Premiership preview

All to play for as the new season prepares to kick-off

By Tony Curtis - Follow me on Twitter: @SkysportsTC.   Last Updated: 28/08/12 4:49pm

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The 2012/13 Aviva Premiership season will kick-off on Saturday with the London Double Header - and all 12 teams will have high hopes of being at Twickenham in May for the showpiece finale.

With so little to choose between the sides it promises to be the closest-fought season in the competition's history.

There is a new look to a lot of the clubs - on and off the pitch - with a number of exciting signings and interesting changes in personnel.

Seasoned campaigners Saracens, Northampton and Leicester are sure to be among the front-runners once again - especially as they have not had to worry about the World Cup disrupting their plans.

Saracens, in particular, are looking sharp, while East Midlands rivals Leicester and Northampton cannot be written off.

Harlequins, who took full advantage of the World Cup to get off to a flying start last season, will be in no mood to relinquish their title without a fight - with Conor O'Shea keeping together the majority of his squad.

Determined

Exeter, who missed out on the play-offs on the final weekend of the season, and the highly-ambitious Sale Sharks will be looking to gate-crash the top-four party, though, after some clever recruiting.

Bath, once the powerhouses of the English game, and their West Country neighbours Gloucester are determined to force their way back up the standings after disappointing seasons - and they will both hope a change of coaching structures will pay dividends.

London Irish have also had a change of backroom staff - but with a massive turnaround of players as well, Brian Smith faces a tough task in getting the squad to gel.

London Wasps will be keen to put their nightmare 2011/12 campaign behind them and Dai Young has turned to a number of experienced performers and some Wasps legends in a bid to bring the glory days back to Adams Park.

Worcester made sure they avoided an instant return to the RFU Championship last season, but they could well find this season a lot harder - particularly without the scoring talents of Miles Benjamin and Marcel Garvey.

Premiership new-boys London Welsh have had to fight hard, on and off the field, for their place in the top flight and their first objective will be to emulate the likes of Worcester and Exeter and avoid the drop.

Club-by-club guide

Bath - Owner Bruce Craig will be hoping his new-look coaching set-up can bring the glory days back to the Rec.

Exeter - Expectations are high at the Chiefs as they look to break into the Aviva Premiership top four.

Gloucester - Gloucester have a fresh belief that they can mount a serious challenge on the top-four places.

Harlequins - Defending champions Harlequins face a fight to retain their Aviva Premiership crown.

Leicester - It is difficult to bet against Leicester being at Twickenham for a ninth successive season come May.

London Irish - There will be a new-look to London Irish after wholesale changes to the club over the summer months.

London Wasps - Wasps will be out to put the memories of their disastrous 2011/12 campaign behind them.

London Welsh - London Welsh will be out to prove their doubters wrong as they prepare for their maiden top-flight campaign.

Northampton - Northampton will be spurred on after finishing the 2011/12 season empty-handed.

Sale - Sale will hope to take the next step forward after opting for quality over quantity.

Saracens - There is no doubting last season's failure to finish with silverware will have hurt Saracens.

Worcester - Worcester will look to kick-on and establish themselves as a Premiership club.

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