All attentions are drawing towards the imminent Lions Tour at the moment, but we must not forget that there is still the small matter of finalising “King of the Castle” in the Aviva Premiership for 2017.
It has been a varied season for many teams this year and the expected dominance of Saracens has been one of the talking points for many, as they were so superlative in the 15/16 season, finishing more than a bonus point win clear of Exeter, but both sides have been, not taken by surprise, but certainly the classroom by a very invigorated and calculating Wasps team that just will not lie down. Although things have gone down to the wire this season (and it really doesn’t get any closer than splitting teams by points difference) you have got to hand it to Wasps for pulling themselves to the top of the table for the first time in a long time, well actually forever if you consider the last time they topped a table come season end was in ’97 as Wasps RFC in the Courage National Division 1!
We could be heading for an absolutely epic conclusion to this year’s season, if Exeter manage to overhaul Saracens on Saturday and Wasps put the Tigers to the sword, then it will literally be the most closely contested premiership season that I can put my finger on without really straining the grey matter. Whatever the results this weekend, you can guarantee fireworks on the 27th.
Now, let us join everyone else in the rugby community and cast our gaze towards the upcoming feast of world class action that is about to be bestowed to our televisions for the next five weeks or so. Everyone loves a Lions tour*, the non-stop action, the game after game that gives your regular rugby fan something to look forward to once the domestic action has come to grinding halt, and the chance for the Northern hemisphere to prove that they can actually put on a great show against the South, although I think England proved that fairly well by comprehensively squashing the Aussies at the back end of last year, still smiling on that one.
Again though, the competition this year feels as though it is going to be something incredibly special, and more so than ever is it all to play for. New Zealand are the number one team in the world, there is no doubting that, but up until recently, they were completely unassailable, but that has changed a little of late. Ireland put the brakes on the AB’s longest unbeaten run in history, and then quite unbelievably, England came storming up behind them to match that record, which was then quite aptly destroyed by the same Irish side! C’est la vie. But the point I’m making here is, there is now depth and breadth of quality in the Northern Hem, and I can see that all nations involved will put everything on the line to prove their worth once they come up against the world’s best. If Ireland could stop them, England could match them and the French run them close, there is nothing at all to say that a Lions side of this calibre couldn’t push them very hard indeed. We will see!
The only thing I can see that is going to prevent us from seeing the spectacle we all deserve will be any unfortunate injuries that come up along the way from the punishing schedule, and those injuries are starting to arrive before we’ve even played a game, Dylan Hartley may yet find himself on a plane if Ken Owens cannot get his ankle back in working order which may give Hartley one of his very few remaining chances to join the Lion’s where he is in good form, not suspended and in with a chance of playing against his motherland for his adoptive country. If he wants to be on a Lions tour, I’d bet the mortgage it would be this one.
Suffice to say, the season is ending, and that leads to miserable couple of months for everybody, but wow, what a closing act. Premiership in the tightest finish I can remember for a long time and Lions tour where we might do some damage against the worlds very best. Bring. It. On.