Looking back on my earlier post ‘Predictions for 2016’ I see that I have two out of three correct.
Saracens have won the Aviva Premiership for the regular 22-game season and now we go into the annual play-offs, which will be contested over the next few weeks with Sarries at home to Leicester Tigers and Exeter Chiefs hosting London Wasps, with the two winners meeting in the winner-takes-all final at Twickenham on May 28th.
These two matches should be keenly fought with the Tigers keen to avenge the defeat at Allianz Park earlier in the season, while Sarries have the advantage of playing on their artificial pitch.
Tigers have a great back-line but will their pack be able to outmuscle the awesome Sarries pack, which boasts the superb England second row in George Kruis and Maro Itoje, who in my opinion is a future England captain and my player of season.
Down in the West Country, the Chiefs will benefit from their magnificent home support and will be champing at the bit to gain revenge for their last minute defeat to Wasps in the European Cup Quarter Final last month.
Look out for Henry Slade, who I am sure will become a future regular England centre as he has all the skills needed to fulfil that pivotal role. I particularly like his arrow-like left boot as a different option in the midfield.
I predict the two home sides progressing and will stick with my original choice of SARACENS to win a close final.
In the Champions Cup I predicted that French giants Toulon would retain their crown but they were narrowly beaten in the quarter-finals by fellow French side Racing 92, who have in their ranks the world player of the year – World Cup winner Dan Carter.
Racing then beat Leicester Tigers in the semis while Sarries defeated London Wasps, so this Saturday Racing take on Sarries in Lyon.
This should be a superb game as both sides have stacks of experience and I sincerely hope that we see a free-flowing game, like last year’s battle between Toulon and Clermont Avergne, which I witnessed live at Twickenham.
My prediction is an extra time win for Racing 92 with superstar Carter kicking a match-defining penalty deep into injury time.
I was correct in predicting England would lift the Six Nations title.
In a slightly disappointing tournament, the English prevailed in all their five games but overall the quality of the play throughout the competition was not up to the standard of the World Cup three months before, when we witnessed some incredible games, including Australia’s victory against Scotland and Japan’s mighty triumph against the Springboks.
Who can forget the faces of the Japanese players and their fans at the end of that titanic battle.
All in all, it has been a great season and I hope that all rugby fans will enjoy the new season’s offerings that we will have online soon at www.justrugby.com.