Preview: Premiership, Round 13
IN THE SPOTLIGHT: Premiership Rugby is back this weekend, kicking off a crucial four-match block that could go a long way to deciding the make-up of the League in one of the tightest races in the history of the competition.
A mere nine points separate Bristol Bears in tenth and Harlequins in third so the see-saw nature of 2018-19 campaign could continue through February and March.
The weekend kicks off with two intriguing West Country fixtures; leaders Exeter Chiefs making the short trip to Kingsholm and Bristol Bears hosting Wasps on Friday in a match that was recently rescheduled.
There are no Sunday matches this weekend but four games on Saturday, Saracens take on Leicester Tigers, Northampton Saints’ clash with Sale Sharks kicking off first.
Friday, February 15
Gloucester Rugby v Exeter Chiefs
Gloucester Rugby’s only two victories in the last five rounds of Premiership Rugby were at home to Worcester and away at Newcastle in December. Gloucester have lost their last three home games in all tournaments, against Exeter and Munster in the Champions Cup and Sale in Premiership Rugby.
Exeter Chiefs only two defeats in Premiership Rugby this season have come in the last four rounds, away at Harlequins and Northampton. The Chiefs have not lost three in succession on their travels in Premiership Rugby since April 2016.
The two sides have already met on three occasions this season with Gloucester’s solitary victory being 27-19 at Sandy Park in round 3 of the European Champions Cup. The Chiefs have won on their last two visits to Kingsholm, beating Bath there in the final of last year’s Anglo-Welsh Cup and overcoming Gloucester 29-17 in the Champions Cup in December.
Gloucester: 15 Jason Woodward, 14 Tom Marshall, 13 Billy Twelvetrees, 12 Mark Atkinson, 11 Ollie Thorley, 10 Danny Cipriani, 9 Willi Heinz (captain), 8 Ben Morgan, 7 Ruan Ackermann, 6 Freddie Clarke, 5 Franco Mostert, 4 Tom Savage, 3 Fraser Balmain, 2 Franco Marais, 1 Josh Hohneck
Replacements: 16 James Hanson, 17 Paddy McAllister, 18 Ciaran Knight, 19 Gerbrandt Grobler, 20 Lewis Ludlow, 21 Callum Braley, 22 Owen Williams, 23 Matt Banahan
Exeter: 15 Phil Dollman, 14 Santiago Cordero, 13 Ian Whitten, 12 Sam Hill, 11 Tom O’Flaherty, 10 Joe Simmonds, 9 Nic White, 8 Matt Kvesic, 7 Sean Lonsdale, 6 Dave Ewers, 5 Jonny Hill, 4 Dave Dennis, 3 Tomas Francis, 2 Jack Yeandle (captain), 1 Alec Hepburn
Replacements: 16 Elvis Taione, 17 Billy Keast, 18 Greg Holmes, 19 Mitch Lees, 20 Richard Capstick, 21 Jack Maunder, 22 Gareth Steenson, 23 Tom Hendrickson
Referee: Craig Maxwell-Keys
Assistant Referees: Adam Leal and Steve Lee
TMO: Trevor Fisher
Bristol Bears v Wasps
(Ashton Gate, 19.45)
Bristol Bears last five games in Premiership Rugby have all been won by the home side on the day. Bristol have lost just twice at home in Premiership Rugby this season, 40-45 to Northampton Saints in round 5 and 29-31 to Exeter Chiefs in round 7.
Wasps have recorded just two victories in the last seven rounds of Premiership Rugby, both at home, to Bristol in November and Northampton last month. Wasps won their first three away games in Premiership Rugby this season but have lost the three since – they have not lost four successive away games in the tournament since 2014.
Wasps only defeat in their last nine fixtures with Bristol in all tournaments was in the Premiership Rugby Cup at the Ricoh Arena in November. Wasps won on their only previous visit to Ashton Gate in April 2017.
Bristol: 15 Luke Daniels, 14 Ryan Edwards, 13 Piers O’Conor, 12 Siale Piutau, 11 Alapati Leiua, 10 Ian Madigan, 9 Harry Randall, 8 Jordan Crane , 7 Dan Thomas, 6 Steve Luatua, 5 Chris Vui, 4 John Hawkins, 3 John Afoa, 2 Harry Thacker, 1 Yann Thomas
Replacements: 16 Nick Fenton-Wells, 17 Jake Woolmore, 18 Lewis Thiede, 19 Nick Haining, 20 Jack Lam, 21 Andy Uren, 22 Callum Sheedy, 23 Charles Piutau
Wasps: 15 Willie le Roux, 14 Michele Campagnaro, 13 Juan de Jongh, 12 Gaby Lovobalavu, 11 Josh Bassett, 10 Billy Searle, 9 Dan Robson, 8 Nizaam Carr, 7 Thomas Young, 6 Ashley Johnson (captain), 5 James Gaskell, 4 Will Rowlands, 3 Will Stuart, 2 Tom Cruse, 1 Zurabi Zhvania
Replacements: 16 Tommy Taylor, 17 Ben Harris, 18 Simon McIntyre, 19 Kearnan Myall, 20 Ben Morris, 21 Joe Simpson, 22 Lima Sopoaga, 23 Rob Miller
Referee: Wayne Barnes
Assistant Referees: Wayne Falla and Karl Dickson
TMO: Sean Davey
Saturday, February 16
Northampton Saints v Sale Sharks
(Franklin’s Gardens, 14.00)
Northampton Saints have won just twice in the last five rounds of Premiership Rugby, at Worcester and at home to Exeter in rounds 10 and 11. The Saints have been defeated twice at Franklin’s Gardens in Premiership Rugby this season, by Saracens in round 3 and Newcastle in round 9.
Sale Sharks are unbeaten in their last five Premiership Rugby encounters since their 25-31 reversal at Saracens on 17 November, their longest unbeaten run in the tournament since 2006. The Sharks have climbed to fifth place in the table having been in bottom spot following their defeat at Leicester in round 5.
Sale have won their last three matches against Northampton in Premiership Rugby but have not won successive matches at Franklin’s Gardens since 2006.
Northampton Saints: 15 George Furbank, 14 Ahsee Tuala, 13 Rory Hutchinson, 12 Piers Francis, 11 Taqele Naiyaravoro, 10 Dan Biggar, 9 Cobus Reinach, 8 Tom Wood (captain), 7 Lewis Ludlam, 6 Jamie Gibson, 5 Alex Moon, 4 Api Ratuniyarawa, 3 Ehren Painter, 2 James Fish, 1 Francois van Wyk
Replacements: 16 Reece Marshall, 17 Alex Waller, 18 Paul Hill, 19 Alex Coles, 20 Heinrich Brüssow, 21 Alex Mitchell, 22 Luther Burrell, 23 Tom Collins
Sale: 15 Sam James, 14 Denny Solomona, 13 James O’Connor, 12 Rohan Janse van Rensburg, 11 Byron McGuigan, 10 AJ MacGinty, 9 Faf de Klerk, 8 Josh Beaumont, 7 Ben Curry, 6 Jono Ross (captain), 5 James Phillips, 4 Bryn Evans, 3 WillGriff John, 2 Rob Webber, 1 Ross Harrison
Replacements: 16 Cameron Neild, 17 Tom Bristow, 18 Joe Jones, 19 Andrei Ostrikov, 20 Josh Strauss, 21 Will Cliff, 22 Luke James, 23 Arron Reed
Referee: Karl Dickson
Assistant Referees: Hamish Smales and Philip Watters
TMO: Geoffrey Warren
Bath Rugby v Newcastle Falcons
(Recreation Ground, 15.00)
Bath Rugby’s 19-21 stoppage-time defeat at Worcester in round 12 ended a three-game unbeaten run in Gallagher Premiership Rugby. Bath’s only defeat at home this season in Premiership Rugby was at the hands of Exeter in round 6 although they have drawn two matches there, against Gloucester and Sale.
Newcastle Falcons have lost their last three Gallagher Premiership Rugby matches since beating Northampton at Franklin’s Gardens on 1 December. The Falcons have won twice on the road in Premiership Rugby this season, at Worcester in round 3 and at Northampton in round 9.
Newcastle’s only defeat in their last seven fixtures with Bath in all tournaments was 8-21 at the Recreation Ground in round 3 of last season’s Anglo-Welsh Cup. Bath have not beaten Newcastle in Premiership Rugby since September 2016.
Bath: 15 Tom Homer, 14 Semesa Rokoduguni, 13 Jonathan Joseph, 12 Jamie Roberts, 11 Joe Cokanasiga, 10 Rhys Priestland, 9 Will Chudley, 8 Zach Mercer, 7 Francois Louw, 6 Elliott Stooke, 5 Luke Charteris, 4 Dave Attwood, 3 Henry Thomas, 2 Tom Dunn, 1 Nathan Catt
Replacements: 16 Jack Walker, 17 Jacques van Rooyen, 18 Max Lahiff, 19 Charlie Ewels, 20 Paul Grant, 21 Max Green, 22 Freddie Burns, 23 Ruaridh McConnochie
Newcastle: 15 Simon Hammersley, 14 Zach Kibirige, 13 Chris Harris, 12 Pedro Bettencourt, 11 Sinoti Sinoti, 10 Toby Flood, 9 Michael Young, 8 Nemani Nagusa, 7 Gary Graham, 6 Will Welch (captain), 5 Andrew Davidson, 4 Calum Green, 3 Logovi’i Mulipola, 2 Kyle Cooper, 1 Sam Lockwood
Replacements: 16 Santiago Socino, 17 Adam Brocklebank, 18 David Wilson, 19 Will Witty, 20 John Hardie, 21 Sonatane Takulua, 22 Brett Connon, 23 Ben Stevenson
Referee: JP Doyle
Assistant Referees: Anthony Woodthorpe and Matthew O’Grady
TMO: Stuart Terheege
Harlequins v Worcester Warriors
(Twickenham Stoop, 15.00)
Harlequins only defeat in the last four rounds of Gallagher Premiership Rugby was 24-35 at Leicester on 22 December. ‘Quins have won their last three home games in the tournament (although the most recent against Wasps was played over the road at Twickenham Stadium), since Saracens beat them at The Stoop in round 6.
Worcester Warriors very late victory over Bath at Sixways in round 12 ended a three-game losing run in Gallagher Premiership Rugby. The Warriors won their most recent away game: 20-18 against Ospreys at Liberty Stadium in the Challenge Cup to end a sequence of five successive away defeats. Worcester’s only away win in Premiership Rugby in the last twelve months was at Leicester in September.
Worcester have won their last two Premiership Rugby matches against Harlequins, although both were played at Sixways. Worcester have won just once at Twickenham Stoop since 2007: 21-15 in March 2016.
Harlequins: 15 Mike Brown, 14 Nathan Earle, 13 Joe Marchant, 12 Ben Tapuai, 11 Gabriel Ibitoye, 10 Marcus Smith, 9 Danny Care, 8 Alex Dombrandt, 7 Chris Robshaw, 6 Jack Clifford, 5 James Horwill, 4 Matt Symons, 3 Will Collier, 2 Max Crumpton, 1 Joe Marler
Replacements: 16 Dave Ward, 17 Lewis Boyce, 18 Josh Ibuanokpe, 19 Ben Glynn, 20 James Chisholm, 21 Dave Lewis, 22 James Lang, 23 Alofa Alofa
Worcester: 15 Chris Pennell, 14 Bryce Heem, 13 Francois Venter, 12 Ryan Mills, 11 Josh Adams, 10 Duncan Weir, 9 Francois Hougaard, 8 GJ van Velze (captain), 7 Sam Lewis, 6 Marco Mama, 5 Michael Fatialofa, 4 Anton Bresler, 3 Nick Schonert, 2 Jack Singleton, 1 Callum Black
Replacements: 16 Isaac Miller, 17 Ethan Waller, 18 Gareth Milasinovich, 19 Darren Barry, 20 Ted Hill, 21 Michael Heaney, 22 Ollie Lawrence, 23 Tom Howe
Referee: Luke Pearce
Assistant Referees: Simon McConnell and Jonathan Healy
TMO: Keith Lewis
Saracens v Leicester Tigers
(Allianz Park, 15.00)
Saracens only two defeats in Gallagher Premiership Rugby since last March have both been in the space of the last three rounds, away from home at Exeter and at Sale. Saracens have won their last fifteen home games in all tournaments since Leicester beat them 28-20 at Allianz Park in Premiership Rugby on 25 February.
Leicester Tigers have won two of their last three Gallagher Premiership Rugby matches, both at home, to Harlequins and Gloucester. The Tigers only away win in the tournament this season was 23-15 against Northampton at Twickenham Stadium on 6 October.
Saracens have lost just one of their last six Premiership Rugby fixtures against Leicester since March 2015, that was at Allianz Park in round 16 last season. Tigers have won twice before at Allianz Park, the other game being the semi-final of the Anglo-Welsh Cup in March 2017.
Saracens: 15 Matt Gallagher, 14 David Strettle, 13 Alex Lozowski, 12 Brad Barritt (captain), 11 Alex Lewington, 10 Alex Goode, 9 Richard Wigglesworth, 8 Jackson Wray, 7 Ben Earl, 6 Calum Clark, 5 Nick Isiekwe, 4 Dom Day, 3 Vincent Koch, 2 Christopher Tolofua, 1 Richard Barrington
Replacements: 16 Tom Woolstencroft, 17 Ralph Adams-Hale, 18 Titi Lamositele, 19 Will Skelton, 20 Mike Rhodes, 21 Ben Spencer, 22 Max Malins, 23 Nick Tompkins
Leicester: 15 George Worth, 14 Jonah Holmes, 13 Gareth Owen, 12 Kyle Eastmond, 11 Tom Varndell, 10 Matt Toomua, 9 Ben White, 8 Sione Kalamafoni, 7 Brendon O’Connor, 6 Mike Williams, 5 Graham Kitchener, 4 Mike Fitzgerald, 3 Dan Cole, 2 Tom Youngs (captain), 1 Greg Bateman
Replacements: 16 Jake Kerr, 17 Facundo Gigena, 18 Joe Heyes, 19 Will Evans, 20 Harry Wells, 21 Sam Harrison, 22 Tom Hardwick, 23 Sam Aspland-Robinson
Referee: Tom Foley
Assistant Referees: Paul Dix and Peter Allan
TMO: Graham Hughes
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