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England Rugby Union update

2017 Premiership rugby season openers

Premiership rugby returned to England on opening weekend with talent and passion that surpasses all other global leagues. Six vibrant Premiership matches produced an amazing 50 tries breaking the previous record of 36 set in 2007. English club rugby is gaining in popularity and is setting the pace in global rugby competition with the promise of excitement, on-field entertainment, and passion in the offing in the upcoming season for supporters and fans of all ages. Buy all popular rugby union tickets including rugby tickets for the 2017 Autumn Internationals securely now online from LiveRugbyTickets.co.uk.

Premiership Match Report
Saracens 55-24 Northampton Saints
Saracens (41) 55
Tries: Barritt, Wigglesworth, Maitland 3, Lozowski, Koch, Brits, Spencer Cons: Lozowski 4, Spencer
Northampton Saints (3) 24
Tries: Ludlam, Wood 2 Cons: Mallinder 3 Pens: Mallinder

The current reigning European champions, Saracens began their title defense with a convincing nine-try walloping of Northampton Saints at Twickenham Stadium as Sean Maitland scored a first-half hat-trick with further tries coming from Brad Barritt, Richard Wigglesworth, Alex Lozowski and Vincent Koch. Schalk Brits and Ben Spencer added more tries for Saracens in the second half. Lewis Ludlam scored for Northampton with Tom Wood also crossing twice, but Saints missed out on a bonus point. Saracens lost in the Premiership play-off semi-finals last season, but won the European Champions Cup for a second successive year, while Northampton came seventh domestically which is their lowest league finish since the 2008-09 campaign.

Saracens took only 11 minutes to make a simple score from Barritt after Koch had forced his way past the Saints defence. Wigglesworth finished off a team move and a minute later Maitland grabbed his first try with a thrilling cross-field move as Lozowski secured the four-try bonus-point at 29 minutes when he finished off. The 36-year-old South African plans to retire from rugby at the end of the season. Skillfull Lozowski was involved in the build-up to try five as he timed a pass perfectly for Maitland to go over for his second. His third try, and Saracens' sixth, came in the 34th minute with Koch powering over just before the break and Saracens having a 41-3 lead at half-time. Northampton’s Ludlam crossed inside four minutes of the restart in the second half, but Saracens scored quickly with Brits getting a well-deserved try. Tom Wood scored twice for Saints however hopes dimishedwith Saracens' ninth try, courtesy of replacement Spencer, to seal an exciting victory from the European champions. A negative for Saracens was a foot injury for lock George Kruis, who was part of the Lions side for the Test series with New Zealand, but went off after only 15 minutes after struggling with a foot injury. Schalk Brits scored Saracens eighth try of the match against Northampton Saints.

Saracens boss Mark McCall talked about Schalk Brits after the win. "He's Peter Pan. He's an explosive athlete and his athleticism hasn't gone away. His body is sore after games, but it was a stunning performance today - he was incredible,” said McCall. "This is his ninth season at the club and he's been a star from day one. He seems to save all of his best performances for Twickenham. He's a phenomenal player and hopefully we can give him a really good send off this year."

Asked if Brits could yet play beyond next summer, McCall replied: "That's a decision he has made; he will be 37 next year so we will see." George Kruis went off injured in the first half. "He had such a disruptive time last season, he couldn't string four or five games together because of injuries but did so well to get on the Lions tour off the back of that disjointed season,” said McCall. "Fingers crossed it's not as serious as it looks at the moment." Northampton Saints rugby director Jim Mallinder talked with the press about his side’s loss to Saracens. "It's infuriating, it's embarrassing, it's disappointing,” said Mallinder. "You think you prepare properly and you think we had a good pre-season. We thought we were ready for it, but clearly we weren't. The first half, Saracens were clinical. Next week is big for us. We need to be better. We have played in some big games against Leicester but next week is massive. It's vital for us that we get a win and get our season going."

Squads

Saracens
Goode; Maitland, Taylor, Barritt (capt), Earle; Lozowski, Wigglesworth; Barrington, Brits, Koch, Day, Kruis, Itoje, Burger, Wray. Replacements: Spurling, Thompson-Stringer, Figallo, Isiekwe, Rhodes, Spencer, Bosch, Wyles.

Northampton
Tuala; Foden, Tuitavake, Burrell, Collins; Mallinder, Groom; Waller, Hartley (capt), Brookes, Lawes, Day, Wood, Ludlam, Eadie. Replacements: Haywood, Ma'afu, Hill, Ribbans, Gibson, Mitchell, Grayson, Pisi.

In the top-tier Premiership season opening clashes, Rugby Union fans enjoyed watching Semesa Rokoduguni, Topsy Ojo, Sean Maitland, Jason Woodward, and Dan Robson complete touchdowns in the long-to-be remembered opening weekend. Although tries are but a part of the on-field action, the fun of watching scrum-halves score four in a single game on the opening day of the season will long be remembered – and set the pace for great club rugby ahead and fan enthusiasm in the early season. Sale earned five away from home but still lost by 15 points. Saracens led Northampton 41-3 by half-time. There is a new law forcing the rugby tackler to “come back around and rejoin through the gate on his own side rather than giving him the freedom to loiter with intent on the wrong side” is one key factor in the new season, as more scrums stay up. And there is a stricter interpretation surrounding high tackles. Neither Kahn Fotuali’i nor Gareth Steenson appeared to do anything against the rules at Leicester and Gloucester respectively but were yellow-carded.

In the opening six matches with their stellar try counts at an average of 8.3 per game compared with under three per game at a similar stage eight years ago, there was not a single citing, nor ban. Also the modern Premiership professional rugby player is faster and fitter than ever. And the pursuit of money has helped make the game cleaner. The rugby Premiership commenced this season on a weekend with no Premier League or Championship football matches competing for attention. Overall, many more supporters care more about club rugby in England than they used to. Attendance figures in the Premiership have almost tripled since the turn of the century, buoyed by the geographical and historic rivalries that are fully integrated into the league. Rather than poor South African and Italian sides being brought into the Pro14 to gain greater television revenue. Local passion and pride is what really matters to the sport and the players respond favorably, and TV networks will pay top dollar for the extra commitment.

Looking ahead, the international window will arrive in November when England rugby manager Eddie Jones will be holding court. Coming up, Schalk Brits will take his side and many skills to the United States when Saracens will face Newcastle in a regular season game in Philadelphia next week. However, the US match may lack the passion increasingly apparent in the English club games. Spectators will be snapping tickets to watch Northampton v Leicester in a crunch East Midlands Derby, Exeter v Wasps, and England v Samoa at Twickenham this November.. It looks like rugby union is catching up with European football in terms of entertainment value, the English club game now trumps all other global leagues and all but the biggest internationals or tournaments.

The Australian Rugby Union is staging this weekend’s international between the Wallabies and South Africa in Perth. Andrew ‘Twiggy’ Forrest, a local mining magnate, has announced his intention to set up a breakaway tournament for rugby teams from across the Indo-Pacific region, in direct competition with Super Rugby after the ARU rejected his offer of A$50m (£30.6m) to keep the Force alive. In the upcoming Northampton v Leicester, neither of the east midlands duo won their first match of this season. Saints want to forget their opening game against Saracens, while the Tigers lost at home to Bath for the first time in the league since 2003. In their season opening match, the Exiles beat Quins 39-29 at Twickenham on Saturday to secure a bonus-point win in the opening round. London Irish's players were "not shocked" by their winning return to the Premiership against Harlequins according to twenty-four-year old full-back Tommy Bell who scored one of Irish's four tries and kicked a further 19 points. "I knew we could produce that sort of performance and the other players did too," said Bell after the win. "We know what we're about and knew we could deliver."

Irish who won the Championship in May to secure promotion back to the top flight of England rugby have been tipped to struggle this season. "All the media and all the talk's been about Quins, and us finishing 12th, but come full-time, we've gone and done it," Bell continued. "But, at the same time, we know it's only week one and we're not going to get ahead of ourselves. The plan is to keep developing, keep progressing and building our game week by week." Next Irish face defending champions Exeter on Saturday and the Chiefs will be seeking to rebound from their opening weekend loss to Gloucester. "We've got some big challenges ahead, we know that, but it's just exciting," former Leicester player Bell added. "We'll go to Exeter prepared for a massive challenge."

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