Premiership team-by-team guide
A look ahead at the new rugby season
Last season 8th
Players in Paul James (Ospreys), Rob Webber (Wasps), Dominic Day (Scarlets), Horacio Agulla (Leicester). Out: Matt Carraro (Montpellier), Duncan Bell (Clifton), Andy Beattie, Lewis Moody, David Flatman, Pieter Dixon, Scott Hobson (all retired).
Form An awful lot of greybeard knowhow has departed from the pack – or is it that dead wood has been cut out? A stellar coaching panel led by Gary Gold must uncover the hard edge Bath have lacked for a decade, though there is a ripple of flair from full-back Nick Abendanon through to flanker Carl Fearns.
Key player Francois Louw, back row.
Prediction If the planets align, top six beckons.
Last season 5th
Players in Alex Brown (Doncaster), Will Chudley (Newcastle), Kai Horstmann (Worcester), Dean Mumm (Waratahs), Carl Rimmer (C Pirates), Damian Welch (Scarlets), Ian Whitten (Ulster), Jack Yeandle (Doncaster). Out: Peter Short, Chris Bentley (both retired), Addison Lockley (Moseley), Bryan Rennie (Bristol), Chad Slade (Oyonnax), Herbie Stupple, Jon Vickers (Plymouth).
Form Rival clubs expect Exeter's rise and rise to end. Coach Rob Baxter has other ideas, naturally, though a squad mostly untouched by international calls will surely have to ease off somewhere, probably in Europe.
Key player Tom Johnson, back row.
Prediction Another top-six finish would be a fine effort.
Last season 9th
Players in Rob Cook (C Pirates), Jimmy Cowan (Highlanders), Huia Edmonds (Brumbies), Sione Kalamafoni (Nottingham), Ben Morgan (Scarlets), Martyn Thomas (Dragons), Billy Twelvetrees (Leicester). Out: Matias Cortese (Colomiers), Eliota Fuimaono-Sapolu (WR Sparks), Rory Lawson (Newcastle), Luke Narraway, Alasdair Strokosch (both Perpignan), Lesley Vainikolo (La Rochelle), Tom Voyce (released).
Form Nigel Davies arrives from the Scarlets to coach with a studious air far removed from the fire and brimstone of The Shed. He has Mike Tindall as a novice backs coach, but it is the forwards who need a kick up the backside.
Key player Ben Morgan, No 8.
Prediction Moderate forwards, great backs. Mid-table again.
Last season 1st, play-off champions
Players in Ben Botica (N Harbour), Dave Ward (C Pirates), Rob Buchanan, Charlie Matthews, Joe Trayfoot, Ollie Lindsay-Hague, Will Collier (all Academy), Harry Allen (Saracens). Out: Chris York (Newcastle), Tomas Vallejos (Scarlets), Benjamin Urdapilleta (Oyonnax), Matt Cairns (retired).
Form A settled squad of players and coaches with capacity to develop their spectator-friendly offloading game. But how will Quins cope with the challenge of being the hunted rather than the hunter, and will they make a charge for the Heineken Cup or settle for domestic dominance?
Key player Chris Robshaw, flanker.
Prediction Contenders again.
Last season 2nd, play-off finalists
Players in Robert Andrew (Pau), Miles Benjamin (Worcester), Brett Deacon (Gloucester), Dan Bowden (L Irish), Matt Cornwell (Mogliano), Vereniki Goneva (Tarbes), Adam Thompstone (L Irish). Out: Horacio Agulla (Bath), Calum Green (Leeds), James Grindal (Bristol), Ben Pienaar (Moseley), Alesana Tuilagi (NTT), Julian White (retired).
Form DoR Richard Cockerill has added three more years to his contract and the beaten finalists of last May look as formidable as ever despite back-row injuries. George Ford's continued progression at fly-half will be fascinating.
Key player Dan Bowden, fly-half/centre.
Prediction Strongest club, good signings – yet another final.
Last season 7th
Players in Shane Geraghty (Brive), Cai Griffiths (Ospreys), Ian Humphreys (Ulster), Scott Lawson (Gloucester), Tomas O'Leary (Munster), Setaimata Sa (Catalan Dr), George Skivington (Leicester). Outs: Nick Kennedy, Delon Armitage, Guy Armitage (all Toulon), Bob Casey, Kieran Roche, Clarke Dermody (all retired), Faan Rautenbach (released), Shontayne Hape (Montpellier), Jonathan Spratt (Ospreys).
Form Shuddering end of an era as coaches Toby Booth and Mike Catt and others depart. Returning DoR Brian Smith at least has prodigal son Shane Geraghty back at fly-half.
Key player Tom Homer, full-back/wing.
Prediction Utterly unpredictable. 10th?
Last season 11th
Players in Stephen Jones (Scarlets), Ashley Johnson (Cheetahs), Andrea Masi (Aironi), Tom Palmer (Stade Français), James Haskell (Highlanders), James Bailey (Lyon), Fabio Staibano (Aironi), Lee Thomas (Lyon), T Rhys Thomas (C Blues). Out: Ben Broster (Biarritz), Ross Filipo, Riki Flutey (Black Rams), Richard Haughton (Jersey), John Hart, Tom Rees (both retired).
Form New owners in place but coach Dai Young needs better facilities and a better scrum. If luck with injuries improves and Wasps turn round several narrow losses, they can shoot up the table.
Key player Ashley Johnson, back row.
Prediction Dark horses but may settle for 8th.
Last season 4th in Championship, play-off champions
Players in Phil MacKenzie (Esher), Matt Keyte (Bath), Ed Williamson (Leeds), Daniel Browne (Grenoble), Sonny Parker (Ospreys), Tom Arscott (Worcester), Gareth Evans (Plymouth), Nick Runciman (Gloucester), Neil Briggs (Sale), Gavin Henson (unattached), Kirill Kulemin (Castres), Paulica Ion (L Irish). Out: Rob Lewis (C Blues), Mike Powell (Moseley), Saul Nelson (O Redcliffians).
Form Wily ex-Ospreys coach Lyn Jones timed Welsh's run just right to win promotion. Now they must take a step up in class and – just as importantly – physical power and conditioning.
Key player Jon Mills, flanker.
Prediction Bottom, by a distance.
Last season 4th, play-off semi-finalists.
Players in Luther Burrell (Sale), Sam Dickinson (Rotherham), Ken Pisi (North Harbour), James Wilson (Bourgoin), Gerrit-Jan van Velze (Blue Bulls), Dom Waldouck (Wasps). Out: James Downey (Munster), Roger Wilson (Ulster), Greig Tonks (Edinburgh), Andy Long (retired).
Form Saints are again happy to take the Pisi, North Harbour wing Ken Pisi joining brother George, as they wave goodbye to try machine Chris Ashton and long-serving centres Jon Clarke and Jimmy Downey. The pack, despite losing Roger Wilson, still looks strong.
Key player Soane Tonga'uiha, prop.
Prediction Can Saints finally make a final? Probably not.
Last season 6th
Players in Richie Gray (Glasgow), Eifion Lewis-Roberts (Toulon), Danny Cipriani (Melbourne), Cameron Shepherd (W Force), Corne Uys (Newcastle). Out: Andrew Sheridan (Toulon), Iain Thornley (Wigan RL), Scott Mathie (E Province), Wame Lewaravu (Mont de Marsan), Andrew Higgins (Newcastle), Joaquin Tuculet (Grenoble).
Form One international (England prop Andy Sheridan) leaving, four including the Lions prospect Richie Gray arriving, plus a new home ground with a big pitch. Expectation is high, but last season's sixth place may be the limit as a squad radically overhauled in recent years settles into Salford.
Key player Sam Tuitupou, centre.
Prediction Mid-table; may be distracted by Europe.
Last season 3rd, play-off semi-finalists.
Players in Chris Ashton (Northampton), Alistair Hargreaves (Sharks), Lorenzo Romano (Aironi), Nick Fenton-Wells (W Province). Out: Hugh Vyvyan (retired), Michael Tagicakibau (Bristol), Hayden Smith (NY Jets NFL).
Form Only two points off the top last season, despite unprecedented England calls hampering their title defence. Teamwork, pride and Steve Borthwick's grounded captaincy should sustain them, assuming the flame of motivation still burns. Much as Sarries pride themselves on away form and attitude, not having a settled home until February at the earliest must be a distraction.
Key player Schalk Brits, hooker.
Prediction Could regain title – semi-finals at least.
Last season 10th
Players in John Andress (Exeter), David Lemi (Glasgow), Paul Hodgson (L Irish), Nikki Walker (Ospreys), Jon Clarke (Northampton), Semisi Taulava, Rob O'Donnell (both Rotherham), Dean Schofield (Toulon), Josh Matavesi (Racing M). Out: Marcel Garvey (Castres), Adam Balding, Alex Crockett (both Newcastle), Bruce Douglas (Bristol), Dale Rasmussen (retired).
Form Coach Richard Hill has brought Dean Schofield home from Toulon, looking every inch the ideal captain; just as well with stalwart centre Dale Rasmussen and Kai Horstmann departing along with try threats Marcel Garvey and Miles Benjamin.
Key player Jon Clarke, centre.
Prediction Solidly lower mid-table. More precise? 11th.
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