? Top Premiership Rugby Teams22nd June 2020 |
The top clubs in Great Britain and Ireland all focus their attention on two competitions. The English clubs fight it out in the Premiership whilst the top clubs in Scotland, Ireland and Wales compete in the Pro14 alongside teams from Italy and South Africa. The best sides in both leagues also contend for the Champions Cup, Europe’s leading club competition.
Here’s our guide to the best club teams in Britain and Ireland.
Based in London, playing in black and red, Saracens have been the outstanding English team of the last
decade, winning five Premiership titles since their first in 2010-11, including four in five from 2014-15. Furthermore, they have also transferred this supremacy to Europe with three wins (an English team record) in four seasons from 2015-16.
Their early success in this period was influenced by foreign imports, but recent strength is home-based, with Owen Farrell, Maro Itoje and the Vunipola brothers to the fore. In November 2019 the club was found guilty of a breach of salary regulations which prompted a fine of 35 points and £5.3 million. It also threatens to overwhelm their excellence on the field in recent years.
Playing in dark blue out of Dublin Leinster have become the pre-eminent British and Irish club team in Europe.
Their total of four Champions Cup wins is matched only by French team Toulouse and, what’s more, Leinster have excelled over a long period of time. Their first win came in 2008-09, the most recent in 2017-18, and they also finished runners-up in 2018-19.
In the Pro14 they have been equally strong. Their total of six championships is record-breaking, as is the tally of five second-placed finishes. Packed with Irish internationals, in recent years the team’s progress has been guided by the wiles of 2018 World Rugby Player of the Year Jonathan Sexton.
Originally a London club, the Wasps now play out of the Ricoh Arena in Coventry wearing black kits with yellow and black banded socks. With six Premiership titles they sit beside Bath as the most successful English club after Leicester Tigers.
They were dominant in the early years of the 21st century when, fuelled by club hero Lawrence Dallaglio, they finished second three years in a row during the regular Premiership season before gathering themselves to win
all three titles during the play-offs. To rubber stamp their efforts they also won the Champions Cup in 2003-04
The Irish club splits it games between Cork and Limerick, but it is Thomond Park (in Limerick) which is most synonymous with their rollicking success in Europe. In fact, the red shirts of Munster went undefeated at the ground for ten years until the 2006-07 season, a decade in which fly-half Ronan O’Gara exerted a huge influence.
The club recovered from the agony of two Champions Cup final defeats either side of the year 2000 to claim a first victory in 2005-06 and a second two years later. Meanwhile, their tally of three Pro14 wins is bettered only by
Leinster and the Ospreys.
No team in England can match the historic achievements of Leicester Tigers, whose tally of ten top division wins is four more than any other team has managed and their nine appearances in Premiership finals is also a record in the play-off era.
Playing out of the famous Welford Road ground in their green and red colours, the team shone brightest around the turn of the century with club legends Martin Johnson and Neil Back at the helm. During those glory years the Tigers claimed four successive titles in England from 1998-99 alongside back-to-back victories in the 2000-01 and 2001-02 Champions Cup.
Unquestionably one of England’s greatest clubs, Bath have struggled to re-assert the control they held over their rivals during the pre-Premiership era, when they won six titles in eight years from 1988-89, a total only Wasps have equalled and only Leicester bettered.
From their Recreation Ground base, playing in blue, black and white bands, that great team of the 80s and 90s was built around a strong pack and the silky skills of Jeremy Guscott. The team won the second Champions Cup in 1997-98, but since then their only silverware has come in Europe’s second string event, the 2007-08 Challenge Cup.
Very much the new boys on the block, the Exeter Chiefs are yet another English team to wear all black and they have made their Sandy Park ground a fortress since earning promotion to England’s top level in 2010. They reached four Premiership finals in a row from 2015-16, winning just the once – a heart-stopping 23-20 defeat of Wasps in 2016-17 season.
A notable feature of the Chiefs is the presence of home-grown talent such as England’s Jack Nowell, Henry Slade and Luke Cowan-Dickie, all of them hailing from Cornwall or Devon.
The all-red colours of the Scarlets are redolent of the golden era of Welsh rugby and the team has done its best to honour that
tradition in the Champions Cup, twice making the last four. In 2006-07 they lost out to eventual runners-up Leicester Tigers and in 2017-18 Leinster beat them before lifting the trophy. The Llanelli-based team has claimed two Pro14 titles.
Playing out of the Scoutstoun Stadium in navy blue, the Glasgow Warriors are Scotland’s most successful club outfit beyond national boundaries, albeit with just the one Pro14 tournament win (in 2014-15). They’ve twice reached the Champions Cup quarter-finals (in 2016-17 and 2018-19), both times losing to the eventual winner Saracens.
Article Written by Matt Cooper
Matt Cooper is a sports journalist who has covered golf, rugby, football and athletics since 2009. He has worked for Sky Sports, ESPN, The Planet Sport Network, Forbes and Sporting Life among many others writing interviews, features, previews and reports from events around the world. Find him on twitter here