Premiership already a 'two-horsed' race

Premiership already a ‘two-horsed’ race

Worcester director of rugby Alan Solomons declared that the Premiership is already a two-horsed race after watching Exeter rip his team apart at the weekend. Both Exeter and Saracens have started their seasons with five wins out of five to soar to the top of the table. Solomons believes the likes of Wasps, Gloucester, Leicester and Bath will not get a look in as the big two will simply battle it out for glory.

If you check out the Premiership rugby odds on the bookmakers listed at OddsMarket you will see that those two teams are way out in front in the betting. Defending champions Saracens are even money, while Exeter – who won it in 2016 and topped the table last season before losing the final to Saracens – have gone in to 2/1. Then you have to go a long way out before you find Wasps at 10/1, and that makes sense when you consider that Exeter have already picked up a thumping win at the Ricoh Arena this season.

“Exeter fully deserved to win,” said Solomons after watching his side lose. “They and Saracens are ahead of the rest. The league is a two-horse race.” Warriors have only beaten Exeter once in 13 meetings, and Rob Baxter’s men are in ominous form right now. Their victory over Leicester on the opening day was crushing and they have also won away at Newcastle and vanquished Sale. But they must now contend with the loss of England duo Sam Simmonds and Jonny Hill, who are both facing long-term lay-offs due to injury.

Simmonds has already scored five tries this season and he was shaping up to lead the league once again, but he injured his knee in that victory over Warriors. Second row Hill has sustained a hand ligament injury and Baxter said: “Hopefully they will be back before the end of the season, but I can’t really say at this stage.” That is a pretty grim prognosis, but Exeter are blessed with a strong squad and they have enough quality to cope while that duo goes through rehabilitation.

Next up Exeter face a huge game against Bath and they are 4/9 favourites to pick up an away win. Meanwhile, Saracens are just 2/9 to go to Harlequins and emerge victorious. They have already got the better of Bath, Gloucester, Northampton, Bristol and Newcastle this season, and they too are in magnificent form. Owen Farrell became the club’s leading Premiership points scorer in the 50-27 win against Bath last time out, and Saracens made a mockery of talk of this being a heavyweight clash by looking supremely dominant throughout. There is a feel-good factor around the club at the moment, and they remain the team to beat this season.

That was slightly soured by a facial injury to captain Brad Barritt, and the club have just revealed that he must undergo surgery. He will miss the game against Harlequins, and there are fears that he will not return in time for the club’s first Champions Cup game, which takes place on October 14 against Glasgow Warriors. Exeter face an enormous clash with Leinster, and they will have to do without Simmonds, and it will be intriguing to see how England’s leading lights get on without their key men on the big stage. Last season Exeter crashed out in the pool stage, and Leinster knocked Saracens out in the quarter-finals. It amounted to a poor showing from English clubs, as Leinster went on to beat Scarlets in the semis and Racing 92 in the final, and they will be keen to make amends this time around.