Aviva Premiership talking points


The Aviva Premiership semifinals are now confirmed after the last round of matches. Saracens face Exeter and Wasps will host Leicester Tigers, and we take a look at the talking points of the coaches.

Wasps 35-15 Saracens

Wasps director of rugby Dai Young: “I’m delighted to finish top — really thrilled. That win will do us a world of good. Finishing top of the table is a major achievement and we’re happy with that. We were the better team but they could have won. Saracens take some shifting, you have to beat them three or four times.

“We left a few points out there to be honest. We were a bit edgy and you could see we’re not quite used to the big occasions. But the more you play them the more comfortable you get. We won the gainline battle, but were a little bit edgy and nervous. I’m sure Leicester will want to upset the party, but we are looking forward to another massive occasion.”

Saracens director of rugby Mark McCall: “Whether people do or don’t agree with the team we picked, we felt it was the right thing. We take the Premiership very seriously but we had some choices to make. The other semi-finalists all get to rest their players next weekend. We feel we’ve done the right thing because there were some players who we really felt needed to rest.

“One or two were carrying small injuries who would have played had this been the semi-final, but we thought it was a gamble playing them. The Champions Cup is a really important competition, a massive competition, so to be in the final again is brilliant.”

Gloucester 20-34 Exeter Chiefs

Exeter head coach Baxter: “It will be a great challenge for us [the semifinal]. If you are going to win this thing, you have to knock over some great teams and to be fair, it is a little different to last year when we had Wasps in the semi-final. To have Saracens there [at Sandy Park] will be fantastic.

“Everyone knows how good Saracens are and we could be potentially playing the best side in Europe in a home semi-final. I’m really pleased we have two weeks to prepare for it. We will have players back which is fantastic as well and it will make training next Wednesday, Thursday and Friday a bit spicy because the guys will want to lay down some markers to get into that semi-final team.”

Gloucester head coach Jonny Bell: “We mixed some tremendous rugby but the difference between the two sides was they were accurate when they had their opportunities and took them. We were not accurate so that is why they are a top four side because they don’t need a huge number of invitations to take points. We did well to take our scores but, ultimately, it was poor execution by us.”

Worcester Warriors 23-28 Leicester Tigers

Leicester head coach Matt O’Connor: “Freddie’s game management was brilliant. He’s a tremendous Tiger and I’m disappointed at not having the opportunity to work with him as he’s still got a lot of growth left in him.”

“I’m pleased that we don’t have to go to Saracens [in the play-offs] but Wasps are a fantastic side for if you blink, they’ll score. We competed very well up there in the league earlier in the season and it was only one score in it at the end, so if we are at our best I believe we can win it.”

Warriors head coach Gary Gold: “Our scrum needs to improve and silly errors cost us as we seem to go walkabout for 10 minutes in every game. You can’t afford to kick the ball out on the full as we did on two or three occasions.

“However, it was still a strong performance as we went toe to toe with them. I’m proud of the effort we put in but I am never going to celebrate a loss. Next season we need to continue to improve and hopefully we won’t have the constant threat of relegation hanging over us.”

Northampton Saints 22-20 Harlequins

Northampton Saints’ director of rugby Jim Mallinder: “I don’t think Northampton has ever been a selling club. We have always wanted to go into the market and bring good players to Northampton. We want to keep all our good players at Northampton Saints.

“Louis signed a three-year contract, he has just finished the first year, he has no get-out clause and there is no reason why Louis should be anywhere else. He was immense today and you need all your big players playing because the competition is tough now. The other teams are good, they have quality players as well, so we need all the good players we can get.”

Harlequins director of rugby John Kingston: “We have also had a volley of injuries this season. Plus we have made adjustments to our game in several ways, which we think in the long term are the right things to do. And with the EPS squad [England Elite Player Squad] we are up to about eight players now, which puts stresses and strains on the squad.

“Something in the region of 45 players have played for Quins this season, which is crazy. Set against all of those obstacles I am delighted we have got something of substance at the end of the year. It is not a trophy, but it is something we have not had at the club for three years and it keeps us moving forward.”

Sale Sharks 27-24 Bath

Bath director of rugby Todd Blackadder: “We’re dealing with it on Monday [the internal disciplinary hearing which will decide the fate of up to a dozen players, who were allegedly caught streaking and heckling]. A couple of players made a decision, which we’re going to deal with because we’ve set really high standards for ourselves. I know the guys themselves are really disappointed so we’ll deal with it.

“We take these things really seriously and we’ve got a responsibility to our game, our supporters, our sponsors and our owner. It’s not majorly serious but it’s serious enough that we’re going to deal with it internally. People are dying in Syria every day, this was just a social that got a little bit out of hand but we will sort it out and deal with it.”

Sale boss Steve Diamond: “We’ve got four lads in the England squad, we’ve got a plethora of lads coming through the ranks and the owners have put their hands in the pocket. We’re going to be spending more money than we’ve ever spent on the team.

We’ll still be a country mile behind the other 11 teams but we’ve got to get it economically right. We’ve got two signings to announce over the next week or so and I think that we will be a different proposition next year.”

Bristol Rugby 27-39 Newcastle Falcons

Newcastle director of rugby Dean Richards: “We did all that we had to but results elsewhere didn’t go our way [on missing out on the Champions Cup]. The boys are a bit down we didn’t get the Champions Cup place but they did all they could.

“The boys felt there was always a five-point win there for us but fair play to Bristol, they played well in the second half and are a good side and made it difficult for us. I suppose I would have taken this place at the start of the season. We are already planning for next season predominantly with a young side.”

Bristol’s Mark Tainton: “I’m disappointed to have lost a game I was confident of winning. There is good spirit amongst the players. We made some mistakes in the first half which cost us dearly. We made wrong decisions but credit goes to the boys, they played to the very end and dealt well with what was a difficult game in a difficult season.

“The forwards played very well. We knew what to expect from Newcastle. It was our individual errors that gave them the opportunities and their back three was very good. I am very proud to have coached Bristol as a Bristol person. We’ve learned that the Premiership is unforgiving and that if you make errors you will concede points.”