Second half kicks off
This weekend the Aviva Premiership moves into the second half of the season and already Saracens and Saints look favourite for the play-offs.
But there is still a way to go, not least this week when there are some games that could well go either way.
The first game of the new year sees the Sharks travelling across to Newcastle – Sale will be hoping for the return of in -form Danny Cipriani although they may not need him. They should get all four points although I think that four tries will elude them. The Falcons may just get a losing bonus point though .
On Saturday Quins are at Northampton, the Irish welcome Worcester and Saracens journey down the M4 to Gloucester.
The big one is at Franklins Gardens when two of the best current teams go head to head. It will be close and I take the Saints to send Harlequins home with just a losing bonus point. Stuart Lancaster and his team will learn much if they venture to the Midlands for this game.
Irish were better than Gloucester last week but still managed to manufacture a defeat. This week it’s a bottom of the table clash against winless Worcester. The Irish will continue Dean Ryan’s misery in an ugly encounter, but they will need to be better off the tee this time and it will be a surprise if James O’Connor isn’t asked to take over kicking duties.
Gloucester have been recruiting heavily and their pack will be stronger next season – it needs to be as the Shed are fed up with watching their traditional forward strength looking a bit sick .In the meantime Akapusi Qera, their Fijian flanker is moving to Toulouse and that won’t help .They struggled to beat Irish last Sunday and they’ll watch as Saracens carry off all the points this week.
There are two games on Sunday – and both are big ones.
Bath are off to Welford Road where the Tigers lay in wait. Bath were well beaten in the end at Northampton on their last outing but I fancy they may just pull off a famous win – the Tigers lair is less of a stronghold these days and their injury list continues to weaken their side.
The final game has Wasps at home to Exeter and again I’m going for an away win – a brave call as it flies in the face of current form, but I have a soft spot for the way the Chiefs play. Their ambition deserves reward and I hope to see them take all four points away from Adams Park.
My predictions then –
Sharks to win at Newcastle
The Saints to overcome Harlequins
London Irish to send Worcester away empty handed (again)
Saracens over Gloucester
Bath to beat the Tigers
Exeter to win at Wasps
Some pretty aggressive calls this week with four away wins predicted. Might well have some seasonal egg-nog on my face after the weekend.
It’s then back to the (looking doomed) Heineken Cup for the week after!