Premiership, Round 18 - Teams and Predictions
IN THE SPOTLIGHT: The race for the Premiership Rugby semi-finals could take a pivotal turn this weekend.
Even though Bristol Bears are eight points clear at the top, just eight points separate the next four sides, all of whom are at home this weekend.
Round 18 kicks off at the AJ Bell Stadium where the European Challenge Cup finalists, Leicester Tigers travel north to take on third-placed Sale Sharks, who are on an impressive run having won their last four Premiership Rugby fixtures.
On Saturday we have four fixtures the first of which, sees Northampton Saints take on Gloucester Rugby, ensuring a bumper audience. The Saints defend an enviable recent record having lost just once in their last five Premiership Rugby matches.
There are two 15.00 (local time) kick-offs on Saturday, champions Exeter Chiefs hosting Worcester Warriors, who have only beaten the Chiefs once in Premiership Rugby, in 2018. London Irish travel to Newcastle Falcons for the other showdown. London Irish beat Newcastle 31-22 at Brentford in January, but Irish have only triumphed once at Kingston Park since 2010.
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Saturday comes to a close at the Recreation Ground for a mouth-watering local derby between Bath Rugby and Bristol Bears. The Bears have lost only one of their last six fixtures against Bath: 19-26 in The Clash at Twickenham in April 2019. Bristol beat Bath 19-13 on their most recent visit to the Rec in March 2020, their first victory at the venue since 2006.
The action ends on Sunday at the Twickenham Stoop where Harlequins, who are on their best sequence without defeat at home since 2016, entertain Wasps, who grabbed their first try bonus point in the tournament since January with their 39-29 victory over Bath in the last round.
We take a closer look at all Round 18’s matches!
Friday, May 7
Sale Sharks v Leicester Tigers
(AJ Bell Stadium – Kick-off: 19.45, 19.45 GMT)
Sale Sharks have won their last four Premiership Rugby fixtures since their 14-17 loss at Northampton on 13 March. The Sharks have been defeated just twice at AJ Bell Stadium in Premiership Rugby this campaign, by Wasps in Round 4 and Bath in Round 9.
Leicester Tigers only victory in the last four rounds of Premiership Rugby was 26-12 at home to Newcastle on 28 March. The Tigers only away win in Premiership Rugby this season (excluding declared wins) was on a trip to Gloucester in Round 13.
The Sharks have won their last five encounters against Leicester in all tournaments, their best-ever sequence against the Tigers. Leicester have won just once at Salford in their last five visits since 2014: 35-13 in May 2018.
@rugby365com: Sale Sharks by five 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 Tom Curry, 6 Jean-Luc du Preez, 5 Josh Beaumont (captain), 4 Cobus Wiese, 3 Coenie Oosthuizen, 2 Akker van der Merwe, 1 Bevan Rodd
Replacements: 16 Ewan Ashman, 17 Ross Harrison, 18 WillGriff John, 19 James Phillips, 20 Cameron Neild, 21 Raffi Quirke, 22 Kieran Wilkinson, 23 Connor Doherty
Leicester Tigers: 15 Zack Henry, 14 Kobus van Wyk, 13 Matías Moroni, 12 Dan Kelly, 11 Kini Murimurivalu, 10 Johnny McPhillips, 9 Ben Youngs (captain), 8 Hanro Liebenberg, 7 Cyle Brink, 6 George Martin, 5 Tomás Lavanini, 4 Cameron Henderson, 3 Joe Heyes, 2 Charlie Clare, 1 Luan de Bruin
Replacements: 16 Nic Dolly, 17 James Whitcombe, 18 Will Hurd, 19 Calum Green, 20 Jasper Wiese, 21 Jack van Poortvliet, 22 David Williams, 23 Freddie Steward
Referee: Tom Foley
Assistant Referees: Andrew Jackson & Jamie Leahy
TMO: Claire Hodnett.
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Saturday, May 8
Northampton Saints v Gloucester Rugby
(Franklin’s Gardens – Kick-off: 14.00; 14.00 GMT)
Northampton Saints have lost just once in their last five Premiership Rugby matches: 21-28 at home to Bristol in Round 14. The Saints won their most recent fixture at Franklin’s Gardens in Premiership Rugby, beating London Irish, but have not won successive matches at the venue in the competition since December 2019.
Gloucester Rugby beat Newcastle 35-24 at Kingsholm in Round 17 of Premiership Rugby but have not won back-to-back fixtures in the competition since March. Gloucester’s only away won in any tournament this season was by a single point in Round 12 of Premiership Rugby.
Northampton have won their last two Premiership Rugby encounters against Gloucester ignoring Gloucester’s declared win in October 2020. Gloucester have won just once at Franklin’s Gardens in any competition since 2013: 40-31 in Premiership Rugby in April 2019.
@rugby365com: Saints by four points
Northampton Saints: 15 George Furbank, 14 Matt Proctor, 13 Rory Hutchinson, 12 Piers Francis, 11 Tommy Freeman, 10 Dan Biggar, 9 Tom James, 8 Teimana Harrison, 7 Lewis Ludlam, 6 Tom Wood, 5 Api Ratuniyarawa, 4 Dave Ribbans, 3 Paul Hill, 2 Sam Matavesi, 1 Alex Waller
Replacements: 16 James Fish, 17 Nick Auterac, 18 Ehren Painter, 19 Alex Moon, 20 Shaun Adendorff, 21 Henry Taylor, 22 Fraser Dingwall, 23 Taqele Naiyaravoro
Gloucester: 15 Kyle Moyle, 14 Louis Rees-Zammit, 13 Giorgi Kveseladze, 12 Mark Atkinson, 11 Santiago Carreras, 10 Billy Twelvetrees, 9 Charlie Chapman, 8 Ruan Ackermann, 7 Lewis Ludlow (captain), 6 Jordy Reid, 5 Matias Alemanno, 4 Ed Slater, 3 Fraser Balmain, 2 Jack Singleton, 1 Val Rapava-Ruskin
Replacements: 16 Santiago Socino, 17 Jamal Ford-Robinson. 18 Bryan O’Connor, 19 Ben Morgan, 20 Jack Clement, 21 Willi Heinz, 22 George Barton, 23 Tom Seabrook
Referee: Ian Tempest
Assistant Referees: Hamish Smales & Wayne Falla.
TMO: Trevor Fisher.
Exeter Chiefs v Worcester Warriors
(Sandy Park – Kick-off: 15.00; 15.00 GMT)
Exeter Chiefs have lost only once in the last six rounds of Premiership Rugby: 18-34 at Gloucester on 26 March. The Chiefs have won their last three encounters at Sandy Park in Premiership Rugby since Northampton beat them there by a single point in February.
Worcester Warriors have lost their last seven Premiership Rugby fixtures since their declared victory against Newcastle on 20 February. The Warriors have at least managed to tally four bonus points in the last four rounds, three try bonus points plus one losing bonus point.
Worcester’s only victory over Exeter in Premiership Rugby was 6-5 at Sandy Park in February 2018.
@rugby365com: Exeter Chiefs by three points
Exeter Chiefs: 15 Stuart Hogg, 14 Jack Nowell, 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 Jonny Gray, 3 Tomas Francis, 2 Luke Cowan-Dickie, 1 Alec Hepburn
Replacements: 16 Jack Yeandle, 17 Ben Moon, 18 Harry Williams, 19 Sean Lonsdale, 20 Richard Capstick, 21 Stu Townsend, 22 Harvey Skinner, 23 Ian Whitten
Worcester Warriors: 15 Jamie Shillcock, 14 Perry Humphreys, 13 Francois Venter, 12 Ashley Beck, 11 Alex Hearle, 10 Fin Smith, 9 Francois Hougaard, 8 Matt Kvesic, 7 Sam Lewis, 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 Joe Batley, 20 Kyle Hatherell, 21 GJ van Velze, 22 Gareth Simpson, 23 Harri Doel
Referee: Anthony Woodthorpe
Assistant Referees: Dean Richards & Robert Warburton.
TMO: Graham Hughes
Newcastle Falcons v London Irish
(Kingston Park – Kick-off: 15.00; 15.00 GMT)
Newcastle Falcons have lost their last six Premiership Rugby matches since beating Harlequins 25-22 at Kingston Park in Round 11. The Falcons have secured just one losing bonus point during that run.
London Irish have lost their last two Premiership Rugby fixtures since they beat Bath 36-33 at the Brentford Community Stadium on 27 March. The Exiles have not won away from home in any competition since beating Wasps at Ricoh Arena at the end of February.
London Irish beat Newcastle 31-22 at Brentford in January and have not achieved a season’s double over the Falcons since 2014/15. Irish have triumphed just once at Kingston Park since 2010.
@rugby365com: London Irish by four points
Newcastle Falcons: 15 Tom Penny, 14 Adam Radwan, 13 Matias Orlando, 12 Luther Burrell, 11 Ben Stevenson, 10 Brett Connon, 9 Louis Schreuder, 8 Callum Chick, 7 Mark Wilson (captain), 6 Will Welch, 5 Sean Robinson, 4 Greg Peterson, 3 Logovi’i Mulipola, 2 George McGuigan, 1 Trevor Davison
Replacements: 16 Jamie Blamire, 17 Kyle Cooper, 18 Mark Tampin, 19 Philip van der Walt, 20 Carl Fearns, 21 Sam Stuart, 22 Joel Hodgson, 23 George Wacokecoke
London Irish: 15 Tom Parton, 14 Ben Loader, 13 Curtis Rona, 12 Phil Cokanasiga, 11 Ollie Hassell-Collins, 10 Paddy Jackson, 9 Nick Phipps, 8 Albert Tuisue, 7 Blair Cowan, 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 Chunya Munga, 20 Ben Donnell, 21 Nic Groom 22 Jacob Atkins, 23 James Stokes
Referee: Craig Maxwell-Keys
Assistant Referees: Jack Makepeace & Philip Watters
TMO: Christophe Ridley.
Bath Rugby v Bristol Bears
(Recreation Ground – Kick-off: 16.30; 16.30 GMT)
Bath Rugby have lost two of their last three Premiership Rugby matches, both away from home, at London Irish and at Wasps. Bath have lost only once at the Recreation Ground in Premiership Rugby since February, 16-38 to Exeter on 6 March.
Bristol Bears six-game winning run in Premiership Rugby ended with their 12-20 reversal at home to Exeter in Round 17. The Bears have not lost successive regular season Premiership Rugby matches since last August. The Bears have lost only once away from home in Premiership Rugby this season, at Wasps in Round 1.
The Bears have lost only one of their last six fixtures against Bath: 19-26 in “The Clash” at Twickenham in April 2019. Bristol beat Bath 19-13 on their most recent visit to the Rec in March 2020, their first victory at the venue since 2006.
@rugby365com: Bristol Bears by seven points
Bath: 15 Tom de Glanville, 14 Anthony Watson, 13 Max Clark, 12 Cameron Redpath, 11 Will Muir, 10 Orlando Bailey, 9 Ben Spencer, 8 Taulupe Faletau, 7 Miles Reid, 6 Josh Bayliss, 5 Elliott Stooke, 4 Josh McNally (captain), 3 Will Stuart, 2 Tom Dunn, 1 Juan Schoeman
Replacements: 16 Jacques du Toit, 17 Jamie Bhatti, 18 Christian Judge, 19 Charlie Ewels, 20 Tom Ellis, 21 Will Chudley, 22 Rhys Priestland, 23 Alex Gray
Bristol Bears: 15 Charles Piutau, 14 Luke Morahan, 13 Semi Radradra, 12 Siale Piutau, 11 Max Malins, 10 Callum Sheedy, 9 Andy Uren, 8 Nathan Hughes, 7 Ben Earl, 6 Steven Luatua (captain), 5 Chris Vui, 4 Dave Attwood, 3 Kyle Sinckler, 2 Bryan Byrne, 1 Yann Thomas
Replacements: 16 Jake Kerr, 17 Jake Woolmore, 18 John Afoa, 19 Ed Holmes, 20 Jake Heenan, 21 Tom Kessell, 22 Ioan Lloyd, 23 Alapati Leiua
Referee: Luke Pearce
Assistant Referees: Adam Leal & Jonathan Healy
TMO: Rowan Kitt.
Sunday, May 9
Harlequins v Wasps
(Twickenham Stoop – Kick-off: 15.00; 15.00 GMT)
Harlequins have won their last two Premiership Rugby matches against Worcester and London Irish and have not won three in succession in the competition since February. Harlequins are unbeaten in their last six Premiership Rugby matches at the Twickenham Stoop their best sequence without defeat at home since 2016.
Wasps have won just twice in the last eight rounds of Premiership Rugby, at Newcastle in Round 14 and at home to Bath in Round 17. The 39-29 victory over Bath in the last round was Wasps first try bonus point in the tournament since January.
The last three occasions that the two clubs have met have all gone the way of home-field advantage, whilst Wasps have been victorious on their last two visits to the Stoop.
@rugby365com: Harlequins by five points
Harlequins: 15 Mike Brown, 14 Tyrone Green, 13 Joe Marchant, 12 Luke Northmore, 11 Cadan Murley, 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 Santiagio Garcia Botta, 18 Will Collier, 19 Dino Lamb, 20 Archie White, 21 Martin Landajo, 22 James Lang, 23 Paul Lasike
Wasps: 15 Rob Miller, 14 Zach Kibirige, 13 Paolo Odogwu, 12 Malakai Fekitoa, 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 Kieran Brookes, 2 Tommy Taylor, 1 Tom West
Replacements: 16 Gabriel Oghre, 17 Simon McIntyre, 18 Jeff Toomaga-Allen, 19 Tim Cardall, 20 Ben Morris, 21 Will Porter, 22 Charlie Atkinson, 23 Michael Le Bourgeois
Referee: Wayne Barnes
Assistant Referees: Matthew Carley & Paul Dix.
TMO: Stuart Terheege