They say that good things come to those who wait and it certainly feels that way as Round 2 of the Aviva Premiership is already upon us after waiting so long for the opening round to arrive. This weekend the intensity notches up a gear for all clubs should have blown off their cobwebs and many are welcoming internationals and new faces to the mix. With two Rugby World Cup Semi-Finals and six cracking Aviva Premiership fixtures I hope that you are all ready for a huge weekend of rugby?!
Tonight Kingsholm will host its first set of Aviva Premiership Friday Night Lights as Gloucester Rugby host Saracens and both sides should arrive with a significant amount of confidence. Ben Morgan, Jonny May and Owen Farrell are all back in their respective side's starting XVs and all should add significant firepower to proceedings. This should be a brutally physical and highly charged match, as they always are between the two sides that notoriously aren't too friendly with each other. Their last meeting was decided by that memorable James Hook penalty and this one could be equally close. Gloucester haven't recored victories in rounds 1 and 2 since the 2007/08 Premiership season conversely Saracens have won their two fixtures of a season every year since 2011/12. Key Men - Gloucester Rugby's Billy Twelvetrees & Saracens' Mako Vunipola.
The AJ Bell Stadium will open its doors for the first time this year as the Sale Sharks host the Worcester Warriors on Friday night. The two had polar opposite starts to their Aviva Premiership campaigns last weekend as the Warriors showed huge grit and recorded a potentially season defining victory whilst Sale struggled on the road. On home turf the Sharks must sharpen up their act and deliver strong basics which will allow them to play a spot of rugby. The Warriors will need to ensure that they are ready to put in another very large shift... the side remains unchanged, they've set their benchmark and now they must stick to it. Worcester haven't won on Sale soil since a trip to Edgeley Park in November 2008, could they delivered another dramatic victory? Key Men - Sale Sharks Dan Braid & Worcester Warriors GJ van Velze.
The Stadium MK will host the Northampton Saints and Newcastle Falcons whilst the final work is completed at Franklin's Gardens. The message for both sides from their respective Directors of Rugby will be 'up your game and deliver' for neither reached their full potential in round 1. The Saints bring Tom Wood, Courtney Lawes and George Pisi into their starting XV that should add leadership and power. Newcastle's Alesana Tuilagi will make his first start of the season and Giovanbattista Venditti will make his club debut out wide. The Falcons must front up against what is likely to be a smarting Saints side and need to lower their penalty count significantly in order to allow themselves the opportunity to put their game on the part and compete. Key Men - Northampton Saints' Tom Wood & Newcastle Falcons' Ally Hogg
The Ricoh Arena is set to start its first full year as an Aviva Premiership venue with a cracking match up between Wasps and Bath Rugby. Bath Rugby's handling and lineout left us wanting last weekend whilst Wasps didn't find their groove in London so I expect both to step things up a few notches burst onto the newly laid Wasps' turf. The two sides are fully introducing back their internationals and as a result there are thrilling match ups all over the park. Jimmy Gopperth and George Ford will go toe to toe in the middle, James Haskell and Matt Garvey will get well and truly stuck into each other at the breakdown and as for the clashes between Nathan Hughes and Leroy Houston, well their going to be seismic aren't they?! Bath head on the road in search of their fourth successive Premiership away victory and if they achieve it, it will be the first time since March 2010. Wasps will be looking to kick start their home season well and christen a new season at the Ricoh appropriately. Key Men - Wasps' Frank Halai and Bath Rugby's Kyle Eastmond
The Exeter Chiefs return home to Sandy Park ready to impress their home crowd after a strong, but unfulfilling, performance at The Rec. Henry Slade, Jack Nowell and Tomas Francais all return into the starting XV and with Julian Salvi, Geoff Parling and Sam Hill on the bench the strength of Exeter's squad is clear for all to see. London Irish also have their own firepower on the bench in the form of Scotland International's Blair Cowen and Sean Maitland and Aseli Tikoirotuma will start his first game for the Exiles out wide. On the road Irish must sharpen up their game in terms of their handling and face into the storm for Sandy Park is a tough place to travel to. Conversely Exeter just need to relax, play their rugby and then sharpen their claws to finish the job in the last quarter. Key Men - Exeter Chiefs' Jack Nowell & London Irish's Chris Noakes
The final match of the weekend is at Welford Road where the Leicester Tigers will welcome Harlequins to town. Harlequins have changed just one of their starting XV that beat Wasps in Round 1 with Mike Brown returning to the 15 jersey whilst the Leicester Tigers welcome a number of men back into the mix. Tom Youngs impact will be notable and with Dan Cole ready to fire off the bench the Tigers are ready for the confrontational forward battle that will ensue. Peter Betham looked purposeful last weekend so watch out for more of his powerful running from outside centre and a Luke Wallace versus Tom Croft blindside match up will be fascinating. This should be cracking fixture, the Leicester Tigers have lost just one of their last 18 home games at Welford Road in the tournament however Harlequins were sharp and menacing last weekend. Key Men - Leicester Tigers' Tommy Bell & Harlequins' Marland Yarde
Pick of the Round - Wasps vs. Bath Rugby at the Ricoh Arena with the pace housed in both back lines and their power athletes up front this should be a seismic clash delivered at test match intensity