Premiership Round Nine - teams and predictions
BOTTLENECK AT THE TOP: As we head into Round Nine of the championship we have eight 20-somethings in the league – with just eight points separating the sides from second to ninth!
Bristol Bears – the league leaders – are the first side to reach 30 points and take an enviable away record on the short journey to Kingsholm Stadium to face Gloucester on Friday.
The west country derby isn’t the only game on Friday as Bath travel to third-placed Sale Sharks, with Alex Sanderson’s side on a four-game winning run in Premiership. The Sharks are fresh from toppling leaders Bristol Bears.
We have two fixtures on Saturday, the first which sees Leicester Tigers arrive at the Twickenham Stoop to take on Harlequins. Champions Exeter Chiefs host London Irish
Round Nine concludes at Sixways Stadium on Sunday, where Worcester Warriors host a Wasps team that have won their last dozen fixtures against the Warriors in Premiership since Worcester’s 29-23 victory at Sixways in March 2013.
*Saturday’s match between Northampton Saints and Newcastle Falcons has been called off due to positive COVID-19 tests in the Falcons camp.
We look at the Round Nine matches
Friday, February 12
Gloucester v Bristol Bears
(Kingsholm – Kick-off: 19.45; 19.45 GMT)
Gloucester has not been victorious in Premiership since beating Wasps at Kingsholm in Round Two.
The Cherry & Whites have lost their last three home games in the tournament, their worst run at Kingsholm since 2016.
Bristol Bears six-game winning run in Premiership ended with their home defeat to Sale last Friday. Bristol have won their last three away games in all competitions, their best sequence on the road since they were playing in England’s second-tier in season 2017/18.
Bristol have won their last five fixtures against Gloucester in all competitions since Gloucester’s 35-13 victory at Kingsholm in Premiership in September 2018. The Bears have won only twice at Kingsholm in Premiership, in March 2006 and August 2020.
@rugby365com: Bristol by 11 points
Gloucester: 15 Jason Woodward, 14 Santiago Carreras, 13 Henry Trinder, 12 Mark Atkinson, 11 Ollie Thorley, 10 Billy Twelvetrees, 9 Willi Heinz, 8 Freddie Clarke, 7 Lewis Ludlow (captain), 6 Jamie Gibson, 5 Matias Alemanno, 4 Matt Garvey, 3 Fraser Balmain, 2 Henry Walker, 1 Val Rapava-Ruskin.
Replacements: 16 Santiago Socino, 17 Alex Seville, 18 Jamal Ford-Robinson, 19 Alex Craig, 20 Ben Morgan, 21 Charlie Chapman, 22 Giorgi Kveseladze, 23 Kyle Moyle.
Bristol Bears: 15 Charles Piutau, 14 Luke Morahan, 13 Piers O’Conor, 12 Siale Piutau, 11 Henry Purdy, 10 Ioan Lloyd, 9 Andy Uren, 8 Nathan Hughes, 7 Dan Thomas, 6 Jake Heenan, 5 Chris Vui, 4 Dave Attwood, 3 John Afoa (captain), 2 Bryan Byrne, 1 Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro.
Replacements: 16 Will Capon, 17 Jake Woolmore, 18 Jake Armstrong, 19 Ed Holmes, 20 Fitz Harding, 21 Tom Kessell, 22 Sam Bedlow, 23 Alapati Leiua.
Referee: Tom Foley
Assistant referees: Simon Harding & Simon McConnell
TMO: David Rose
Sale Sharks v Bath
(AJ Bell Stadium – Kick-off: 20.00; 20.00 GMT)
Sale Sharks have won their last four Premiership encounters since their home defeat to Wasps in Round Four and have not won five in succession in the competition since 2006.
Bath have lost their last four Premiership fixtures, they have not lost five in succession in the competition since 2002. Bath’s only away win in any tournament since September was 33-17 at Worcester in Round Three of Premiership.
Bath have lost just once in their last five fixtures against Sale: 3-6 at AJ Bell Stadium in April 2019. Bath’s two victories in Salford in Premiership were in September 2014 and September 2020.
@rugby365com: Sale Sharks by 15 points
Sale Sharks: 15 Simon Hammersley, 14 Byron McGuigan, 13 Conor Doherty, 12 Sam Hill, 11 Tom Roebuck, 10 Robert du Preez, 9 Will Cliff, 8 Daniel du Preez, 7 Jono Ross (captain), 6 Jean-Luc du Preez, 5 Jean-Pierre du Preez, 4 James Phillips, 3 Coenie Oosthuizen, 2 Curtis Langdon, 1 Ross Harrison.
Replacements: 16 Ewan Ashman, 17 Valerey Morozov, 18 Will-Griff John, 19 Matt Postlethwaite, 20 Cameron Neild, 21 Francois de Klerk, 22 AJ MacGinty, 23 Luke James.
Bath: 15 Tom de Glanville, 14 Semesa Rokoduguni, 13 Max Clark, 12 Josh Matavesi, 11 Will Muir, 10 Rhys Priestland, 9 Ben Spencer, 8 Zach Mercer, 7 Miles Reid, 6 Josh Bayliss, 5 Mike Williams, 4 Josh McNally (captain), 3 Christian Judge, 2 Tom Dunn, 1 Juan Schoeman.
Replacements: 16 Jack Walker, 17 Jamie Bhatti, 18 Henry Thomas, 19 Ewan Richards, 20 Ethan Staddon, 21 Will Chudley, 22 Tian Schoeman, 23 Alex Gray.
Referee: Christophe Ridley
Assistant referees: Peter Allan & Wayne Falla.
TMO: Trevor Fisher
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Saturday, February 13
Harlequins v Leicester Tigers
(Twickenham Stoop – Kick-off: 16.00; 16.00 GMT)
Harlequins have won their last two Premiership matches and have not won three in a row in the tournament since March 2019.
The Londoners have not been victorious at the Twickenham Stoop in any competition since beating Northampton there on 30 August.
Leicester Tigers only defeat in the last four Rounds of Premiership was at home to Sale on 29 January, although this sequence does include a declared win over Northampton in Round 6. The Tigers have not won a Premiership match played away from home since a trip to Newcastle in April 2019.
Harlequins are unbeaten in their last three encounters with the Tigers since Leicester’s 35-24 victory at Welford Road in December 2018. Tigers have won on two of their last three visits to the Stoop in Premiership.
@rugby365com: Harlequins by seven points
Harlequins: 15 Mike Brown, 14 Louis Lynagh, 13 Joe Marchant, 12 Andre Esterhuizen, 11 Aaron Morris, 10 Marcus Smith, 9 Danny Care, 8 Alex Dombrandt, 7 Will Evans, 6 Archie White, 5 Stephan Lewies, 4 Matt Symons, 3 Simon Kerrod, 2 Scott Baldwin, 1 Joe Marler.
Replacements: 16 Elia Elia, 17 Santiago Garcia Botta, 18 Wilco Louw, 19 Glen Young, 20 Richard de Carpentier, 21 Martin Landajo, 22 Brett Herron, 23 Ben Tapuai.
Leicester: 15 Freddie Steward, 14 Matías Moroni, 13 Jaco Taute, 12 Matt Scott, 11 Kini Murimurivalu, 10 Zack Henry, 9 Jack Van Poortvliet, 8 Hanro Liebenberg, 7 Cyle Brink, 6 George Martin, 5 Calum Green, 4 Tomás Lavanini, 3 Joe Heyes, 2 Julián Montoya, 1 Luan de Bruin.
Replacements: 16 Tom Youngs, 17 Nephi Leatigaga, 18 Dan Cole, 19 Harry Wells, 20 Tommy Reffell, 21 Ben White, 22 Johnny McPhillips, 23 Dan Kelly.
Referee: Anthony Woodthorpe
Assistant referees: Mike Hudson & Paul Dix.
TMO: Graham Hughes
Exeter Chiefs v London Irish
(Sandy Park – Kick-off: 16.15; 16.15 GMT)
Exeter Chiefs have lost only twice in their last 10 Premiership matches, both in early January, at Wasps and at home to Bristol.
The Bristol defeat ended a four-game winning run at Sandy Park in all competitions.
Excluding their two declared defeats in Rounds Four and Five, London Irish have not lost in Premiership since their home fixture with Sale on 6 December. The Exiles most recent away win in Premiership rugby was against today’s opponents, Exeter, at Sandy Park in Round 21 last season.
London Irish have not won successive fixtures against Exeter since 2011. The Exiles only other victory at Sandy Park was 12-9 in October 2010.
@rugby365com: Exeter Chiefs by nine points
Exeter: 15 Josh Hodge, 14 Alex Cuthbert, 13 Tom Hendrickson, 12 Ollie Devoto, 11 Tom O’Flaherty, 10 Joe Simmonds, 9 Jack Maunder, 8 Sam Simmonds, 7 Richard Capstick, 6 Dave Ewers, 5 Sam Skinner, 4 Will Witty, 3 Harry Williams, 2 Jack Yeandle (captain), 1 Alec Hepburn.
Replacements: 16 Jack Innard, 17 James Kenny, 18 Marcus Street, 19 Don Armand, 20 Sean Lonsdale, 21 Stu Townsend, 22 Harvey Skinner, 23 Ian Whitten.
London Irish: 15 James Stokes, 14 Ben Loader, 13 Curtis Rona, 12 Terrence Hepetema, 11 Ollie Hassell-Collins, 10 Paddy Jackson, 9 Ben Meehan, 8 Albert Tuisue, 7 Blair Cowan (captain), 6 Ben Donnell, 5 Rob Simmons, 4 Steve Mafi, 3 Lovejoy Chawatama, 2 Agustin Creevy, 1 Will Goodrick-Clarke.
Replacements: 16 Motu Matu’u, 17 Allan Dell, 18 Ollie Hoskins, 19 George Nott, 20 Matt Rogerson, 21 Jack Cooke, 22 Nick Phipps, 23 Theo Brophy-Clews.
Referee: Jack Makepeace
Assistant referees: Greg Macdonald & Jonathan Healy.
TMO: Geoffrey Warren
Sunday, February 14
Worcester Warriors v Wasps
(Sixways – 13.00; 13.00 GMT)
Worcester Warriors only ‘victory’ in any competition since November was the declared win at home to Harlequins in Round Five of Premiership.
The Warriors most recent success in a match played at Sixways was 11-10 over London Irish on the opening weekend of the season.
Wasps have lost their last two Premiership matches both at home, to Harlequins and Northampton, and have not lost three in succession in the competition since December 2019. Wasps have lost only once away from home in their last nine trips in all tournaments: 24-40 against Gloucester at Kingsholm in Round 2 of Premiership.
Wasps have won their last dozen fixtures against the Warriors in Premiership since Worcester’s 29-23 victory at Sixways in March 2013.
@rugby365com: Wasps by three points
Worcester: 15 Chris Pennell, 14 Perry Humphreys, 13 Francois Venter, 12 Ashley Beck, 11 Nick David, 10 Jamie Shillcock, 9 Gareth Simpson, 8 Cornell du Preez, 7 Matt Kvesic, 6 Ted Hill (captain), 5 Justin Clegg, 4 Graham Kitchener, 3 Nick Schonert, 2 Isaac Miller, 1 Ethan Waller.
Replacements: 16 Beck Cutting, 17 Marc Thomas, 18 Richard Palframan, 19 Andrew Kitchener, 20 GJ van Velze, 21 Michael Heaney, 22 Fin Smith, 23 Oli Morris.
Wasps: 15 Matteo Minozzi, 14 Zach Kibirige, 13 Malakai Fekitoa, 12 Jimmy Gopperth, 11 Josh Bassett, 10 Charlie Atkinson, 9 Sam Wolstenholme, 8 Tom Willis, 7 Ben Morris, 6 Brad Shields (captain), 5 James Gaskell, 4 Levi Douglas, 3 Kieran Brookes, 2 Tommy Taylor, 1 Tom West.
Replacements: 16 Tom Cruse, 17 Ben Harris, 18 Jeff Toomaga-Allen, 19 Theo Vukasinovic, 20 Sione Vailanu, 21 Ben Vellacott, 22 Jacob Umaga, 23 Michael Le Bourgeois.
Referee: Ian Tempest
Assistant referees: Dean Richards & Sara Cox.
TMO: Claire Hodnett