MIDLANDS DERBY: A mere six points separate five teams at the top of Premiership Rugby so we are in for another unpredictable and unforgettable round of the competition this weekend.
Round 10 starts at Franklin’s Gardens, the two sides desperate for a win lock horns. After climbing towards the top of the table, both Northampton Saints and Newcastle Falcons have slipped down the standings after four league defeats on the bounce.
While Saturday sees a spectacular double-header.
Exeter Chiefs welcome Bath Rugby to Sandy Park having won their last eight matches in all competitions – but the omens are not all bad for Todd Blackadder’s side.
Bath are also a side in form with only one defeat - and that was by a point - in their last nine fixtures in all tournaments. When the two clubs met last season each side won away from home, and Bath have beaten Exeter on four previous occasions at Sandy Park in Premiership Rugby to boot.
Leicester Tigers travel to the Ricoh Arena to face Wasps for a blockbuster midlands derby.
Tigers’ six-game winning run in Premiership Rugby ended at home to Worcester Warriors on Saturday, and while Leicester have won their last three away games in the competition, Wasps have beaten them on the last four occasions the two sides have met.
And last, but by no means least, the action does not cease on Sunday as Harlequins will tussle with Saracens at Twickenham Stoop.
We take a look at all the Round 10 action!
Friday, December 1
Northampton Saints v Newcastle Falcons
(Franklin’s Gardens - Kick-off: 19.45, 19.45 GMT)
Northampton Saints have lost their last four Premiership Rugby fixtures but have not lost five in succession in the competition since 2011.
The Saints solitary defeat at Franklin’s Gardens since March in Premiership Rugby was against Wasps on 28 October in their most recent home game in the tournament.
Newcastle Falcons have also lost their last four Premiership Rugby matches since beating London Irish 29-17 at Kingston Park on 29 September. Newcastle’s record away from home in all competitions this season is won four lost two.
Northampton Saints: 15 Harry Mallinder, 14 Juan Pablo Estelles, 13 Rob Horne, 12 Tom Stephenson, 11 Ben Foden, 10 James Grayson, 9 Cobus Reinach, 8 Teimana Harrison, 7 Jamie Gibson, 6 Tom Wood, 5 Courtney Lawes, 4 Michael Paterson, 3 Jamal Ford-Robinson, 2 Dylan Hartley (captain), 1 Alex Waller.
Replacements: 16 Mikey Haywood, 17 Francois van Wyk, 18 Paul Hill, 19 Api Ratuniyarawa, 20 Mitch Eadie, 21 Nic Groom, 22 Piers Francis, 23 Ahsee Tuala.
Newcastle Falcons: 15 Simon Hammersley, 14 Vereniki Goneva, 13 Chris Harris, 12 Josh Matavesi, 11 Sinoti Sinoti, 10 Toby Flood, 9 Sonatane Takulua, 8 Mark Wilson, 7 Gary Graham, 6 Will Welch (captain), 5 Sean Robinson, 4 Calum Green, 3 Jon Welsh, 2 Kyle Cooper, 1 Rob Vickers.
Replacements: 16 Scott Lawson, 17 Sami Mavinga, 18 Scott Wilson, 19 Will Witty, 20 Nili Latu, 21 Sam Stuart, 22 Joel Hodgson, 23 Alex Tait.
Referee: Craig Maxwell-Keys
Assistant Referees: Christophe Ridley & Simon McConnell.
TMO: David Grashoff.
Worcester Warriors v Sale Sharks
(Sixways - Kick-off: 19.45, 19.45 GMT)
Worcester Warriors have won their last two Premiership Rugby matches, at home to Northampton and away at Leicester, but have not won three in a row since March 2016.
The Warriors only two victories at Sixways this season were against Brive in the European Challenge Cup, and 30-15 over Northampton in round 8 of Premiership Rugby.
Sale Sharks only loss in their last four first-team encounters was 27-35 at Leicester in round 8 of Premiership Rugby. The Sharks have not won away from home in Premiership Rugby since a trip to Bristol in October 2016.
Sale have lost just once to Worcester since 2012 at Sixways 23-31 in Premiership Rugby in February 2016.
Worcester Warriors: 15 Chris Pennell, 14 Bryce Heem, 13 Jackson Willison, 12 Ryan Mills, 11 Josh Adams, 10 Jono Lance, 9 Francois Hougaard, 8 David Denton, 7 Sam Lewis, 6 Alafoti Faosiliva, 5 Will Spencer, 4 Donncha O’Callaghan (captain), 3 Nick Schonert, 2 Jack Singleton, 1 Ethan Waller.
Replacements: 16 Joe Taufete’e, 17 Ryan Bower, 18 Gareth Milasinovich, 19 Christian Scotland-Williamson, 20 Pierce Phillips, 21 Michael Dowsett, 22 Sam Olver, 23 Dean Hammond.
Sale Sharks: 15 James O'Connor, 14 Denny Solomona, 13 Sam James, 12 Rohan Janse van Rensburg, 11 Byron McGuigan, 10 AJ MacGinty, 9 Francois de Klerk, 8 Josh Strauss, 7 Ben Curry, 6 Jono Ross (captain), 5 Andrei Ostrikov, 4 Bryn Evans, 3 WillGriff John, 2 Rob Webber, 1 Ross Harrison.
Replacements: 16 Cameron Neild, 17 James Flynn, 18 Halani Aulika, 19 George Nott, 20 TJ Ioane, 21 Will Cliff 22 Mark Jennings, 23 Mike Haley.
Referee: Matthew Carley
Assistant Referees: Paul Burton & Jonathan Healy.
TMO: Graham Hughes.
Saturday, December 2
Exeter Chiefs v Bath Rugby
(Sandy Park - Kick-off: 14.00, 14.00 GMT)
Exeter Chiefs have won their last eight matches in all competitions since their 13-20 reversal at Leicester in Premiership Rugby on 30 September.
The Chiefs have not been defeated at Sandy Park since Bordeaux were the visitors in the European Champions Cup on 11 December 2016.
Bath Rugby’s only defeat in their last nine fixtures in all tournaments was by the odd point in 43 at home to Gloucester in round 7 of Premiership Rugby.
Bath’s record away from home this season is won five, lost one, with the defeat being on a visit to Northampton in round 3 of Premiership Rugby. When the two clubs met last season each side won it's respective away game.
Bath have beaten Exeter on four previous occasions at Sandy Park in Premiership Rugby, only Saracens have won more at the venue (five), whilst Leicester have also won there on four occasions.
Exeter Chiefs: TBC
Referee: JP Doyle
Assistant Referees: Anthony Woodthorpe & Peter Allan.
TMO: Claire Hodnett.
Gloucester Rugby v London Irish
(Kingsholm - Kick-off: 15.00, 15.00 GMT)
Gloucester Rugby have won their last four Premiership Rugby matches since their loss at Sale at the end of September. The Cherry & Whites have not won five successive fixtures in the competition since 2011.
Gloucester have won all six home games they have played at Kingsholm in all tournaments this season. London Irish have won only once since the opening weekend: 44-7 at Stade Français in round 2 of the European Challenge Cup.
The Exiles have won only once away from home in Premiership Rugby since September 2014: on a trip to London Welsh in February 2015. London Irish beat Gloucester 23-18 at Madejski Stadium in March 2016 and have not won successive Premiership Rugby encounters against Gloucester since 2006.
London Irish’s only victory at Kingsholm since 2006 was 18-12 in Premiership Rugby in January 2013.
London Irish: TBC
Referee: Ian Tempest
Assistant Referees: Jack Makepeace & Philip Watters.
TMO: Sean Davey.
Wasps v Leicester Tigers
(Ricoh Arena - Kick-off: 16.30, 16.30 GMT)
Wasps only defeat in their last six first-team matches was 41-53 to Newcastle at Coventry in the Anglo-Welsh Cup on 4 November.
Wasps have lost twice at the Ricoh Arena in Premiership Rugby this season, to Harlequins in round 3 and to Bath in round 5.
Leicester Tigers six-game winning run in Premiership Rugby ended at home to Worcester on Saturday. The Tigers have won their last three away games in the competition but have not won four in succession on the road in Premiership Rugby since March 2014.
Wasps have beaten Leicester the last four occasions that the two sides have met since Tigers 24-16 at Welford Road in November 2015. Tigers have visited the Ricoh Arena on four previous occasions, winning once, 26-21 in May 2015.
Leicester Tigers: TBC
Referee: Thomas Foley
Assistant Referees: Adam Leal & Paul Dix
TMO: David Sainsbury.
Sunday 3 December
Harlequins v Saracens
(Twickenham Stoop - Kick-off: 15.00, 15.00 GMT)
Harlequins have slipped to back-to-back defeats on the road, to Exeter Chiefs and Bath Rugby.
‘Quins only defeat at Twickenham Stoop in their last five Premiership Rugby fixtures was 28-31 to Leicester on 23 September. Saracens have lost their last four first-team matches – their worst run since 2010.
Saracens have won twice away from home in Premiership Rugby this season, against Newcastle in Philadelphia, and Worcester. The two sides have already met in the Anglo-Welsh Cup this season, Harlequins winning by the narrowest of margins at Allianz Park on 5 November.
In Premiership Rugby, the last four clashes have been evenly split with two wins apiece. Saracens have lost on their last two visits to Twickenham Stoop.
Referee: Luke Pearce
Assistant Referees: Hamish Smales & Roy Maybank.
TMO: Keith Lewis.
PREMIERSHIP MATCH REPORT: A last-minute try for Tim Visser gave Harlequins a dramatic 20-19 win over Saracens as the European Champions suffered a fifth straight defeat in all competitions.
Saracens had led a tight London derby from the off when Brad Barritt scored a try inside two minutes but a brace for Charlie Walker kept Harlequins in touch.
Owen Farrell kicked 14 points from the tee but it wasn’t enough as Visser collected Danny Care’s cross-field kick in the dying moments after Alex Goode’s fumble.
Saracens flew out of the blocks with Vincent Koch running a great reverse line to break through before offloading to Jamie George who fed Barritt for the games first try.
Owen Farrell, on his return from international duty, added the conversion and then surpassed 1000 Premiership Rugby points with a penalty on eight minutes.
Harlequins though were undeterred as Elia Elia was held up over the line and eventually they had their first try thanks to another delightful kick from Care.
After numerous phases of Harlequins pressure, the England scrumhalf put in an inch-perfect cross-field kick to Walker who only had to catch the ball and fall over to score.
James Lang reduced the deficit further with a 42nd-minute penalty but Farrell replied from the tee to restore Saracens’ eight-point advantage.
Another moment of brilliance from Care saw him tap and go a penalty on 70 minutes and Walker raced onto the scrumhalf’s kick through for his sixth try of the season.
A successful conversion from Lang meant it was back to a one-point match as the game enter its final moments but Farrell struck his fourth penalty to make it 19-15.
It wasn’t enough as Care again found a pinpoint cross-field kick, which Goode failed to collect, and Visser was on hand to dot down the match-winning score.
Tries: Walker 2, Visser
Pens: Farrell 4
Harlequins: 15 Mike Brown, 14 Charlie Walker, 13 Alofa Alofa, 12 Jamie Roberts, 11 Tim Visser, 10 James Lang, 9 Danny Care, 8 Mat Luamanu, 7 Chris Robshaw, 6 Renaldo Bothma, 5 James Horwill (captain), 4 George Merrick, 3 Will Collier, 2 Elia Elia, 1 Joe Marler
Replacements: 16 Dave Ward, 17 Lewis Boyce, 18 Kyle Sinckler, 19 Dino Lamb, 20 Archie White, 21 Jono Kitto, 22 Ian Prior, 23 Ross Chisholm
Saracens: 15 Alex Goode, 14 Sean Maitland, 13 Marcelo Bosch, 12 Brad Barritt (captain), 11 Chris Wyles, 10 Owen Farrell, 9 Richard Wigglesworth, 8 Jackson Wray, 7 Calum Clark, 6 Maro Itoje, 5 George Kruis, 4 Nick Isiekwe, 3 Vincent Koch, 2 Jamie George, 1 Mako Vunipola
Replacements: 16 Christopher Tolofua, 17 Richard Barrington, 18 Juan Figallo, 19 Will Skelton, 20 Schalk Burger, 21 Ben Spencer, 22 Alex Lozowski, 23 Nathan Earle
Referee: Luke Pearce
Assistant referees: Hamish Smales, Roy Maybank
TMO: Keith Lewis