Premiership, Round Eight - Teams and Predictions
PREVIEW: It is first v third and second v fourth in the Premiership this weekend as another nail-biting season sees just seven points separate the sides in second and eighth.
The top-of-table clashes start on Friday when Bristol Bears host their second consecutive home game, and this time it is Sale Sharks who make the trip south to Ashton Gate.
Both sides come into the match after impressive wins at the weekend, the Bears beating Bath and Sale Sharks taking four points from their trip to Mattioli Woods Welford Road.
The weekend concludes on Sunday with second-placed Exeter Chiefs making the long journey to the north-east to take on Newcastle Falcons, who are fourth. The Chiefs have lost just twice in 17 previous fixtures against the Falcons in the Premiership, both at Kingston Park in October 2014 and January 2018.
In between the two top of the table matches we have a packed Saturday which kicks off at the Ricoh Arena when Northampton Saints make the short journey to Coventry. Bath and Harlequins follow them with both London Irish v Gloucester and Leicester Tigers v Worcester Warriors after that.
We take a closer look at all Round Eight’s matches!
Friday, February 5:
Bristol Bears v Sale Sharks
(Ashton Gate, Bristol – Kick-off: 19.45; 19.45 GMT)
Bristol Bears have won their last six Premiership matches since their opening weekend defeat at Wasps. Bristol’s solitary home defeat in the Premiership since December 2019 was 22-25 to Exeter in August 2020.
Sale Sharks have won their last three Premiership fixtures since their 23-26 defeat at home to Wasps on 27 December. The Sharks have lost only once away from home in Premiership Rugby since August: 13-15 at Newcastle at the end of November.
The last three encounters between the two clubs have been evenly split with one win apiece in addition to a draw. Sale have visited Ashton Gate on four previous occasions in all competitions with their only victory being 31-13 in the Premiership in October 2016.
@rugby365com: Bristol by eight points.
Bristol: 15 Charles Piutau, 14 Siva Naulago, 13 Piers O’Conor, 12 Siale Piutau, 11 Henry Purdy, 10 Ioan Lloyd, 9 Andy Uren, 8 Nathan Hughes, 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 Yann Thomas, 18 Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro, 19 Ed Holmes, 20 Jake Heenan, 21 Tom Kessell, 22 Sam Bedlow, 23 Alapati Leiua.
Sale: 15 Luke James, 14 Byron McGuigan, 13 Sam James, 12 Sam Hill, 11 Marland Yarde, 10 AJ Macginty, 9 Faf De Klerk, 8 Jean-Luc Du Preez, 7 Cameron Neild, 6 Jono Ross (captain), 5 Cobus Wiese, 4 Josh Beaumont, 3 WillGriff John, 2 Curtis Langdon, 1 Bevan Rodd.
Replacements: 16 Ewan Ashman, 17 Ross Harrison, 18 Coenie Oosthuizen, 19 James Phillips, 20 Sam Dugdale, 21 Will Cliff, 22 Robert Du Preez, 23 Simon Hammersley.
Referee: Luke Pearce
Assistant Referees: Jack Makepeace, Simon McConnell.
TMO: Tom Foley.
Saturday, February 6:
Wasps v Northampton Saints
(Ricoh Arena, Coventry – Kick-off: 13.00; 13.00 GMT)
Wasps five game-winning run in all competitions came to an abrupt halt with their home defeat to Harlequins last Sunday. Wasps have lost two of their last three Premiership fixtures in Coventry.
Excluding walkovers, Northampton Saints have won their last two Premiership matches, at home to Worcester and away at Gloucester, but have not won three in succession in the competition since November 2019, whilst they have not had three successive maximum points wins in the tournament since 2017.
The last four fixtures between the two clubs have been shared with two wins apiece. Northampton gained a first-ever Premiership victory at Ricoh Arena on their last visit in January 2020.
@rugby365com: Wasps by five points
Referee: Adam Leal
Assistant Referees: George Selwood, Rob Warburton
TMO: Stuart Terheege
Bath v Harlequins
(Recreation Ground, Bath – Kick-off: 14.15; 14.15 GMT)
Bath’s most recent victory in any competition, excluding the declared victory against London Irish on Boxing Day, was at Worcester in Round Three of the Premiership. Bath’s most recent victory in a match played at the Recreation Ground was 31-20 over Gloucester in Round 21 last season.
Harlequins 49-17 eclipsing of Wasps on Sunday was their first victory in any tournament since early December. The Londoners have won their last six away games in the Premiership excluding the declared defeat to Worcester in Round Five.
Bath achieved a Premiership double over Harlequins last season for the first time since 2014/15 and have never won three games in succession against the Londoners in the Premiership.
@rugby365com: Harlequins by four points
Referee: Craig Maxwell-Keys
Assistant Referees: Simon Harding, Jonathan Healy
TMO: Rowan Kitt
London Irish v Gloucester
(Brentford Community Stadium, London – Kick-off: 15.00; 15.00 GMT)
London Irish’s 31-22 victory over Newcastle on Sunday was their first victory in the Premiership since beating Leicester Tigers at Brentford Community Stadium on 29 November.
Gloucester’s only victory in the Premiership this season was at home to Wasps in Round Two. The Cherry & White’s only victory away from home in any competition since October 2019 was 44-15 at Worcester in the Premiership last August.
Gloucester have lost only two of their last ten Premiership encounters with London Irish, both at Madejski Stadium in March 2016 and February 2020.
@rugby365com: London Irish by seven points
London Irish: TBC
Referee: Ian Tempest
Assistant Referees: Dean Richards, Paul Dix
TMO: Graham Hughes
Leicester Tigers v Worcester Warriors
(Welford Road, Leicester – Kick-off: 15.00; 15.00 GMT)
Leicester Tigers have won just once, excluding walkovers, since Round One of the Premiership, 36-31 at home to Bath on 3 January. Tigers two defeats at home this season were both in Premiership Rugby to Exeter in Round Three and to Sale Sharks last Friday.
Worcester Warriors only victory so far this season, excluding the declared win over Harlequins, was at home to London Irish in Round One. The Warriors have won only once away from home in any competition since November 2019, 40-25 at London Irish in September.
Leicester’s 14-8 victory over Worcester last February ended a three-game losing run to the Warriors in the Premiership. Worcester have won on three of their last four visits to Welford Road in all competitions.
@rugby365com: Leicester by fie points
Leicester Tigers: TBC
Worcester Warriors: TBC
Referee: Andrew Jackson
Assistant Referees: Greg Macdonald, Wayne Falla
TMO: Trevor Fisher
Sunday, February 7:
Newcastle Falcons v Exeter Chiefs
(Kingston Park, Newcastle – Kick-off: 13.00; 13.00 GMT)
Newcastle Falcons have lost two of their last three Premiership matches after beginning the campaign with four straight victories. Newcastle’s most recent defeat at Kingston Park was to Bristol in Round 22 last season.
Exeter Chiefs two-game losing run in the Premiership ended with their 21-17 victory at Worcester on Saturday. The Chiefs only loss in their last four Premiership away games in was 5-34 at Wasps in Round Five.
The Chiefs have lost just twice in seventeen previous fixtures against the Falcons in the Premiership, both at Kingston Park in October 2014 and January 2018.
@rugby365com: Exeter by nine points
Referee: Anthony Woodthorpe
Assistant Referees: Jack Makepeace, Peter Allan
TMO: Trevor Fisher