After the try fest in Round 1 we saw probably a much fairer reflection of the strengths and weaknesses in each team last weekend. The results were closer in every game apart from the Exeter win and defences tightened up.
Rugby and sport can always surprise you and that is why we love it. Hands up who saw that Northampton Saints win coming? Or the Saracens defeat? Rugby is a game in the mind and whilst skills will naturally play a massive role in the success of a team, what is up there in their head is vital. How many times have teams been written off yet bounce back the following week with a cracking performance? When I captained England at the 2007 World Cup and we were well beaten by a dominant South Africa I am not sure many predicted we would end up contesting a very close final against that same team! The British & Irish Lions is another case in point with the way they bounced back after that first Test.
So where does that leave us after two rounds? I would say where most people initially predicted. It is going to be a very, very close league this season with any team capable of beating another. Not quite so good for when your beloved team is playing but brilliant for the game.
For this weekend there are a few games I have got my eye on and will be aiming to watch. First up must be the clash between Saints and Bath. What a win for the boys in blue against Saracens last week. With most of their first choice props forming an orderly queue at the hospital Bath looked weakened up front but boy no one told their starting pack. As for Saints they totally redeemed themselves against the Tigers and found a cohesiveness and bite that had been missing and looked the dangerous team we all know they can be. Home advantage will count for the Saints but I can’t see either side running away with it.
Leicester Tigers fans are a passionate and loyal lot but boy have they had some torrid times lately. New coach Matt O Connor straight out of the box marked ‘Traditional Tigers Coach’ has been bought back to install some of the club spirit and physicality. The only worry for me looking at the squad is the strength of the forwards. The back line looks tasty indeed - although poor old Manu can’t buy a piece of luck when it comes to injuries. I would say this as a forward but it does start with the pack and the Tigers 8 could do with some re-enforcements. This weekend Welford Road welcomes Gloucester another team desperately searching for some consistency and a more vertiginous place in the table. Glos did not play well at Quins last week but partly because the opposition were on fire that day and knocked them out of their stride. The Cherry & Whites have a poor away record so I am not sure going to Tigers is going to help in that search for some consistency. However new coach Ackermann will add something and they showed against Exeter in the first week exactly what they can do. Will be perched nervously on my sofa for this one.
Finally the late night game from Philadelphia on Saturday will have me tuning in simply because it is different, exciting and hey I want to see if they show the ‘Rocky’ steps. This is an away game for both teams although technically a home game for The Falcons. I understand some of the fans were upset with the club for denying them the opportunity to see Saracens at home but it seems it was financially too good an opportunity for Newcastle to turn down. Whatever the economics it is good to spread the sport and it will be fascinating to see the size of the crowd. As Saracens will not like to lose two in a row I can see a full beam focus from them for this game and with most of their big guns on the trip it is difficult to see past a win for them. However, if it was as easy to predict as that - we would all be making fortunes at the bookies - and be very bored with watching the games.