Preview: Premiership, Round 11
IN THE SPOTLIGHT: This weekend marks halfway point in the Premiership Rugby league season with another set of bumper crowds heading to watch top-flight rugby in England.
With ten rounds done, it could hardly be tighter, and incredibly just eight points separate Wasps in fourth and Newcastle Falcons in 12th, which means victory this weekend could see a side leap up the table.
Friday, December 28
Northampton Saints v Exeter Chiefs
(Franklin’s Gardens, Kick-off: 19.45)
Northampton Saints have tallied just 10 league points from their five Premiership Rugby home games this season, only Newcastle have a poorer return at home. The Saints only defeat in their last four home games in all tournaments was 14-16 to Newcastle in Premiership Rugby on 1 December.
Exeter Chiefs only defeat in the first ten rounds of Gallagher Premiership Rugby was 26-28 at Harlequins on 30 November. The Chiefs are the best away side in Premiership Rugby this season having gleaned 21 points from their five trips so far.
Exeter have won their last three encounters with Saints in Premiership Rugby since Northampton’s 2019 victory at Franklin’s Gardens in September 2016.
Northampton: 15 Ahsee Tuala, 14 Tom Collins, 13 Piers Francis, 12 Luther Burrell, 11 Taqele Naiyaravoro, 10 Dan Biggar, 9 Cobus Reinach, 8 Teimana Harrison, 7 Lewis Ludlam, 6 Jamie Gibson, 5 Courtney Lawes, 4 David Ribbans, 3 Paul Hill, 2 Dylan Hartley (co-captain), 1 Alex Waller (co-captain).
Replacements: 16 Reece Marshall, 17 Francois van Wyk, 18 Ben Franks, 19 Api Ratuniyarawa, 20 Tom Wood, 21 Heinrich Brüssow, 22 Alex Mitchell, 23 Fraser Dingwall.
Exeter Chiefs: 15 Joe Simmonds, 14 Santiago Cordero, 13 Ian Whitten, 12 Ollie Devoto, 11 Tom O’Flaherty, 10 Gareth Steenson (captain), 9 Jack Maunder, 8 Matt Kvesic, 7 Don Armand, 6 Sean Lonsdale, 5 Sam Skinner, 4 Mitch Lees, 3 Harry Williams, 2 Elvis Taione, 1 Ben Moon.
Replacements: 16 Luke Cowan-Dickie, 17 Alec Hepburn, 18 Tomas Francis, 19 Jonny Hill, 20 Tom Lawday, 21 Nic White, 22 Henry Slade, 23 Phil Dollman.
Referee: Ian Tempest
Assistant Referees: Steve Lee & Wayne Falla.
TMO: Keith Lewis.
Saturday, December 29
Gloucester Rugby v Sale Sharks
(Kingsholm Stadium, Kick-off: 15.00)
Gloucester Rugby have lost just once in the last five rounds of Premiership Rugby: 6-23 away to table topping Exeter on 24 November. Gloucester’s only home defeat in Premiership Rugby this season was to Harlequins in round 5.
Sale Sharks have lost only once in the last five rounds of Gallagher Premiership Rugby: 25-31 at Saracens on 17 November. The Sharks have picked up just four league points on their travels in Premiership Rugby this season – only Bristol have fared worse on the road.
The Sharks most recent away win in the tournament came at Northampton in March. Gloucester’s only loss in their last six fixtures with Sale was 10-57 at Salford in September 2017 whilst the Sharks have not won at Kingsholm since September 2013.
Gloucester: 15 Tom Hudson, 14 Charlie Sharples, 13 Henry Trinder, 12 Billy Twelvetrees, 11 Matt Banahan, 10 Owen Williams, 9 Willi Heinz (captain), 8 Ben Morgan, 7 Jaco Kriel, 6 Lewis Ludlow, 5 Franco Mostert, 4 Ed Slater, 3 Fraser Balmain, 2 Jaco Visagie, 1 Josh Hohneck.
Replacements: 16 Henry Walker, 17 Paddy McAllister, 18 Ruan Dreyer, 19 Tom Savage, 20 Gareth Evans, 21 Freddie Clarke, 22 Callum Braley, 23 Henry Purdy.
Sale: 15 Chris Ashton, 14 Denny Solomona, 13 Sam James, 12 James O’Connor, 11 Byron McGuigan, 10 Rob du Preez, 9 Faf de Klerk, 8 Jean-Luc du Preez, 7 Tom Curry, 6 Jono Ross (captain), 5 James Phillips, 4 Josh Beaumont, 3 WillGriff John, 2 Rob Webber, 1 Ross Harrison.
Replacements: 16 Curtis Langdon, 17 Tom Bristow, 18 Joe Jones, 19 Bryn Evans, 20 Josh Strauss, 21 Will Cliff, 22 Luke James, 23 Ben Curry.
Referee: Christophe Ridley
Assistant Referees: Andrew Jackson & Jonathan Healy.
TMO: Rowan Kitt.
Saracens v Worcester Warriors
(Barnet Copthall, Kick-off: 15.00)
Saracens 22-game unbeaten run in all tournaments ended at Exeter on Saturday. Saracens last two defeats in Premiership Rugby have both been at the hands of Exeter at Sandy Park. Saracens have won their last twelve home games since Leicester beat them at Allianz Park in Premiership Rugby in February.
Worcester Warriors only victory in their last four matches was at home to Pau in the 4th round of the European Challenge Cup. The Warriors have won just twice on their travels in Gallagher Premiership Rugby in 2018, at Exeter in February and at Leicester in September.
Saracens only defeat to Warriors in their last nine encounters in Premiership Rugby was 18-24 at Sixways in February 2017 whilst the only occasion that Worcester have ever been triumphant on Saracens soil was at Vicarage Road in November 2006.
Saracens: 15 Alex Goode, 14 Sean Maitland, 13 Nick Tompkins, 12 Alex Lozowski, 11 Alex Lewington, 10 Owen Farrell, 9 Ben Spencer, 8 Ben Earl, 7 Calum Clark, 6 Nick Isiekwe, 5 George Kruis, 4 Will Skelton, 3 Vincent Koch, 2 Jamie George, 1 Mako Vunipola.
Replacements: 16 Tom Woolstencroft, 17 Richard Barrington, 18 Christian Judge, 19 Dom Day, 20 Schalk Burger, 21 Tom Whiteley, 22 Marcelo Bosch, 23 David Strettle.
Worcester: 15 Chris Pennell, 14 Bryce Heem, 13 Francois Venter, 12 Ben Te’o, 11 Perry Humphreys, 10 Duncan Weir, 9 Francois Hougaard, 8 GJ van Velze (captain), 7 Sam Lewis, 6 Ted Hill, 5 Michael Fatialofa, 4 Anton Bresler, 3 Gareth Milasinovich, 2 Jack Singleton, 1 Callum Black.
Replacements: 16 Joe Taufete’e, 17 Ethan Waller, 18 Simon Kerrod, 19 Pierce Phillips, 20 Matt Cox, 21 Jonny Arr, 22 Ollie Lawrence, 23 Scott van Breda.
Referee: Karl Dickson
Assistant Referees: Adam Leal & Robert Warburton.
TMO: David Grashoff.
Harlequins v Wasps
(Twickengam Stadium, Kick-off: 16.00)
This is Harlequins 11th ‘Big Game’ at Twickenham Stadium, with their only defeat in the last six being to Northampton in 2014. The Londoners only other defeat at HQ in that time was to London Irish in the ‘London Double Header’ in 2017. Quins last four matches Premiership Rugby have all been won by the home side on the day.
Wasps only victory in their last twelve matches was at home to Bristol in round 8 of Premiership Rugby. Wasps have not been victorious away from home since a single point victory at Newcastle at the end of September.Wasps have won just twice in their last six visits to Twickenham Stadium, against Gloucester in the “St George’s Day” game in 2014 and against London Irish in the ‘London Double Header’ in 2015.
The two sides met on four occasions last season with the two Premiership Rugby encounters being won by the respective away teams, and the two European Champions Cup meetings being won by the home side.
The two clubs have met on five previous occasions at Twickenham Stadium with Wasps winning the first two in 2009, a draw in 2010 and Quins winning the last two in 2012 and 2013.
Harlequins: 15 Mike Brown, 14 Nathan Earle, 13 Joe Marchant, 12 Francis Saili, 11 Cadan Murley, 10 Marcus Smith, 9 Danny Care, 8 James Chisholm (captain), 7 Jack Clifford, 6 Alex Dombrandt, 5 Ben Glynn, 4 Matt Symons, 3 Kyle Sinckler, 2 Dave Ward, 1 Joe Marler.
Replacements: 16 Max Crumpton, 17 Nick Auterac, 18 Will Collier, 19 George Merrick, 20 Renaldo Bothma, 21 Charlie Mulchrone, 22 James Lang, 23 Gabriel Ibitoye.
Wasps: 15 Willie le Roux, 14 Josh Bassett, 13 Michele Campagnaro, 12 Michael Le Bourgeois, 11 Elliot Daly, 10 Lima Sopoaga, 9 Dan Robson, 8 Nizaam Carr, 7 Thomas Young, 6 Brad Shields (captain), 5 Kearnan Myall, 4 Will Rowlands, 3 Jake Cooper-Woolley, 2 Tom Cruse, 1 Ben Harris.
Replacements: 16 Antonio Harris, 17 Zurabi Zhvania, 18 Will Stuart, 19 Charlie Matthews, 20 Ben Morris, 21 Craig Hampson, 22 Billy Searle, 23 Juan de Jongh.
Referee: Craig Maxwell-Keys
Assistant Referees: Hamish Smales & Phil Watters.
TMO: Sean Davey.
Sunday, December 30
Bath Rugby v Leicester Tigers
(Recreation Ground, Kick-off: 15.00)
Bath Rugby’s only defeat in the last four rounds of Premiership Rugby was 8-16 at Newcastle on 23 November. Bath have won only once at the Recreation Ground in any tournament since September: 28-13 over Worcester in round 7 of Premiership Rugby.
Leicester Tigers three game losing run in Gallagher Premiership Rugby ended with their 35-24 victory over Harlequins at Welford Road on Saturday. The Tigers have lost their last five away games in all competitions since beating Northampton at Twickenham Stadium in round 6 of Premiership Rugby.
Leicester’s victory over Bath at Twickenham Stadium in April ended a three-game winning run by the West Countrymen over their old rivals in all tournaments. Leicester have won just once at the Recreation Ground in Premiership Rugby in their last 11 visits: 37-6 in March 2011.
Bath: 15 James Wilson, 14 Semesa Rokoduguni, 13 Max Wright, 12 Jamie Roberts, 11 Ruaridh McConnochie, 10 Freddie Burns, 9 Will Chudley (co-captain), 8 Francois Louw, 7 Sam Underhill, 6 Tom Ellis, 5 Elliott Stooke, 4 Matt Garvey (cc), 3 Henry Thomas, 2 Tom Dunn, 1 Nathan Catt.
Replacements: 16 Ross Batty, 17 Jacques van Rooyen, 18 Max Lahiff, 19 Charlie Ewels, 20 Zach Mercer, 21 Max Green, 22 Rhys Priestland, 23 Cooper Vuna.
Leicester: 15 George Worth, 14 Jonah Holmes, 13 Manu Tuilagi, 12 Matt Toomua, 11 Jonny May, 10 George Ford (captain), 9 Ben Youngs, 8 Sione Kalamafoni, 7 Brendon O’Connor, 6 Mike Fitzgerald, 5 Graham Kitchener, 4 Harry Wells, 3 Dan Cole, 2 Jake Kerr, 1 Ellis Genge.
Replacements: 16 Tatafu Polota-Nau, 17 Campese Ma’afu, 18 Joe Heyes, 19 Mike Williams, 20 Will Evans, 21 Ben White, 22 Gareth Owen, 23 Jordan Olowofela.
Referee: JP Doyle
Assistant Referees: Luke Pearce & Simon McConnell.
TMO: Stuart Terheege.
Bristol Bears v Newcastle Falcons
(Ashton Gate, Kick-off: 15.00)
Bristol Bears only victory in the last six rounds of Premiership Rugby was 41-10 against Leicester at Ashton Gate on 1 December. Bristol’s home record in Premiership Rugby this season is won three lost two.
Newcastle Falcons have lost their last three matches in all tournaments since beating Northampton at Franklin’s Gardens in round 9 of Premiership Rugby. The Falcons have tallied more league points on their travels in Premiership Rugby this season than they have at home.
Newcastle have lost just one of their last six encounters with Bristol: 14-19 at Kingston Park in the RFU Championship in April 2013. Newcastle won 39-27 on their only previous visit to Ashton Gate in May 2017.
Bristol: 15 Charles Piutau, 14 Luke Morahan, 13 Will Hurrell, 12 Siale Piutau (co-captain), 11 Tom Pincus, 10 Ian Madigan, 9 Harry Randall, 8 Jordan Crane (co-captain), 7 Dan Thomas, 6 Steven Luatua, 5 Aly Muldowney, 4 Chris Vui, 3 John Afoa, 2 Harry Thacker, 1 Yann Thomas.
Replacements: 16 Nick Fenton-Wells, 17 Jake Woolmore, 18 Lewis Thiede, 19 Ed Holmes, 20 George Smith, 21 Andy Uren, 22 Callum Sheedy, 23 Piers O’Conor.
Newcastle: 15 Simon Hammersley, 14 Vereniki Goneva, 13 Chris Harris, 12 Josh Matavesi, 11 Adam Radwan, 10 Toby Flood, 9 Michael Young, 8 Callum Chick, 7 John Hardie, 6 Will Welch (captain), 5 Tevita Cavubati, 4 Calum Green, 3 Logovi’i Mulipola, 2 George McGuigan, 1 Sami Mavinga.
Replacements: 16 Kyle Cooper, 17 Adam Brocklebank, 18 David Wilson, 19 Andrew Davidson, 20 Gary Graham, 21 Sonatane Takulua, 22 Brett Connon, 23 Tom Arscott.
Referee: Wayne Barnes
Assistant Referees: Paul Dix & Anthony Woodthorpe.
TMO: David Rose.