Premiership, Round 20 - teams and predictions
FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS: The season has entered the home straight and we have six more mouth-watering contests to further whet the appetite.
With just three rounds to go, the season is at a crucial stage and we go straight into the action with a Friday treat at the AJ Bell where two teams destined for the semifinals go at it.
Third-placed Sale Sharks host league leaders Bristol Bears in a possible pre-cursor to a semifinal match-up.
The Bears have long been assured of a place in the last four but Sale still has a little bit of work to do, requiring just one point from their remaining three games.
The Bears are eight points clear at the top of the table and know that if results go their way they will secure a home semifinal, but Sale poses a major threat and have already beaten them this season.
Bears have lost just three times but one of those was to the Sharks in February, Luke James scoring their sole try in a 20-13 victory.
There are two matches on Friday and the other has major European implications, as London Irish head to Gloucester.
Irish are currently seventh in the table, with the top eight going on to play in the Champions Cup next season.
However, with 11th-placed Gloucester just seven points back, it is congested in the bottom third and wide open as we head towards the season’s conclusion.
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Saturday brings three more games and all with major storylines, including Harlequins’ home game with Bath.
Victory for Quins could seal their place in the semifinals as they currently have an 11-point buffer to Northampton Saints behind.
Bath have endured a more difficult season but are right in the thick of the Champions Cup battle.
They start the day in ninth, behind eighth-placed Wasps on points difference.
Worcester Warriors seek their fourth win of the season against Leicester Tigers – who narrowly missed out on winning the European Challenge Cup title last weekend.
Northampton Saints host Wasps – two more teams at the heart of the Champions Cup battle.
The weekend concludes on Sunday, with defending champions and second-placed Exeter Chiefs playing host to Newcastle Falcons.
Chiefs are assured of a semifinal place but are yet to ensure it will be played at Sandy Park, while the Falcons are looking for a third straight win.
Round 20 teams and predictions below …
Friday, May 28
Gloucester v London Irish
(Kingsholm – Kick-off: 19.45; 18.45)
Gloucester has won three of their last five Premiership matches.
The Cherry and Whites have lost just once at Kingsholm in Premiership in their last four matches: 14-20 to Leicester in Round 13.
London Irish have lost their last four Premiership fixtures since beating Bath 36-33 at Brentford on 27 March.
The Exiles only away win in Premiership this campaign was 16-10 at Wasps in Round 11.
The last three clashes between the two clubs in Premiership have all been won by the home side on the day, whilst the Exiles only victory at Kingsholm in any tournament since January 2013 was 49-29 in the Premiership Cup in September 2019.
@rugby265com: Gloucester by 12 points
Gloucester: 15 Kyle Moyle, 14 Louis Rees-Zammit, 13 Chris Harris, 12 Mark Atkinson, 11 Santiago Carreras, 10 Billy Twelvetrees, 9 Willi Heinz, 8 Ben Morgan, 7 Lewis Ludlow (captain), 6 Ruan Ackermann, 5 Alex Craig, 4 Ed Slater, 3 Fraser Balmain, 2 Jack Singleton, 1 Val Rapava-Ruskin.
Replacements: 16 Santiago Socino, 17 Jamal Ford-Robinson, 18 Jack Stanley, 19 Freddie Clarke, 20 Jack Clement, 21 Stephen Varney, 22 Lloyd Evans, 23 Ollie Thorley.
London Irish: 15 Tom Parton, 14 James Stokes, 13 Curtis Rona, 12 Phil Cokanasiga, 11 Ollie Hassell-Collins, 10 Paddy Jackson, 9 Nic Groom, 8 Albert Tuisue, 7 Ben Donnell, 6 Matt Rogerson (captain), 5 Rob Simmons, 4 George Nott, 3 Lovejoy Chawatama, 2 Agustin Creevy, 1 Will Goodrick-Clarke.
Replacements: 16 Motu Matu’u, 17 Facundo Gigena, 18 Ollie Hoskins, 19 Adam Coleman, 20 Sean O’Brien, 21 Caolan Englefield, 22 Jacob Atkins, 23 Terrence Hepetema.
Referee: Matthew Carley
Assistant referees: Luke Pearce & Simon McConnell
TMO: Karl Dickson
Sale Sharks v Bristol Bears
(AJ Bell Stadium – Kick-off : 19.45; 18.45 GMT)
Sale Sharks have won their last six Premiership encounters their best run since season 2005/06.
Sale has never won seven successive Premiership matches. The Sharks have been victorious in their last five games at AJ Bell Stadium since their 22-27 reversal there on 12 February.
Bristol Bears only defeat in the last eleven rounds of Premiership was 12-20 at home to Exeter on 23 April.
The Bears have lost just once away from home in Premiership this season: 20-23 at Wasps in Round 1.
Sale has lost just one of their last five fixtures against Bristol: 10-16 at Ashton Gate in November 2019, whilst the Bears only victory at AJ Bell Stadium was by a single point on New Year’s Day 2017.
@rugby365com: Sale Sharks by eight points
Sale: 15 Luke James, 14 Byron McGuigan, 13 Sam James, 12 Connor Doherty, 11 Marland Yarde, 10 AJ MacGinty, 9 Francois de Klerk, 8 Daniel du Preez, 7 Tom Curry (captain), 6 Ben Curry, 5 Jean-Luc du Preez, 4 Cobus Wiese, 3 Coenie Oosthuizen, 2 Armand van der Merwe, 1 Bevan Rodd.
Replacements: 16 Curtis Langdon, 17 Valery Morozov, 18 James Harper, 19 James Phillips, 20 Cameron Neild, 21 Raffi Quirke, 22 Robert du Preez, 23 Manu Tuilagi.
Bristol: 15 Charles Piutau, 14 Luke Morahan, 13 Semi Radradra, 12 Piers O’Conor, 11 Max Malins, 10 Callum Sheedy, 9 Andy Uren, 8 Nathan Hughes, 7 Ben Earl, 6 Fitz Harding, 5 Chris Vui (captain), 4 Dave Attwood, 3 Kyle Sinckler, 2 Jake Kerr, 1 Jake Woolmore.
Replacements: 16 Harry Thacker, 17 Yann Thomas, 18 Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro, 19 Ed Holmes, 20 Jake Heenan, 21 Tom Kessell, 22 Ioan Lloyd, 23 Siale Piutau.
Referee: Christophe Ridley
Assistant referees: Hamish Smales & Peter Allan
TMO: Ian Tempest
Saturday, May 29
Harlequins v Bath
(Twickenham Stoop – Kick-off: 14.00; 13.00)
Harlequins 29-35 defeat at Leicester in Round 19 of Premiership ended a three-game winning run in the competition.
Harlequins are unbeaten in their last seven Premiership matches at the Twickenham Stoop, a sequence that includes six straight wins, their best winning sequence at the venue since 2014.
Bath have lost their last three Premiership matches since beating Leicester by a solitary point at the Recreation Ground on 18 April.
Bath have lost their last two away games in the competition and have not been defeated in three successive Premiership away trips since April 2019.
Harlequins beat Bath 28-15 at the Recreation Ground in Round Eight and have not achieved a Premiership double over them since 2015/16.
Bath have won on their last two visits to the Stoop in Premiership and have not won three successive league fixtures at the venue since the days of the old Courage League division one between 1993-1995.
@rugby365com: Harlequins by 14 points
Harlequins: 15 Tyrone Green, 14 Nathan Earle, 13 Luke Northmore, 12 James Lang, 11 Joe Marchant, 10 Marcus Smith, 9 Danny Care, 8 Alex Dombrandt, 7 Jack Kenningham, 6 Tom Lawday, 5 Stephan Lewies (captain), 4 Matt Symons, 3 Wilco Louw, 2 Scott Baldwin, 1 Joe Marler
Replacements: 16 Joe Gray, 17 Santiago Garcia Botta, 18 Will Collier, 19 Dino Lamb, 20 Archie White, 21 Martin Landajo, 22 Ben Tapuai, 23 Aaron Morris
Bath: 15 Tom de Glanville, 14 Joe Cokanasiga, 13 Max Clark, 12 Max Ojomoh, 11 Will Muir, 10 Rhys Priestland, 9 Ben Spencer, 8 Taulupe Faletau, 7 Sam Underhill, 6 Miles Reid, 5 Charlie Ewels (captain), 4 Josh McNally, 3 Will Stuart, 2 Jacques du Toit, 1 Jamie Bhatti
Replacements: 16 Tom Doughty, 17 Juan Schoeman 18 Henry Thomas, 19 Will Spencer, 20 Josh Bayliss, 21 Will Chudley, 22 Orlando Bailey, 23 Jonathan Joseph
Referee: Tom Foley
Assistant referees: Paul Dix & Jamie Leahy
TMO: Claire Hodnett
Worcester Warriors v Leicester Tigers
(Sixways – Kick-off: 15.00; 14.00)
Worcester Warriors have lost their last nine Premiership matches since their “declared” victory at home to Newcastle on 20 February.
Worcester’s only victory so far this season in Premiership was by a single point at home to London Irish in Round One.
Leicester Tigers 35-29 home victory over Harlequins in Round 19 ended a three-game losing run in the competition.
The Tigers most recent victory away from home in Premiership came on a trip to Gloucester in Round 13.
Leicester have won their last two Premiership matches against the Warriors but both games were played at Mattioli Woods Welford Road.
The Tigers have not been victorious at Sixways since a 34-5 victory in March 2018.
@rugby365com: Leicester Tigers by five points
Worcester Warriors: 15 Jamie Shillcock, 14 Perry Humphreys, 13 Ollie Lawrence, 12 Francois Venter, 11 Harri Doel, 10 Fin Smith, 9 Francois Hougaard, 8 Matt Kvesic, 7 Sam Lewis, 6 Ted Hill (captain), 5 Justin Clegg, 4 Andrew Kitchener, 3 Jay Tyack, 2 Niall Annett, 1 Marc Thomas
Replacements: 16 Isaac Miller, 17 Callum Black, 18 Scott Andrews, 19 Joe Batley, 20 Kyle Hatherell, 21 Gareth Simpson, 22 Duncan Weir, 23 Noah Heward
Leicester Tigers: 15 Zack Henry, 14 Kobus van Wyk, 13 Matt Scott, 12 Dan Kelly, 11 Nemani Nadolo, 10 Johnny McPhillips, 9 Ben Youngs (captain), 8 Jasper Wiese, 7 Tommy Reffell, 6 Hanro Liebenberg, 5 Cameron Henderson, 4 Harry Wells, 3 Joe Heyes, 2 Charlie Clare, 1 Ellis Genge
Replacements: 16 Tom Youngs, 17 James Whitcombe, 18 Dan Cole, 19 Tomás Lavanini, 20 George Martin, 21 Jack Van Poortvliet, 22 Kini Murimurivalu, 23 Harry Potter
Referee: Karl Dickson
Assistant referees: Jack Makepeace & Wayne Falla
TMO: Ian Tempest
Northampton Saints v Wasps
(Franklin’s Gardens – Kick-off: 16.30; 15.30 GMT)
Northampton Saints have lost their last two Premiership matches and have not lost three in succession in the competition since Rounds One to Three,
Northampton’s last eight matches at Franklin’s Gardens in Premiership have finished in four wins and four defeats.
Wasps last four matches in Premiership have all gone with home field advantage.
Wasps only away win since February was 20-18 at Newcastle on 19 March.
The last three Premiership fixtures between the two clubs have all been won by the away side on the day.
The Saints beat Wasps 22-17 in Coventry in Round 8 and have not achieved a Premiership season’s double over their Midlands rivals since 2014/14.
@rugby365com: Northampton Saints by seven points
Northampton Saints: 15 Tommy Freeman, 14 Ollie Sleightholme, 13 Matt Proctor, 12 Fraser Dingwall, 11 Taqele Naiyaravoro, 10 Dan Biggar, 9 Tom James, 8 Tom Wood, 7 Lewis Ludlam, 6 Courtney Lawes, 5 Api Ratuniyarawa, 4 Dave Ribbans, 3 Paul Hill, 2 Sam Matavesi, 1 Alex Waller
Replacements: 16 Mikey Haywood, 17 Emmanuel Iyogun, 18 Ehren Painter, 19 Alex Moon, 20 Alex Coles, 21 Connor Tupai, 22 Piers Francis, 23 Rory Hutchinson
Wasps: 15 Charlie Atkinson, 14 Zach Kibirige, 13 Paolo Odogwu, 12 Michael Le Bourgeois, 11 Josh Bassett, 10 Jacob Umaga, 9 Dan Robson, 8 Tom Willis, 7 Thomas Young, 6 Brad Shields (captain), 5 James Gaskell, 4 Will Rowlands, 3 Biyi Alo, 2 Gabriel Oghre, 1 Tom West
Replacements: 16 Tom Cruse, 17 Simon McIntyre, 18 Jeff Toomaga-Allen, 19 Tim Cardall, 20 Sione Vailanu, 21 Ben Vellacott, 22 Jimmy Gopperth, 23 Rob Miller
Referee: Adam Leal
Assistant referees: Roy Maybank & John Meredith
TMO: Graham Hughes
Sunday, May 30
Exeter Chiefs v Newcastle Falcons
(Sandy Park – Kick-off: 13.30; 12.30)
Exeter Chiefs have lost just once in the last eight rounds of Premiership: 18-34 at Gloucester on 26 March.
The Chiefs have lost just twice at Sandy Park in Premiership this season, to Bristol in Round Six and to Northampton in Round 10.
Newcastle Falcons have won their last two Premiership matches and have not won three in succession in the competition since the opening three rounds of this campaign.
The Falcons most recent away win in Premiership was on a trip to Wasps on 5 December.
Exeter has lost just once to Newcastle in any competition since 2014: 20-28 in Premiership in January 2018 whilst the Falcons have been defeated on all 12 previous occasions they have visited Sandy Park in all competitions.
@rugby365com: Exeter Chiefs by 16 points
Exeter Chiefs: 15 Facundo Cordero, 14 Alex Cuthbert, 13 Henry Slade, 12 Ollie Devoto, 11 Tom O’Flaherty, 10 Joe Simmonds (captain), 9 Jack Maunder, 8 Sam Simmonds, 7 Jacques Vermeulen, 6 Dave Ewers, 5 Sam Skinner, 4 Jannes Kirsten, 3 Harry Williams, 2 Luke Cowan-Dickie, 1 Alec Hepburn
Replacements: 16 Jack Yeandle, 17 Ben Moon, 18 Tomas Francis, 19 Jonny Hill, 20 Sean Lonsdale, 21 Stu Townsend, 22 Harvey Skinner, 23 Stuart Hogg
Newcastle Falcons: 15 Joel Hodgson, 14 Alex Tait, 13 George Wacokecoke, 12 Pete Lucock, 11 Chidera Obonna, 10 Toby Flood (captain), 9 Sam Stuart, 8 Carl Fearns, 7 John Hardie, 6 Gary Graham, 5 Rob Farrar, 4 Toby Salmon, 3 Rodney Ah You, 2 Robbie Smith, 1 Kyle Cooper
Replacements: 16 Charlie Maddison, 17 Sam Lockwood, 18 Mark Tampin, 19 Will Montgomery, 20 Tom Marshall, 21 Louis Schreuder, 22 Will Haydon-Wood, 23 Zach Kerr
Referee: Andrew Jackson
Assistant referees: Gareth Holsgrove & Phil Watters
TMO: Geoff Warren