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Premiership letters to Santa

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Revealed - Premiership club letters to Santa Claus leaked

The festive season is upon us and up and down the country, Gallagher Premiership sides are taking a well-earned break for a couple of days over Christmas, before the competition returns this weekend.

Exeter Chiefs are the side in possession of top spot after six rounds of domestic rugby, closely followed by Northampton Saints and Bristol Bears. It doesn’t take three wise men to work out what is on the Christmas lists of those three teams.

Nevertheless, we have taken a look at each of the 12 Premiership clubs and tried to work out, some seriously, some less seriously, what exactly it is that each of those sides will be asking Santa Claus for over the next couple of days.

We start at the bottom with Saracens, who are currently 17 points adrift of Leicester Tigers, thanks to the 35-point deduction they suffered as a result of their salary cap infractions. Having already taken 22 points from a maximum total of 30, which includes a significant stretch without their internationals due to the Rugby World Cup, it’s looking like they will not need much help domestically to secure a comfortable spot come the end of the season.

What Saracens are asking for, then, is for Racing 92 to hold serve at home and see off Munster in Paris in Round 5 of the Heineken Champions Cup. Assuming Saracens beat Ospreys, this will put the Londoners in prime position to secure a best runners-up spot. By the time the knockout rounds come calling, Saracens could be safe in the league and able to focus their attention back on defending their European crown, which could potentially be their best way of securing qualification for the tournament again next season.

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In contrast, Leicester Tigers certainly need help domestically and, as a result, are asking for industrial amounts of bubble wrap. Exeter were ultimately victors at Welford Road on Saturday, though that did not prevent new signing Jordan Taufua from shining for Tigers. There a number of opponents in the league who, if faced with that performance from Leicester on Saturday, would not have been able to find a way to win.

With Taufua set to be available throughout the Guinness Six Nations, keeping him fit and in form looks like it will be paramount to Leicester’s bid for Premiership survival. Whisper it for now, but the club may have found the inspirational leader by example on the pitch that can help them turn their narrow losses into important wins. If Jesus was born to save us from our sins, perhaps Taufua was born to save Leicester from their recent malaise?

As for Leicester’s relegation rivals Wasps, they have not lacked for ambition in their letter to St Nicholas, asking for Doc Brown’s DeLorean from Back to the Future. We presume Wasps do know that was just a movie prop and not actually capable of time travel, though we do admire the purity of their request.

With the Coventry-based outfit just two points above Leicester in 10th and facing similar struggles on the pitch, the desire to go back in time and rediscover the form and chemistry that Lima Sopoaga and Malakai Fekitoa showed together at the Highlanders is understandable. Another positive consequence of that? It rolls back the odometer on the 36-year-old Jimmy Gopperth.

At the other end of the table, Exeter Chiefs’ position isn’t overly dissimilar to that of Saracens. Their Premiership fate looks relatively sealed, albeit with a different outcome to their major rivals. Exeter are a playoff team in the waiting and, as such, are asking for an extensive January delivery of premium coffee. Not Tiki Tonga, though, we would guess.

Momentary errors and lapses in concentration have killed Exeter’s European dreams in recent seasons and with them currently sitting top of their pool and in control of the 2nd overall seed, not to mention their domestic fortunes strong, this is the season that they should make the continental waves that they are capable of. Anything that can help them stay focused for 160 minutes in the January European fixtures will be warmly welcomed in Devon.

Title rivals Gloucester have unearthed a potential star in Louis Rees-Zammit and though he won’t be leading any wandering monarchs to Kingsholm anytime soon, he’s certainly putting together a portfolio of work that could see him demand a king’s ransom. For Gloucester, all they want for Christmas is their young prospect wrapped up and a secured to as long-term a contract as possible.

With undoubted interest from Wales, not to mention a requirement to move back to the country of his birth should he be capped during this current contract, ensuring that the wing is locked down for as long as possible would be music to the ears of the Cherry and White faithful this Christmas.

Speaking of contracts, Harlequins have made a similar request of good old St Nick, asking for an extension for England and British and Irish Lions star tighthead, Kyle Sinckler. The all-court front rower is in the last year of his current deal with Quins and there are reports circulating that one or two teams are eager to pay more for Sinckler than Quins are willing to match.

It’s a tough balancing act for the Twickenham-based outfit, who are understandably cautious in devoting too many resources to a player that they will regularly lose to international duty, and they will hope Christmas can remind Sinckler that home is where the heart is. If not, Santa Claus is probably worth a one-year contract on the tighthead for the potentially prop-needy club.

Northampton Saints, currently just one point off of Exeter, have gone outside the box this year and asked for something that is probably in the realms of a Christmas miracle. A mild and dry British winter.

There’s no doubt Saints are at their best when the ground is firm and the skies are blue. They have taken elements of what the Hurricanes did under Chris Boyd and incorporated them into their own game, not to mention having a plethora of players who are skilled at playing at a higher tempo and who are comfortable at keeping phases alive. Rain, wind and saturated pitches don’t prevent that, but they do make it more difficult.

Another team who flourish in positive conditions, Bristol Bears have been doing a good job of adapting their game and learning to win in all manners, but it’s a hardening underbelly that can only be further enhanced by a festive cinema trip to see Die Hard.

If the example of John McClane can inspire Bristol to tough out some tightly contested games in the depths of winter, allowing them to keep pace with the playoff chasers, they can push for favourable seeding and a higher spot when the better spring weather arrives. Yippee ki yay, me luvver.

On to London Irish and Worcester Warriors and both teams have made very positive starts to the season, despite being tipped as a potential two-horse relegation battle. Irish have spent big in particular to help make that a reality and both sides, whose attendance figures don’t always match up too well with other Premiership clubs, will happily dispense with the frankincense and myrrh, they just need some gold.

Irish need to retain not only their promising academy prospects, but also the star players they have brought in since returning to the Premiership, whilst Worcester will know that they need to strengthen if they are to stay out of the relegation battle on a more consistent basis. With CVC’s investment having provided money but, in the process, taken a share of commercial revenue, getting to a point of sustainability has never been more challenging for Premiership sides. If they can invest that gold into a better matchday experience or a more appealing team on the pitch, they can start to draw in larger crowds and take a step closer to that goal of sustainability.

Sale Sharks showed on Saturday that they are a match for any team in the competition, although those performances have yet to be shown on a consistent basis. Having copied the blueprint of Saracens’ approach by stocking up, initially, on South African players, they need to emulate them once again with a nice team-bonding Christmas skiing trip.

There are a lot of new faces in the north-west and getting them all singing from the same hymn sheet and operating harmoniously could see Sale make a real push for the playoffs in the second half of the season, particularly with their European campaign essentially over. Maybe some Love Actually on the flight?

And finally, we come to Bath. What do you get the team that has everything? A talented squad, extensive off-field staff and an owner willing to bankroll a new stadium. And yet, they sit precariously close to the bottom of the table, albeit with their win over Irish having provided some momentary relief. A new fly-half?

This is nothing against Rhys Priestland, whose contract was extended for a season earlier this year, nor Freddie Burns, who has done well in his return to the club, but Bath have struggled to build around either and push back into top four contention. Identity is a term that gets bandied around a lot with Bath, in terms of them perhaps not having one at the moment, and that is a tough environment for a fly-half in particular to then excel in. They don’t need one immediately, but they do need to have an idea of who they are going to build around in subsequent seasons.

Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer? We hear he has good vision.

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Revealed - Premiership club letters to Santa Claus leaked