was exhausted and full of the cold. I was feeling motherly, so I would leave presents for him and his band: Tunnock's Tea Cakes, cold remedies and proper tea. Ray seemed painfully shy. He hardly spoke, hardly looked at you in the face. I felt like a dick speaking to him, but said "hi" every day. </p>
<p>
He was being courted by the same record company who had signed me and subsequently let me go, and I wanted him to know that there were people around who didn't want anything from him. At the Shepherds Bush Empire in London, on the last night of the tour, Ray stopped in his set to thank me for doing the support. He said I was a really good songwriter and people should buy my stuff. I was taken aback and felt emotionally overwhelmed. Later that year, just before I had my boy Louis, I was l asleep in bed with Radio 4 on when Louis moved around in my belly and woke me up. Ray was doing a session on the World Service. </p>
<p>
I really believe that Louis recognised the music from the tour, and when I gave birth to him at home I played Ray's record as something that he would recognise to come into the world with. </p>
booksKathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
News
Liz Kendall played a key role in the introduction of the smoking ban
newsLiz Kendall: profile
Life and Style
techPatent specifies 'anthropomorphic device' to control media devices
Voices
The PM proposed 'commonsense restrictions' on migrant benefits
voicesAndrew Grice: Prime Minister can talk 'one nation Conservatism' but putting it into action will be tougher
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

Join the tequila gold rush

The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
12 best statement wallpapers

12 best statement wallpapers

Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

Paul Scholes column

Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?