Preview: Premiership, Round 20
IN THE SPOTLIGHT: With just three rounds to go, the Premiership Rugby table is taking shape, but there is still plenty to play for in what promises to be a thrilling Round 20 of action.
There are two games to kickstart the proceedings on Friday as Newcastle Falcons and Sale Sharks host Northampton Saints and Bath Rugby respectively.
Bottom-side Newcastle will be aiming for a seventh-straight win against Northampton Saints as they look to close the gap on 11th-placed Worcester Warriors. Meanwhile, Sale Sharks and Bath both still harbour hopes of featuring in the Premiership Rugby semi-finals.
Saturday sees three games take place, starting with Exeter Chiefs taking on Harlequins at Sandy Park. The hosts have already secured a home semi-final but will want to get back to winning ways after defeat to Wasps last time out, while Harlequins will be hoping to cling on to their fourth spot in the table.
Leicester Tigers then host Bristol Bears while Wasps take on Saracens. For Saracens they are back at the Ricoh Arena having beaten Munster there at the weekend to secure a place in this season’s Champions Cup Final. But Wasps will be buoyed by overcoming League-leaders Exeter last time out and currently sit fifth, just three points behind Harlequins.
Round 20’s final game is on Sunday and sees Worcester Warriors host Gloucester Rugby at Sixways. The visitors can secure a semi-final spot but that will be easier said than done against a Worcester side battling to avoid relegation.
Friday, April 26
Newcastle Falcons v Northampton Saints
(Kingston Park, 19.45)
Newcastle Falcons have lost their last two Premiership Rugby matches, at Saracens and at home to Leicester. The Falcons’ only victory at Kingston Park in any tournament since November was over Worcester Warriors in Premiership Rugby on 3 March.
Northampton Saints’ last four matches in Premiership Rugby have all been won by the away side on the day. The Saints have not won three in succession on the road in Premiership Rugby since December 2014.
The Falcons have won their last six matches against the Saints in Premiership Rugby ending a run of 11 straight wins in the fixture by Northampton.
Newcastle Falcons: 15 Simon Hammersley, 14 Vereniki Goneva, 13 Chris Harris, 12 Josh Matavesi, 11 Sinoti Sinoti, 10 Toby Flood, 9 Sonatane Takulua, 8 Nemani Nagusa, 7 Mark Wilson, 6 Callum Chick, 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 Gary Graham, 21 Michael Young, 22 Tim Swiel, 23 Johnny Williams
Northampton Saints: 15 Ahsee Tuala, 14 Tom Collins, 13 Rory Hutchinson, 12 Luther Burrell, 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 Devante Onojaif, 21 Alex Mitchell, 22 James Grayson, 23 Andrew Kellaway
Referee: Luke Pearce
Assistant Referees: Steve Lee & John Meredith.
TMO: David Hudson.
Sale Sharks v Bath Rugby
(AJ Bell Stadium, 19.45)
Sale Sharks’ last four matches in Premiership Rugby have all been won by the home side on the day. The Sharks have won their last three games at AJ Bell Stadium in all competitions but have not won four in a row there since January 2018.
Bath Rugby’s last four game have all been won by the home side on the day. Bath’s only away victory in any tournament since September was against Wasps at the Ricoh Arena in Round 10 of Premiership Rugby.
The last three encounters between the two clubs have been evenly split with one win apiece plus a draw whilst Bath’s only previous victory in Premiership Rugby at AJ Bell Stadium came in the opening round of the 2014-15 campaign.
Sale Sharks: 15 Luke James, 14 Denny Solomona, 13 Sam James, 12 James O’Connor, 11 Chris Ashton, 10 AJ MacGinty, 9 Faf De Klerk, 8 Jono Ross, 7 Tom Curry, 6 Ben Curry, 5 James Phillips, 4 Josh Beaumont, 3 Will-Griff John,2 Rob Webber, 1 Ross Harrison.
Replacements: 16 Curtis Langdon, 17 Valery Morozov, 18 Joe Jones, 19 Matt Postlethwaite, 20 Josh Strauss, 21 Will Cliff, 22 Cameron Redpath, 23 Arron Reed.
Bath: 15 Anthony Watson, 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 Levi Douglas, 20 Elliott Stooke, 21 Will Chudley, 22 Rhys Priestland, 23 Semesa Rokoduguni
Referee: Thomas Foley
Assistant Referees: Jack Makepeace & Simon McConnell.
TMO: Stuart Terheege.
Saturday, April 27
Exeter Chiefs v Harlequins
(Sandy Park, 16.00)
Exeter Chiefs’ five game winning run in Premiership Rugby ended with their home defeat to
Wasps in Round 19. The Chiefs have not lost successive matches in the tournament since February 2018 whilst they have not lost back-to-back Premiership Rugby matches at Sandy Park in the same season for five years.
Harlequins only victory in their last six first team fixtures was 18-16 at Worcester in the quarter-final of the European Challenge Cup. The Londoners most recent victory in Premiership Rugby was at Bath on 2 March.
Harlequins beat Exeter 28-26 in Round 9 to end an eight game Chiefs winning run in the fixture.
Harlequins have not been victorious at Sandy Park since May 2014.
Exeter Chiefs: 15 Phil Dollman, 14 Tom O’Flaherty, 13 Henry Slade, 12 Ollie Devoto, 11 Olly Woodburn, 10 Joe Simmonds, 9 Nic White, 8 Matt Kvesic, 7 Sean Lonsdale, 6 Dave Ewers, 5 Jonny Hill, 4 Dave Dennis, 3 Harry Williams, 2 Jack Yeandle (captain), 1 Alec Hepburn
Replacements: 16 Elvis Taione, 17 Ben Moon, 18 Tomas Francis, 19 Ollie Atkins, 20 Richard Capstick, 21 Jack Maunder, 22 Gareth Steenson, 23 Sam Hill
Harlequins: 15 Mike Brown, 14 Charlie Walker, 13 Alofa Alofa, 12 Francis Saili, 11 Ross Chisholm, 10 Marcus Smith, 9 Sam Hidalgo-Clyne, 8 Alex Dombrandt, 7 Chris Robshaw (Captain), 6 Jack Clifford, 5 Stan South, 4 Matt Symons, 3 Kyle Sinckler, 2 Rob Buchanan, 1 Joe Marler.
Replacements: 16 Elia Elia, 17 Nick Auterac, 18 Phil Swainston, 19 George Merrick, 20 Semi Kunatani, 21 Niall Saunders, 22 James Lang, 23 Gabriel Ibitoye
Referee: Craig Maxwell-Keys
Assistant Referees: Adam Leal & Phil Watters.
TMO: Geoff Warren.
Leicester Tigers v Bristol Bears
(Welford Road, 15.00)
Leicester Tigers’ victory at Newcastle in Round 19 ended a three-game losing run. The Tigers have not won back-to-back matches since October.
Bristol Bears’ three game losing run in all competitions ended with their 23-21 victory over Saracens in Round 19 of Premiership Rugby. The Bears have won just once away from home in
Premiership Rugby since New Year’s Day 2017: 26-24 at Northampton in Round 16.
Bristol beat Leicester 41-10 at Ashton Gate in round 9 but have never achieved a season’s League double over Leicester. Bristol’s only victory at Welford Road since 1987 came in the quarter-final of the Zurich Championship in May 2002.
Leicester Tigers: 15 Clayton Blommetjies, 14 Jonny May, 13 Matt Smith, 12 Matt Toomua, 11 Jordan Olowofela, 10 George Ford (captain), 9 Sam Harrison, 8 Sione Kalamafoni, 7 Guy Thompson, 6 Mike Fitzgerald, 5 Graham Kitchener, 4 Will Spencer, 3 Dan Cole, 2 Tatafu Polota-Nau, 1 Ellis Genge
Replacements: 16 Jake Kerr, 17 Facundo Gigena, 18 Joe Heyes, 19 Harry Wells, 20 Mike Williams, 21 Ben White, 22 Sam Aspland-Robinson, 23 Telusa Veainu
Bristol Bears: 15 Mat Protheroe; 14 Tom Pincus, 13 Piers O’Conor, 12 Sam Bedlow, 11 Alapati Leiua; 10 Callum Sheedy, 9 Andy Uren, 8 Nick Haining, 7 Dan Thomas, 6 Steve Luatua, 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 Jordan Crane, 21 Harry Randall, 22 Ian Madigan, 23 Siale Piutau.
Referee: Karl Dickson
Assistant Referees: Wayne Falla & Hamish Smales.
TMO: Rowan Kitt.
Wasps v Saracens
(Ricoh Arena 16.30)
Wasps have won their last two matches, at home to Worcester and away at Exeter, but have not won three in succession since September. Wasps have not won back-to-back fixtures at the Ricoh Arena since last April.
Saracens record in the last ten rounds of Premiership Rugby is won five lost five. Saracens have lost their last four away games in all competitions but have not lost five in succession on the road for a decade.
Saracens’ only defeat to Wasps since February 2016 was 15-35 at the Ricoh Arena in Round 22 of season 2016-17. Saracens have won on four of their last five visits to the Ricoh Arena including last Saturday’s triumph over Munster.
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 Kearnan Myall, 4 Will Rowlands, 3 Kieran Brookes, 2 Ashley Johnson (captain), 1 Zurabi Zhvania
Replacements: 16 Tom Cruse, 17 Simon McIntyre, 18 Jake Cooper-Woolley, 19 Charlie Matthews, 20 Ben Morris, 21 Craig Hampson, 22 Jimmy Gopperth, 23 Juan de Jongh
Saracens: 15 Alex Goode, 14 David Strettle, 13 Alex Lozowski, 12 Nick Tompkins, 11 Liam Williams, 10 Owen Farrell (captain), 9 Ben Spencer, 8 Billy Vunipola, 7 Calum Clark, 6 Mike Rhodes, 5 George Kruis, 4 Maro Itoje, 3 Titi Lamositele, 2 Jamie George, 1 Mako Vunipola
Replacements: 16 Joe Gray, 17 Richard Barrington, 18 Vincent Koch, 19 Will Skelton, 20 Schalk Burger, 21 Henry Taylor, 22 Dom Morris, 23 Alex Lewington
Referee: Wayne Barnes
Assistant Referees: Paul Dix & Rob Warburton.
TMO: David Grashoff.
Sunday, April 28
Worcester Warriors v Gloucester Rugby
Worcester Warriors have won two of their last three Gallagher Premiership Rugby fixtures whilst at
Sixways they have lost just twice in Premiership Rugby since September – to Northampton in Round 10 and Exeter in Round 16.
Gloucester Rugby have won their last four Premiership Rugby encounters since their reversal at Bristol on 1 March. The Cherry & Whites have not won five in a row in the tournament since December 2017.
Gloucester’s only defeat in their last five fixtures with Worcester was 15-25 in this equivalent game at Sixways in Round 15 last season
Worcester Warriors: 15 Chris Pennell, 14 Perry Humphreys, 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 Michael Fatialofa, 20 Andrew Kitchener, 21 Ted Hill, 22 Michael Heaney, 23 Jono Lance
Gloucester: 15 Matt Banahan; 14 Charlie Sharples, 13 Billy Twelvetrees, 12 Mark Atkinson, 11 Henry Purdy; 10 Danny Cipriani, 9 Willi Heinz (captain); 8 Ben Morgan, 7 Jake Polledri, 6 Ruan Ackermann, 5 Franco Mostert; 4 Ed Slater, 3 Gareth Denman; 2 Franco Marais, 1 Val Rapava Ruskin.
Replacements: 16 Mike Sherry, 17 Josh Hohneck, 18 Fraser Balmain, 19 Tom Savage, 20 Lewis Ludlow, 21 Callum Braley, 22 Lloyd Evans, 23 Jason Woodward
Referee: JP Doyle
Assistant Referees: Anthony Woodthorpe & Jonathan Healy.
TMO: Graham Hughes.