Premiership team-by-team guide

Captains of the 12 Aviva Premiership clubs

A fresh campaign dawns and for a second successive season first-time champions begin the long haul to defend their crown in one of the world's most attritional club competitions.

Can Harlequins repeat the feat of last year when they won widespread admirers with their dashing brand of rugby?

Previous winners Saracens, Leicester, Wasps and Sale will all be hoping to scale the heights of past glories.

Perennial campaigners Bath, Gloucester, London Irish and Northampton will be praying this will be their breakthrough year after recent disappointments.

Exeter will have to strike a fine balance between domestic ambitions with a maiden Heineken Cup crusade, while Worcester and debutants London Welsh will be aiming to avoid a relegation scrap.

Here BBC Sport teams up with BBC Local Radio to garner the thoughts of the commentators who follow their teams throughout the season for an at-a-glance guide to the campaign ahead.


Position last season: EighthCaptain: Stuart Hooper
Head coach: Gary GoldCoaches: Toby Booth, Brad Davis, Mike Ford, Neal Hatley

BBC Radio Bristol's Ed Hadwin:

"Having assembled one of the larger coaching squads in the Premiership, packed with both international and national experience, Gary Gold has plenty of talent to draw from at the Rec.

"Toby Booth, Mike Ford and Neal Hatley all signed up to his vision, and alongside existing first-team coach Brad Davis, there's plenty of fresh thinking to draw on, and my, did the club need it.

"Last season was one of real frustration for Bath, and their now former director of rugby Sir Ian McGeechan, as they spent the year struggling at the wrong end of the table.

"Most fans are realistic about the speed of any possible title challenge but, given Gold's work at Newcastle, they'll certainly be expecting an improvement up front, where the club struggled too often last year.

"The addition of Welshmen Paul James (prop) and Dominic Day (lock), and England's Rob Webber (hooker) should certainly help there, and it would be nice to see rugby league convert Kyle Eastmond stay fit for long enough to properly judge his potential in the 15-man game."

BBC Radio Bristol will carry full commentary of every Bath match throughout the 2012-13 season.


Position last season: FifthCaptain: Tom Hayes
Head coach: Rob BaxterCoaches: Ali Hepher, Ricky Pellow

BBC Radio Devon commentator Nigel Walrond:

"The Chiefs will find it a tough act to follow last season's success, when they finished fifth in the Premiership in only their second year in the top flight, and reached the European Challenge Cup quarter-finals.

"That league success earned them a place in this season's Heineken Cup for the first time in their history, but a group that includes holders Leinster and top French side Clermont Auvergne will test Exeter's resources to the limit.

"Head coach Rob Baxter has made several additions to his squad to help with the extra workload, with former Australian international lock Dean Mumm and Fijian winger Watisoni Votu arguably the pick of them.

"Exeter have been handed a very tough start to the season, with fixtures against last season's Premiership top four inside their opening six games.

"History shows teams playing in the Heineken Cup for the first time often see their league form affected. Exeter will be hoping to buck that trend."


Position last season: NinthCaptain: Jim Hamilton
Head coach: Nigel DaviesCoaches: Carl Hogg, Paul Moriarty, Tony Windo

BBC Points West's Damian Derrick:

"A new head coach in Nigel Davies and eight new players should breathe life into Gloucester's Premiership campaign after they fell away badly at the end of last season to finish outside the Heineken Cup places.

"The former Scarlets boss is renowned for developing young talent - so the addition of Billy Twelvetrees from Leicester to an already exciting back line will keep the Kingsholm faithful happy.

"Perhaps more significant are the arrivals in the pack. England number eight Ben Morgan will ensure Luke Narraway is not missed. Tongan Sione Kalamafoni will bring even more physicality to the back row, while handing the captaincy to abrasive lock forward Jim Hamilton sends out a clear message.

"Helping to find the balance between the fast and the furious is a new-look backroom team - including scrum coach and former player Tony Windo and Paddy Anson as head of strength and conditioning.

"How they achieve this will determine whether the Cherry and Whites can finally realise their undoubted potential."

BBC Radio Gloucestershire will be at every Gloucester game, with full commentary, for the full season.


Position last season: First and play-off final champions Captain: Chris Robshaw
Director of rugby: Conor O'SheaCoaches: Tony Diprose, John Kingston, Collin Osborne, Mark Mapletoft

BBC London's Sara Orchard:

"Harlequins will look to build on the success of last season with director of rugby Conor O'Shea reiterating they are on a 'journey' and not a 'great team' yet.

"Whilst they will focus on retaining their Premiership title, Quins' eyes might be looking towards Europe, having been pulled in one of the easier (if there is such a thing) Heineken Cup pools this season.

"There haven't been any high-profile signings or leavers for Quins in the playing or coaching departments. Over the last 12 months many of the squad have grown from strong club players into proven internationals and O'Shea's player budget may have been spent on just retaining his current squad.

"The signings of fly-half Ben Botica from Périgueux and hooker Dave Ward from Cornish Pirates will be looked upon as strong back-up rather than automatic first-team players."


Position last season: Second and play-off final runners upCaptain: Geordan Murphy
Director of rugby: Richard CockerillCoaches: Richard Blaze, Paul Burke, Matt O'Connor

BBC Radio Leicester's Martin Ballard:

"Director of rugby Richard Cockerill will want a better start to the new Premiership campaign after losing five of the first six games last season with 11 players at the World Cup.

"In addition to the close-season departures, Tigers will miss a number of players for the start of the season with Marcos Ayerza away with Argentina and injuries to back-row duo Craig Newby and Tom Croft, scrum-half Ben Youngs, lock Ed Slater and prop Boris Stankovich.

"But Jordan Crane is back after a season out with knee problems and Mathew Tait should play a bigger part in the campaign after injury problems of his own. The young prop Kieren Brookes is over his foot injury which he picked up almost a year ago in the game against his former club Newcastle.

"Nine new faces arrive at Welford Road with Dan Bowden filling in the role vacated by Billy Twelvetrees and there's the exciting prospect of seeing three new wingers - Miles Benjamin, Adam Thompstone and Vereniki Goneva - in action.

"Toby Flood and teenage fly-half George Ford will continue their battle for the 10 jersey while Bowden and Matt Cornwell, who returns to his former club after success at Mogliano, will deputise."

Martin Ballard presents the Leicester Tigers Rugby Show every Wednesday at 18:00 BST and you can hear commentary on every Tigers game from Bleddyn Jones on BBC Radio Leicester - either on 104.9FM, on DAB or via the BBC Leicester and BBC Sport websites.


Position last season: SeventhCaptain: Declan Danaher
Director of rugby: Brian SmithCoaches: Glenn Delaney, Shaun Edwards
London Irish

BBC Berkshire's Graham Mckechnie:

"Do not write London Irish off this season.

"A superficial glance at the departures from the club - including Bob Casey, Nick Kennedy, Paul Hodgson and Delon Armitage - has led some pundits to make dire predictions of a struggle ahead. But of all the players that have left, perhaps only Armitage is the one they would have loved to have kept.

"It also overlooks the return of Brian Smith and the impressive recruiting over the summer, including Tomas O'Leary and the prodigal son Shane Geraghty.

"Existing players should also be coming of age, such as Jonathan Joseph, Matt Garvey and Jamie Gibson. The defensive frailties they showed too often last season will surely be addressed by the arrival of Shaun Edwards.

"Having missed out on a place in this season's Heineken Cup, Irish's priority is to make sure that doesn't happen again. A top-six finish is well within their grasp and success in the Amlin Cup is not out of the question.

"Irish have a small squad; if they remain relatively injury-free, there is every reason to expect this to be an exciting and rewarding season."

BBC Berkshire will have full commentary on every London Irish game throughout the forthcoming season.


Position last season: 11thCaptain: Hugo Southwell
Director of rugby: Dai YoungCoaches: Shane Howarth, Trevor Woodman

BBC London's Sara Orchard:

"Wasps will be hoping this season all their headlines will be made on the pitch following a year of financial turmoil off it.

"Whilst the club still waits for former player Ken Moss to complete his takeover, director of rugby Dai Young has been busily re-building the team.

"Nearly 20 players have left the club, including hooker Rob Webber (Bath) and Dominic Waldouck (Northampton), but Young has brought in plenty of experience.

"The introduction of established Wales international Stephen Jones from Scarlets will help steer the Wasps ship, whilst the returning England internationals James Haskell (Highlanders) and Tom Palmer (Stade Francais) will add some mature bulk in the forwards.

"Despite survival only being assured on the last day of the season, there's still plenty to get excited about at Wasps with young wing Christian Wade and lock Joe Launchbury to the fore.

"If Wasps can have a bit more luck with injuries and retirements, this season will look far rosier than the 2011/12 season they'd probably like to forget."


Position last season: Promoted from the ChampionshipCaptain: Jonathan Mills
Head coach: Lyn JonesAssistant coach: Kingsley Jones
London Welsh

BBC London's Phil Parry:

"It is rarely easy for a promoted club to gain a foothold in the Premiership but Welsh's hopes were not helped by the protracted process by which they eventually took their rightful place at the top table.

"While Lyn Jones's side waited until the start of July to discover that their appeal against the RFU's decision to block their ascendancy had been successful, rivals were already well into their recruitment drive.

"The pack has been added to with some Premiership experience in the shape of Neil Briggs (Sale) and Ed Williamson (Newcastle), as well as the recent arrival of Bourgoin pair Franck Montanella and Arthur Joly.

"Of course much was made of the signing of Gavin Henson with the director of rugby saying the Wales international was ready to make an impact again. Injury will now delay his competitive debut.

"Staying up will be the simple target for the club and Jones believes they will be able to hold their own by the autumn.

"If they can play with a little swagger and ride the crest of a wave of good feeling about their return to the pinnacle of the game, then who knows."


Position last season: FourthCaptain: Dylan Hartley
Director of rugby: Jim MallinderCoaches: Paul Grayson, Dorian West

BBC Radio Northampton commentator James Knight:

"Northampton fell short of their targets last season with a combination of factors such as a poor start during the World Cup, off-field distractions and suspensions.

"With Chris Ashton moving on, Saints coach Jim Mallinder would have hoped for calmer waters. But with the club pulling out of the deal for Ashton's replacement, Cameron Shepherd, they still find themselves in the unwanted spotlight before the season gets underway.

"Nevertheless, there is cause for optimism. Despite stalwarts James Downey and Roger Wilson retracing steps across the Irish Sea, their replacements look strong.

"Centre Dominic Waldouck left Wasps to reignite a highly promising career and should gel well with George Pisi, who impressed last term and welcomes his brother Ken to the club.

"GJ van Velze appears a straight swap for Wilson and should add weight to a still-formidable pack.

"Nothing less than a top-four finish will do, allied to an improved Heineken Cup campaign."

BBC Radio Northampton will carry commentary of every Saints game this season, on air and online.


Position last season: Sixth Captain: David Seymour
Director of rugby: Bryan Redpath Coaches: Pete Anglesea, Steve Scott

BBC Radio Manchester's Nathan Middleton:

"After last year's revolution, where Steve Diamond saw the turnaround of over 50 players in and out of the club, it's been a summer of evolution as Sale begin their first season away from the confines of Edgeley Park.

"Their new home, the Salford City Stadium, brings with it the feeling of a whole new start for the Sharks.

"Diamond has moved to the role he craved when he returned to the club - chief executive - and will leave all the coaching and on-field matters to the former Sale scrum-half Bryan Redpath, who joined over the summer after his departure from Gloucester.

"Danny Cipriani is the marquee addition to the squad and he'll be tasked with scoring the points that turns them from a top-six side, to play-off contenders.

"The former Rebels and Wasps man might be the biggest name on paper but the capture of Richie Gray, who turned down a number of clubs across Europe, is a huge coup and adds to the growing Scottish contingent at the Premiership's most northerly club.

"With a blend of established experience in Andy Powell, Mark Cueto and Dwayne Peel mixed with the exciting youngsters coming through, including Tom Brady, Will Addison and last season's top Premiership try scorer, Rob Miller, there is a real sense at Sale that they can be challenging for honours next May."

BBC Radio Manchester will follow Sale throughout the season on 95.1FM, DAB and online on the BBC Sport website.


Position last season: ThirdCaptain: Steve Borthwick
Director of rugby: Mark McCallCoaches: Paul Gustard, Alex Sanderson, Kevin Sorrell

BBC Three Counties Radio commentator Jason Harris:

"As usual, Saracens are making headlines off the field as well as on it. With work on their new Allianz Park stadium not due to be completed until February, Sarries will again take their show on the road to play home matches at half a dozen venues in 2012-13, including a Heineken Cup tie in Brussels.

"On the field, Mark McCall's men endeared themselves to few last season with a style that yielded few tries, and attracted derision from the media and supporters of other clubs.

"There is still much debate over the controversial signing of Chris Ashton, and it will be fascinating to see if the England wing will provide those elusive five-pointers.

"Elsewhere there are few changes; Springbok lock Alistair Hargreaves is the highest-profile recruit, but there remain question marks over the problem outside centre position, where Wigan recruit Joel Tomkins will need to prove he has what it takes in rugby union.

"One thing is certain, however. There'll always be something interesting happening at Sarries."


Position last season: 10thCaptain: Dean Schofield
Head coach: Richard HillCoaches: Phil Larder, Nigel Redman, Mathieu Rourre, Phil Vickery
Worcester Warriors

BBC Hereford & Worcester's Dave Bradley:

"Warriors have worked hard in pre-season on their perennial problem of scoring more tries; an average of one per game last season was one of the reasons their campaign faded out when a top-six place was hoped for.

"New forwards coaches Nigel Redman and Phil Vickery bring vast knowledge to the backroom staff, and Mathieu Rourre, who returns to Sixways as attack consultant, will look to add a real cutting edge.

"Dean Schofield (Toulon) comes in as skipper, but it's the new giant number eight Semesi Tualava (Rotherham Titans) who has impressed early on amid a bulked-up pack.

"With Nikki Walker missing the opening games, and Marcel Garvey and Miles Benjamin moving to pastures new, there's a chance for Errie Claassens and Josh Drauniniu to build on their first seasons in the top flight.

"Veterans Shaun Perry and Andy Goode are likely to start at half-back but Paul Hodgson, when fit, Jonny Arr and Joe Carlisle will also be putting pressure on the ex-England internationals. New centres Jon Clarke (Northampton) and big hitter Josh Matevesi (Exeter) will look to fill Dale Rasmussen's boots following his exit.

"Head coach Richard Hill says he feels he has a dressing room full of winners, but they must improve the try count, if only to entertain the fans at Sixways who, whilst loyal last season, will want more entertaining rugby this term."

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