Flatman excited for new Gallagher Premiership season
With just a year until World Cup fever grips the nation yet again, time is ticking for countries, coaches and player to complete their preparations for the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan.
It would be unwise, however, to start counting down the days just yet, what with a brand-new season of Gallagher Premiership Rugby just around the corner.
And former Bath Rugby and England prop turned beloved pundit David Flatman, speaking at the launch of the 2018/19 fixtures on Friday, knows that when the season starts, the World Cup will be the last thing on the players’ minds.
“No-one’s thinking about the World Cups when you’re back in scrums in the Premiership,” he said.
“When the players get on the training field they’re flat-out thinking about what’s six-inches in-front of their noses, and the same on game-day.”
And, with plenty of movement during the off-season and much to look forward to straight from the off this season, fans would do well to do the same.
PICK OF ROUND 1
After a thrilling opening-round of matches last year, this season’s fixtures certainly did not disappoint.
The campaign will kick-off with a local derby, as Bristol Bears host Bath on their return to Gallagher Premiership Rugby.
Elsewhere on the opening weekend, last year’s champions Saracens play at Newcastle Falcons, whilst 2017/18 runners-up Exeter Chiefs welcome Leicester Tigers in a match that Flatman is particularly excited about.
🏉 The @premrugby fixtures for 2018-19 are out!
— Exeter Chiefs (@ExeterChiefs) 6 July 2018
“It’ll be great to watch and when the guys were putting the fixtures together they would’ve been grinning at that because that might be the clash of the weekend,” he said.
“You love playing Leicester, but you ideally want a slightly easier game first, but they (Exeter) haven’t got that, they’ve got a tough one.”
And after a campaign that saw the Tigers finish fifth, Flatman is backing them to get back into the top-four, thanks in-part to the business that they have conducted during the off-season.
“All fitness status being equal, I expect them to be top-four or very close to it, it would always be surprising to see them not in it.
“If they can keep guys fit, Mark Bakewell who is their forwards coach will improve things – I would expect them to be in the top-four.
👋 New Tiger In Town | Will Spencer 🔒 pic.twitter.com/WWLyxM8e4Q
— Leicester Tigers (@LeicesterTigers) 2 July 2018
“I like the (David) Denton signing and I particularly like the (Will) Spencer signing,” he added.
“I maintain that if fit all season the person who can have the biggest impact is Will Spencer. He’s a freak of nature, and if they can keep him fit and do everything right they can do some real damage.”
NEW AND OLD FACES
Yet Spencer isn’t the only signing that Flatman is tipping to have a big impact.
The return of a certain Chris Ashton, who left Toulon for Sale Sharks, as well as Danny Cipriani’s move from Wasps to Gloucester Rugby has also got him purring.
“Ashton coming back is really exciting for obvious reasons, and Cipriani’s great because he’s still in England, he could’ve gone somewhere else but he hasn’t.
“We get to watch him every week, which is a treat for us because he’s a wonderful player, and he’s back in the England reckoning so he’s got more than ever to play for.
“That’s the one for me, he’s not a new signing as such because we’ve been watching him every week for the last few years anyway, but I’m glad he’s gone to a good club, I’m glad he’s gone to an ambitious club.
“The fans will love him at Gloucester, and I can’t wait to watch him.”
The opening round of Gallagher Premiership Rugby fixtures gets underway on August 31.