The new Gallagher Premiership season begins with a difficult act to follow after Leicester’s thrilling title triumph last season.
The Tigers claimed Premiership silver for the first time since 2013 thanks to Freddie Burn’s late drop goal which Saracens pocketed at Twickenham.
Here, the PA news agency identifies five players to watch as the competition gears up for the action.
Ellis Genge (Bristol)
Strong support Genge was arguably the English rugby player of the season last season and delivered consistently high performances for club and country. In his final season with the Tigers, he led Leicester to the Premiership title before moving to his hometown club Bristol. An individualist who sets the standard on and off the pitch, Genge’s arrival at Ashton Gate should spearhead an upswing in form and results after the West Country club finished 10th last season, only Worcester, Newcastle and Bath among them. The 27-year-old seems ready for another big campaign.
Anthony Watson (Leicester)
England star Watson is due for a significant change after suffering more than his fair share of serious injuries. The 28-year-old recently returned for his new club Leicester during the Tigers’ pre-season campaign after being sidelined for 10 months with a serious knee problem. Watson was previously beset by Achilles’ troubles but class is enduring and the prospect of him lining up alongside the likes of England full-back Freddie Steward in a Leicester back three is a delicious one for Tigers fans.
Louis Rees Zammit (Gloucester)
Gloucester delivered one of last season’s feel-good stories as head coach George Skivington continued to make significant progress with a side that finished just two points adrift of play-off places. Skivington have signed just one newcomer in Ireland number eight from London Albert Tuisue and there is little doubt Gloucester’s group will take on most. They also have their backs to cause damage, with none more dangerous than Welsh wing Rees-Zammit. He shone during his country’s summer tour of South Africa and is a try-scoring machine.
George Ford (Sales)
It will be a while before Sale fans see their new high-profile signing in action as Ford suffered an Achilles injury during Leicester’s Premiership final win over Saracens in May. Latest estimates say he won’t be back until December, but if Ford returns to action, the influential midfielder will have all the attributes needed to make Sale title play-off contenders. Ford will also renew a partnership in midfield with former Tigers teammate Manu Tuilagi and when Ford’s goal-scoring ability is added to that, he’s a signing Sharks are right to have high expectations.
Chris Cloete (Bad)
When former Munster manager Johann Van Graan was announced as Bath’s new rugby boss, speculation quickly arose as to which players might follow him across the Irish Sea. South African flanker Cloete did just that by leaving Limerick for a first Premier League cap and he will play a key role in Bath’s back-row mix. Cloete is a strong ball carrier and acknowledged collapse expert. It could prove to be a huge asset for Van Graan as he sets out to rebuild a club that were bottom of the table last season.
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https://www.newschainonline.com/sport/mens-sport/rugby/5-key-players-set-to-impress-as-this-seasons-premiership-gets-under-way-290699 5 key players set to impress as this season’s Premiership kicks off