With 9 out of the 22 games played the table is starting to feel like the table is taking shape. I’ll go through the table and make some end of season predictions.
First up here is the table:
Clearly we are not half way through the season yet and so some teams will have had easier schedules than others. There are only two games to go though so the difference shouldn’t be that much.
The top 3 are only separated by bonus points and have opened up a gap of 7 points over the rest of the table. Clearly these three teams have points in the bank but only Northampton have been in this position recently. So whilst you can predict that Saints will end up in the playoffs the other two have to prove they can do it.
The next three teams are only split by 1 point. Saracens and Tigers have been missing players either to internationals and or injury and have “been there done that”. So their experience should help them as the season goes on. Sale are looking better now that their captain is back from injury and if they can keep this form going will be challenging for the playoffs.
I see the four teams for the playoffs coming from these six. My guess is that Sale and Exeter will miss the cut but I really hope I’m wrong.
The next three teams are not out of touch, however for differing reasons I can’t see them putting the run of games together that are required to push for top 4. Wasps have won all their home games and lost all their away ones. Add into this that they are about to change their home and I can’t see them going on a run of wins.
Gloucester will be greatly impacted during the 6 nations again and are a new squad with new coaches. This leads to inconsistency so some days they’ll beat Tigers but others lose to Flacons. Having already lost 5 games that isn’t the kind of form to make the playoffs.
Quins are the one team that might make the run but they are also a team that has been on the slide over the last couple of seasons. Three seasons ago they won the whole thing after topping the table, two seasons ago they dropped to third and last season they only just scraped in the playoffs on the final weekend of the season. This season has seen big losses and tight wins but the thing that struck me was O’Shea saying everything was OK after a win against Welsh. That really sounded deluded at the time and has proven to be wrong.
So Wasps, Gloucester or Quins could put a run together and challenge for the top end of the table but I just can’t see it happening.
Next we have Falcons and Irish who are both in no-mans land. They aren’t going to get relegated because Welsh can’t buy a win but they don’t look like moving too far up the table either. For Falcons this is a step forward, they are performing better than last year and allows them to plan for next season knowing they will be in the premiership. For Irish it’s another lost season that promised more initially, if they can get their early season form back something might be salvaged if not then where are they going?
Welsh are clear off the bottom and as they can’t seem to sort out their defence, are going to be relegated back to the championship.
So that’s it, I think the playoff teams will come from the top six. The next three could break into the top six and get automatically into Europe but won’t challenge for the top 4. Falcons and Irish will probably be 10th and 11th but may climb a place and Welsh are going to be relegated.