Preview: Premiership, Round 19
IN THE SPOTLIGHT: There are just four rounds of Premiership Rugby remaining, and while two semi-final spots have already been bagged there is still plenty to play for up and down the table.
And attentions will be towards the bottom as Round 19 kicks off on Friday with Newcastle Falcons hosting Leicester Tigers. The home side are sat 12th but with the Tigers just two places and five points above them, the outcome of this match at Kingston Park could have repercussions come May.
The excitement and tension continues on Saturday at Kingsholm as Gloucester Rugby host local rivals Bath Rugby. No matter what happens Gloucester know third place is theirs for at least another week, but with Bath still eyeing the top four themselves this promises to be another West Country cracker.
Elsewhere on Saturday Northampton Saints travel to fourth-place Harlequins, while fifth-place Sale Sharks head to Sixways to take on Worcester Warriors, meaning there could be plenty of changes at both ends of the League.
And Saturday rounds off with Bristol Bears taking on Saracens at Ashton Gate, with the defending Champions having secured their top-four spot last weekend.
Exeter Chiefs went one better last time out as they ensured a home semi-final with victory over Leicester, and the League leaders now turn their attentions to Wasps who travel to Sandy Park.
Friday, April 12
Newcastle Falcons v Leicester Tigers
(Kingston Park, 19.45)
Newcastle Falcons’ three game winning run ended with their 12 -26 reversal at Saracens on Saturday.
Newcastle have won their last two home games to take their tally of home wins this season to three, still the lowest total in Premiership Rugby.
Leicester Tigers’ only win in the last six rounds of Gallagher Premiership Rugby was 19-14 at home to Wasps on 2 March. The Tigers have not won away from home on a Friday night in Premiership Rugby since a visit to Harlequins in February 2017.
Leicester have lost just two of their last 18 fixtures with Newcastle in all tournaments, both in Premiership Rugby, at Kingston Park in September 2016 and at Welford Road in April 2018.
Newcastle: 15 Simon Hammersley, 14 Vereniki Goneva, 13 Chris Harris, 12 Josh Matavesi, 11 Sinoti Sinoti, 10 Toby Flood (co-captain), 9 Sonatane Takulua, 8 Mark Wilson (co-captain), 7 John Hardie, 6 Gary Graham, 5 Andrew Davidson, 4 Calum Green, 3 Rodney Ah You, 2 George McGuigan, 1 Logovi’i Mulipola.
Replacements: 16 Kyle Cooper, 17 Sam Lockwood, 18 Trevor Davison, 19 Sean Robinson, 20 Evan Olmstead, 21 Michael Young, 22 Brett Connon, 23 Johnny Williams.
Leicester: 15 Matt Toomua, 14 Jonny May, 13 Gareth Owen, 12 Manu Tuilagi, 11 Jordan Olowofela, 10 George Ford (captain), 9 Sam Harrison, 8 Guy Thompson, 7 Mike Williams, 6 Mike Fitzgerald, 5 Graham Kitchener, 4 Will Spencer, 3 Dan Cole, 2 Jake Kerr, 1 Ellis Genge.
Replacements: 16 Tatafu Polota-Nau, 17 Facundo Gigena, 18 Joe Heyes, 19 Harry Wells, 20 Brendon O’Connor, 21 Ben White, 22 Sam Aspland-Robinson, 23 Matt Smith.
Referee: Wayne Barnes
Assistant Referees: Matthew Carley & Luke Pearce.
TMO: Rowan Kitt.
Saturday, April 13
Gloucester Rugby v Bath Rugby
Gloucester Rugby’s only defeat in the last six rounds of Premiership Rugby was 24-28 at Bristol on 1 March. Gloucester have won their last three home games at Kingsholm, since their reversal to Munster in Round 6 of the European Champions Cup.
Bath Rugby’s only away win in any tournament since September was 24-14 at Wasps in Premiership Rugby on 23 December.
Bath have lost only two of their last 15 first team fixtures with Gloucester, both at the Recreation Ground in Premiership Rugby, in 2016 and 2017. Bath’s most recent victory at Kingsholm was 16-10 in October 2012, although they did beat Exeter there in last year’s Final of the Anglo-Welsh Cup.
Gloucester: 15 Matt Banahan, 14 Tom Seabrook, 13 Billy Twelvetrees, 12 Mark Atkinson, 11 Henry Purdy, 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 Mike Sherry, 17 Val Rapava Ruskin, 18 Gareth Denman, 19 Freddie Clarke, 20 Lewis Ludlow, 21 Jake Polledri, 22 Callum Braley, 23 Louis Rees-Zammit.
Bath: 15 Tom Homer, 14 Joe Cokanasiga, 13 Jonathan Joseph, 12 Jamie Roberts, 11 Ruaridh McConnochie, 10 Freddie Burns, 9 Kahn Fotuali’i, 8 Zach Mercer, 7 Sam Underhill, 6 Tom Ellis, 5 Charlie Ewels (captain), 4 Dave Attwood, 3 Max Lahiff, 2 Tom Dunn, 1 Beno Obano.
Replacements: 16 Jack Walker, 17 Jacques van Rooyen, 18 Anthony Perenise, 19 Elliott Stooke, 20 Miles Reid, 21 Will Chudley, 22 Rhys Priestland, 23 Max Clark.
Referee: Matthew Carley
Assistant Referees: Hamish Smales & Peter Allan.
TMO: Geoff Warren.
Harlequins v Northampton Saints
(Twickenham Stoop, 15.00)
Harlequins have lost their last three Premiership Rugby matches since their five-game winning run ended at Bath in March. Quins have lost three games in the tournament at Twickenham Stoop this season, to Bath in Round 3, Saracens in Round 6 and Gloucester in Round 16.
Northampton Saints’ only win in the last four rounds of Premiership Rugby was 29-15 at Leicester on 22 March. This is Saints’ only away win in any tournament in 2019.
Northampton have lost only two of their last 12 encounters with Harlequins in all competitions, both in Premiership Rugby, at Twickenham Stoop in 2016 and at Twickenham Stadium in 2017.
Harlequins: 15 Mike Brown, 14 Nathan Earle, 13 Alofa Alofa, 12 Ben Tapuai, 11 Cadan Murley, 10 Marcus Smith, 9 Sam Hidalgo-Clyne, 8 Alex Dombrandt, 7 Chris Robshaw (co-captain), 6 Jack Clifford, 5 James Horwill (co-captain), 4 Matt Symons, 3 Kyle Sinckler, 2 Max Crumpton, 1 Nick Auterac.
Replacements: 16 Dave Ward, 17 Lewis Boyce, 18 Phil Swainston, 19 Ben Glynn, 20 Semi Kunatani, 21 Niall Saunders, 22 James Lang, 23 Francis Saili.
Northampton : 15 George Furbank, 14 Ahsee Tuala, 13 Rory Hutchinson, 12 Piers Francis, 11 Taqele Naiyaravoro, 10 Dan Biggar, 9 Cobus Reinach, 8 Teimana Harrison (captain), 7 Tom Wood, 6 Jamie Gibson, 5 Courtney Lawes, 4 Api Ratuniyarawa, 3 Paul Hill, 2 Reece Marshall, 1 Francois Van Wyk.
Replacements: 16 Samson Ma’asi, 17 Alex Waller, 18 Ben Franks, 19 Alex Coles, 20 Mitch Eadie, 21 Alex Mitchell, 22 James Grayson, 23 Andrew Kellaway.
Referee: Christophe Ridley
Assistant Referees: Wayne Falla & Simon McConnell.
TMO: Keith Lewis.
Worcester Warriors v Sale Sharks
Worcester Warriors have won only one of their last four Premiership Rugby fixtures: 27-25 at Bristol in Round 17. The Warriors have won four of their last six Premiership Rugby matches at Sixways, with the defeats being to Northampton in Round 10 and Exeter in Round 16.
Sale Sharks’ record in the last six rounds of Premiership Rugby is an even won three lost three.
The Sharks have won just once away from home in any tournament in 2019: 24-18 at Wasps in Round 14 of Premiership Rugby. Sale have lost just one of their last ten Premiership Rugby fixtures with Worcester: 23-31 at Sixways in February 2016
Worcester: 15 Chris Pennell, 14 Bryce Heem, 13 Francois Venter, 12 Ben Te’o, 11 Josh Adams, 10 Duncan Weir, 9 Francois Hougaard, 8 Cornell du Preez, 7 Sam Lewis, 6 Marco Mama (captain), 5 Darren Barry, 4 Anton Bresler, 3 Nick Schonert, 2 Niall Annett, 1 Ethan Waller.
Replacements: 16 Jack Singleton, 17 Callum Black, 18 Gareth Milasinovich, 19 Andrew Kitchener, 20 Ted Hill, 21 Michael Heaney, 22 Jono Lance, 23 Tom Howe.
Sale: 15 Luke James, 14 Denny Solomona, 13 Sam James, 12 Rohan Janse van Rensburg, 11 Arron Reed, 10 AJ MacGinty, 9 Faf de Klerk, 8 Josh Strauss, 7 Ben 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 Valery Morozov, 18 Joe Jones, 19 Matt Postlethwaite, 20 Sam Moore, 21 Will Cliff, 22 Cameron Redpath, 23 Paolo Odogwu.
Referee: Ian Tempest
Assistant Referees: Jack Makepeace & Rob Warburton.
TMO: Graham Hughes.
Bristol Bears v Saracens
(Ashton Gate, 17.30)
Bristol Bears’ last four Premiership Rugby matches have been shared with two wins and two defeats, but in each instance the defeated team has picked up a losing bonus point. Bristol’s only win in their last four matches in all competitions at Ashton Gate was 28-24 against Gloucester in Round 15 of Premiership Rugby.
Saracens have won their last two Premiership Rugby fixtures but have not won three in a row in the tournament since December. Saracens have lost their last four away games in Gallagher Premiership Rugby but have not lost five in succession on the road for a decade.
Saracens have won their last seven fixtures against Bristol in all competitions since the Bears’ 18-3 victory in Premiership Rugby at Memorial Stadium in January 2008.
Bristol: 15 Mat Protheroe, 14 Tom Pincus, 13 Piers O’Conor, 12 Sam Bedlow, 11 Alapati Leiua, 10 Callum Sheedy (co-captain), 9 Andy Uren, 8 Nick Haining, 7 Dan Thomas, 6 Steve Luatua (co-captain), 5 Chris Vui, 4 Ed Holmes, 3 John Afoa, 2 Harry Thacker, 1 Jake Woolmore.
Replacements: 16 Nick Fenton-Wells, 17 James Lay, 18 Lewis Thiede, 19 George Smith, 20 Jake Heenan, 21 Harry Randall, 22 Ian Madigan, 23 Tusi Pisi.
Saracens: 15 Alex Goode, 14 Sean Maitland, 13 Marcelo Bosch, 12 Nick Tompkins, 11 Alex Lewington, 10 Max Malins, 9 Tom Whiteley, 8 Jackson Wray, 7 Mike Rhodes, 6 Calum Clark, 5 Will Skelton, 4 Nick Isiekwe, 3 Titi Lamositele, 2 Christopher Tolofua, 1 Richard Barrington.
Replacements: 16 Jamie George, 17 Ralph Adams-Hale, 18 Vincent Koch, 19 Maro Itoje,, 20 Ben Earl, 21 Billy Vunipola, 22 Ben Spencer, 23 Alex Lozowski.
Referee: Thomas Foley
Assistant Referees: Anthony Woodthorpe & Paul Dix.
TMO: David Grashoff.
Sunday, April 14
Exeter Chiefs v Wasps
(Sandy Park, 15.00)
Exeter Chiefs have won their last five Premiership Rugby fixtures since their 17-24 reversal at
Gloucester on 15 February. The Chiefs only defeat at Sandy Park in any competition since February 2018 was to Gloucester in the European Champions Cup last December.
Wasps four game losing run ended with their 28-16 victory at home to Worcester on Saturday. Wasps only away win in any competitions since September was 29-22 at Bristol in Premiership Rugby on 15 February.
Exeter’s only defeat to Wasps in their last five meetings in Premiership Rugby was 7-13 at Ricoh Arena in February 2018. Wasps have never won in nine previous visits to Sandy Park in Premiership Rugby, although they did draw there 35-all in February 2017.
Exeter: 15 Santiago Cordero, 14 Jack Nowell, 13 Henry Slade, 12 Ollie Devoto, 11 Olly Woodburn, 10 Joe Simmonds, 9 Nic White, 8 Matt Kvesic, 7 Don Armand (captain), 6 Dave Ewers, 5 Ollie Atkins, 4 Sean Lonsdale, 3 Tomas Francis, 2 Luke Cowan-Dickie, 1 Ben Moon.
Replacements: 16 Jack Yeandle, 17 Alec Hepburn, 18 Harry Williams, 19 Toby Salmon, 20 Richard Capstick, 21 Jack Maunder, 22 Sam Hill, 23 Ian Whitten.
Wasps: 15 Willie le Roux, 14 Marcus Watson, 13 Elliot Daly, 12 Gaby Lovobalavu, 11 Josh Bassett, 10 Lima Sopoaga, 9 Joe Simpson, 8 Nathan Hughes, 7 Nizaam Carr, 6 Brad Shields, 5 James Gaskell, 4 Joe Launchbury (captain), 3 Jake Cooper-Woolley, 2 Tom Cruse, 1 Zurabi Zhvania.
Replacements: 16 Ashley Johnson, 17 Simon McIntyre, 18 Kieran Brookes, 19 Will Rowlands, 20 Ben Morris, 21 Craig Hampson, 22 Rob Miller, 23 Juan de Jongh.
Referee: Luke Pearce
Assistant Referees: Adam Leal & Greg Macdonald.
TMO: David Rose.