5 Top Tips For This Weekend’s Rugby Action

The much anticipated opening round of the Aviva Premiership and Pro14 kick off this Friday. We’ve taken a look at the fixture list to provide our five top tips so you can beat the bookies.

Give it the Hammer

Friday 1st September

Newcastle Falcons V Worcester Warriors – Kingston Park (7.45pm)

Newcastle have made some exciting signings in the off season, but will be without Toby Flood, DTH Van Der Merwe and Maxine Mermoz in their opening fixture against Worcester. Traditionally Newcastle don’t perform well in round one, having won only once since 2007. Newcastle beat Worcester back in April to end a four game losing run, and with home advantage the Falcons will have high expectations this time around. Despite the big name absentees, home advantage gives the Falcons the edge in the opening fixture of the season.

Top Tip

Simon Hammersley didn’t play much last season due to injury but has managed two tries in his last two pre-season outings and his coaches have been praising his impressive form. He starts at fullback in the opening round. Back him as an anytime try scorer with Skybet which is offering 3-1, or if you are feeling brave back him as first try scorer at 16-1.

Newcastle v Worcester Skybet odds
Fig.: Skybet odds Newcastle v Worcester

Back the Chiefs

Friday 1st September

Gloucester v Exeter Chiefs – Kingsholm (7.45pm)

Last season’s Premier League champions, Exeter Chiefs, enter this match on the back of a 17 match unbeaten run, knowing that victory will see them beat Leicester Tiger’s previous record for unbeaten games. The Chiefs have won three of their last five visits to Gloucester so will be confident of a victory here.

Having said this, Gloucester are a strong and experienced team and will be going into the game with every hope of stealing the spoils. Ben Morgan, Richard Hibbard and the evergreen Jeremy Thrush will lead the pack and provide much needed go-forward ball.

Top Tip

Exeter Chiefs have managed one win in their past four opening round fixtures, whilst Gloucester have only managed one win in the opening round in the past seven seasons. The Devonians have the edge in this fixture, but I expect it to be close. Back Exeter to win by 6 to 10 points at 9/2 with SkyBet.

Gloucester v Exeter Skybet odds
Fig.: Skybet odds Gloucester v Exeter

Saracens not so sharp?

Saturday 2nd September

Saracens v Northampton – Twickenham (2.00pm)

There’s no doubt that Saracens enter this game as heavy favourites. They are the current European Champions and missed out narrowly on last season’s Premiership Final. But that doesn’t tell the whole story. They are likely to be missing a number of their big names as Lions such as Owen Farrell and new signing Liam Williams are granted extended rest. Yes, Northampton will be without the likes of George North and Courtney Lawes as well but their pre-season form suggests they are ready to hit the ground running.

Top Tip

Last time these two teams faced one another Saracens ran out victors 27-25. I expect it to be another close affair this time out. SkyBet are offering a +11 handicap at 10/11 which looks like exceptional value.

Saracens v Northampton Skybet odds
Fig,: Skybet odds Saracens v Northampton

The Blues for Edinburgh?

Friday 1st September

Cardiff Blues V Edinburgh – Cardiff Arms Park (19.35)

The Blues will be missing captain Sam Warburton for the opening fixture of the season but having beaten Edinburgh in the opening fixture of last season they will be hoping to repeat the feat again this time round. They recorded an impressive win against Exeter which will no doubt boost the Blues’ confidence.

New Edinburgh coach Richard Cockerill will be expecting his team to improve on last season after only managing six wins. Edinburgh have some good players and will look to take Cardiff on up front but are perhaps lacking a bit out wide.

Top Tip

I’m backing Cardiff Blues to edge this encounter, home advantage will certainly help as Edinburgh do not travel well. They won’t want to be locked in an arm wrestle so will look to throw the ball wide. Alex Cuthbert rediscovered his try scoring form for Wales on their Summer Tour, so I’m backing him to score first at 10-1 with Skybet.

Cardiff v Edinburgh Skybet odds
Fig.: Skybet odds Cardiff v Edinburgh

Will the Cheetahs be fast out of the blocks?

Friday 1st September

Ulster V Toyota Cheetahs – Kingspan Stadium (19:35)

The Pro 14’s first cross-continental match will provide a great deal of intrigue throughout the sporting world. The Cheetahs will be an unknown quantity and it remains to be seen if they can perform in the Northern Hemisphere. Ulster have had a tricky pre-season, but they have quality throughout their squad.

Top Tip: There is so much quality on show in this game, I expect it to be a real spectacle. For the Toyota Cheetahs the explosive Mapimpi starts on the wing, and for Ulster Piutau and Lealiifano start in the back line. With home advantage I expect Ulster to edge it but Toyota Cheetahs will push them all the way. You can get the Cheetahs with a +9 handicap with PaddyPower at 10-11 which looks like a good bet.

Ulster v Cheetahs PaddyPower odds
Fig. PaddyPower odds Ulster v Cheetahs