Premiership, Round 11 – teams and predictions
TAKING A BACKSEAT: The Premiership’s Round 11 kicks off on Friday to the backdrop of an increasingly intriguing Six Nations tournament.
Taking a backseat to internationals is not new for England’s domestic showpiece, but there’s still plenty to look forward to.
It starts at the AJ Bell Stadium with a compelling opening fixture as fifth-placed Sale Sharks host the champions, Exeter Chiefs.
Such is the competitive standard of the League, after winning four in a row at the start of the year, the hosts have now lost back-to-back games against Bath and Harlequins to see them drop out of the top four, and they will be yearning to get back to winning ways this weekend.
Rob Baxter’s side went down 12-13 to Northampton Saints after Joe Simmonds’ late conversion was blocked at Sandy Park, leaving the Chiefs sitting second in the table behind leaders Bristol Bears.
We have four games on Saturday, starting with a lunchtime visit to Ashton Gate, as Steve Borthwick takes his Leicester Tigers side to the west country, to take on the league-leading Bristol Bears.
The Ashton Gate clash is followed by games at Kingston Park – where Newcastle Falcons entertain Harlequins, who have not lost in 2021 – and at the Ricoh Arena, where last weekend’s comeback kings, London Irish make the trip to Coventry to take on Wasps.
The final Saturday match is an enthralling derby with Worcester Warriors making the short trip to Kingsholm.
The curtain comes down on the weekend when a revitalised Northampton Saints welcome Bath to Franklin’s Gardens on Sunday.
Friday, February 26
Sale Sharks v Exeter Chiefs
(AJ Bell Stadium – Kick-off: 19.45; 19.45 GMT)
Sale Sharks have lost their last two matches, at home to Bath and away at Harlequins, since beating Bristol at Ashton Gate on 5 February.
The Sharks have won only one of their last four fixtures played at AJ Bell Stadium in all competitions: 20-13 against Worcester in Round 6 of Premiership.
Exeter Chiefs three-game winning run in Premiership ended with their narrow defeat to Northampton at Sandy Park on Saturday.
The Chiefs have won their last two away games in the tournament, at Worcester and at Newcastle, and have not won three in succession on the road since August.
The Chiefs have lost just one of their last ten encounters with the Sharks in all tournaments since 2016: 22-19 at Sandy Park in Premiership in January 2020. Exeter have won on their last five visits to Salford.
@rugby365com: Sale Sharks by three points
Sale Sharks: 15 Luke James, 14 Byron McGuigan, 13 Sam James, 12 Sam Hill, 11 Marland Yarde, 10 AJ MacGinty, 9 Faf de Klerk, 8 Daniel du Preez, 7 Cameron Neild, 6 Jono Ross (captain), 5 Lood de Jager, 4 Josh Beaumont, 3 WillGriff John, 2 Curtis Langdon, 1 Bevan Rodd.
Replacements: 16 Ewan Ashman, 17 Ross Harrison, 18 Coenie Oosthuizen, 19 Cobus Wiese, 20 Sam Dugdale, 21 Raffi Quirke, 22 Robert du Preez, 23 Simon Hammersley.
Exeter Chiefs: 15 Josh Hodge, 14 Facundo Cordero, 13 Ian Whitten, 12 Ollie Devoto, 11 Tom O’Flaherty, 10 Joe Simmonds, 9 Jack Maunder, 8 Sam Simmonds, 7 Jacques Vermeulen, 6 Dave Ewers, 5 Sam Skinner, 4 Sean Lonsdale, 3 Harry Williams, 2 Jack Yeandle (captain), 1 Alec Hepburn.
Replacements: 16 Jack Innard, 17 Ben Moon, 18 Marcus Street, 19 Don Armand, 20 Richard Capstick, 21 Stu Townsend, 22 Harvey Skinner, 23 Tom Hendrickson.
Referee: Karl Dickson
Assistant referees: Andrew Jackson & Jamie Leahy.
TMO: Ian Tempest.
Saturday, February 27
Bristol Bears v Leicester Tigers
(Ashton Gate – Kick-off: 13.00; 13.00 GMT)
Bristol Bears have suffered only one defeat in Premiership since the opening round: 13-20 at home to Sale on 5 February.
The Bears only other home defeat in any competition this season was to Clermont Auvergne in the European Champions Cup in December.
Leicester Tigers last three matches have all been won by the home side on the day. The Tigers only away win this season, in a game that was played, was 28-20 at Bayonne in Round 2 of the European Challenge Cup.
Bristol’s only defeat in their last four fixtures against Leicester was 18-31 at Mattioli Woods Welford Road on 4 January 2020. The Tigers have won only once at Ashton Gate in four previous visits: 21-16 in November 2016.
@rugby365com: Bristol by 15 points
Bristol: 15 Charles Piutau, 14 Luke Morahan, 13 Piers O’Conor, 12 Alapati Leiua, 11 Siva Naulago, 10 Ioan Lloyd, 9 Andy Uren, 8 Jake Heenan, 7 Dan Thomas, 6 Steven Luatua (captain), 5 Joe Joyce, 4 Chris Vui, 3 John Afoa, 2 Will Capon, 1 Jake Woolmore.
Replacements: 16 George Kloska, 17 Yann Thomas, 18 Jake Armstrong, 19 Ed Holmes, 20 Fitz Harding, 21 Tom Kessell, 22 Tiff Eden, 23 Niyi Adeolokun.
Leicester Tigers: 15 Kini Murimurivalu, 14 Kobus Van Wyk, 13 Matías Moroni, 12 Dan Kelly, 11 Guy Porter, 10 Joaquín Díaz Bonilla, 9 Jack Van Poortvliet, 8 Ollie Chessum, 7 Tommy Reffell, 6 Harry Wells, 5 Tomás Lavanini, 4 Cameron Henderson, 3 Joe Heyes, 2 Tom Youngs (captain), 1 Nephi Leatigaga.
Replacements: 16 Charlie Clare, 17 James Whitcombe, 18 Dan Cole, 19 Calum Green, 20 Luke Wallace, 21 Ben White, 22 Johnny McPhillips, 23 Harry Simmons.
Referee: Christophe Ridley
Assistant referees: Craig Maxwell-Keys & Dean Richards
TMO: Claire Hodnett
Newcastle Falcons v Harlequins
(Kingston Park – Kick-off: 15.00; 15.00 GMT)
Newcastle Falcons’ last two fixtures have both been declared as defeats due to COVID-19 protocols with their most recent victory being 22-10 at home to Gloucester on 9 January.
Harlequins have won their last four Premiership matches since their 27-all draw against London Irish at the Stoop on 10 January.
Quins have not won five in a row in the competition since March 2019. Excluding the Londoners declared defeat at Worcester on New Year’s Day, Harlequins have won their last seven away games in Premiership.
Harlequins won both encounters when the two clubs last met in Premiership in season 2018/19, the 38-17 victory at Kingston Park that January was their first victory at the venue since December 2013.
@rugby365com: Falcons by three points
Newcastle Falcons: 15 Tom Penny, 14 Adam Radwan, 13 Matias Orlando, 12 Luther Burrell, 11 Ben Stevenson, 10 Joel Hodgson, 9 Louis Schreuder, 8 Callum Chick, 7 Philip van der Walt, 6 Sean Robinson (captain), 5 Marco Fuser, 4 Greg Peterson, 3 Logovi’i Mulipola, 2 George McGuigan, 1 Trevor Davison.
Replacements: 16 Jamie Blamire, 17 Adam Brocklebank, 18 Mark Tampin, 19 Darren Barry, 20 John Hardie, 21 Sam Stuart, 22 Brett Connon, 23 Mateo Carreras.
Harlequins: 15 Aaron Morris, 14 Joe Marchant, 13 Luke Northmore, 12 Andre Esterhuizen, 11 Tyrone Green, 10 Marcus Smith, 9 Martin Landajo, 8 James Chisholm, 7 Jack Kenningham, 6 Stephan Lewies (captain), 5 Hugh Tizard, 4 Matt Symons, 3 Wilco Louw, 2 Elia Elia, 1 Joe Marler.
Replacements: 16 Scott Baldwin, 17 Jordan Els, 18 Simon Kerrod, 19 Glen Young, 20 Alex Dombrandt, 21 Danny Care, 22 Brett Herron, 23 Louis Lynagh.
Referee: Jack Makepeace
Assistant referees: John Meredith & Wayne Falla
TMO: Trevor Fisher
Wasps v London Irish
(Ricoh Arena – Kick-off: 15.00; 15.00 GMT)
Wasps only victory in the last four rounds of Premiership was 17-13 at Worcester on 14 February.
Wasps lost their last two matches at Ricoh Arena since beating Exeter there 34-5 on 2 January.
London Irish’s record in the last five round of Premiership is won two, drawn two, lost one but they have picked up four try bonus points in that time. The Exiles most recent success away from home in Premiership was on a trip to Exeter on 30 September.
Wasps have lost just one of their last eight meetings against London Irish in Premiership: 26-29 the last time the teams met at the Ricoh Arena in October 2019.
@rugby365com: Wasps by nine points
Wasps: 15 Matteo Minozzi, 14 Zach Kibirige, 13 Juan de Jongh, 12 Michael Le Bourgeois, 11 Josh Bassett, 10 Jacob Umaga, 9 Will Porter, 8 Tom Willis, 7 Gabriel Oghre, 6 Brad Shields (captain), 5 James Gaskell, 4 Will Rowlands, 3 Jeff Toomaga-Allen, 2 Tom Cruse, 1 Tom West.
Replacements: 16 Tommy Taylor, 17 Ben Harris, 18 Nicky Thomas, 19 Levi Douglas, 20 Sione Vailanu, 21 Ben Vellacott, 22 Charlie Atkinson, 23 Jimmy Gopperth.
London Irish: 15 Tom Parton, 14 Ben Loader, 13 Curtis Rona, 12 Theo Brophy Clews, 11 Ollie Hassell-Collins, 10 Paddy Jackson, 9 Nick Phipps, 8 Matt Rogerson (captain), 7 Ben Donnell, 6 Sean O’Brien, 5 George Nott, 4 Steve Mafi, 3 Ollie Hoskins, 2 Agustin Creevy, 1 Allan Dell.
Replacements: 16 Matt Cornish, 17 Will Goodrick-Clarke, 18 Lovejoy Chawatama, 19 Rob Simmons, 20 Blair Cowan, 21 Ben Meehan, 22 Terrence Hepetema, 23 Will Joseph.
Referee: Hamish Smales
Assistant referees: Greg Macdonald & Gareth Holsgrove
TMO: Rowan Kitt
Gloucester v Worcester Warriors
(Kingsholm – Kick-off: 15.15; 15.15 GMT)
Gloucester are without a win in Premiership since beating Wasps at Kingsholm on 28 November (Round Two).
The Cherry and Whites have won one other game at Kingsholm this season, 38-34 against Ulster in Round Two of the European Champions Cup.
Worcester Warriors have ‘won’ three games in Premiership this season but two of those have been “awarded wins”.
Their only victory in the competition in a match that was played was 11-10 against London Irish at Sixways on the opening weekend.
Gloucester have lost only two of their last eight meetings with the Warriors in Premiership, both at Sixways in 2018 and 2019. Worcester have won only once at Kingsholm in 19 previous visits in all competitions: 13-6 in Premiership in April 2009.
@rugby365com: Gloucester by seven points
Gloucester: 15 Kyle Moyle, 14 Santiago Carreras, 13 Henry Trinder, 12 Tom Seabrook, 11 Ollie Thorley, 10 Billy Twelvetrees, 9 Willi Heinz, 8 Ruan Ackermann, 7 Lewis Ludlow (captain), 6 Jordy Reid, 5 Matias Alemanno, 4 Ed Slater, 3 Fraser Balmain, 2 Jack Singleton, 1 Alex Seville.
Replacements: 16 Santiago Socino, 17 Jamal Ford-Robinson, 18 Jack Stanley, 19 Alex Craig, 20 Jack Clement, 21 Charlie Chapman, 22 George Barton, 23 Giorgi Kveseladze.
Worcester Warriors: 15 Chris Pennell, 14 Chris Ashton, 13 Oli Morris, 12 Francois Venter, 11 Nick David, 10 Jamie Shillcock, 9 Francois Hougaard, 8 GJ van Velze, 7 Matt Kvesic, 6 Ted Hill (captain), 5 Justin Clegg, 4 Andrew Kitchener, 3 Nick Schonert, 2 Niall Annett, 1 Ethan Waller.
Replacements: 16 Isaac Miller, 17 Marc Thomas, 18 Richard Palframan, 19 George Merrick, 20 Joe Batley, 21 Michael Heaney, 22 Fin Smith, 23 Ashley Beck.
Referee: Luke Pearce
Assistant referees: Mike Hudson & Robert Warburton
TMO: David Rose
Sunday, February 28
Northampton Saints v Bath
(Franklin’s Gardens – Kick-off: 13.00; 13.00 GMT)
Northampton Saints most recent defeat in a match that was played in Premiership was 17-18 at Bristol Bears on 4 December.
Ignoring declared results, Northampton have won just once at Franklin’s Gardens in any competition since January 2020: 29-10 against Worcester in Round Four of this season’s Premiership campaign.
Bath have won their last two Premiership matches, at Sale and at home to Gloucester, and have not won three in succession in the competition since September.
Bath’s 27-22 win at Sale in their most recent away game was their first victory on the road since December.
Bath have lost only twice in their last eight clashes with Northampton, both at Franklin’s Gardens in 2017 and 2019. Bath beat Northampton 18-3 on the most recent occasion they visited Franklin’s Gardens last August and have not obtained successive league victories at the famous old venue since 1994.
@rugby365com: Northampton by six points
Northampton Saints: 15 Tommy Freeman, 14 Matt Proctor, 13 Rory Hutchinson, 12 Piers Francis, 11 Taqele Naiyaravoro, 10 George Furbank, 9 Tom James, 8 Tom Wood, 7 Lewis Ludlam (captain), 6 Nick Isiekwe, 5 Api Ratuniyarawa, 4 David Ribbans, 3 Ehren Painter, 2 Sam Matavesi, 1 Nick Auterac.
Replacements: 16 Reece Marshall, 17 Alex Waller, 18 Paul Hill, 19 Alex Moon, 20 Alex Coles, 21 Henry Taylor, 22 Harry Mallinder, 23 Ollie Sleightholme.
Bath: 15 Tian Schoeman, 14 Semesa Rokoduguni, 13 Jonathan Joseph, 12 Josh Matavesi, 11 Will Muir, 10 Rhys Priestland, 9 Will Chudley, 8 Zach Mercer, 7 Miles Reid, 6 Josh Bayliss (captain), 5 Elliott Stoke, 4 Tom Ellis, 3 Christian Judge, 2 Jack Walker, 1 Juan Schoeman.
Replacements: 16 Tom Dunn, 17 Jamie Bhatti, 18 Henry Thomas, 19 Ewan Richards, 20 Ethan Staddon, 21 Ben Spencer, 22 Max Clark, 23 Ruaridh McConnochie.
Referee: Ian Tempest
Assistant referees: Paul Dix & Jonathan Healy
TMO: Craig Maxwell-Keys