Saracens returning, magic Marcus Smith and blockbuster Duhan van der Merwe – why we cannot wait for the Gallagher Premiership season to start

Gallagher Premiership Rugby finally returns this weekend following a spectacular summer of sport in the UK – and it cannot come soon enough.

The dramatic final between Exeter Chiefs and Harlequins in June was the perfect advertisement for the high-calibre and high-octane drama which only comes with world class rugby.

The Gallagher Premiership is finally back!
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It was Quins who ultimately prevailed to lift the famous trophy for the first time since 2012, and there is a plethora of potential contenders to steal their crown this season.

Two of those title hopefuls kick off the campaign on Friday night as Bristol Bears and Saracens meet under the lights at Ashton Gate.

Here at talkSPORT.com, we cannot wait for the return of Gallagher Premiership Rugby.

Here are several reasons why…

Sam Simmonds will be hoping to break the try scoring record he set last season
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Return of fans

The absence of fans as the COVID-19 pandemic gripped the country last season undoubtedly affected Premiership players.

Just seeing the 10,000 passionate fans filling up Twickenham for the 2020/21 final in June lifted the Chiefs and their London counterparts as the game itself crackled with intensity.

Former England and Northampton fly-half Paul Grayson succinctly and perfectly described just what it means for supporters to see their club back in the flesh.

He said: “I can’t think of my big days and my worst days as a professional sportsman without remembering the crowd and the part supporters played.

“The full houses at Twickenham lifting the roof when we were on the front foot, the sea of 50,000 white shirts in Sydney when we won the World Cup.

10.000 fans watched the Premiership final in June
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“I get goose bumps just thinking of times like that as, in a way, I do when I recall trips to places like Gloucester and Paris.

“Games when we were not always up against the best opposition, but where it was forever an ordeal in front of The Shed or surrounded on all sides in the concrete cauldron of Parc des Princes.

“Rugby has missed all of that. Premiership grounds have echoed with the shouts of players and coaches and nothing more.”

Danny Cipriani

It is almost ten months since Cipriani played his last competitive game for Gloucester and the Gallagher Premiership has missed the mercurial magician.

Now at peace with his England World Cup omission in 2019, the 33-year-old is in a fantastic place mentally and is itching to get back to rugby.

There are few better No.10s in the country when Cipriani is on song and he will be tasked with leading an exciting Bath side containing the likes of Joe Cokanasiga, Anthony Watson and Taulupe Faletau.

As evidenced by Finn Russell’s moment of magic against South Africa with the Lions, the importance of an attack-minded fly-half is becoming more and more pertinent in the modern game.

The 33-year-old is back in the Premiership to add his world class ability to Bath
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Marcus Smith and Quins

The sight of Marcus Smith carving the rigid Exeter defence to pieces in last season’s Twickenham finale will come as no surprise to his biggest supporters.

Still only 22, the Manila-born maverick was duly rewarded with a late call-up to Warren Gatland’s Lions’ squad this summer after his incredible season at The Stoop.

Smith will now be tasked with helping Quins defend their Gallagher Premiership crown.

Alongside new signing Huw Jones, Smith can wreak havoc on Premiership defences once again and provide returning fans with much-needed excitement after a lengthy absence.

The 22-year-old is the future of English rugby
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Mike Brown at Newcastle

While Smith may very well be the future of Harlequins and England, Mike Brown is now enjoying pastures new with the Falcons.

After a trophy-laden career in London, Brown made the move to the Toon this summer after a somewhat bitter end to his career with Quins.

Suspended for the final few weeks of last season and therefore missing the Premiership final, the 36-year-old thrives on set-backs and proving critics wrong.

Dean Richards has recruited well this summer and Brown will have a load of familiar faces around him in Nathan Earle, Ollie Lindsay-Hague and Nick Easter.

And even the most cold-hearted rugby fan would surely feel a frog in their throat seeing Brown line up against his boyhood club for the first time in his career this weekend.

Brown will be wearing the black and white of Newcastle this season
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Return of Saracens

Buoyed by a host of returning signings from loan spells, the 2019 Gallagher Premiership champions have climbed back from the Championship and are ready to reclaim their crown.

With no European exploits to distract them this season, their focus will be solely on regaining their crown and they certainly have the squad to do it.

Owen Farrell was limited to mainly cameo roles while on Lions duty this summer, so will no doubt come back fresh and ready to lead the likes of Maro Itoje, Elliot Daly and Billy Vunipola again.

And with Nick Tompkins, Max Malins and Ben Earl all returning after a year away, Sarries are surely the ones to watch.

Mark McCall’s men want to make an instant impact in the Premiership
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Duhan van der Merwe

Standing at 6ft 4ins and weighing 105kg, Van Der Merwe is a dynamite ball carrier and guaranteed excitement for fans.

After a strong Six Nations campaign, the South African-born winger was entrusted by Gatland on the Lions tour this summer.

The 26-year-old is the type of player who strikes fear into opposition players and excitement into supporters with his direct play and his new Warriors teammates will likely be looking to feed him the ball as regularly as possible.

Jonathon Thomas is one of the most intelligent and engaging young coaches in rugby and with no relegation this season, can afford to be as experimental and as exhilarating as possible.

The former Edinburgh winger will surely be a fan favourite in no time at all
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The 2021/21 Gallagher Premiership kicks off this weekend. See it exclusively live on BT Sport or follow on PremiershipRugby.com.