Exeter will have a second consecutive Aviva Premiership title in their sights when they take on Saracens in the final on Saturday.
Ahead of the game, we grade the performances of all 12 teams in the competition this season.
2017/18 record: Won 11, Lost 11
Another mixed season for a talented team sprinkled with seasoned internationals. Although injuries restricted their progress at times, Todd Blackadder’s side have only made the play-offs once in eight seasons. The decision not to renew club legend Matt Banahan’s contract after 12 years may prove costly next season.
2017/18 record: Won 17, Lost 5
Rob Baxter’s side will be disappointed with their European form, but showed no signs of wilting on the domestic stage, booking their spot in a third consecutive final. The defending champions had one poor defeat to Worcester in February, but otherwise produced a vibrant style of play throughout the campaign. For a team once considered average, there is so much to admire about their rise to the top of English rugby.
2017/18 record: Won 11, Draw 1, Lost 10
Three comprehensive defeats in their final four matches will have punctured an otherwise positive season, but Johan Ackermann is barely eight months into his reign as head coach and needs time to build a winning culture at Kingsholm. With the signings of Danny Cipriani, Jaco Kriel, Gerbrandt Grobler and Banahan, the cherry and whites have the chance to build further upon one of their most successful campaigns in recent years.
2017/18 record: Won 7, Lost 15
A season of horror for Quins and one that went from bad to worse, finishing third last in the table. New head coach Paul Gustard will have sole responsibility for turning fortunes around at the Twickenham Stoop after a disastrous campaign which cost John Kingston his role as director of rugby. With just seven wins, it was one of the London side’s lowest win records in history. A new voice and new tactics will surely boost optimism and confidence at the club.
2017/18 record: Won 13, Lost 9
A 60 per cent win record is not enough for a club with some of the best players in the competition. The Tigers may have had the third best defensive record in the league but still lost nine games and finished outside the play-offs for the first time in 14 years. If Ben Youngs, George Ford, Manu Tuilagi and Jonny May were available more often then Matt O’Connor’s side could have edged Newcastle for a top four spot. Need the forward platform to trouble the likes of Saracens, Exeter and Wasps next season.
2017/18 record: Won 3, Lost 19
Relegated after one season back in England’s top flight. It’s the second time in three years Irish have been relegated, winning just three games in the 2017/18 season. Director of rugby Nick Kennedy left the club following the arrivals of Declan Kidney and Les Kiss. If the club are to build again, then the acquisition of the former Irish chief and defence coach is the perfect start.
2017/18 record: Won 14, Lost 8
A semi-final defeat to Exeter will have done little to disappoint the Geordies who enjoyed their best season since 1998. Under Dean Richards, the club has purred with confidence and look a genuine force against any opposition. In Premiership Player of the Year Niki Goneva and Sinoti Sinoti, they have two lethal wingers who are a menace any time they get the ball in hand. Exciting team, full of promise.
2017/18 record: Won 8, Lost 14
The Saints went from top of the table at the end of September to 10th by Christmas with director of rugby Jim Mallinder sacked following a series of poor results. On the back of a bad season, finishing ninth in the table, the 2014 champions will be hoping new coach Chris Boyd can give them the desperate fresh start they require. It will be a gradual building process but the drive, big names and culture is there to inspire a revival in the midlands.
2017/18 record: Won 10, Lost 12
The Manchester side will be disappointed to have missed out on Champions Cup qualification, finishing eighth in the table. Poor defeats against Harlequins and Worcester cost them, but to see highly rated academy players step up will be a positive taekaway from the year. The recruitment of star men Faf de Klerk and Jono Ross will also spur them on to close the gap to the likes of Bath and Leicester next season.
2017/18 record: Won 16, Lost 6
The 2015 champions hit a bad patch earlier this season with three straight defeats, when their squad was shorn of an endless list of players due to injuries and international call-ups. But the Men in Black transformed matters and showed their supreme class in qualifying for a fourth final in five years. They may have lost convincingly to Leinster in the European semi-finals, but expect them to finish off their season on a high with domestic glory. Boast the best attack and defence record in the league.
2017/18 record: Won 14, Draw 1, Lost 7
The 2017 finalists looked solid for large parts of the campaign, but suffered a commanding defeat at the hands of Saracens in the semi-final. They are clearly sparkling with class in the back-line, but need one or two more forwards to tighten up the gain line defence. If Dai Young’s side can improve these areas in the pre-season then there’s no doubt they can compete for honours.
2017/18 record: Won 7, Lost 15
Lost the same numbers of games as last season but won two more. The Warriors will be favourites to go down again when the new season comes back around, but with astute signings, there’s no reason why they can’t start firing well and improve upon their showing in previous campaigns. Last finished inside the top-10 back in 2009.
The 6ft 3in figure standing among a group of 11-year-olds isn’t exactly hard to spot as he demonstrates how to properly run with a rugby ball.
Clutching the ball under their arms, the children run from one side of the pitch to the other as part of the training at the revamped Dubai Sports World – under the watch of a Wales and Lions legend.
Swapping the Valleys for the sandpit is Mike Phillips, who has set up a coaching academy in Dubai to find the next generation of rugby stars, in a place that he thinks goes under the radar for talent.
“There’s a lot of talent in Dubai, which sometimes goes unnoticed,” says Phillips, speaking exclusively to Sport360. “I’ve had a lot of parents come up to me and ask for their kids to be pushed through. Dads send me videos of their little ones and there is some real talent here, it’s really an untapped resource.
“We want to be able to give kids the opportunity to play professional rugby and that getting some of them a professional contract would be the glamorous thing for us to do. Some of the kids weren’t even aware of the sport a few months ago so it’s just as rewarding to see them learning new skills, while getting fit and healthy too.”
“By using my 15 years’ experience playing rugby at the highest level I saw a chance to build an academy and bring the sport to Dubai. I’m trying to add my value in any way I can as it’s a growing sport. A lot of kids here have never heard of rugby so it’s good to get them involved in the game.”
The 35-year-old, who moved to Dubai with his wife last August, is very settled here and is already making the most of the new facilities provided at the Dubai Sports World venue.
Rugby is just one of sports on offer at the summer venue, which also includes three football pitches, eight basketball courts, badminton courts, a running track, a gym and a Ninja Warrior course, to name but a few.
Located at the Dubai World Trade Centre, Dubai Sports World features 14 sports and 10 professional academies and runs for 16 weeks until September 8.
Harlequins have confirmed the appointment of England defence coach Paul Gustard as their new head of Rugby.
Gustard, 42, will take up his new post with the Aviva Premiership club after England’s tour to South Africa next month.
He replaces John Kingston, who revealed in April that he would be leaving Quins at the end of the season.
“Harlequins is delighted to announce that England defence coach Paul Gustard will join the London club as head of Rugby, following the conclusion of England’s summer tour to South Africa,” Hartlequins said in a statement.