#rugbyunited Across the Premiership
As the season fast approaches some of the RugbyUnited accounts thought it was time to compare what the fans get at each club, thoughts on last season and importantly our tips to watch this season.
We started by looking at season ticket prices and what you get for that. Harlequins weigh in from £275 to a whopping £730 with no particular additions attached (except for the very posh seats who access the members bar) although you do get entry into the ballot for international tickets and first access to tickets. Leicester Tigers clearly fit the funding formula with prices starting at £277, and this includes discounts at club events across the year . Saracens start at similar prices, from £280 up to a ludicrous £1080 for Platinum Plus seats. None of us know what you get for Platinum Plus but we’re hoping heated seats and all the Wolfpack lager you can drink. Ticket prices include a Summer Gathering for fans in August as a pre-season treat with BBQ, games, meet the players and see the new kit. There are several Fans Forums during the year, some in conjunction with the excellent Saracens Supporters’ Association, to hear from the player, coaches and club officials. Sale £259 (Platinum £700) Season ticket includes Summer BBQ, 10% off at the club shop and lots of discounts from club sponsors.Exeter Chiefs adult prices start at £335 with concessions available, similar to the other clubs. This includes pre-season matches, Academy games, priority booking for progression games and 10% off at the Exeter Chiefs Trading Post.
Attendance at Quins is good and the match day experience tends to reflect the team’s performance. Clear pluses are activities for younger fans with food rated as expensive along with other clubs experience. Real ale is a top tip at Quins but only in the 1 bar!The club put a lot of effort in attracting new fans – mixed with the usual regulars.Saracens are reporting sell out 10k crowds becoming common place with a bumper 15k for the European quarter final with Glasgow Warriors and fabulous away support.Attendance at the AJ Bell Stadium for Sale continues to be an issue although season ticket sales are up and corporate bookings continue to rise under Mark Cueto.
Leicester Tigers must top the league with their average attendance sitting at 22,899 per match, an enviable record. Exeter Chiefs has a great atmosphere and a good range of food and drinks available, with the ever popular Chase the Otter to entertain at half-time. Attendance at Chiefs up to about 10,000 for most games but surprising (lol) increasing at the end of next season.
It’s pretty cheerful at Allianz Park over recent years with success on the pitch, trophies in the cabinet and good times a plenty. Lots of flags waving, singing and cheering (and more than just the ‘Oooooh, Ma-ro Ito-je’ sung by thousands of Lions fans in New Zealand!). The Sarries former captain Ali Hargreaves and team mate Chris Wyles have created Wolf Pack lager and sales from their double decker bus flow freely. The Olympic Bar runs the length of the East Stand with lots of food, Saracens Ale, cider, wine and lots of soft drink options. Fresh cooked pizzas, glorious Porky’s Burgers, award-winning Mac’n’Wild food, plus sticky toffee puddings and more. After the match the Allianz Park pitch is opened to the crowd to play and the children to emulate their heroes providing a wonderful end to a match-day.
Sale Sharks are trying hard to improve the matchday experience with players serving in the club shop and available to meet the fans in the Shark Tank before and after the game. Food is expensive, as is the alcohol but the bar staff are lovely. There’s usually lots to do for the young and young at heart and last year saw Brian Mujati with his real ale and David Seymour with his ‘Crouch, Grind’ coffee van working hard on and off the pitch. Car parking is a real problem – not so much parking but getting out of the ground.
Leicester Tigers have good all round match experience but maybe the only club to have a house band, intriguingly named Rock Bottom and their very own Elvis! First game of the season sees Tigers in the Park which is a meet and mingle event while once a year the Junior Tigers take over the club.
RugbyUnited Saracens is most appreciative of the superb work of the Saracens Academy, the lifeblood of the club for the present and future, bringing players like MaroItoje and Owen Farrell through to star for the Lions in New Zealand now and hopefully in further southern hemisphere tours and other internationals. There has been comments from some supporters at other clubs that cast aspersions about salary caps, South African influence but closer inspection shows that the success of the side has a stronger influence from players who have risen up through the age groups and been moulded in the Academy under Mike Hynard, Don Barrell and other coaches.
This is echoed by RugbyUnited SaleSharks who’s feeling slightly smug at the emergence of the Curry twins. Out of 7 Sale players selected for England over the Summer 6 came through the Academy. However the work of the Sharks Community Trust is amazing and making a real difference to communities within the NorthWest.
RugbyUnited Tigers is most proud of their total consistency with am amazing 13 playoffs in a row recorded by the club. Exeter Chiefs values the welcome given to away fans and loves hearing from people how they’ve enjoyed their trip. (Shameless plug for future tweets!)
Quins are one of the few teams who enjoy welcoming Saracens to the Stoop, as they’ve lost on both occasions recently!- The games to get excited for though are more often Exeter Chiefs and Wasps - where if Quins gets their game heads on can be a cracker, while Quins v Leicester Tigers is often a real end-to-end game with both sides trying to play expansive rugby.
Saracens are disappointed that their Premiership battles with Exeter Chiefs will both clash with England international weekends, denying both sets of fans the chance to see full-strength rematches of last season’s epic Premiership semi-final at Sandy Park. Last season they thoroughly enjoyed European clashes at Allianz Park last season against Toulon, Scarlets, Sale and Glasgow Warriors.
Saracens say that they’re slightly bored of facing Northampton Saints in so many competitions year after year. A strange one-way rivalry has grown in recent years with what seems like many employed by and supporting the Midlands club seemingly obsessed by Saracens and objecting to our post-win song Tiki-Tiki Tonga. But they are always welcome at Allianz Park!
The Saracens #DerbyDay game against Harlequins has shifted from Wembley to the London Stadium for this season. It should be a great afternoon in the Olympic (and now West Ham and athletics) theatre.
And there’s that away game for Saracens to Philadelphia: further ground-breaking promotional work for Premiership Rugby sees the league game against Newcastle Falcons switched to the USA on 16 September.
Sale Sharks fans loved hosting Toulon last season and are more than happy to host Saracens, whatever the result. However the grudge match is clearly Wasps at the moment with several high profile moves there season before last. Anticipated games this season are the European Cup fixtures.
In a successful year for Saracens, several outstanding performances stood out. Aside from the Lions stars several less heralded Saracens also shone. Chief among them were South African lock and flanker Mike Rhodes, Big Jim Hamilton in his last playing season and Chris Ashton, their much maligned (by others) but extremely popular (with us) flying winger now flown to Toulon.
Exeter Chiefs player of last season was Thomas Waldrom, a great back row player, who is known for his try scoring. He is called ‘Thomas the Tank’ and joins in with the Thomas the Tank Engine theme tune which shows a good sense of humour when that is played out around Sandy Park!
For last year at Sale the emergence of Denny Solomona and the Curry twins were the highlights with Will Addison putting in a great season until his injury. Fans were sad to say goodbye to Peter Stringer and Mike Phillips; and James Mitchell – a local lad. Not to mention that no more refrains of ‘ Sami’s gonna get you’ will ring out at the A J Bell.
Leicester Tigers player of the season was the awesome Adam Thompstone, their winger extraordinaire.
As for tips for the top? Well Quins rate the lad Joe Marchant as coming good, but he’s been around for a few years now – they like Sam Twomey who is a big lump of a second row - but the tip, not necessarily for this season but in a few is Marcus Smith, just signed to the academy - led the u18’s to league victory last year, was selected for England u20 last season, before going back to play for England u18’s - he is a fly half who likes to run but has a pretty decent kicking game as well….. He could be the next big thing!!!
Exeter Chiefs going for Gareth Steenson. His commitment to the Chiefs is fantastic and his kicking is pretty much always spot on. He is also a great decision maker on the field and I think he really helps to motivate the rest of the team out there.
Saracens have several new signings that look to be bolstering the squad this season. The headline act is probably the former Scarlet Liam Williams after a successful Lions tour in New Zealand. However other new signings may also have a huge influence this season. Will Skelton arrives from Australia, hoping to pick up from the successful loan period with us last season. Welsh lock Dom Day, French hooker Christopher Tolofua, ex-Saint Calum Clark and returning prop Kieron Longbottom are joined by Academy players stepping up to full contracts.
Some of those Academy stars include Joel Kpoku (remarkably yet another powerful lock coming through the production line), England U20s fly half Max Malins, former Ireland U20 hooker Tadgh McElroy and flying wingers Rotimi Segun and Elliot Obatoyinbo. All of them, and others, might break through the Saracens Storm A League side to challenge for some first XV appearances in the Anglo-Welsh or even Premiership.
Leicester Tigers tip for the top is a certain Manu Tuilagi who seems to be someone to watch out for at club and country level! I think all of us are hoping for an injury free spell for him.
Lots of new signings at Sale with Jono Ross, Josh Strauss, Faf de Klerk and RugbyUnited Sale Sharks personal favourite James O’Connor expected to do well. James impressed last year for Toulon and is a versatile signing. However Denny will clearly be building on last year and the Curry twins will go from strength to strength. Clear statement of intent from Sale regarding Academy signings and expect good things from Nic Dolly, Connor Doherty and Luke James.
New season sees new kit launches and RugbyUnited Saracens are happy. BLK Sport are in the second of what was announced as a five year kit deal with Saracens. Their second season home strip had strong echos of a previous Nike kit (as did their debut design last season) but has generally been received positively despite comments about us looking like the Beano’s Dennis the Menace with red and black hoops. The new away kit will be released in time for the pre-season game against our Saracens Global network partners, Romanian champions Timisoara Saracens. Rumours are that the kit will be very different from last year’s powerful red design, possibly using white and the bright green associated with the amazing work of the Saracens Sport Foundation.
Sale also launch new kit with Samurai blending their traditional Maori tattoos with wavesand moving to a new blue/grey combo. RugbyUnited SaleSharks not convinced in this respect.
Final word has to go to Exeter Chiefs who after winning the premiership for the first time is really looking forward to seeing how the team can progress from here and how they approach the start of the season. Also looking to keep an eye on the young players coming through from the academy who have made a great impact this year like Jack Maunder, as well as Josh Claufield who played for England in the World Rugby under 20 Championship final this month
Good luck to all the Premiership teams - #RugbyUnited!