Wasps would have hoped for an easier start to their Aviva Premiership campaign than last year’s runners-up Exeter Chiefs at home, but the Coventry-based club look the best opening-weekend bet nonetheless at 4/7.
Chiefs finished two points ahead of Dai Young’s third-place side during the regular season and knocked them out at the last-four stage of the playoffs, eventually going down 28-20 to Saracens in May’s final.
However, it’s Wasps who are rated the likeliest outfit to prevent Sarries snatching their third successive title, attracting 7/2 second-favourite odds behind Mark McCall’s perennial jollies at 6/5, while Exeter come next at 5/1.
The reason for such confidence in Young’s lot is down to Wasps’ significant strengthening over the summer, with a back division built for success set to be on show at the Ricoh Arena.
Australian utility-back Kurtley Beale became the highest-paid player in England following his capture from New South Wales Waratahs in May, and while the 27-year-old’s knee injury has taken the gloss of his side’s summer somewhat, his fellow Wasps newboys will lift the gloom.
South Africa’s Willie le Roux has been many rugby watchers’ favourite full-back for some time, and the 27-year-old arguably begins a spell in the Midlands at his peak.
England pair Kyle Eastmond and Danny Cipriani, now in his second spell at the club, add further class behind stalwart forwards Joe Launchbury, James Haskell, Matt Mullan among others, while the form of lightning winger Christian Wade will be watched intently by England boss Eddie Jones.
The visitors clearly had Wasps’ number last season, winning home and away as well as in the playoffs at their Sandy Park base, but Exeter’s four solid summer signings, which include recently-capped England youngster Ollie Devoto, don’t scream progress in the same way.
Having won their first two home matches of the last campaign, Wasps prevailing at 4/7 looks the best bet of a tough opening weekend for punters.
Saracens are practically unbackable at 1/18 at home to Worcester, while Leicester look shaky 4/6 favourites on the road at Gloucester.
Northampton are expected to see off Bath at Franklin Gardens, but 2/5 about the 2013/14 champions seems a tad short.
On the other hand, Sale at 4/6 away to Newcastle looks decent after the north-west side added some interesting individuals in pre-season, including occasional England hooker Rob Webber and rugby league convert Josh Charnley.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.