Preview: Premiership, Round 12
IN THE SPOTLIGHT: Round 12 of Premiership Rugby – the last before the European and Premiership Rugby Cup break – the League table couldn’t be tighter.
Remarkably just nine points separate Gloucester Rugby in third and Bristol Bears in tenth!
The fixture between Sale Sharks and Saracen is going to be a huge match and Alex Goode says Saracens need to improve their attacking play as the Men in Black prepare to take on Sale Sharks on Friday.
Sarries bounced back from defeat at Exeter Chiefs with a 25-17 win over Worcester Warriors in the Premiership, but a fourth try proved elusive as they looked to reclaim top spot.
However, Mark McCall’s side were behind at the break and displayed great determination to come back and earn four points, a positive in Goode’s eyes.
“To be 14-0 down so quickly and to come back from that is always good,” he said.
“We showed composure not to chase the game, make too many mistakes and get our heads down. We had chances to get a bonus point and our attack needs to be better to take those chances.
“The response from the week before was good and now we have a really tough in Sale away who had a great win over Gloucester.
“We are not playing our best at the moment but the ability we have in that changing room makes us believe we can do something special.”
Friday, January 4
Sale Sharks v Saracens
(AJ Bell Stadium, Kick-off: 19.45)
Sale Sharks only defeat in the last six rounds of Premiership Rugby was 25-31 at Saracens on 17 November. Sale have lost just once at AJ Bell Stadium in Premiership Rugby this season: 13-31 to Wasps in round 4.
Saracens only defeat in their last eighteen Premiership Rugby encounters was at Exeter on 22 December. Saracens have not lost successive away games in the tournament since December 2017.
Saracens have lost just once to Sale in Premiership Rugby in the last eight years: 10-14 at AJ Bell Stadium in February 2015.
Sale: 15 Chris Ashton, 14 Denny Solomona, 13 James O’Connor, 12 Sam James, 11 Byron McGuigan, 10 Robert du Preez, 9 Faf de Klerk, 8 Josh Strauss, 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 Ben Curry, 21 Will Cliff, 22 Luke James, 23 Arron Reed
Saracens: 15 Alex Goode, 14 Liam Williams, 13 Nick Tompkins, 12 Alex Lozowski, 11 David Strettle, 10 Owen Farrell (captain), 9 Richard Wigglesworth, 8 Billy Vunipola, 7 Schalk Burger, 6 Nick Isiekwe, 5 George Kruis, 4 Will Skelton, 3 Vincent Koch, 2 Tom Woolstencroft, 1 Mako Vunipola
Replacements: 16 Christopher Tolofua, 17 Richard Barrington, 18 Titi Lamositele, 19 Calum Clark, 20 Jackson Wray, 21 Ben Spencer, 22 Marcelo Bosch, 23 Sean Maitland
Referee: Matthew Carley
Assistant Referees: Christophe Ridley & Greg Macdonald.
TMO: David Grashoff.
Saturday, January 5
Exeter Chiefs v Bristol Bears
(Sandy Park, Kick-off: 15.00)
Exeter Chiefs last four games in Premiership Rugby have all been won by the home side on the day. The Chiefs have not lost at home in the tournament since Worcester were the visitors on 10 February.
Bristol Bears last four games in Premiership Rugby have all been won by the home side on the day. The Bears only two away victories this season were at Wasps in the Premiership Rugby Cup and at La Rochelle in round 4 of the European Challenge Cup. Bristol have won just one away game in the tournament since March 2008, by a solitary point at Sale on New Year’s Day 2017.
Exeter have won their last six encounters with Bristol in all tournaments since the Bears’ 25-16 victory at Sandy Park in the RFU Championship in December 2009.
Exeter Chiefs: 15 Phil Dollman, 14 Santiago Cordero, 13 Henry Slade, 12 Ian Whitten, 11 Tom O’Flaherty, 10 Gareth Steenson (captain), 9 Jack Maunder, 8 Matt Kvesic, 7 Sean Lonsdale, 6 Sam Skinner, 5 Jonny Hill, 4 Dave Dennis, 3 Harry Williams, 2 Luke Cowan-Dickie, 1 Ben Moon.
Replacements: 16 Jack Yeandle, 17 Alec Hepburn, 18 Tomas Francis, 19 Mitch Lees, 20 Wilhelm van der Sluys, 21 Nic White, 22 Joe Simmonds, 23 Ollie Devoto.
Bristol Bears: 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 Jack Lam, 6 Chris Vui, 5 Joe Joyce, 4 Ed Holmes, 3 Lewis Thiede, 2 Tom Lindsay, 1 Jake Woolmore.
Replacements: 16 Harry Thacker, 17 Yann Thomas, 18 John Afoa, 19 George Smith, 20 Dan Thomas, 21 Andy Uren, 22 Callum Sheedy, 23 Piers O’Conor.
Referee: Craig Maxwell-Keys
Assistant Referees: Adam Leal & Paul Dix.
TMO: Geoff Warren.
Leicester Tigers v Gloucester
(Welford Road, Kick-off: 15.00)
Leicester Tigers only victory in the last five rounds of Premiership Rugby was 35-24 against Harlequins at Welford Road on 22 December. Tigers have not won successive fixtures at home in Premiership Rugby since March.
Gloucester Rugby’s last four matches in all competitions have all been won by the away side on the day. Gloucester have not won three in succession on the road since they beat Zebre, Exeter and Brive four years ago. Gloucester have won their last two matches against Leicester, but both were played at Kingsholm, in February and November. The last time that the Cherry & Whites won at Welford Road was in October 2007.
Leicester Tigers: 15 Jonah Holmes, 14 Jonny May, 13 Manu Tuilagi, 12 Matt Toomua, 11 Jordan Olowofela, 10 George Ford (captain), 9 Ben Youngs, 8 Sione Kalamafoni, 7 Will Evans, 6 Mike Williams, 5 Graham Kitchener, 4 Mike Fitzgerald, 3 Dan Cole, 2 Tatafu Polota-Nau, 1 Ellis Genge.
Replacements: 16 Jake Kerr, 17 Greg Bateman, 18 Joe Heyes, 19 Harry Wells, 20 Brendon O’Connor, 21 Ben White, 22 Kyle Eastmond, 23 George Worth.
Gloucester: 15 Tom Hudson, 14 Charlie Sharples, 13 Billy Twelvetrees, 12 Mark Atkinson, 11 Ollie Thorley, 10 Owen Williams, 9 Callum Braley, 8 Ben Morgan (captain), 7 Gareth Evans, 6 Freddie Clarke, 5 Franco Mostert, 4 Gerbrandt Grobler, 3 Fraser Balmain, 2 Jaco Visagie, 1 Josh Hohneck.
Replacements: 16 Henry Walker, 17 Paddy McAllister, 18 Ciaran Knight, 19 Ed Slater, 20 Lewis Ludlow, 21 Ben Vellacott, 22 Henry Trinder, 23 Matt Banahan.
Referee: Wayne Barnes
Assistant Referees: Anthony Woodthorpe & Matthew O’Grady.
TMO: David Rose.
Newcastle Falcons v Harlequins
(Kingston Park, Kick-off: 15.00)
Newcastle Falcons have won just three games in Premiership Rugby this season, at Worcester in round 3, at home to Bath in round 8 and at Northampton in round 9.
The Falcons have won only one of their last six home games in Premiership Rugby. Harlequins last eight matches in all tournaments have been won by the home side on the day, the Londoner’s only away win in their last 14 trips in Premiership Rugby was at Gloucester on 29 September.
The last six meetings between the two clubs in Premiership Rugby have been evenly split with three wins apiece, however Harlequins have not been victorious at Kingston Park since December 2013.
Newcastle Falcons: 15 Simon Hammersley, 14 Vereniki Goneva, 13 Chris Harris, 12 Josh Matavesi, 11 Tom Arscott, 10 Brett Connon, 9 Michael Young, 8 Callum Chick, 7 Gary Graham, 6 Will Welch (captain), 5 Will Witty, 4 Calum Green, 3 Logovi’i Mulipola, 2 Kyle Cooper, 1 Trevor Davison.
Replacements: 16 Santiago Socino, 17 Adam Brocklebank, 18 David Wilson, 19 Andrew Davidson, 20 Ryan Burrows, 21 Sonatane Takulua, 22 Tim Swiel, 23 Pedro Bettencourt.
Harlequins: 15 Mike Brown, 14 Nathan Earle, 13 Joe Marchant, 12 Francis Saili, 11 Gabriel Ibitoye, 10 Marcus Smith, 9 Danny Care (captain), 8 Alex Dombrandt, 7 Jack Clifford, 6 Semi Kunatani, 5 Ben Glynn, 4 Matt Symons, 3 Kyle Sinckler, 2 Max Crumpton, 1 Joe Marler.
Replacements: 16 Elia Elia, 17 Nick Auterac, 18 Will Collier, 19 George Merrick, 20 Renaldo Bothma, 21 Charlie Mulchrone, 22 James Lang, 23 Aaron Morris.
Referee: Thomas Foley
Assistant Referees: Tim Wigglesworth & John Meredith.
TMO: Claire Hodnett.
Worcester Warriors v Bath
(Sixways, Kick-off: 15.00)
Worcester Warriors have lost their last three Premiership Rugby matches since beating Harlequins 20-13 at Sixways at the end of November. The Warriors defeat to Northampton in their most recent game at Sixways ended a five-game home winning run in all competitions.
Bath Rugby have won their last two Premiership Rugby fixtures, at Wasps and at home to Leicester but have not won three in succession in the competition since November 2016. Bath’s only two away victories in Premiership Rugby this season were at Harlequins in round 3 and at Wasps in round 10. Bath’s only defeat in their last dozen fixtures with Warriors in Premiership Rugby was 19-25 at Sixways in April 2017.
Worcester Warriors: 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 Nick Schonert, 2 Jack Singleton, 1 Callum Black.
Replacements: 16 Joe Taufete’e, 17 Ethan Waller, 18 Gareth Milasinovich, 19 Pierce Phillips, 20 Darren Barry, 21 Marco Mama, 22 Jonny Arr, 23 Ryan Mills.
Bath: 15 James Wilson, 14 Semesa Rokoduguni, 13 Max Wright, 12 Jamie Roberts, 11 Cooper Vuna, 10 Freddie Burns, 9 Will Chudley, 8 Zach Mercer, 7 Francois Louw, 6 Tom Ellis, 5 Dave Attwood, 4 Charlie Ewels, 3 Henry Thomas, 2 Tom Dunn, 1 Jacques van Rooyen.
Replacements: 16 Ross Batty, 17 Lucas Noguera, 18 Max Lahiff, 19 Elliott Stooke, 20 Josh Bayliss, 2 Max Green, 22 Rhys Priestland, 23 Aled Brew.
Referee: Ian Tempest
Assistant Referees: JP Doyle & Simon Harding.
TMO: Stuart Terheege.
Sunday, January 6
Wasps v Northampton Saints
(Ricoh Arena, Kick-off: 15.00)
Wasps only victory in their last 13 first team fixtures was 32-28 at home to Bristol in round 8 of Premiership Rugby. Wasps only other home win in any other tournament this season was against Leicester in round 3 of Premiership Rugby.
Northampton Saints have won their last four matches including a walkover awarded to them for their aborted trip to Romania in round 4 of the European Challenge Cup. Saints have won twice away from home in Premiership Rugby this season, at Bristol in round 5 and at Worcester in round 10. Northampton’s victory over Wasps at Franklin’s Gardens in round 7 was the first over their local rivals in their last six Premiership Rugby meetings. They have not achieved a season’s double over Wasps since 2013/14. Northampton’s only previous victory at Ricoh Arena was by a single point in the Premiership Rugby Cup in November.
Wasps: 15 Willie le Roux, 14 Josh Bassett, 13 Michele Campagnaro, 12 Juan de Jongh, 11 Elliot Daly, 10 Lima Sopoaga, 9 Dan Robson, 8 Nizaam Carr, 7 Thomas Young, 6 Brad Shields, 5 Will Rowlands, 4 Joe Launchbury (captain), 3 Jake Cooper-Woolley, 2 Tom Cruse, 1 Zurabi Zhvania.
Replacements: 16 Antonio Harris, 17 Ben Harris, 18 Will Stuart, 19 Kearnan Myall, 20 Nathan Hughes, 21 Craig Hampson, 22 Billy Searle, 23 Gaby Lovobalavu.
Northampton Saints: 15 Ahsee Tuala, 14 Tom Collins, 13 Fraser Dingwall, 12 Luther Burrell, 11 Taqele Naiyaravoro, 10 Dan Biggar, 9 Cobus Reinach, 8 Teimana Harrison, 7 Lewis Ludlam, 6 Tom Wood (captain), 5 Courtney Lawes, 4 David Ribbans, 3 Ehren Painter, 2 Reece Marshall, 1 Francois van Wyk.
Replacements: 16 James Fish, 17 Alex Waller, 18 Ben Franks, 19 Api Ratuniyarawa, 20 Heinrich Brüssow, 21 Alex Mitchell, 22 James Grayson, 23 Andrew Kellaway.
Referee: Luke Pearce
Assistant Referees: Andrew Jackson & Wayne Falla.
TMO: Geoff Warren.