Premiership, Round 21 - Teams and Predictions
SPOTLIGHT: With all four teams confirmed for the Premiership semifinals, the battle for a home tie and a place in next season’s Champions Cup heats up in Round 21 of the regular season.
The action begins with a crucial game between third-place Sale Sharks and Harlequins in fourth, who confirmed their first semifinal appearance in seven years with a 44-33 win over Bath last time out.
Just two points separate the sides ahead of a colossal clash at the AJ Bell Stadium on Friday.
In another hugely exciting match-up, Premiership league leaders Bristol Bears travel to Welford Road to face Steve Borthwick’s Leicester Tigers.
Pat Lam’s side will be looking to bounce straight back after a 12-22 defeat away against a Sale Sharks side that featured the returning Manu Tuilagi last week.
A win for the Bears would confirm a semifinal date at Ashton Gate.
Getting underway at the same time is Worcester Warriors’ trip to Kingston Park where they will lock horns with Newcastle Falcons.
Both sides lost in Round 20 but the margin of their defeats could not have been more different, with the Warriors losing 17-18 to the Tigers and the Falcons going down 3-74 to Exeter Chiefs.
Saturday’s other game will see London Irish face Wasps at the Brentford Community Stadium.
Sunday’s fixture sees Northampton Saints play host to Exeter Chiefs as Round 21 concludes at Franklin’s Gardens.
The corresponding fixture in Devon ended in dramatic circumstances as Chiefs’ flyhalf and skipper Joe Simmonds was charged down after having been adjudged to have started his run-up for a touchline conversion.
With Simmonds unable to convert Sam Skinner’s late try in the corner, the Chiefs were denied the chance to pull off a last-gasp victory in February as the match finished 13-12 in Saints’ favour.
Rob Baxter’s men need to win this time around as they bid to secure a sixth home semifinal in succession.
We take a closer look at all Round 21’s matches!
Friday, June 4:
Sale Sharks v Harlequins
(AJ Bell Stadium, Salford – Kick-off: 19.45; 18.45 GMT)
Sale Sharks have lost just once in the last ten rounds of the Premiership: 14-17 at Northampton on 13 March. Consequently, Sale have qualified for the semifinals for the first time since 2006. The Sharks have won their last six matches at AJ Bell Stadium in the Premiership since Bath beat them there in Round Nine.
Harlequins have reached the play-offs for the first time in seven years and have lost just once in their last five Premiership fixtures: 29-35 at Leicester on 15 May. Quins have won only one of their last five away games in the Premiership: 25-21 at London Irish in Round 17.
Harlequins beat Sale 24-12 at the Twickenham Stoop in Round 10 and have not achieved a Premiership season’s double over Sale since 2013/14. Harlequins have lost on their last six visits to AJ Bell Stadium in all competitions since their 25-23 victory there in Premiership Rugby in April 2015.
@rugby365com: Sale by five points.
Sale: 15 Simon Hammersley, 14 Byron McGuigan, 13 Sam James, 12 Manu Tuilagi, 11 Marland Yarde, 10 AJ MacGinty, 9 Faf de Klerk, 8 Daniel du Preez, 7 Ben Curry, 6 Cameron Neild, 5 Jean-Luc du Preez, 4 Josh Beaumont (captain), 3 Coenie Oosthuizen, 2 Akker van der Merwe, 1 Ross Harrison.
Replacements: 16 Curtis Langdon, 17 Bevan Rodd, 18 Will-Griff John, 19 Jean-Pierre du Preez, 20 Jono Ross, 21 Will Cliff, 22 Robert du Preez, 23 Rohan Janse van Rensburg.
Harlequins: 15 Tyrone Green, 14 Aaron Morris, 13 Joe Marchant, 12 Ben Tapuai, 11 Oscar Beard, 10 James Lang, 9 Martin Landajo, 8 Tom Lawday, 7 Luke Wallace, 6 Archie White, 5 Stephan Lewies, 4 Dino Lamb, 3 Will Collier, 2 Joe Gray, 1 Santiago Garcia Botta.
Replacements: 16 Elia Elia, 17 Fin Baxter, 18 Simon Kerrod, 19 Tevita Cavubati, 20 Hugh Tizard, 21 Scott Steele, 22 Will Edwards, 23 Louis Lynagh.
Referee: Wayne Barnes
Assistant Referees: Paul Dix & Jamie Leahy
TMO: Trevor Fisher
Saturday, June 5:
Leicester Tigers v Bristol Bears
(Welford Road, Leicester – Kick-off: 15.00; 14.00 GMT)
Leicester Tigers have won their last two Premiership matches against Harlequins and Worcester and have not won three in succession in the competition for three years. The Tigers only home defeat in any tournament since the end of January was 18-23 to Northampton in Round 17 of the Premiership.
Bristol Bears have lost just twice in the Premiership since Round Eight, but both of those have been in their last four matches, at home to Exeter and away to Sale last weekend. The Bears have not lost successive away matches in the Premiership in the same season since January 2020.
The Bears have lost only once to the Tigers in their last five fixtures: 18-31 at Welford Road in January 2020. Bristol have beaten Leicester just once at Welford Road in the Premiership: 23-20 in April 2019.
@rugby365com: Leicester by three points.
Leicester Tigers: 15 Freddie Steward 14 Harry Potter, 13 Matías Moroni, 12 Matt Scott, 11 Kini Murimurivalu, 10 Johnny McPhillips, 9 Ben Youngs, 8 Hanro Liebenberg, 7 Tommy Reffell, 6 George Martin, 5 Cameron Henderson, 4 Harry Wells, 3 Dan Cole, 2 Tom Youngs (captain), 1 Ellis Genge.
Replacements: 16 Julián Montoya, 17 James Whitcombe, 18 Joe Heyes, 19 Tomás Lavanini, 20 Jasper Wiese, 21 Richard Wigglesworth, 22 Zack Henry, 23 Nemani Nadolo.
Bristol Bears: 15 Max Malins, 14 Piers O’Conor, 13 Semi Radradra, 12 Siale Piutau, 11 Henry Purdy, 10 Callum Sheedy, 9 Harry Randall, 8 Nathan Hughes, 7 Dan Thomas, 6 Steven Luatua (captain), 5 Chris Vui, 4 Dave Attwood, 3 Kyle Sinckler, 2 Will Capon, 1 Yann Thomas.
Replacements: 16 Jake Kerr, 17 Jake Woolmore, 18 John Afoa, 19 Joe Joyce, 20 Ben Earl, 21 Andy Uren, 22 Ioan Lloyd, 23 Alapati Leiua.
Referee: Ian Tempest
Assistant Referees: Hamish Smales & Rob Warburton
TMO: Karl Dickson.
Newcastle Falcons v Worcester Warriors
(Kingston Park, Newcastle – Kick-off: 15.00; 14.00 GMT)
Newcastle Falcons suffered their second biggest Premiership defeat last Sunday at Exeter. The Falcons have won their last two home games, against London Irish and Northampton and have not won three in succession at home in the Premiership since 2018.
Worcester Warriors have lost their last ten Premiership matches since their declared victory over Newcastle in February although the Warriors have picked up a losing bonus point in three of their last four fixtures. The Warriors only away win in the Premiership since November 2019 was on a trip to London Irish in Round 20 last season.
The two clubs should have met in Round 10, but the game was not played due to Covid-19. The Falcons achieved a Premiership season’s double over the Warriors in 2018/19 something they had never achieved before. The Warriors most recent victory at Kingston Park was by a single point in March 2016.
@rugby365com: Newcastle by 10 points.
Newcastle Falcons: 15 Joel Hodgson, 14 Adam Radwan, 13 Matias Orlando, 12 Luther Burrell, 11 George Wacokecoke, 10 Brett Connon, 9 Louis Schreuder, 8 Callum Chick, 7 Mark Wilson (captain), 6 Will Welch, 5 Sean Robinson, 4 Greg Peterson, 3 Trevor Davison, 2 George McGuigan, 1 Adam Brocklebank.
Replacements: 16 Jamie Blamire, 17 Kyle Cooper, 18 Rodney Ah You, 19 Philip van der Walt, 20 Carl Fearns, 21 Michael Young, 22 Chidera Obonna, 23 Alex Tait.
Worcester Warriors: 15 Jamie Shillcock, 14 Perry Humphreys, 13 Ollie Lawrence, 12 Francois Venter, 11 Noah Heward, 10 Duncan Weir, 9 Francois Hougaard, 8 Matt Kvesic, 7 Sam Lewis, 6 Tom Dodd, 5 Graham Kitchener, 4 Ted Hill (captain), 3 Jay Tyack, 2 Beck Cutting, 1 Marc Thomas.
Replacements: 16 Niall Annett, 17 Ethan Waller, 18 Nick Schonert, 19 Justin Clegg, 20 GJ van Velze, 21 Gareth Simpson, 22 Alex Hearle, 23 Harri Doel.
Referee: Luke Pearce
Assistant Referees: Adam Leal & John Meredith
TMO: Sean Davey
London Irish v Wasps
(Brentford Community Stadium, Brentford – Kick-off: 16.30; 15.30 GMT)
London Irish have lost their last five Premiership matches since beating Bath 36-33 at Brentford at the end of March. The Exiles have lost their last two games at Brentford Community Stadium and have not suffered three successive home defeats in the Premiership since they were at the Twickenham Stoop last season.
Wasps last five Premiership fixtures have all been won by the home side on the day. Wasps have won just once on the road since February: 20-18 at Newcastle in Round 14 of the Premiership.
Curiously, the away side has won in four of the last five Premiership encounters between these two clubs, whilst Irish have not managed a home win over Wasps since February 2013.
@rugby365com: Wasps by three points.
London Irish: 15 Tom Parton, 14 James Stokes, 13 Curtis Rona, 12 Terrence Hepetema, 11 Ollie Hassell-Collins, 10 Paddy Jackson, 9 Nic Groom, 8 Albert Tuisue, 7 Blair Cowan (captain), 6 Matt Rogerson, 5 Rob Simmons, 4 Adam Coleman, 3 Ollie Hoskins, 2 Agustin Creevy, 1 Will Goodrick-Clarke.
Replacements: 16 Motu Matu’u, 17 Facundo Gigena, 18 Ollie Hoskins, 19 George Nott, 20 Sean O’Brien, 21 Jack Cooke, 22 Rory Brand, 23 Jacob Atkins.
Wasps: 15 Charlie Atkinson, 14 Marcus Watson, 13 Juan de Jongh, 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 Kieran Brookes, 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: Tom Foley
Assistant Referees: Andrew Jackson & Roy Maybank
TMO: Matthew Carley
Sunday, June 6:
Northampton Saints v Exeter Chiefs
(Franklin’s Gardens, Northampton – Kick-off: 15.00; 14.00 GMT)
Northampton Saints two-game losing run in the Premiership ended with their 30-25 home win over Wasps on Saturday. The Saints have not won successive home games in the Premiership since December 2019.
Exeter Chiefs achieved their biggest ever Premiership victory at home to Newcastle on Sunday and have lost just once in the tournament since February, on a trip to Gloucester in Round 15. The Chiefs became only the fifth side, and the first since 1999, to score a dozen tries in a Premiership match in their Round 20 victory.
Northampton beat Exeter 13-12 at Sandy Park in Round 10, their first Premiership victory over the Chiefs since 2018. Northampton have not achieved a Premiership Rugby season’s double over the Devonians since 2013/14. Exeter have won on two of their last three visits to Franklin’s Gardens.
@rugby365com: Exeter by seven points.
Northampton: 15 Tommy Freeman, 14 Ollie Sleightholme, 13 Matt Proctor, 12 Rory Hutchinson, 11 Taqele Naiyaravoro, 10 Dan Biggar, 9 Tom James, 8 Tom Wood, 7 Lewis Ludlam (co-captain), 6 Courtney Lawes, 5 Api Ratuniyarawa, 4 David Ribbans, 3 Ehren Painter, 2 Sam Matavesi, 1 Alex Waller (co-captain).
Replacements: 16 Mike Haywood, 17 Emmanuel Iyogun, 18 Paul Hill, 19 Alex Moon, 20 Alex Coles, 21 Alex Mitchell, 22 James Grayson, 23 Fraser Dingwall.
Exeter: 15 Stuart Hogg, 14 Facundo Cordero, 13 Henry Slade, 12 Ian Whitten, 11 Tom O’Flaherty, 10 Joe Simmonds (captain), 9 Jack Maunder, 8 Sam Simmonds, 7 Jannes Kirsten, 6 Sam Skinner, 5 Jonny Hill, 4 Jonny Gray, 3 Harry Williams, 2 Luke Cowan-Dickie, 1 Ben Moon.
Replacements: 16 Jack Yeandle, 17 Alec Hepburn, 18 Marcus Street, 19 Sean Lonsdale, 20 Richard Capstick, 21 Stu Townsend, 22 Harvey Skinner, 23 Ollie Devoto.
Referee: Craig Maxwell-Keys
Assistant Referees: Sara Cox & Dean Richards.
TMO: Claire Hodnett