Preview: Premiership, Round 12
IN THE SPOTLIGHT: Well passed the halfway mark in the 2019-20 season and again it is extraordinarily tight at the top with just eight points separating the teams in second and ninth as the race for the Premiership Rugby semi-finals heats up.
The competitive nature of the season means that although Gloucester Rugby have lost their last three Premiership Rugby matches they can leap straight back into semi-final contention with victory in the first match of the weekend, against second-placed Sale Sharks.
Premiership Rugby leaders Exeter Chiefs travel to south-west London to take on Harlequins.
Also on Saturday Leicester Tigers entertain Worcester Warriors and Saracens make the trip to Franklin’s Gardens to face fourth-placed Northampton Saints.
A rip-roaring west-country derby on Sunday as Bristol Bears – who are third – make the short journey to The Rec to take on Bath Rugby, London Irish hosting Wasps on the same day.
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Friday, February 28
Gloucester Rugby v Sale Sharks
Gloucester Rugby have lost their last three Premiership Rugby matches since their victory over Bath at Kingsholm on 4 January. Gloucester have not lost four games in succession in the competition since April 2016. The Cherry & Whites were defeated in their most recent home game by Exeter but have not lost consecutive matches at Kingsholm in the tournament since October 2016.
Sale Sharks only defeat in the last four rounds of Premiership Rugby was 22-36 at Saracens in round 10. The Sharks have won only once away from home in any competition since October: 22-19 at Exeter in round 9 of Premiership Rugby. Gloucester beat Sale 18-16 at AJ Bell Stadium in round 1 but have not achieved a season’s double over the Northerners since 2016/17. Sale won 30-15 on their most recent visit to Kingsholm, their first win at the venue in the tournament since 2013.
Gloucester: 15 Tom Marshall, 14 Tom Seabrook, 13 Billy Twelvetrees, 12 Mark Atkinson, 11 Ollie Thorley, 10 Danny Cipriani, 9 Callum Braley, 8 Ben Morgan, 7 Jake Polledri, 6 Ruan Ackermann, 5 Franco Mostert (captain), 4 Ed Slater, 3 Fraser Balmain, 2 Franco Marais, 1 Josh Hohneck
Replacements: 16 Todd Gleave, 17 Val Rapava Ruskin, 18 Ciaran Knight, 19 Alex Craig, 20 Lewis Ludlow, 21 Charlie Chapman, 22 Lloyd Evans, 23 Matt Banahan
Sale: 15 Simon Hammersley, 14 Byron McGuigan, 13 Sam James, 12 Luke James, 11 Marland Yarde, 10 Robert du Preez, 9 Will Cliff, 8 Daniel du Preez, 7 Ben Curry, 6 Jono Ross (captain), 5 Jean-Luc du Preez, 4 Bryn Evans, 3 WillGriff John, 2 Rob Webber, 1 Coenie Oosthuizen
Replacements: 16 Curtis Langdon, 17 Ross Harrison, 18 Jake Cooper-Woolley, 19 James Phillips, 20 Matt Postlethwaite, 21 Gus Warr, 22 Tom Curtis, 23 Denny Solomona
Referee: Wayne Barnes
Assistant Referees: Luke Pearce & John Meredith.
TMO: Rowan Kitt.
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Saturday, February 29
Harlequins v Exeter Chiefs
(Twickenham Stoop, 15.00)
Harlequins have won just once in the last five rounds of Premiership Rugby: 41-14 at home to Saracens on 26 January. The Londoners have lost twice at Twickenham Stoop in Premiership Rugby this season, to Worcester in round 4 and London Irish in round 10.
Exeter Chiefs achieved their third biggest margin of victory in Premiership Rugby with their 57-7 eclipsing of Northampton on Sunday, their only two bigger victories were both against doomed London Welsh in season 2014/15. The Chiefs are unbeaten in their last seven away games in all competitions since their 10-13 reversal at Bath in round 2 of Premiership Rugby.
Exeter have lost just once in their last eleven meetings with Harlequins in Premiership Rugby: 26-28 at Twickenham Stoop in November 2018.
Harlequins: 15 Aaron Morris, 14 Ross Chisholm, 13 Tom Penny, 12 Paul Lasike, 11 Gabriel Ibitoye, 10 Marcus Smith, 9 Danny Care, 8 Alex Dombrandt, 7 Chris Robshaw (captain), 6 James Chisholm, 5 Matt Symons, 4 Glen Young, 3 Simon Kerrod, 2 Scott Baldwin, 1 Mark Lambert.
Replacements: 16 Joe Gray, 17 Nick Auterac, 18 Will Collier, 19 Tevita Cavubati, 20 Semi Kunatani, 21 Niall Saunders, 22 Brett Herron, 23 Francis Saili
Exeter Chiefs: 15 Phil Dollman, 14 Tom O’Flaherty, 13 Ian Whitten, 12 Tom Hendrickson, 11 Olly Woodburn, 10 Joe Simmonds (captain), 9 Nic White, 8 Sam Simmonds, 7 Jacques Vermeulen, 6 Dave Ewers, 5 Sam Skinner, 4 Jannes Kirsten, 3 Enrique Pieretto, 2 Elvis Taione, 1 Alec Hepburn
Replacements: 16 Jordon Poole, 17 Billy Keast, 18 Harry Williams, 19 Jonny Hill, 20 Don Armand, 21 Jack Maunder, 22 Gareth Steenson, 23 Ollie Devoto
Referee: Christophe Ridley
Assistant Referees: Jack Makepeace & Philip Watters.
TMO: Nigel Carrick.
Leicester Tigers v Worcester Warriors
(Welford Road, 15.00)
Leicester Tigers last four matches in Premiership Rugby have all been won by the home side on the day. The Tigers only home defeat in any competition since October was 22-31 to Exeter in Premiership Rugby on 21 December.
Worcester Warriors have slipped to four straight Premiership Rugby defeats but have not lost five in succession since October 2017. The Warriors only two away wins this season were both on visits in November, to Harlequins in Premiership Rugby and to Enisei in the European Challenge Cup. Worcester have won their last five matches against Leicester in all competitions since the Tigers 34-5 victory at Sixways in March 2018.
The Warriors have won on their last two visits to Welford Road in Premiership Rugby, only Saracens and Harlequins have ever won on three trips in succession at the venue in the tournament.
Leicester Tigers: 15 Telusa Veainu, 14 Jonah Holmes, 13 George Worth, 12 Kyle Eastmond, 11 Jordan Olowofela, 10 Noel Reid, 9 Ben White, 8 Sione Kalamafoni, 7 Jordan Taufua, 6 Hanro Liebenberg, 5 Harry Wells, 4 Tomás Lavanini, 3 Dan Cole (captain), 2 Jake Kerr, 1 Greg Bateman
Replacements: 16 Tatafu Polota-Nau, 17 Nephi Leatigaga, 18 Joe Heyes, 19 Joe Batley, 20 Tommy Reffell, 21 Harry Simmons, 22 Johnny McPhillips, 23 Joe Thomas
Worcester Warriors: 15 Jamie Shillcock, 14 Perry Humphreys, 13 Ollie Lawrence, 12 Ryan Mills, 11 Nick David, 10 Duncan Weir, 9 Francois Hougaard, 8 Cornell du Preez, 7 Marco Mama, 6 Ted Hill, 5 Graham Kitchener, 4 Anton Bresler, 3 Nick Schonert, 2 Matt Moulds (captain), 1 Ethan Waller.
Replacements: 16 Niall Annett, 17 Kai Owen, 18 Richard Palframan, 19 Andrew Kitchener, 20 Sam Lewis, 21 Michael Heaney, 22 Jono Lance, 23 Scott van Breda
Referee: Adam Leal
Assistant Referees: Craig Maxwell-Keys & Roy Maybank.
TMO: David Grashoff
Northampton Saints v Saracens
(Franklin’s Gardens, 15.00)
Northampton Saints 7-57 reversal at Exeter on Sunday equalled their largest-ever margin of defeat in Premiership Rugby, set at home to Saracens in April 2018. The Saints have now slipped to three successive Premiership Rugby defeats but have not lost four in a row in the tournament since April 2018.
The Saints most recent success at Franklin’s Gardens in Premiership Rugby was against Gloucester on 28 December.
Saracens were beaten 10-60 at Wasps on Friday, their largest margin of defeat in any tournament in the professional era. Saracens have lost their last three away games in the tournament, at Exeter, Harlequins and Wasps.
Northampton beat Saracens 27-25 in the opening round this season to end a run of six successive defeats in Premiership Rugby to the Londoners. The last time that Northampton achieved a season’s double over Saracens was in 2014-15.
Northampton Saints: 15 Harry Mallinder, 14 Ahsee Tuala, 13 Fraser Dingwall, 12 Rory Hutchinson, 11 Taqele Naiyaravoro, 10 Dan Biggar, 9 Cobus Reinach, 8 Teimana Harrison (captain), 7 JJ Tonks, 6 Tom Wood, 5 Lewis Bean, 4 Alex Coles, 3 Paul Hill, 2 James Fish, 1 Francois van Wyk
Replacements: 16 Reece Marshall, 17 Ben Franks, 18 Owen Franks, 19 Ben Glynn, 20 Mitch Eadie, 21 Henry Taylor, 22 Andrew Symons, 23 Matt Proctor
Saracens: 15 Alex Goode, 14 Rotimi Segun, 13 Duncan Taylor, 12 Nick Tompkins, 11 Alex Lewington, 10 Manu Vunipola, 9 Richard Wigglesworth, 8 Jackson Wray (captain), 7 Ben Earl, 6 Nick Isiekwe, 5 Callum Hunter-Hill, 4 Will Skelton, 3 Titi Lamositele, 2 Jack Singleton, 1 Richard Barrington
Replacements: 16 Tom Woolstencroft, 17 Rhys Carre, 18 Vincent Koch, 19 Joel Kpoku, 20 Calum Clark, 21 Alex Day, 22 Dom Morris, 23 Matt Gallagher
Referee: Matthew Carley
Assistant Referees: Andrew Jackson & Jonathan Healy.
TMO: Sean Davey
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Sunday, March 1
London Irish v Wasps
(Madejski Stadium, 14.30)
London Irish have won their last three Premiership Rugby fixtures, against Northampton, Harlequins and Gloucester, but have not won four in a row in the tournament for almost a decade. The Exiles have won just twice at Madejski Stadium in Premiership Rugby this season, against Leicester in round 4 and Gloucester in round 11.
Wasps beat Saracens 60-10 at Ricoh Arena on Friday, their biggest margin of victory in Premiership Rugby since beating London Welsh 71-7 at Adams Park in November 2014. Wasps have won just twice away from home in Premiership Rugby this season, at Bristol in round 7 and at Worcester in round 9.
London Irish beat Wasps 29-26 in round 1 this season to end a six-game winless run against the Midlanders, they have not achieved a season’s double over them since 2001/02. Wasps are unbeaten on their last three visits to Madejski Stadium in Premiership Rugby.
London Irish: 15 Tom Parton, 14 Ben Loader, 13 Curtis Rona, 12 Terrence Hepetema, 11 Ollie Hassell-Collins, 10 Stephen Myler, 9 Ben Meehan, 8 Albert Tuisue, 7 Blair Cowan, 6 Matt Rogerson, 5 Adam Coleman, 4 Franco van der Merwe (captain), 3 Ollie Hoskins, 2 Motu Matu’u, 1 Harry Elrington
Replacements: 16 Dave Porecki, 17 Allan Dell, 18 Sekope Kepu, 19 Steve Mafi, 20 Ben Donnell, 21 Nick Phipps, 22 Bryce Campbell, 23 James Stokes
Wasps: 15 Marcus Watson, 14 Zach Kibirige, 13 Malakai Fekitoa, 12 Jimmy Gopperth, 11 Josh Bassett, 10 Jacob Umaga, 9 Dan Robson (captain), 8 Nizaam Carr, 7 Jack Willis, 6 Brad Shields, 5 Thibaud Flament, 4 Will Rowlands, 3 Biyi Alo, 2 Tommy Taylor, 1 Ben Harris.
Replacements: 16 Gabriel Oghre, 17 Tom West, 18 Kieran Brookes, 19 Charlie Matthews, 20 Ben Morris, 21 Will Porter, 22 Lima Sopoaga, 23 Sam Spink
Referee: Tom Foley
Assistant Referees: Hamish Smales & Gareth Holsgrove.
TMO: Geoff Warren
Bath Rugby v Bristol Bears
(Recreation Ground, 15.00)
Bath Rugby’s only defeat in the last six rounds of Premiership Rugby was 15-29 at Gloucester on 4 January. Bath have lost only once at the Recreation Ground since this weekend last year: 12-25 to Saracens in Premiership Rugby in November.
Bristol Bears have won their last three Premiership Rugby fixtures but have not won four in succession in the tournament since 2006/07. The Bears have won twice on the road in Premiership Rugby this season, at Exeter in round 4 and at Northampton in round 10.
Bristol have lost just once in their last four encounters with Bath in Premiership Rugby: 19-26 in ‘The Clash’ at Twickenham in April 2019. The Bears most recent success at the recreation Ground was 19-12 in Premiership Rugby in November 2006.
Bath: 15 Tom Homer, 14 Semesa Rokoduguni, 13 Jackson Willison, 12 Josh Matavesi, 11 Ruaridh McConnochie, 10 Rhys Priestland, 9 Rhys Webb, 8 Taulupe Faletau, 7 Francois Louw (captain), 6 Mike Williams, 5 Elliott Stooke, 4 Josh McNally, 3 Will Stuart, 2 Jack Walker, 1 Lewis Boyce
Replacements: 16 Tom Doughty, 17 Beno Obano, 18 Christian Judge, 19 Tom Ellis, 20 Josh Bayliss, 21 Chris Cook, 22 Freddie Burns, 23 Max Wright
Bristol Bears: 15 Charles Piutau, 14 Luke Morahan, 13 Piers O’Conor, 12 Sam Bedlow, 11 Alapati Leiua, 10 Callum Sheedy, 9 Andy Uren, 8 Jordan Crane, 7 Steven Luatua (captain), 6 Chris Vui, 5 Joe Joyce, 4 Ed Holmes, 3 Lewis Thiede, 2 Shaun Malton, 1 Yann Thomas
Replacements: 16 Will Capon, 17 Jake Woolmore, 18 Max Lahiff, 19 Nathan Hughes, 20 Luke Hamilton, 21 Harry Randall, 22 Ian Madigan, 23 Mat Protheroe
Referee: Ian Tempest
Assistant Referees: Jamie Leahy & Paul Dix.
TMO: Keith Lewis.