Premiership 2021/22 early review: Top performers and breakout stars so far

Saracens are alive and well in the Premiership title race following their return to the first tier of English rugby, but Leicester Tigers have set the standard so far in the 2021/22 campaign.

Defending champions Harlequins and Northampton Saints have also been among the most impressive teams thus far and complete the top four heading into Week 8.

It makes that a bulk of the stand-out performers thus far in the campaign originate from those squads, but even those lower down the pecking order have stars aboard.

Form may be temporary, but Mirror Sport has picked out a selection of Premiership players who have shown consistent quality since the league restarted in September, including some newer faces on the block…

Max Malins (Saracens)

The top try-scorer in the Premiership so far this season, Saracens speedster Max Malins is well en route to beating his career-best total for points in a single season (67 in 2019/20) after just four outings this term.

Not only that, but the England international's seven tries were scored across just his last two appearances, including a four-score salvo in the 71-17 battering of Bath last month.

Having missed the start of the season due to a shoulder ligament injury, Malins has made an instant impact helping Sarries recapture their best form and is averaging more than 100 metres gained per game.

Which player has impressed you most in the Premiership so far this season? Let us know in the comments section.

Nic Dolly (Leicester Tigers)

Arguably the biggest surprise package of the Premiership campaign so far, Nic Dolly has gone from Sale Sharks academy reject to Premiership talisman and table-topper in a little more than 12 months.

Capitalising on the absences of senior hookers Julian Montoya and Tom Youngs, the Sydney-born talent scored three tries in his first two Premiership starts and now has five to his name, resulting in a maiden England call-up.

Leicester legend Tom Croft critiqued Dolly's choice of haircut when he first burst onto the scene, but the bolter's quality for the Tigers this term will leave Sale ruing their decision to release him during the pandemic.

Courtnall Skosan (Northampton Saints)

A hat-trick on debut is about as good as one can hope for after moving to a new club, and Courtnall Skosan's start at Northampton Saints was worth waiting for considering it didn't come until Week 6.

The 30-year-old South Africa winger followed up that performance with another brace in defeat to Leicester the following week, underlining his place as a Premiership finisher to keep an eye on this season.

Saints scrum-half Alex Mitchell is also displaying arguably the form of his career in his fifth season with Northampton and hopes to make his England debut off the bench against Tonga on Saturday.

Louis Lynagh (Harlequins)

The clue is in the name.

Taking after his dad and Wallabies legend Michael, Louis Lynagh is already just one score short of matching the six tries he racked up in 11 appearances en route to last season's Premiership crown.

England head coach Eddie Jones initially ignored the Australia and Italy -qualified winger this autumn, only for the 20-year-old to be called in as injury cover (and since released back to his club once more).

A special mention for Lynagh's 23-year-old back-line partner Tyrone Green, who is enjoying his own superb second season at The Stoop and hammering the door for a senior South Africa call-up.

Lewis Ludlow (Gloucester)

It's not always the glamorous who get the plaudits, but captain Lewis Ludlow has delighted in guiding Gloucester 's grunt work this term and leads the Premiership in tackles made with 97 to his credit.

It's symptomatic of Gloucester's approach that back-row team-mate Freddie Clarke is just one tackle behind him, but a lack of possession shouldn't discount the work of those doing so much unseen good.

Raffi Quirke (Sale Sharks)

Deservedly earning England recognition as a potential heir to the Ben Youngs throne, Sale scrum-half Raffi Quirke looks every bit as wily as the Leicester talisman he's hoping to replace.

World Cup -winning No. 9 Faf de Klerk has already missed the start of the season due to his South Africa commitments, and hip surgery for the Springbok means Quirke will be all the more critical in the months ahead.

It's little surprise having a mentor like De Klerk has helped optimise Quirke's craftiness around the breakdown, displaying a sharp eye for gaps in enemy lines and the athleticism to expose them.

George Ford (Leicester Tigers)

Probably the most talked about omission from England's autumn squad, many are wondering what George Ford must do to earn his place back in Jones' good books.

It's typical the fly-half's rejuvenation—he's scored a league high of 82 points through Week 7—has come just when Marcus Smith has demanded a Red Rose spot following his performances with Harlequins.

Nevertheless, Leicester coach Steve Borthwick will be more than happy to see Ford stay at Welford Road as he looks to continue inspiring the Premiership leaders on a weekly basis.

Billy Vunipola (Saracens)

Speaking of notable absences around the England squad, Billy Vunipola appeared to take it personally that he's no longer among the selection and has thus proceeded to tear up the Premiership almost at will.

It's been a tough few months for the Saracens No. 8 after he also missed out on the British and Irish Lions tour, but his early displays this term have him looking leaner and more effective in all areas around the park.

The statistics speak for themselves, too, and among a sea of centres, wings and full-backs, Vunipola is the only forward to crack the Premiership's top 12 metre-makers this season, having carried for 440 of his own so far.

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