Preview: Premiership, Round 15
IN THE SPOTLIGHT: Gloucester Rugby have been excelling under #FridayNightLights and this weekend again kick-off the weekend of compelling action with a short trip to Ashton Gate where a bumper crowd will see them take on Bristol Rugby on Friday.
The first Premiership meeting between the two sides, at Kingsholm back in September, was a hard-fought affair with the Cherry and Whites finally coming out on top. Head Coach Johan Ackermann is expecting another tough encounter.
“It’s going to be massive. We’ve put ourselves in a good position in the past two weeks, but Bristol are a side that plays great rugby, they have a lot of confidence and they can score great tries, they average over 30 points at home.
“For us it’s important to keep the same intensity and that’s what we’ve focused on this week, to make sure that we don’t drop off in training and stick to the normal routine as far as possible.
“We’re not getting carried away. Two wins is a bonus and we can take confidence from that. They were wins over two leading sides but we’re not kidding ourselves, they had some players out and were missing experience and quality.
“We have to keep looking at ourselves, and keep on improving as the challenge is going to get tougher. Bristol have got a very good squad and some X Factor players. They’ve got continuity in their team and bring a different challenge to any other Premiership team,”
With attendances up in Premiership Rugby this season expect another big crowd at Welford Road as Wasps make the short trip to take on the Leicester Tigers.
Also on Saturday Sale Sharks entertain Exeter Chiefs, Harlequins make the trip to Bath Rugby and Saracens host Northampton Saints.
The weekend ends with a high-stakes encounter at Kingston Park as 12th-placed Newcastle Falcons entertain Worcester Warriors, who moved tenth on Sunday with a last-gasp victory over Leicester Tigers. Wayne Barnes – on his 210th Premiership outing – is the man in the middle.
All the action of Round 15
Friday, March 1
Bristol Bears v Gloucester Rugby
(Ashton Gate, Kick-off: 19.45)
Bristol Bears have lost their last three Premiership Rugby matches since beating Newcastle Falcons 35-28 at Ashton Gate on December 30. Bristol have a won four lost three record at home in Premiership Rugby this season.
Gloucester Rugby have beaten the top two teams in the league in the last two rounds, lowering the colours of Exeter Chiefs and Saracens at Kingsholm. Gloucester have won twice away from home in Premiership Rugby this season, at Wasps in round 6 and at Newcastle in round 10.
Bristol beat Gloucester 21-13 at Ashton gate in the Premiership Rugby Cup in November but have not been victorious over them in Premiership Rugby since a 29-26 win at Memorial Stadium in February 2008.
Bristol: 15 Charles Piutau, 14 Luke Morahan, 13 Piers O’Conor, 12 Siale Piutau, 11 Luke Daniels, 10 Callum Sheedy, 9 Andy Uren, 8 Jordan Crane, 7 Dan Thomas, 6 Steve Luatua, 5 Chris Vui, 4 Joe Batley, 3 John Afoa, 2 Harry Thacker, 1 Yann Thomas
Replacements: 16 Sam Parry, 17 Jake Woolmore, 18 Lewis Thiede, 19 George Smith, 20 Jack Lam, 21 Harry Randall, 22 Ian Madigan, 23 Mat Protheroe
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 James Hanson, 1 Josh Hohneck
Replacements: 16 Franco Marais, 17 Alex Seville, 18 Ciaran Knight, 19 Freddie Clarke, 20 Jake Polledri, 21 Callum Braley, 22 Owen Williams, 23 Matt Banahan
Referee: Karl Dickson
Assistant Referees: Tom Foley & Paul Dix.
TMO: Claire Hodnett.
Sunday, March 2
Bath Rugby v Harlequins
(Recreation Ground, Kick-off: 15.00)
Bath Rugby’s last four games in Premiership Rugby have all been won by the home side on the day, whilst their only defeat at the Recreation Ground in any competition since October was 10-17 to Leinster in the third round of the European Champions Cup.
Harlequins have won their last four Premiership Rugby encounters since their 24-35 reversal at Leicester on 22 December. ‘Quins have won both away games they have played in 2019, at Newcastle in Premiership Rugby and at Agen in the European Challenge Cup, but have not won three in a row on their travels since 2013.
Bath have lost just one of their last four encounters with Harlequins in Premiership Rugby: 5-20 at Twickenham Stoop twelve months ago, whilst Harlequins have not been victorious at the Recreation Ground in Premiership Rugby since October 2015.
Bath: 15 Freddie Burns, 14 Ruaridh McConnochie, 13 Jonathan Joseph, 12 Jamie Roberts, 11 Cooper Vuna, 10 Rhys Priestland, 9 Will Chudley (captain), 8 Zach Mercer, 7 Francois Louw, 6 Paul Grant, 5 Elliott Stooke, 4 Dave Attwood, 3 Henry Thomas, 2 Tom Dunn, 1 Nathan Catt.
Replacements: 16 Ross Batty, 17 Beno Obano, 18 Anthony Perenise, 19 Levi Douglas, 20 Miles Reid, 21 Kahn Fotuali’i, 22 Jackson Willison, 23 Tom Homer.
Harlequins: 15 Mike Brown, 14 Ross Chisholm, 13 Joe Marchant, 12 Ben Tapuai, 11 Nathan Earle, 10 James Lang, 9 Charlie Mulchrone, 8 Alex Dombrandt, 7 Chris Robshaw (co-captain), 6 Ben Glynn, 5 James Horwill (co-captain), 4 Matt Symons, 3 Will Collier, 2 Elia Elia, 1 Lewis Boyce.
Replacements: 16 Dave Ward, 17 Joe Marler, 18 Josh Ibuanokpe, 19 George Merrick, 20 Jack Clifford, 21 Dave Lewis, 22 Marcus Smith, 23 Francis Saili.
Referee: Matthew Carley
Assistant Referees: Anthony Woodthorpe & Robert Warburton.
TMO: Graham Hughes
Leicester Tigers v Wasps
(Welford Road, Kick-off: 15.00)
Leicester Tigers have won just twice in the last seven rounds of Premiership Rugby, in their two most recent home games in the competition, against Harlequins and Gloucester.
The Tigers two home losses in Premiership Rugby this season were against Worcester in round 4 and Saracens in round 8.
Wasps have won just twice in any competition since November, at home to Northampton Saints in round 12 of Premiership Rugby and away at Bristol Bears in round 13 – their most recent away game in the tournament. Wasps only defeat in their last seven fixtures against Leicester in all tournaments was by a single point at Welford Road almost twelve months ago.
Wasps have won only once at Welford Road since 2008: 34-22 in Premiership Rugby in September 2016.
Leicester: 15 George Worth, 14 Jonah Holmes, 13 Gareth Owen, 12 Kyle Eastmond, 11 Sam Aspland-Robinson, 10 Joe Ford, 9 Ben White, 8 Sione Kalamafoni, 7 Guy Thompson, 6 Mike Williams, 5 Graham Kitchener, 4 Will Spencer, 3 Dan Cole, 2 Tom Youngs (captain), 1 Facundo Gigena.
Replacements: 16 Jake Kerr, 17 Campese Ma’afu, 18 Joe Heyes, 19 Harry Wells, 20 Mike Fitzgerald, 21 Will Evans, 22 Sam Harrison, 23 Leonardo Sarto.
Wasps: 15 Willie le Roux, 14 Marcus Watson, 13 Juan de Jongh, 12 Gaby Lovobalavu, 11 Josh Bassett, 10 Rob Miller, 9 Joe Simpson, 8 Nizaam Carr, 7 Thomas Young, 6 Ashley Johnson (captain), 5 James Gaskell, 4 Will Rowlands, 3 Will Stuart, 2 Tommy Taylor, 1 Ben Harris.
Replacements: 16 Tom Cruse, 17 Tom West, 18 Biyi Alo, 19 Charlie Matthews, 20 Jack Willis, 21 Craig Hampson, 22 Jacob Umaga, 23 Ross Neal.
Referee: JP Doyle
Assistant Referees: Steve Lee & Hamish Smales.
TMO: Sean Davey
Sale Sharks v Exeter Chiefs
(AJ Bell Stadium, Kick-off: 15.00)
Sale Sharks only defeat in their last seven Premiership Rugby fixtures was by a margin of 50 points at Northampton on 16 February. The Sharks have won their last four home games in Premiership Rugby at AJ Bell Stadium but have not won five in succession at home in the tournament since 2008.
Exeter Chiefs have returned to the top of the Gallagher Premiership Rugby table despite their form over the last six rounds being three wins and three losses, accumulating 19 league points in the process. The Chiefs have lost their last three away games in Premiership Rugby but have not lost four in succession on the road for five years.
Exeter have lost just one of their last eight fixtures with Sale: 17-23 at AJ Bell Stadium in February 2016.
Sale: 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 Strauss, 7 Ben Curry, 6 Jono Ross (captain), 5 James Phillips, 4 Bryn Evans, 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.
Exeter: 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 Elvis Taione, 17 Billy Keast, 18 Marcus Street, 19 Mitch Lees, 20 Sean Lonsdale, 21 Jack Maunder, 22 Joe Simmonds, 23 Sam Hill.
Referee: Ian Tempest
Assistant Referees: Adam Leal & Jonathan Healy.
TMO: Stuart Terheege.
Saracens v Northampton Saints
(Allianz Park, Kick-off: 15.00)
All three of Saracens defeats in Premiership Rugby this season have been away from home in the space of the last five rounds. Saracens have won their last 16 home games in all competitions since Leicester Tigers beat them at Allianz Park in Premiership Rugby over twelve months ago. Northampton Saints only defeat in the last five rounds of Premiership Rugby was away at Wasps on 6 January.
The Saints have won just twice away from home in Premiership Rugby this season, 45-40 at Bristol Bears in September and 32-6 at Worcester Warriors in December. Saracens have won their last eight fixtures against Northampton in all competitions since The Saints 2015 victory at Allianz Park in Premiership Rugby almost three year ago.
Saracens: 15 Max Malins, 14 David Strettle, 13 Nick Tompkins, 12 Brad Barritt (captain), 11 Sean Maitland, 10 Alex Goode, 9 Ben Spencer, 8 Jackson Wray, 7 Ben Earl, 6 Calum Clark, 5 Nick Isiekwe, 4 Will Skelton, 3 Christian Judge, 2 Tom Woolstencroft, 1 Richard Barrington.
Replacements: 16 Joe Gray, 17 Titi Lamositele, 18 Vincent Koch, 19 Joel Kpoku, 20 Schalk Burger, 21 Richard Wigglesworth, 22 Alex Lozowski, 23 Matt Gallagher.
Northampton: 15 George Furbank, 14 Ken Pisi, 13 Fraser Dingwall, 12 Rory Hutchinson, 11 Ahsee Tuala, 10 James Grayson, 9 Alex Mitchell, 8 Heinrich Brüssow, 7 Lewis Ludlam (captain), 6 Jamie Gibson, 5 Api Ratuniyarawa, 4 David Ribbans, 3 Paul Hill, 2 James Fish, 1 Francois van Wyk.
Replacements: 16 Reece Marshall, 17 Alex Waller, 18 Ben Franks, 19 Alex Moon, 20 Tom Wood, 21 Cobus Reinach, 22 Luther Burrell, 23 Tom Collins.
Referee: Luke Pearce
Assistant Referees: Jack Makepeace & Michael Hudson.
TMO: David Rose
Sunday, March 3
Newcastle Falcons v Worcester Warriors
(Kingston Park, Kick-off: 15.00)
Newcastle Falcons only victory in any competition since early December was 28-12 at Sale Sharks in round 4 of the Premiership Rugby Cup on 3 February.
The Falcons have won only once at Kingston Park in Premiership Rugby since April: 16-8 over Bath in November. Worcester Warriors have won just four Premiership Rugby encounters since they beat Leicester Tigers at Welford Road in September, with all four being gained at Sixways.
Worcester have lost their last five away games in Premiership Rugby. Newcastle’s only defeat in their last four encounters with Worcester was 13-27 at Sixways in April 2018, whilst Worcester’s most recent victory at Kingston Park was 15-14 on 4 March 2016.
Newcastle: 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 Gary Graham, 6 Will Welch (captain), 5 Andrew Davidson, 4 Calum Green, 3 Logovi’i Mulipola, 2 George McGuigan, 1 Sam Lockwood.
Replacements: 16 Kyle Cooper, 17 Adam Brocklebank, 18 David Wilson, 19 Will Witty, 20 Nemani Nagusa, 21 Sam Stuart, 22 Brett Connon, 23 Josh Matavesi.
Worcester: 15 Chris Pennell, 14 Tom Howe, 13 Francois Venter, 12 Ryan Mills (captain), 11 Bryce Heem, 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.
Referee: Wayne Barnes
Assistant Referees: Matthew O’Grady & Wayne Falla.
TMO: Rowan Kitt