Can Saracens retain their Gallagher Premiership Rugby crown?

Rugby Thursday December 14, 2023 By: Harry Howes

The club rugby season is almost at the halfway stage and the league table is beginning to take shape. Last season’s Gallagher Premiership runners-up Sale Sharks have made a blistering start but there’s still plenty of rugby to be played before the playoffs begin.

Meanwhile, the European Rugby Champions Cup is back for another year and Leinster are looking to win the competition for a fifth time after missing out in last season’s final.

Who’s leading the way?

With eight games down, Sale Sharks sit at the top of the Gallagher Premiership table having won six matches so far. Paul Deacon’s side came second last year before eventually being stopped by Saracens in the final.

A strong start to the current campaign will give them confidence they can go all the way to Twickenham again for the final on Saturday 8th June as they target their first title since the 2005/06 season.

However, despite losing just twice so far, both of their defeats have been drubbings which will cause some concern. They’re not exactly watertight at the back and 43-0 and 36-3 losses to Exeter and Harlequins respectively show that they can often struggle going forward.

Sale have been reliant on Robert du Preez for their points and the South African excelled in their win over Leicester, scoring three tries and adding both a penalty and conversion. Meanwhile, Arron Reed has five tries to his name so far.

Just below Sale in the table sit Bath, who have lost three times. They’ll be forgiven for pinching themselves at their lofty heights following an eight-placed finish last time out.

Their strong start to the season is in part down to Ben Spencer, who’s popped up with five tries so far, including a hat-trick against Newcastle back in October.

The chasing pack

Saracens remain the favourites to defend their crown as they seek a seventh title and their second in a row. They’re sitting pretty in fourth and have won five times so far, including a London derby triumph over Harlequins last month.

The pair will meet again in the Showdown 4 at the Tottenham Hotspur stadium on Saturday 23rd March. With live music, fireworks and top-class rugby to look forward to, you can enjoy the match from the best seats in the house with our exclusive hospitality packages.

Saracens star Alex Lewington currently tops the try scoring standings with six. And with the likes of Owen Farrell, Maro Itoje and Billy Vunipola back and firing following the World Cup, Saracens will be confident of another playoff appearance.

Meanwhile, Harlequins are looking to bounce back following a disappointing campaign that saw them finish sixth last time out. They last won the title in 2020/21 but they’re currently third in the table.

They’ll be disappointed to have lost to Saracens but a convincing win against table-toppers Sale last weekend shows they mean business.

Elsewhere, Northampton and Exeter will both have their eyes on the playoff positions. Northampton made it to the semi-finals last season but they came unstuck against Saracens in the final.

At the bottom of the table things are looking bleak for Newcastle Falcons. They’ve lost all eight of their matches so far and they’re in real danger of finishing bottom and meeting the Championship winners in a playoff for a place in the league.

European rugby is back

Alongside the thrilling action of the Gallagher Premiership, the European Rugby Champions Cup got underway last weekend.

French side La Rochelle are targeting a second successive title after triumphing last season in a thrilling final against Leinster. 24 sides will compete across four pools for a place in the knockout stage, with teams from South Africa taking part for just the second time.

Beaten finalists Leinster are the favourites to go all the way and they’ll have their eye on the final, which takes place at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in May. The Irish side got their revenge by beating La Rochelle in their first game in a pool that also includes English clubs Sale and Leicester Tigers.

Meanwhile Harlequins have a tough group and face difficult tests against the likes of Ulster and Toulouse. All teams will face each other twice, with 16 going through to the knockouts.

Of the eight that are eliminated, six teams will drop down into the Challenge Cup. Toulon won the secondary competition last season, beating Glasgow Warriors in the final.

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