Rugby Union: The Title race is on

Richard Cockerill will be hoping Leicester can put their poor run of form behind them as they reach the all important play-offsShakespeare once wrote, ‘Once more into the breach’… Richard Cockerill I think, has a similar view on this year’s play offs. Over the past few seasons, Leicester Tigers have been the kings of the Premiership. And whilst the beauty of writing is very contrasting to that of rugby, both Henry V and the Tigers head coach have a militant attitude to their jobs.

Every year they start strongly, dispatching everyone in their path. Then comes the Six Nations competition, and a loss of England players puts a slight halt of their campaign. But when the likes of Youngs and Flood come back from international duties, again the steam train gets up to full pace inevitably leaving them top of the table, with their points tally well in the 70’s.

And even with the new sponsors of the league this year in the form of Aviva, the Tigers yet again hold that number one spot with one game to go leading up to the play offs. But recent form of late in both the Heineken Cup and the Aviva Premiership has perhaps put an element of doubt in the mind of coach Cockerill and the albeit confident supporters. It seems the Tiger has been kept in its cage of late.

Northampton have been rampant in both the Heineken cup and the Premiership; putting in an excellent performance against a good Ulster side containing the class of Ruan Piennar, and then putting London Irish to the sword. With their mix of brilliant youth in Lawes and searing pace in Ashton and Foden, even with Leicester on top of their game, Northampton are a hard side to beat.

Of course no one can forget last year’s finalists Saracens. Even with the inexperience of Farrell in the ranks they have the best defence in the Premiership. And at the weekend against Gloucester, it looked as though the Saracens backs were scoring tries as if they were on the training ground.

It seems the underdogs of the top four are the Cherry and Whites. Their current poor defence would suggest that they are not ready to be champions, yet to score 41 points at Welford Road against the champions seems to be at least finalist material.

So even though the Premiership’s champions over the last few years have a right to be confident going into the play offs, is it time for their experience to make way for a more youthful and exciting Northampton? I think maybe you can expect a re-write from the norm and maybe even see new champions in the form of the shall we say, more “saintly” Midlanders…