5 things we learnt from the opening round of the Gallagher Premiership


Playing Bristol is just as hard as playing an experienced premiership side

Ahead of Bristol’s opener against Bath, Pat Lam expressed his seasons hopes in making top-flight​ European rugby next season. At first,​ I thought it was a little optimistic given the gigantic step from championship rugby to premiership, but following their performance on Friday night they are certainly playing for more than survival. Yes, it is only one round in and we shouldn’t get ahead of ourselves in any of the matches played this weekend, but Bristol’s mix of slightly older more experienced players, playing alongside young fresh players seems to be working in their favour. Ian Madigan, as expected controlled the home side extremely well from number ten and Bristol showed that they can do the basics as good as the other premiership sides. Bath gave them opportunities and they took them and although they looked a little weary without the ball they still held a strong enough defence to force Bath to make errors.
If the players weren’t fierce enough, the loyal Ashton Gate crowd packed at over 26,000 are a power to be reckoned with. Bristol’s 16th man could help be their token to stay in the premiership.

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Danny Cipriani could control Gloucester’s season and European hopes

A lot of new signings were on show throughout the weekend but one really shone in a cherry and white shirt. Danny Cipriani. If you didn’t watch the game against Northampton I’m sure by now something has popped up on your social media that replays ‘that pass’.
Cipriani plays well under sporting pressure but plays even better when he has no outside distractions or headlines to contend with and this showed on Saturday. Everyone knew how well he can control a game and be a sides playmaker – we’ve seen it at Wasps but this weekend Cipriani took his playmaking skills to a different level. Gloucester have struggled to find someone to lead them on the pitch over the last few seasons, they have had good experienced players but have lacked that unique player to hold their side together but now that Cipriani is on the scene he could be the answer to a lot of their on-field problems and help them re-live top flight European rugby.

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Paul Gustard could have the answers to Harlequins troubles

I thought that this weekend at Twickenham Stoop was going to be quite a close affair with a points difference of between 5-10 points. I was very wrong. Harlequins for the past few seasons have really struggled to find their feet and when they finally do the international period comes along and they struggle to perform. However, something about their win against Sale tells me this is going to change. They looked a lot more settled on the pitch, playing as a team with what looks like an emphasis on developing what is already there and making it better. Again, we are only one match in and a lot can change in the next nine months, but if Harlequins and Gustard manage to fix the niggling problems then the London club could soon be competing for the title once again.

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Tigers need to learn to tackle

I never thought I would write this, but Leicester Tigers missed a staggering 42 tackles in their thrashing at Sandy Park and looked rather like a rabbit in headlights. There was little fluidity throughout the players and they didn’t look at all like they were playing as one. Everyone looked a little confused as if they weren’t quite sure what was going to happen next, even when they had the possession. The table doesn’t play a part in the season until at least a month in, ​however, points difference can mean a lot at the business end of the season and Tigers currently have -34 points to their name, something that hasn’t happened in a very long time.
Tigers lost sixteen players over the summer including some big names such as Harry Thacker, Dom Barrow and Logovi’I Mulipola, but despite them making fifteen signings in return there was only one stand out name in that list – David Denton. Denton did play against Exeter, but the Chiefs were too good for him to be noticed in the Tigers pack. Luckily for them, they are back at Welford Road next weekend but their visitors Newcastle will be more than ready for a battle.

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Saracens set to do the double again

There was a time when watching Saracens play could become a little boring but not anymore. Even on an off day where they were down to 13 men and with Newcastle testing them extremely hard they still came out on top securing the bonus point. They will be tremendously hard to beaten this season.
The beauty with Saracens is that they know what they need to do, they do it very well and then all the added extras are done better than anyone else.
The wing partnership that was on display from debutant Alex Lewington and second-time debutant David Strettle was beautiful. For so long Lewington was loyal to London Irish but was never given his full potential and now at Saracens,​ he has the space to do so. At the opposite end of the pitch, Strettle looked like he hadn’t been away.
Alex Lozowski shone at 13 on Sunday and the position suited his playing style really well, and who knows, he could be the outside centre Eddie Jones is looking for.

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