This weeked sees the start of the new Rugby Union Aviva Premiership season in England, played over 22 rounds and then play-offs to decide a champion. Read on for a betting preview

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Saracens to win the Aviva Premiership at 5/2 BetVictor

The Aviva Premiership contains the top 12 English teams. They play home and away over 22 rounds, before the top four teams take part in play-offs to find the Premiership Champion. Defending Champions are the Leicester Tigers and the Newcastle Falcons are newly promoted into the top Division

The domestic Rugby Union scene operates with a salary cap and an important factor is squad depth given most of the teams will suffer International Call Ups from October to March through autumn International and the Six Nations

There are only four or five teams who are realistic winners of the Premiership due to the demands of the salary cap and squad depth and these are reflected in the betting market for the title:

Leicester 15/8
Saracens 5/2
Northampton 7/1
Harlequins 7/1
16/1 Bar

Last season Saracens finished top after 22 rounds, but surprisingly lost to Northampton in a home play-off semi-final. Northampton themselves were then beaten by Leicester in the final

Lets look at the top teams to try to find a winner for this season

Leicester

Where Leicester have a real advantage is with their squad depth, an area that has to be stronger than other sides due to the number of players they lose mid-season in the international windows. Losing Martin Castrogiovanni and George Ford are blows, but a slew of new recruits are non-internationals. Leicester will be expected to compete again, and are short-priced favourites

Saracens

Saracens possess a huge squad that during the off-season has been strengthened by the arrival of a huge tighthead in James Johnston and the highly-rated Billy Vunipola.  Saracens also have a big competitive advantage in squad depth, with 22 international players in a 41 man squad.

They also now have the advantage of playing in the new Allianz Park, on an artificial surface that will be a big bonus during the bad weather of winter to their points scoring potential. I expect them to go better than last year and could well be favourites to lift the title in my book

Northampton

Northampton have really strengthened in the Summer, notably via the recruitment of Lions Stars, George North and Alex Corbisiero. The key for Northampton is to bounce back from last year’s Aviva Premiership Final. Dylan Hartley remains captain. Northampton can win a Premiership title,  but we need to see how they perform when the International calls bite. They are likely to be up there for a long way though

Harlequins

The 2012 Premiership champions are always competitive but have strengthened the least of the major players for the title.  Danny Care and Nick Evans at half-back, Nick Easter and England Captain Chris Robshaw are the core of the side.

There is a valid suspicion though that Leicester, Saracens and Northampton have progressed and strengthened. None of those sides rely on their academy products as much as Harlequins and they will need to step up once again when the England contingent are away.

I’ll be previewing certain games weekly through the 22 rounds

The games on opening weekend are:

Newcastle v Bath

London Irish v Saracens

Gloucester v Sale Sharks

Northampton v Exeter Chiefs

Wasps v Harlequins

Leicester v Worcester

In each case the side shown in bold is a short odds-on favourite for this game. With the possible exception of Harlequins at Wasps, where Wasps are an exciting side with much potential, these are unlikely to be upset games.

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The value here, to topple Leicester, is

Saracens to win the Aviva Premiership at 5/2 BetVictor