Today marks the beginning of the Guinness Premiership 2008-09. My team, Wasps, enter the fray as defending champions having fought back last season from a bad start due to giving up so many players for the England side in the world cup and six nations.
This season we are without Lawrence Dallaglio, who was sent into retirement with a perfect sendoff at the Guinness Premiership Final. We've lost several others such as Fraser Waters, Nick Adams, Simon Amor, James Buckland, David Doherty and Mark McMillan. In return we're gaining Serge Betsen, (la Faucheuse), Mark Robinson and Lachlan Mitchell.
Wasps will be without the services of Danny Cipriani, following his horrific injury last year - but reports are that he's recovering well. In the meantime, Riki Flutey should be starting at Number 10 - and I'm quite comfortable with that.
Wasps are not known for starting the season well. After all, it's not how you start, but how you finish after all. However, Wasps supply a disproportionate number of England players and so with the usual fixture congestion and loss of players, a win against London Irish is highly desirable.
Honestly, I'm not getting positive vibes about the chances of a win - and can't think myself into believing it can happen - a terrible thing. I hope I'm wrong. I want a win, and a spectacular display in the process.
This season marks the Northern Hemisphere trial of the ELVs. Some of these seem reasonable to me, such as allowing the referee to use the Touch Judges as he sees fit. Others seem plain weird, and possibly even dangerous - such as making the collapse of the maul legal. We shall just have to see how they play out. We're stuck with them for a while.