The season is over, Leicester Tigers are champions and I have enjoyed it completely. The lack of relegation has created new interest for me, and we’ve seen some real bolters, like Henry Arundell, earn an international chance on the summer tours. But now that all has been said and done, here are my Premiership awards.
Team of the season
It’s so easy to give this gong to Leicester but instead I’m going for Gloucester, who are emulating the rise of Tigers.
One off the bottom of the table last season, the Cherry and Whites finished just outside of the play-offs this term and look well placed to continue that trajectory.
Eyebrows were raised when George Skivington was named head coach but he has proved the doubters wrong. He’s developed a near-unstoppable maul game and they have backs who can light it up.
They’ve recruited light, however, which could stunt their growth.
Surprise of the season
Given their own head coach Chris Boyd wrote them off in January, he must have been as surprised as I was to see Northampton Saints in the play-offs.
They seemed to be very average at the start of the season but they really came good in the last few months. They’ve fostered a lot of young talent there – as usual – and with Boyd off now it will be interesting to see how Phil Dowson and Sam Vesty do with the reins.
Flops of the season
From top of the table last year to 10th this season, there’s no other candidate for this category than Bristol Bears.
Bath often underperform despite a strong budget so it’s almost expected, but Bristol – with director of rugby Pat Lam on a deal which runs until 2028 – have really fallen off their game. They were almost unbeatable last year while playing enjoyable rugby but were found out this time around. Supremely disappointing.
Player of the season
I am so happy that my mate Freddie Burns was able to seal Leicester’s 11th Premiership title but his team-mate and fellow fly-half George Ford is my player of the season.
It helped that he didn’t play for England this year but Ford was instrumental in Leicester Tigers’ success. He was at the centre of so much of their play, working with Ben Youngs and Richard Wigglesworth to turn dominant forward play into silky backs moves.
Also the golden boot winner this year, after kicking 220 points, Ford was a stable presence for Steve Borthwick’s men and it was a huge shame to see his final game for the club before a move to Sale ending in injury.
From a borderline member of the matchday 23 to a strong contender for an England shirt, Fraser Dingwall was exceptional this season.
Northampton Saints’ Mr Versatile made impact after impact.
I cast my mind back to a moment in February when he really came to the fore – his footwork to break through Exeter’s line was sublime, and to find the supporting runner while taking contact was classy. I think he could be a great addition to the England squad in Australia next month.
It has to be Callum Sheedy. It didn’t help that he was part of a Bristol Bears squad who really struggled in this Premiership season, but he has lost his Wales place and, compared to fly-halves like Ford, Adam Hastings and Owen Farrell, he struggled, too.
Bristol are bringing in Sale No10 AJ MacGinty next year so it’ll be interesting to see where Sheedy finds himself this time next year, but I think his game needs to improve if he’s to remain first choice.
Maybe his super 2020-21 season was partly down to the players around him.
It has been a great season generally, and it’ll be fascinating to see what happens in next month’s summer tours.