Toooo much news this week! I was going to write about Saracens European cup win, but it wouldn't do this week justice to keep to one theme!
But as a starting point....
Saracens - European Champions!
I'm sure some of my regular readers will be beaming from ear to ear with this result. The rain ended the chance to see the like of Rokocoko, Imhoff and Ashton run wild, and a clearly injured Dan Carter failed to spark Racing into life, however a superb defensive effort from Sarries and a masterful lesson in game control from Owen Farrell saw Saracens win 21 - 9 and lift their first European cup, winning all their games en route to the win.
There was a lot of ill feeling towards Saracens on Twitter from several fans, however, this vitriol comes with the territory. If you're the best, a lot of people don't tend to like you. Look at Man Utd, Chelsea et al. However a lot of the negative points and accusations being thrown at Saracens are not relevant anymore. They aren't solely a team of imports anymore, certainly not any worse than anyone else, the talent that has come through their ranks, or brought in at a young age are leading the way, Farrell, George, Kruis, Itoje, Wray, Fraser all played a big part! They aren't boring! They may not have done so in the final, but they score tries for fun, they are entertaining and they defend so well.
They are worthy European champions, they deserve a bit more respect than some parties give them. You may as well get used to them being good, I think they'll be at the top table of European rugby for a long, long time!
Completing Saracens Euro dominance, the EPRC player of the season is 21 year old, Maro Itoje. When I was 21 I was retiring with a back injury and to be fair, far more interested in chasing girls and getting blind drunk as often as possible, Maro has had an incredible season, European champion, Grand Slam winner and could start a champagne bar in Chelsea with all his man of the match bottles he has!
For me, there is only Brodie Retallick ahead of Itoje in the list of the worlds best 2nd row, but Maro has the raw potential to be possibly one of the best of all times, and I mean this without any hyperbole, he has the skillset, the athleticism, the desire and the attitude to make it all the way to a legendary status!
For the record, he's also on the list for the Premiership player of the season!
In the other European final, Harlequins fell just short in an impressive fight back against Montpellier to lose 19 - 26, it could have been so much more for Quins, but with Ben Botica inexplicably kicking the ball away with the clock on red ending their chances. It wasn't a moment that on it's own lost them the game, but it certainly didn't help.
Conor O'Shea had far from a dream send off, with the last weekend of the Prem season seeing them destroyed by Exeter and the cup final defeat, he of course, is leaving to coach Italy.
The nomadic insects announced a major signing in Kurtley Beale, who will become the Premierships highest paid player ever, unfortunately, he promptly injured his knee and won't feature until around Christmas time! The signing initially seemed to divide the Wasps fanbase, with a few thinking he'll be a huge signing to replace Charles Piutau and a few thinking he's overpriced and past his prime.... time will tell on this one!
New faces in the Prem?
Some huge names have linked themselves with moves to the Premiership this week, Cory Jane, Sonny Bill Williams and Steffon Armitage have all been linked with various clubs and with a raised salary cap (like that matters) and a domestic and international marquee exemption being allowed, this could just be the start.
As I've said before, I believe the salary cap is vital, but despite my early skepticism, I firmly believe this cap is allowing the Premiership teams to bring some amazing players to Englands top flight without stifling the young talent too much, and I really hope that these star names wanting to join the league doesn't tempt the powers that be into another increase, which would drive some clubs into bankrupcy.
Wasps have been linked with Armitage, but with Beale and Cipriani in the big money marquee slots, can they affford him and stay within the salary cap?
Bath have parted company with Mike Ford this week, which is not a massive surprise as with the investment BT's favourite man, Lord Bruce of Craig has put into the club, the disappointing season Bath have just been through is not really an acceptable output. This is an unfortunate byproduct of the increasing financial growth in rugby, owneers plough money in and expect instant rewards. If you look at Saracens and Wasps, they've both spent years developing their product, and a steady hand at the tiller has allowed the respective coaches to build top class squads, (Wasps move to the Ricoh was the final piece of the puzzle for them, allowing them to sign the likes of the Piutau's, George Smith et al) Sale are another where consistency has improved their fortunes. On the flip side, Gloucester have spent years allowing a manager a season or 2 to build a squad and then changing the head honcho and have gone from a top 6 team to a lower table team. Which way will Bath go?
Craig has rebuilt the Bath training facilities into one of the best, and certainly the most picturesque, in the country, and has financed some top drawer players to be brought to the Rec, but with this season being disrupted by the World Cup, should Ford have been given another chance to replicate the run to the Premiership final from last season? Maybe. But it's part and parcel of the modern game that the man in charge is the man to blame. Good luck in your next step Mike!
As part of our ongoing support of SODA (Survivors of domestic abuse), here's a link to their upcoming events and fundraisers http://www.sodahq.org/#!our-news/g9hdi, so go and check that out and help if you can! We've also had a preliminary email about a potential project which could prove quite exciting ! Until then we will keep you updated as often as possible into what is going on with the lovely people at SODA!
That's all for this week!
See ya soon!