Premiership, Round 15 - Teams and Predictions
PREVIEW: The business end of the season is upon us and where better to start Round 15 than with a West Country cracker on Friday.
Second-placed Exeter Chiefs travel to Kingsholm to face Gloucester Rugby, aiming to secure a fourth successive win over their rivals.
Second-bottom Gloucester will be out to avenge a heavy defeat to Harlequins last time out and a 20-28 loss in the reverse fixture on Boxing Day.
Leaders Bristol Bears get the action underway on Saturday as they host free-scoring Harlequins at Ashton Gate.
Pat Lam’s side were pushed all the way by Northampton Saints and needed two late tries to secure a dramatic 28-21 victory and maintain their hold on top spot.
There’s a mid-table tussle between London Irish and Bath Rugby.
The Blue, Black and Whites ran out 63-19 winners in the last meeting between the two sides all the way back in May 2018.
Bottom side Worcester Warriors scrap for crucial points against Northampton Saints, going for a fourth win of the season and aiming to bounce back from cruel recent defeats.
Warriors will hope for better after late losses to the Bears and London Irish, before conceding seven tries in last week’s defeat to Bath.
Saints remain in search of consistency and the same kind of performance they delivered on Boxing Day in a 26-10 win over Alan Solomons’ side.
The Saturday tea-time fixture pits Wasps against Sale Sharks, with both sides coming into the contest on the back of victories and hopeful of putting on a show.
Sharks ran in six tries to beat London Irish 41-13 in Round 14, while Wasps were made to battle to beat Newcastle Falcons 20-18.
Sunday sees Leicester Tigers take on Newcastle Falcons as Dean Richards once again return to Welford Road, where he played for 15 years.
Tigers have struggled against high-flying opponents of late but chalked up wins over Gloucester and London Irish this month.
We take a closer look at all Round 15’s matches!
Friday, March 26:
Gloucester Rugby v Exeter Chiefs
(Kingsholm, Gloucester – 17.30; 17.30 GMT)
Gloucester Rugby have lost their last two Premiership Rugby fixtures at home to Leicester and away at Harlequins. The Cherry & Whites only victory at Kingsholm since mid-December was 22-14 against Worcester on 27 February.
Exeter Chiefs have won their last three Premiership Rugby matches, two with maximum points. The Chiefs have lost only once on their travels since early January: 20-25 at Sale in Round 11.
The Chiefs have won their last three encounters against Gloucester since Gloucester’s home win in February 2019. Exeter have won on three of their last four visits to Kingsholm, one of which was against Bath in the final of the 2018 Anglo-Welsh Cup.
@rugby365com: Exeter Chiefs by five points
Gloucester: 15 Santiago Carreras, 14 Louis Rees-Zammit, 13 Billy Twelvetrees, 12 Mark Atkinson, 11 Jonny May, 10 George Barton, 9 Willi Heinz, 8 Ruan Ackermann, 7 Lewis Ludlow (captain), 6 Jordy Reid, 5 Matias Alemanno, 4 Ed Slater, 3 Fraser Balmain, 2 Henry Walker, 1 Val Rapava-Ruskin
Replacements: 16 Santiago Socino, 17 Alex Seville, 18 Jamal Ford-Robinson, 19 Freddie Clarke, 20 Ben Morgan, 21 Jack Clement, 22 Charlie Chapman, 23 Charlie Sharples
Exeter: 15 Josh Hodge, 14 Olly Woodburn, 13 Dan John, 12 Corey Baldwin, 11 Facundo Cordero, 10 Harvey Skinner, 9 Sam Hidalgo-Clyne, 8 Rus Tuima, 7 Richard Capstick, 6 Don Armand, 5 Tom Price, 4 Sean Lonsdale, 3 Marcus Street, 2 Jack Yeandle (captain), 1 James Kenny
Replacements: 16 Elvis Taione, 17 Danny Southworth, 18 Alfie Petch, 19 Will Witty, 20 Charlie Wright, 21 Stu Townsend, 22 Arthur Relton, 23 James Short
Referee: Luke Pearce
Assistant Referees: Sara Cox & Adam Leal.
TMO: Ian Tempest.
Saturday, March 27
Bristol Bears v Harlequins
(Ashton Gate, Bristol City -Kick-off: 14.00; 14.00 GMT)
Bristol Bears have won their last four Premiership Rugby matches and are unbeaten in their last six since their 13-20 reversal at home to Sale on February 5. The Bears only other home defeat this season was to Clermont Auvergne in the opening round of the European Champions Cup in December.
Harlequins last six matches in Premiership Rugby have all been won by the home side on the day. The Londoners have lost their last two away games at Newcastle and at Exeter and have not been defeated in three in a row on the road in the competition since August.
Bristol have won their last two fixtures against Harlequins in Premiership Rugby and have only once before won three in succession against them in the tournament, between 2001-2002. Harlequins only previous victory at Ashton Gate was 42-8 in February 2017.
@rugby365com: Bristol Bears by seven points
Bristol Bears: 15 Luke Morahan, 14 Henry Purdy, 13 Semi Radradra, 12 Piers O’Conor, 11 Siva Naulago, 10 Callum Sheedy, 9 Andy Uren, 8 Ben Earl, 7 Dan Thomas, 6 Steven Luatua (captain), 5 Chris Vui, 4 Dave Attwood, 3 John Afoa, 2 Bryan Byrne, 1 Jake Woolmore
Replacements: 16 Will Capon, 17 Max Lahiff, 18 Kyle Sinckler, 19 Joe Joyce, 20 Fitz Harding, 21 Tom Kessell, 22 Sam Bedlow, 23 Alapati Leiua
Harlequins: 15 Mike Brown, 14 Tyrone Green, 13 Joe Marchant, 12 Andre Esterhuizen, 11 Cadan Murley, 10 Marcus Smith, 9 Danny Care, 8 Alex Dombrandt (captain), 7 Will Evans, 6 James Chisholm, 5 Dino Lamb, 4 Matt Symons, 3 Wilco Louw, 2 Scott Baldwin, 1 Joe Marler
Replacements: 16 Joe Gray, 17 Jordan Els, 18 Simon Kerrod, 19 Glen Young, 20 Tom Lawday, 21 Martin Landajo, 22 Brett Herron, 23 Luke Northmore
Referee: Hamish Smales
Assistant Referees: Jack Makepeace & Paul Dix.
TMO: David Rose
London Irish v Bath
(Brentford Community Stadium, UK – Kick-off: 15.00; 15.00 GMT)
London Irish’s last three matches have all been won by the home side on the day, whilst the Exiles have not been defeated at home since Sale were the visitors on December 6, excluding the declared defeat to Northampton.
Bath Rugby’s only loss in the last six rounds of Gallagher Premiership Rugby was 16-38 at home to Exeter on March 6. Bath have won their last three away games in Premiership Rugby since their loss at Bristol on January 29.
Bath have won their last dozen contests with London Irish in Premiership Rugby since the Exiles 29-22 victory at Madejski Stadium in September 2012. The Irish last won at the Recreation Ground in November 2009.
@rugby365com: London Irish by three points
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 Blair Cowan, 6 Ben Donnell, 5 Rob Simmons, 4 Chunya Munga, 3 Lovejoy Chawatama, 2 Matt Cornish, 1 Will Goodrick-Clarke
Replacements: 16 Agustin Creevy, 17 Facundo Gigena, 18 Ollie Hoskins, 19 George Nott, 20 Jack Cooke, 21 Sean O’Brien, 22 Ben Meehan, 23 Will Joseph
Bath: 15 Anthony Watson, 14 Joe Cokanasiga, 13 Jonathan Joseph, 12 Max Clark, 11 Will Muir, 10 Orlando Bailey, 9 Ben Spencer, 8 Zach Mercer, 7 Sam Underhill, 6 Tom Ellis, 5 Charlie Ewels (captain), 4 Josh McNally, 3 Henry Thomas, 2 Jack Walker, 1 Juan Schoeman
Replacements: 16 Tom Dunn, 17 Beno Obano, 18 Will Stuart, 19 Will Spencer, 20 Miles Reid, 21 Will Chudley, 22 Max Ojomoh, 23 Alex Gray
Referee: Craig Maxwell-Keys
Assistant Referees: Robert Warburton & Philip Watters.
TMO: David Grashoff
Worcester Warriors v Northampton Saints
(Sixways, Worcester – Kick-off: 15.00; 15.00 GMT)
Worcester Warriors have slipped to four straight defeats in Premiership Rugby since their declared victory over Newcastle in Round 10. The Warriors most recent win at Sixways (excluding declared results) was 11-10 against London Irish in Round 1 of Premiership Rugby this season.
Northampton Saints have won just once in the last four rounds of Premiership Rugby: 17-14 at home to Sale on March 13. The Saints lost their most recent away game at Harlequins to end a four game winning run on their travels.
Northampton have won their last six encounters with Worcester since the Warriors 30-15 victory at Sixways in November 2017.
@rugby365com: Worcester Warriors by five points
Worcester Warriors: 15 Chris Pennell, 14 Chris Ashton, 13 Ollie Lawrence, 12 Ashley Beck, 11 Perry Humphreys, 10 Billy Searle, 9 Francois Hougaard, 8 Joe Batley, 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 Maks van Dyk, 19 Tom Dodd, 20 Cornell du Preez, 21 Gareth Simpson, 22 Fin Smith, 23 Francois Venter
Northampton Saints: 15 George Furbank, 14 Tom Collins, 13 Rory Hutchinson, 12 Piers Francis, 11 Ollie Sleightholme, 10 Dan Biggar, 9 Alex Mitchell, 8 Teimana Harrison, 7 Tom Wood, 6 Nick Isiekwe, 5 Api Ratuniyarawa, 4 David Ribbans, 3 Ehren Painter, 2 Sam Matavesi, 1 Alex Waller (captain)
Replacements: 16 Mike Haywood, 17 Nick Auterac, 18 Paul Hill, 19 Alex Coles, 20 Shaun Adendorff, 21 Tom James, 22 Fraser Dingwall, 23 Tommy Freeman
Referee: Andrew Jackson
Assistant Referees: Jonathan Healy & Simon McConnell.
TMO: Trevor Fisher
Wasps v Sale Sharks
(Ricoh Arena, Coventry – Kick-off: 16.30; 16.30 GMT)
Wasps four-game losing run in Premiership Rugby ended with their 20-18 success at Newcastle on Friday evening. Wasps have lost their last four fixtures at the Ricoh Arena since beating Exeter there 34-5 on January 2.
Sale Sharks have lost just once in the last four rounds of Premiership Rugby: 14-17 at Northampton on March 13. The Sharks have lost their last two away games in Premiership Rugby and have not lost three in succession in the tournament since December 2019.
Wasps beat Sale 26-23 in Round 4 of Premiership Rugby and have not achieved a Premiership Rugby season’s double over the northerners since 2010/11. The Sharks have won on their last two visits to the Ricoh Arena.
@rugby365com: Sale Sharks win by 10 points
Wasps: 15 Matteo Minozzi, 14 Zach Kibirige, 13 Malakai Fekitoa, 12 Michael Le Bourgeois, 11 Josh Bassett, 10 Jimmy Gopperth, 9 Dan Robson, 8 Alfie Barbeary, 7 Thomas Young, 6 Brad Shields, 5 Will Rowlands, 4 Joe Launchbury (captain), 3 Kieran Brookes, 2 Tommy Taylor, 1 Ben Harris
Replacements: 16 Gabriel Oghre, 17 Jack Owlett, 18 Jeff Toomaga-Allen, 19 Theo Vukasinovic, 20 Sione Vailanu, 21 Sam Wolstenholme, 22 Charlie Atkinson, 23 Paolo Odogwu
Sale Sharks: 15 Luke James, 14 Byron McGuigan, 13 Sam James, 12 Rohan Janse van Rensburg, 11 Marlon Yarde, 10 Robert du Preez, 9 Raffi Quirke, 8 Dan du Preez, 7 Cameron Neild, 6 Jean-Luc du Preez, 5 Cobus Wiese, 4 Josh Beaumont (captain), 3 Coenie Oosthuizen, 2 Akker van der Merwe, 1 Bevan Rodd
Replacements: 16 Ewan Ashman, 17 Ross Harrison, 18 Will-Griff John, 19 James Phillips, 20 Sam Dugdale, 21 Will Cliff, 22 AJ MacGinty, 23 Simon Hammersley
Referee: Christophe Ridley
Assistant Referees: Dean Richards & Gareth Holsgrove.
TMO: Sara Cox
Sunday, March 28
Leicester Tigers v Newcastle Falcons
(Welford Road – Kick-off: 15.00, 15.00 GMT)
Leicester Tigers record over the last eight rounds of Premiership Rugby is an even won four, lost four. The Tigers have lost just once at Mattioli Woods Welford Road in any competition since early December: 15-25 to Sale in Round 7 of Premiership Rugby.
Newcastle Falcons have won just once since early January: 25-22 at home to Harlequins in Round 11 of Premiership Rugby. The Falcons have not won away from home in the competition since a trip to Wasps on 5 December.
The two clubs were to have met in Round 4, but Covid-19 resulted in a declared victory for the Tynesiders. Newcastle’s only other victory against Leicester in the last five years was 25-23 at Welford Road in April 2018.
@rugby365com: Leicester Tiger win by five points
Leicester Tigers: 15 Freddie Steward, 14 Harry Potter, 13 Matías Moroni, 12 Dan Kelly, 11 Kini Murimurivalu, 10 George Ford, 9 Richard Wigglesworth, 8 Jasper Wiese, 7 Tommy Reffell, 6 Hanro Liebenberg, 5 Calum Green, 4 Harry Wells, 3 Dan Cole, 2 Tom Youngs, 1 Ellis Genge
Replacements: 16 Charlie Clare, 17 Luan de Bruin, 18 Joe Heyes, 19 Cameron Henderson, 20 George Martin, 21 Jack Van Poortvliet, 22 Johnny McPhillips, 23 Guy Porter
Newcastle Falcons: 15 Alex Tait, 14 George Wacokecoke, 13 Pete Lucock, 12 Luther Burrell, 11 Ben Stevenson, 10 Joel Hodgson, 9 Louis Schreuder, 8 Callum Chick, 7 Mark Wilson (c), 6 Will Welch, 5 Sean Robinson, 4 Darren Barry, 3 Jon Welsh, 2 Jamie Blamire, 1 Adam Brocklebank
Replacements: 16 George McGuigan, 17 Kyle Cooper, 18 Mark Tampin, 19 Connor Collett, 20 Philip van der Walt, 21 Sam Stuart, 22 Brett Connon, 23 Morgan Passman
Referee: Karl Dickson
Assistant referees: Greg Macdonald, Wayne Falla
TMO: Rowan Kitt