PREVIEW: Premiership, Round 14
IN THE SPOTLIGHT: In this incredible Premiership campaign seven clubs ended last weekend in different league positions to where they started as the see-saw nature of the season continued.
The competitive nature of the matches has led to a gap of just nine points between Harlequins in third and Leicester Tigers in ninth.
Expect more changes to the league table this weekend as we kick off Round 14 with another compelling head-to-head – champions Saracens making the trip west to take on Gloucester at Kingsholm Stadium.
We have four slightly earlier kick offs on Saturday with matches at Harlequins, Wasps, Exeter Chiefs and Northampton Saints, the weekend culminating on Sunday with Worcester Warriors against Leicester Tigers at Sixways.
As the weekend draws to a close here’s another look at the #GallagherPrem table 📊
Just 9️⃣ points between 3rd and 9th 😳
Could you possibly predict the final top four?? pic.twitter.com/CRPP6KhgmZ
— Premiership Rugby (@premrugby) February 17, 2019
We take a closer look at all the Round 14 action:
Friday, February 22:
Gloucester v Saracens
(Kingsholm, Gloucester – Kick-off: 19.45; 19.45 GMT)
Gloucester’s 24-17 victory over Exeter Chiefs last Friday ended a five-game losing run in all competitions. Gloucester have lost twice at home in the Premiership this season, against Harlequins in Round Five and Sale Sharks in Round 11. Saracens returned to the top of the table for the first time since Round Nine with their bonus point win over Leicester Tigers on Saturday – their fifth win in succession in all competitions. Saracens have lost their last two away games in Premiership Rugby, at Exeter in Round 10 and at Sale in Round 12. The last six matches between the two clubs in the Premiership have all been won by the home side on the day whilst Saracens most recent victory at Kingsholm was 17-15 in October 2015.
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 Jaco Kriel, 6 Ruan Ackermann, 5 Franco Mostert, 4 Ed Slater, 3 Fraser Balmain, 2 Franco Marais, 1 Josh Hohneck.
Replacements: 16 James Hanson, 17 Paddy McAllister, 18 Ciaran Knight, 19 Freddie Clarke, 20 Jake Polledri, 21 Callum Braley, 22 Owen Williams, 23 Matt Banahan.
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 Schalk Burger, 6 Mike Rhodes, 5 Nick Isiekwe, 4 Dom Day, 3 Vincent Koch, 2 Christopher Tolofua, 1 Richard Barrington.
Replacements: 16 Tom Woolstencroft, 17 Titi Lamositele, 18 Christian Judge, 19 Will Skelton, 20 Calum Clark, 21 Ben Spencer, 22 Max Malins, 23 Nick Tompkins.
Referee: JP Doyle
Assistant referees: Greg Macdonald, Peter Allan
TMO: Trevor Fisher
Saturday, February 23:
Harlequins v Bristol Bears
(Twickenham Stoop, London – Kick-off: 14.00; 14.00 GMT)
Harlequins are the best team in the Premiership on current form having gained 20 league points from their last six matches. The Londoners have won their last three matches in the tournament but have not won four in a row since 2014. Harlequins have not lost at Twickenham Stoop in the Premiership since Saracens were the visitors in early October. Bristol Bears have won just twice in the last nine rounds of the Premiership, both at home, to Leicester and Newcastle in Rounds Nine and 11. The Bears are the only side to have not won an away game in the Premiership this season. Bristol won 20-13 when the two teams met in 2014 at Ashton Gate but have not achieved a Premiership double over Harlequins since 2001/02. Bristol’s only win at Twickenham Stoop since then was 17-3 in the European Champions Cup in December 2007.
Harlequins: 15 Mike Brown, 14 Nathan Earle, 13 Joe Marchant, 12 Ben Tapuai, 11 Ross Chisholm, 10 Marcus Smith, 9 Charlie Mulchrone, 8 Alex Dombrandt, 7 Chris Robshaw, 6 Jack Clifford, 5 James Horwill, 4 Ben Glynn, 3 Will Collier, 2 Elia Elia, 1 Joe Marler
Replacements: 16 Dave Ward, 17 Lewis Boyce, 18 Phil Swainston, 19 George Merrick, 20 James Chisholm, 21 Dave Lewis, 22 James Lang, 23 Francis Saili
Bristol Bears: 15 Charles Piutau, 14 Luke Daniels, 13 Piers O’Conor, 12 Siale Piutau, 11 Alapati Leiua, 10 Callum Sheedy, 9 Harry Randall, 8 Jordan Crane, 7 George Smith, 6 Steve Luatua, 5 Chris Vui, 4 Joe Batley, 3 John Afoa, 2 Sam Parry, 1 Jake Woolmore
Replacements: 16 Harry Thacker, 17 Yann Thomas, 18 Lewis Thiede, 19 Nick Haining, 20 Dan Thomas, 21 Andy Uren, 22 Ian Madigan, 23 Mat Protheroe
Referee: Tom Foley
Assistant Referees: Hamish Smales & Wayne Falla
TMO: Stuart Terheege
Wasps v Sale Sharks
(Ricoh Arena, Coventry – Kick-off: 14.00; 14.00 GMT)
Wasps have won their last two Premiership matches, at home to Northampton Saints and away at Bristol Bears, to end a three-game losing streak in the competition. Wasps record at the Ricoh Arena in the Premiership this season is an even won three, lost three. Sale Sharks suffered their worst defeat in the Premiership for almost eight years at Northampton on Saturday and have not lost back to back fixtures in the tournament since September. The Sharks only victory in their last nine away games in the Premiership was 30-15 at Gloucester on December 29. Wasps beat Sale 31-13 in Salford in Round Four but have not achieved a Premiership season’s double over the Sharks since 2010/11. Sale have lost on all four previous visits to Ricoh Arena, with their last victory on Wasps soil being at Adam’s Park in March 2014.
Wasps: 15 Willie le Roux, 14 Marcus Watson, 13 Juan de Jongh, 12 Gaby Lovobalavu, 11 Josh Bassett, 10 Lima Sopoaga, 9 Joe Simpson, 8 Nizaam Carr, 7 Ben Morris, 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 Biyi Alo, 19 Charlie Matthews, 20 Jack Willis, 21 Craig Hampson, 22 Rob Miller, 23 Michael Le Bourgeois
Sale Sharks: 15 Luke James, 14 Denny Solomona, 13 James O’Connor, 12 Rohan Janse van Rensburg, 11 Byron McGuigan, 10 Sam James, 9 Faf de Klerk, 8 Josh Beaumont, 7 Ben Curry, 6 Jono Ross (captain), 5 James Phillips, 3 WillGriff John, 2 Rob Webber, 1 Valery Morozov
Replacements: 16 Curtis Langdon, 17 Tom Bristow, 18 Joe Jones, 19 Andrei Ostrikov, 20 Cameron Neild, 21 Will Cliff, 22 Cameron Redpath, 23 Arron Reed
Referee: Andrew Jackson
Assistant Referees: Matthew O’Grady & Paul Dix
TMO: David Grashoff
Exeter Chiefs v Newcastle Falcons
(Sandy Park, Exeter – Kick-off: 14.30; 14.30 GMT)
Exeter Chiefs have lost three of their last five Premiership fixtures including last Friday’s encounter at Gloucester, although they have not lost two in succession in the tournament for over twelve months. The Chiefs’ only defeat at Sandy Park since last February was to Gloucester in Round Three of the European Champions Cup. Newcastle have slipped to four successive defeats in the Premiership and picked up only one league point in the process since beating Northampton 16-14 at Franklin’s Gardens on December 1. The Falcons only other away win in the Premiership this season was at Worcester in Round Three. Exeter’s only defeat to Newcastle in any competition since October 2014 was 20-28 at Kingston Park in the Premiership in January 2018 whilst Falcons record at Sandy Park in all competitions is played 11, lost 11.
Exeter Chiefs: 15 Santiago Cordero, 14 Alex Cuthbert, 13 Ian Whitten, 12 Ollie Devoto, 11 Olly Woodburn, 10 Gareth Steenson, 9 Nic White, 8 Matt Kvesic, 7 Don Armand, 6 Dave Ewers, 5 Jonny Hill, 4 Dave Dennis, 3 Greg Holmes, 2 Jack Yeandle (captain), 1 Alec Hepburn
Replacements: 16 Jack Innard, 17 Billy Keast, 18 Marcus Street, 19 Mitch Lees, 20 Sean Lonsdale, 21 Jack Maunder, 22 Joe Simmonds, 23 Sam Hill
Newcastle Falcons: 15 Simon Hammersley, 14 Zach Kibirige, 13 Chris Harris, 12 Johnny Williams, 11 Sinoti Sinoti, 10 Toby Flood, 9 Sonatane Takulua, 8 Callum Chick, 7 John Hardie, 6 Will Welch (captain), 5 Andrew Davidson, 4 Calum Green, 3 David Wilson, 2 George McGuigan, 1 Sam Lockwood
Replacements: 16 Santiago Socino, 17 Logovi’i Mulipola, 18 Jack Payne, 19 Will Witty, 20 Nemani Nagusa, 21 Sam Stuart, 22 Tim Swiel, 23 Ben Stevenson
Referee: Luke Pearce
Assistant Referees: Anthony Woodthorpe & Philip Watters
TMO: Geoff Warren
Northampton Saints v Bath
(Franklin’s Gardens, Northampton – Kick-off: 14.45; 14.45 GMT)
Northampton Saints have now scored 324 points, including 48 tries, and conceded just 121 points from their last five first team games, this includes their second-best biggest victory in Premiership history last Saturday at home to Sale. Saints have lost just once in the Premiership at Franklin’s Gardens since September – to Newcastle in Round Nine. Bath’s only defeat in the last five rounds of the Premiership was 19-21 at Worcester on January 5. Bath have won just once away from home in any competition since September: 24-14 against Wasps in Coventry in Round 10 of the Premiership. Bath’s only defeat in their last six matches against Saints in all tournaments was 6-24 at Franklin’s Gardens in the Premiership in September 2017.
Northampton Saints: 15 George Furbank, 14 Ahsee Tuala, 13 Rory Hutchinson, 12 Piers Francis, 11 Taqele Naiyaravoro, 10 James Grayson, 9 Alex Mitchell, 8 Tom Wood, 7 Lewis Ludlam, 6 James Haskell, 5 David Ribbans, 4 Api Ratuniyarawa, 3 Paul Hill, 2 Reece Marshall, 1 Alex Waller (captain)
Replacements: 16 James Fish, 17 Francois van Wyk, 18 Ben Franks, 19 Alex Moon, 20 Jamie Gibson, 21 Cobus Reinach, 22 Luther Burrell, 23 Ken Pisi
Bath: 15 Darren Atkins, 14 Ruaridh McConnochie, 13 Jonathan Joseph, 12 Jackson Willison, 11 Cooper Vuna, 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 Max Clark
Referee: Ian Tempest
Assistant Referees: Robert Warburton & Simon McConnell
TMO: Nigel Carrick & Trevor Fisher
It’s clearly offloading season in the #GallagherPrem 🌪
Rugby players of every shape 🐘 and size 🦒 with audacious attempts ✨
Which player has the best array of offloads? 🤔
See all the hits and skills here 👀 pic.twitter.com/zktb8PXBuD
— Premiership Rugby (@premrugby) February 20, 2019
Sunday, February 24:
Worcester Warriors v Leicester Tigers
(Sixways, Worcester – Kick-off: 13.00; 13.00 GMT)
Worcester Warriors’ only victory in their last five Premiership encounters was 21-19 against Bath in their last home game at Sixways on January 5. The Warriors home record in the Premiership this season is won three, lost three. Leicester Tigers have won just two of their last seven Premiership fixtures, both at home, to Harlequins and Gloucester in Rounds 10 and 12. Tigers have not won away from home in any competition since beating Northampton at Twickenham Stadium in early October. The last five matches between the two clubs in all tournaments have all been won by the away side on the day. Leicester have won on their last ten visits to Sixways in all tournaments.
Worcester Warriors: 15 Chris Pennell, 14 Bryce Heem, 13 Francois Venter, 12 Ryan Mills (captain), 11 Tom Howe, 10 Duncan Weir, 9 Francois Hougaard, 8 Marco Mama, 7 Sam Lewis, 6 Ted Hill, 5 Michael Fatialofa, 4 Anton Bresler, 3 Nick Schonert, 2 Jack Singleton, 1 Ethan Waller
Replacements: 16 Isaac Miller, 17 Callum Black, 18 Gareth Milasinovich, 19 Pierce Phillips, 20 Matt Cox, 21 Michael Heaney, 22 Jono Lance, 23 Ollie Lawrence
Leicester Tigers: 15 George Worth, 14 Jonah Holmes, 13 Gareth Owen, 12 Kyle Eastmond, 11 Jordan Olowofela, 10 Matt Toomua, 9 Ben White, 8 Sione Kalamafoni, 7 Mike Williams, 6 Mike Fitzgerald, 5 Graham Kitchener, 4 Harry Wells, 3 Dan Cole, 2 Tom Youngs (captain), 1 Facundo Gigena
Replacements: 16 Tatafu Polota-Nau, 17 Campese Ma’afu, 18 Joe Heyes, 19 Will Spencer, 20 Guy Thompson, 21 Harry Simmons, 22 Tom Hardwick, 23 Sam Aspland-Robinson
Referee: Craig Maxwell-Keys
Assistant Referees: Adam Leal & Jonathan Healy
TMO: David Rose