PREVIEW: Premiership, Round 22
THE FINAL SHOT: With just one round of Premiership Rugby action to go first place, the last semi-final berth and Champions Cup places are all still up for grabs.
And with all six games kicking off at the same time on Saturday, you won’t want to miss anything.
Exeter Chiefs currently occupy top spot but staying there will be easier said than done as they host a Northampton Saints team looking to keep hold of fourth.
If Exeter slip up then Saracens will be hoping to get the better of Worcester Warriors at Sixways to leapfrog them into first place, the gap between last year’s finalists currently at four points.
But if Northampton taste defeat at Exeter then Harlequins will be eyeing up fourth place, and they travel to Wasps.
Harlequins haven’t been in the semi-finals since 2014 and will be hoping to end a three-game losing run on the road to claim fourth place.
Meanwhile, the final day action sees Newcastle Falcons host Bristol Bears, semi-finalists Gloucester Rugby travel to Sale Sharks and rivals Leicester Tigers and Bath Rugby do battle at Welford Road.
Bath sit sixth and occupy the final Champions Cup spot for next season, but with Sale Sharks a point behind and both Wasps and Bristol Bears four points off the West Country outfit there is still plenty to play for.
Saturday, May 18
Exeter Chiefs v Northampton Saints
(Sandy Park, 16.00)
Exeter Chiefs have now reached a fourth consecutive Premiership Rugby semi-final, all of which have been at Sandy Park, where they have yet to fail to reach the Final. The Chiefs have lost two of their last three matches whilst their two defeats at Sandy Park in all tournaments this season were to Gloucester in round 3 of the European Champions Cup and to Wasps in Round 19 of Premiership Rugby.
Northampton Saints are bidding to reach the Premiership Rugby semi-finals for the first time since 2015. The Saints have won their last three matches since their 31-40 reversal to Gloucester on April 7.
Exeter Chiefs: 15 Jack Nowell, 14 Alex Cuthbert, 13 Henry Slade, 12 Ollie Devoto, 11 Olly Woodburn, 10 Joe Simmonds, 9 Nic White, 8 Matt Kvesic, 7 Don Armand, 6 Dave Ewers, 5 Jonny Hill, 4 Dave Dennis, 3 Harry Williams, 2 Jack Yeandle (captain), 1 Alec Hepburn.
Replacements: 16 Luke Cowan-Dickie, 17 Ben Moon, 18 Tomas Francis, 19 Sam Skinner, 20 Sam Simmonds, 21 Jack Maunder, 22 Gareth Steenson, 23 Sam Hill
Northampton Saints: 15 Ahsee Tuala, 14 Tom Collins, 13 Rory Hutchinson, 12 Piers Francis, 11 Taqele Naiyaravoro, 10 Dan Biggar, 9 Cobus Reinach, 8 Teimana Harrison, 7 Lewis Ludlam, 6 Jamie Gibson, 5 Courtney Lawes, 4 Alex Moon, 3 Paul Hill, 2 Reece Marshall, 1 Alex Waller (captain).
Replacements: 16 James Fish, 17 Francois van Wyk, 18 Ben Franks, 19 David Ribbans, 20 Tom Wood, 21 Alex Mitchell, 22 James Grayson, 23 Luther Burrell
Referee: Karl Dickson (19th Premiership game).
Assistant Referees: Luke Pearce & Gareth Holsgrove.
TMO: David Rose.
Leicester Tigers v Bath Rugby
(Welford Road, 16.00)
Leicester Tigers only victory in their last six matches was 27-22 at Newcastle in Round 19 of Premiership Rugby.
Tigers have lost their last three matches at Welford Road but have never lost four in succession at home in Premiership Rugby.
Bath beat Wasps 29-17 at the Recreation Ground in round 21 but have not won successive Premiership Rugby encounters since December. Bath have won just twice away from home in any competition this season, both in Premiership Rugby, at Harlequins in round 3 and at Wasps in Round 10.
Bath beat Leicester 23-16 at The Recreation Ground in round 11 but have not achieved a season’s double over the Tigers since 2003/04. Bath won on their most recent visit to Welford Road in the opening round of the 2017/18 campaign but have not won successive matches at the venue since 1992.
Leicester Tigers: 15 George Worth, 14 Sam Aspland-Robinson, 13 Matt Smith, 12 Kyle Eastmond, 11 Clayton Blommetjies, 10 George Ford, 9 Sam Harrison, 8 Sione Kalamafoni, 7 Brendon O’Connor, 6 Mike Fitzgerald, 5 Graham Kitchener, 4 Will Spencer, 3 Dan Cole, 2 Tom Youngs (captain), 1 Ellis Genge
Replacements: 16 Tatafu Polota-Nau, 17 Facundo Gigena, 18 Joe Heyes, 19 Harry Wells, 20 Valentino Mapapalangi, 21 Ben White, 22 Tom Hardwick, 23 Leonardo Sarto
Bath: 15 Anthony Watson, 14 Joe Cokanasiga, 13 Jonathan Joseph, 12 Max Wright, 11 Ruaridh McConnochie, 10 Freddie Burns, 9 Will Chudley, 8 Zach Mercer, 7 Sam Underhill, 6 Tom Ellis, 5 Charlie Ewels (captain), 4 Levi Douglas, 3 Max Lahiff, 2 Tom Dunn, 1 Beno Obano
Replacements: 16 Ross Batty, 17 Jacques van Rooyen, 18 Sam Nixon, 19 Elliott Stooke, 20 Francois Louw, 21 Kahn Fotuali’i, 22 Rhys Priestland, 23 Semesa Rokoduguni
Referee: Craig Maxwell-Keys
Assistant Referees: Ian Tempest & Matthew O’Grady.
TMO: Sean Davey.
Newcastle Falcons v Bristol Bears
(Kingston Park, 16.00)
Newcastle Falcons have slipped to four straight defeats since beating Sale Sharks 22-17 at St James’ Park in round 17 of Premiership Rugby.
The Tynesiders’ only victory at Kingston Park in any competition in 2019 was against Worcester in round 15 of Premiership Rugby.
Bristol Bears are unbeaten in their last three matches since their defeat to Bath at Twickenham Stadium in Round 18 of Premiership Rugby. Bristol won at Leicester in their most recent away game but have not won successive Premiership Rugby fixtures on the road since March 2008.
The Bears beat the Falcons 35-28 at Ashton Gate in round 11 and have not achieved a season’s double over Newcastle since 2007/08.
Newcastle Falcons: 15 Alex Tait, 14 Zach Kibirige, 13 Chris Harris, 12 Johnny Williams, 11 Adam Radwan, 10 Joel Hodgson, 9 Michael Young (captain), 8 Nemani Nagusa, 7 Gary Graham, 6 Callum Chick, 5 Sean Robinson, 4 Calum Green, 3 Logovi’i Mulipola, 2 George McGuigan, 1 Sam Lockwood.
Replacements: 16 Santiago Socino, 17 Trevor Davison, 18 David Wilson, 19 Evan Olmstead, 20 Jamie Blamire, 21 Sam Stuart, 22 Toby Flood, 23 Josh Matavesi
Bristol Bears: 15 Charles Piutau; 14 Alapati Leiua, 13 Piers O’Conor, 12 Siale Piutau, 11 Luke Daniels; 10 Callum Sheedy, 9 Harry Randall, 8 Nick Haining, 7 Dan Thomas, 6 Steve Luatua, 5 Chris Vui, 4 Ed Holmes, 3 John Afoa, 2 Harry Thacker, 1 James Lay
Replacements: 16 George Kloska, 17 Jake Woolmore, 18 Lewis Thiede, 19 Jack Lam, 20 George Smith, 21 Nic Stirzaker, 22 Tusi Pisi, 23 Mat Protheroe.
Referee: JP Doyle
Assistant Referees: Hamish Smales & Andrew Jackson.
TMO: David Grashoff.
Sale Sharks v Gloucester Rugby
(AJ Bell Stadium, 16.00)
Sale Sharks are unbeaten in their last two Premiership Rugby matches, beating Bath and drawing against Bristol, they have not gone three matches undefeated since January. The Sharks only two defeats at AJ Bell Stadium in Premiership Rugby this season were to Wasps in Round 4 and Exeter in Round 15.
Gloucester have already qualified for their first Premiership Rugby semi-final since 2011 and have lost only once in the last six rounds: 20-27 at Worcester on 28 April.
Sale beat Gloucester 30-15 at Kingsholm in Round 11 but have not achieved a season’s double over the Cherry & Whites since 2013/14. Gloucester have won on two of their last three visits to AJ Bell Stadium.
Gloucester: 15 Charlie Sharples; 14 Tom Seabrook, 13 Henry Purdy, 12 Matt Banahan, 11 Ollie Thorley; 10 Lloyd Evans, 9 Callum Braley, 8 Gareth Evans, 7 Lewis Ludlow, 6 Jake Polledri, 5 Gebrandt Grobler, 4 Tom Savage (captain), 3 Gareth Denman, 2 Henry Walker, 1 Kyle Traynor.
Replacements: 16 Todd Gleave, 17 Alex Seville, 18 Paddy McAllister, 19 Alex Craig, 20 Aaron Hinkley, 21 Ben Vellacott, 22 Dom Coetzer, 23 Tom Marshall
Sale Sharks: 15 Chris Ashton; 14 Denny Solomona, 13 Sam James, 12 James O’Connor, 11 Byron McGuigan; 10 AJ MacGinty, 9 Faf de Klerk, 8 Jono Ross (captain), 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 Valerey Morozov, 18 Joe Jones, 19 Bryn Evans, 20 Josh Strauss, 21 Will Cliff, 22 Luke James, 23 Arron Reed.
Referee: Wayne Barnes
Assistant Referees: Christophe Ridley & Peter Allan.
TMO: Keith Lewis
Wasps v Harlequins
(Ricoh Arena, 16.00)
Wasps have failed to make the Premiership Rugby semi-finals for the first time since 2015.
Wasps have won just twice in the last eight rounds of Premiership Rugby, at home to Worcester in round 18 and away at Exeter in round 19. Wasps only victory at the Ricoh Arena since early January was against the Warriors on 6 April.
Harlequins are bidding to reach a first Premiership Rugby semi-final spot since 2014.
Harlequins 23-19 victory at home to Leicester in round 21 ended a run of five successive defeats in the competition. The Londoners have lost their last three away games in Premiership Rugby since beating Bath at the Recreation ground in round 15.
Harlequins defeated Wasps 20-13 at Twickenham Stadium in round 11 but have not achieved a season’s double over them since 2013/14. Harlequins have made five previous visits to the Ricoh Arena in all tournaments, but their only victory was 24-21 in Premiership Rugby in September 2017.
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 Kieran Brookes, 2 Tom Cruse, 1 Simon McIntyre
Replacements: 16 Tommy Taylor, 17 Zurabi Zhvania, 18 Jake Cooper-Woolley, 19 Will Rowlands, 20 Ashley Johnson, 21 Craig Hampson, 22 Rob Miller, 23 Juan de Jongh
Harlequins: 15 Mike Brown, 14 Ross Chisholm, 13 Joe Marchant, 12 Ben Tapuai, 11 Gabriel Ibitoye, 10 Marcus Smith, 9 Danny Care, 8 Jack Clifford, 7 Chris Robshaw, 6 Semi Kunatani, 5 James Horwill, 4 Matt Symons, 3 Kyle Sinckler, 2 Rob Buchanan, 1 Joe Marler.
Replacements: 16 Elia Elia, 17 Lewis Boyce, 18 Will Collier, 19 George Merrick, 20 Alex Dombrandt, 21 Sam Hidalgo-Clyne, 22 James Lang, 23 Alofa Alofa.
Referee: Matthew Carley
Assistant Referees: Tom Foley & Greg Macdonald.
TMO: Stuart Terheege
Worcester Warriors v Saracens
Worcester Warriors last four matches in Premiership Rugby have all been won by the home side on the day. The Warriors solitary defeat at Sixways in Premiership Rugby in 2019 was 30-33 to Exeter in round 16.
Saracens have already qualified for a tenth successive Premiership Rugby semi-final appearance and have lost only once in any competition since March: 21-23 at Bristol in Round 19 of
Premiership Rugby. Saracens 31-14 victory at Wasps in round 20 ended a run of five successive away defeats in Premiership Rugby.
The Warriors only victory in their last ten Premiership Rugby meetings with Saracens was 24-18 at Sixways on 11 February 2017.
Worcester Warriors: 15 Chris Pennell, 14 Perry Humphreys, 13 Wynand Olivier, 12 Ben Te’o, 11 Josh Adams, 10 Duncan Weir, 9 Francois Hougaard, 8 GJ van Velze (Captain), 7 Cornell du Preez, 6 Ted Hill, 5 Michael Fatialofa, 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 Sam Lewis, 21 Jonny Arr, 22 Jamie Shillcock, 23 Tom Howe
Saracens: 15 Matt Gallagher, 14 David Strettle, 13 Marcelo Bosch, 12 Nick Tompkins, 11 Alex Lewington, 10 Manu Vunipola, 9 Tom Whiteley, 8 Ben Earl, 7 Schalk Burger, 6 Calum Clark (captain), 5 Dom Day, 4 Nick Isiekwe, 3 Christian Judge, 2 Joe Gray, 1 Juan Figallo.
Replacements: 16 Tom Woolstencroft, 17 Hayden Thompson-Stringer, 18 Billy Walker, 19 Joel Kpoku, 20 Andy Christie, 21 Henry Taylor, 22 Tom Griffiths, 23 Rotimi Segun
Referee: Adam Leal
Assistant Referees: Jack Makepeace & Paul Dix.
TMO: Trevor Fisher.