Preview: Premiership, Round nine
IN THE SPOTLIGHT: Premiership Rugby is back with six compelling Round nine fixtures this weekend, kicking-off at Franklin’s Garden where Northampton Saints entertain London Irish.
Bristol Bears welcome Gloucester Rugby on Saturday and Harlequins take on Saracens in a tasty London derby to cap off Round nine.
In the East Midlands as Saints welcome the Exiles, days after sealing Champions Cup quarter-final qualification.
They have also enjoyed a fine start to the season domestically, sitting just a point off Exeter Chiefs at the table’s summit after winning six of their eight Premiership Rugby matches so far.
And they will be looking to make that seven against Irish, who have triumphed just twice in the league since their promotion in the summer, the last of which came back in November.
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On Saturday, two sides vying for a top four finish this year go head-to-head as Gloucester go to Ashton Gate, hoping to put daylight between themselves and the Bears.
They currently sit third, just five points above their opponents in fifth, and will be wary of Pat Lam’s side’s home form; Bristol have lost just once on home turf so far this season.
Sunday then brings with it a Premiership Rugby classic as two London giants of the game go head-to-head at the Stoop.
With Quins having made an indifferent start to their campaign, a derby win over their fierce rivals would certainly be just the tonic as they eye a first triumph over Saracens in four attempts.
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Friday, January 24
Northampton Saints v London Irish
(Franklin’s Gardens, 19.45)
Northampton Saints have won their last four matches in all competitions since tripping up 10-22 at Sale in round 6 of Premiership Rugby. The Saints have won their last five Premiership Rugby fixtures at Franklin’s Gardens since losing there 31-40 to Gloucester in April. London Irish have lost their last seven matches in all competitions since their 27-all draw at Bristol in round 5 of Premiership Rugby. The Exiles solitary away win in Premiership Rugby this season was against Wasps at Ricoh Arena on the opening weekend.
Northampton have lost only one of their last nine Premiership Rugby encounters with London Irish: 23-25 at Madejski Stadium on Boxing Day 2015 whilst London Irish’s only victory at Franklin’s Gardens in the last fifteen years was by a single point in Premiership Rugby in September 2011.
Northampton Saints: 15 Ahsee Tuala, 14 Ollie Sleightholme, 13 Rory Hutchinson, 12 Piers Francis, 11 Taqele Naiyaravoro, 10 James Grayson, 9 Cobus Reinach, 8 Mitch Eadie, 7 Teimana Harrison (captain), 6 Tom Wood, 5 Api Ratuniyarawa, 4 Alex Coles, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Mike Haywood, 1 Ben Franks
Replacements: 16 James Fish, 17 Alex Waller, 18 Ehren Painter, 19 Lewis Bean, 20 JJ Tonks, 21 Henry Taylor, 22 Andrew Symons, 23 Tom Collins
London Irish: 15 James Stokes, 14 Waisake Naholo, 13 Curtis Rona, 12 Terrence Hepetema, 11 Ollie Hassell-Collins, 10 Stephen Myler, 9 Ben Meehan, 8 Albert Tuisue, 7 Blair Cowan, 6 Matt Rogerson, 5 Adam Coleman, 4 Franco van der Merwe (captain), 3 Sekope Kepu, 2 Dave Porecki, 1 Harry Elrington
Replacements: 16 Ben Atkins, 17 Allan Dell, 18 Ollie Hoskins, 19 Steve Mafi, 20 Ben Donnell, 21 Nick Phipps, 22 Tom Stephenson, 23 Matt Williams
Referee: Tom Foley
Assistant Referees: Anthony Woodthorpe & Andrew Jackson.
TMO: Rowan Kitt.
Saturday, January 25
Bath Rugby v Leicester Tigers
(Recreation Ground, 15.00)
Bath Rugby have won just twice in their last ten first team matches, both in Premiership Rugby in December, at London Irish and at home to Sale. Bath have lost only one of their last seven home games in Premiership Rugby: 12-25 to Saracens on 29 November.
Leicester Tigers were victorious in their most recent Premiership Rugby fixture, 31-18 at home to Bristol, but have not won successive matches in the competition since October 2018. Tigers have won only once away from home since then: 27-22 at Newcastle in April.
Leicester have already been victorious at the Recreation Ground this season having beaten their hosts there 18-7 in the Premiership Rugby Cup in October. Bath have lost only one of their last five Premiership Rugby fixtures against Tigers: 19-34 in ‘The Clash’ at Twickenham in April 2018.
Bath: 15 Tom Homer, 14 Semesa Rokoduguni, 13 Max Wright, 12 Jackson Willison, 11 Ruaridh McConnochie, 10 Rhys Priestland (captain), 9 Chris Cook, 8 Taulupe Faletau, 7 Josh Bayliss, 6 Mike Williams, 5 Elliott Stooke, 4 Josh McNally, 3 Christian Judge, 2 Jack Walker, 1 Beno Obano.
Replacements: 16 Tom Doughty, 17 Lewis Boyce, 18 Sam Nixon, 19 Matt Garvey, 20 Tom Ellis, 21 Will Chudley, 22 Freddie Burns, 23 Josh Matavesi.
Leicester Tigers: 15 Telusa Veainu, 14 Jonah Holmes, 13 Jaco Taute, 12 Kyle Eastmond, 11 Jordan Olowofela, 10 Tom Hardwick, 9 Ben White, 8 Sione Kalamafoni, 7 Jordan Taufua, 6 Harry Wells, 5 Will Spencer, 4 Tomás Lavanini, 3 Dan Cole, 2 Tom Youngs (captain), 1 Facundo Gigena.
Replacements: 16 Tatafu Polota-Nau, 17 Greg Bateman, 18 Joe Heyes, 19 Ifereimi Boladau, 20 Tommy Reffell, 21 Harry Simmons, 22 Noel Reid, 23 George Worth.
Referee: Wayne Barnes
Assistant Referees: Christophe Ridley & Paul Dix.
TMO: David Grashoff.
Bristol Bears v Gloucester Rugby
(Ashton Gate, 15.00)
Bristol Bears are without a win in the last four rounds of Premiership Rugby, since beating Exeter at Sandy Park on 10 November. The Bears only defeat in their last eleven matches at Ashton Gate in all tournaments was 21-26 to Wasps in round 7 of Premiership Rugby.
Gloucester Rugby have won just twice in the last six rounds of Premiership Rugby although both of those have been at Kingsholm in the last three matches. Gloucester have won only once away from home in any tournament since April: 18-16 at Sale Sharks in the opening round of this season’s Premiership Rugby.
Bristol have won their last three fixtures against Gloucester, but two of those were in the Premiership Rugby Cup. The Bears’ 28-24 victory at Ashton Gate in round 15 last season was their first win against Gloucester in the tournament since February 2008.
Bristol Bears: 15 Luke Morahan, 14 Henry Purdy, 13 Piers O’Conor, 12 Sam Bedlow, 11 Alapati Leiua, 10 Callum Sheedy, 9 Harry Randall, 8 Nathan Hughes, 7 Dan Thomas, 6 Steven Luatua (captain), 5 Chris Vui, 4 Dave Attwood, 3 John Afoa, 2 Harry Thacker, 1 Jake Woolmore.
Replacements: 16 Shaun Malton, 17 Ollie Dawe, 18 Lewis Thiede, 19 Ed Holmes, 20 Jake Heenan, 21 Andy Uren, 22 Ioan Lloyd, 23 Mat Protheroe.
Gloucester: 15 Jason Woodward, 14 Tom Marshall, 13 Chris Harris, 12 Mark Atkinson, 11 Louis Rees-Zammit, 10 Owen Williams, 9 Joe Simpson, 8 Ben Morgan, 7 Lewis Ludlow (captain), 6 Ruan Ackermann, 5 Franco Mostert, 4 Alex Craig, 3 Fraser Balmain, 2 Franco Marais, 1 Val Rapava-Ruskin.
Replacements: 16 Todd Gleave, 17 Josh Hohneck, 18 Ciaran Knight, 19 Freddie Clarke, 20 Jake Polledri, 21 Callum Braley, 22 Billy Twelvetrees, 23 Matt Banahan.
Referee: Karl Dickson
Assistant Referees: Hamish Smales & Simon McConnell.
TMO: Sean Davey.
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Exeter Chiefs v Sale Sharks
(Sandy Park, 15.00)
Exeter Chiefs most recent defeat in any tournament was at home to Bristol in Premiership Rugby in November, although they did draw 31-all at Glasgow in round 5 of the European Champions Cup. The Chiefs have lost only twice at Sandy Park in any tournament since December 2018.
Sale Sharks last six matches in Premiership Rugby have all been won by the home side on the day. The Sharks have not won away from home in any competition since beating London Irish 41-7 at Madejski Stadium in round 2 of Premiership Rugby. The Chiefs have won their last eight fixtures with the Sharks in all competitions since Sale’s 23-17 victory at Salford in Premiership Rugby in February 2016, whilst the northerner’s only previous win at Sandy Park was 55-12 in April 2014.
Exeter Chiefs: 15 Phil Dollman, 14 Tom O’Flaherty, 13 Ian Whitten, 12 Sam Hill, 11 Olly Woodburn, 10 Gareth Steenson, 9 Stuart Townsend, 8 Sam Simmonds, 7 Jacques Vermeulen, 6 Dave Ewers, 5 Jonny Hill, 4 Dave Dennis (captain), 3 Enrique Pieretto, 2 Elvis Taione, 1 Ben Moon.
Replacements: 16 Jordon Poole, 17 Alec Hepburn, 18 Marcus Street, 19 Sam Skinner, 20 Matt Kvesic, 21 Jack Maunder, 22 Harvey Skinner, 23 Tom Hendrickson.
Sale Sharks: 15 Simon Hammersley, 14 Chris Ashton, 13 Sam James, 12 Rohan Janse van Rensburg, 11 Byron McGuigan, 10 Robert du Preez, 9 Will Cliff, 8 Daniel du Preez, 7 Ben Curry, 6 Jono Ross (captain), 5 Jean-Luc du Preez, 4 Bryn Evans, 3 Jake Cooper-Woolley, 2 Rob Webber, 1 Ross Harrison.
Replacements: 16 Akker van der Merwe, 17 Coenie Oosthuizen, 18 WillGriff John, 19 James Phillips, 20 Matt Postlethwaite, 21 Gus Warr, 22 Luke James, 23 Marland Yarde.
Referee: JP Doyle
Assistant Referees: Mike Hudson & Rob Warburton.
TMO: Geoff Warren.
Worcester Warriors v Wasps
Worcester Warriors last four matches in Premiership Rugby have all been won by the home side on the day. The Warriors have lost three times at Sixways this season, twice to Exeter, in the Premiership Rugby Cup and Premiership Rugby and once to Castres in the European Challenge Cup.
Amazingly Wasps last six first-team matches have all been won by the away side on the day. Wasps have won their last two away games, at Bristol and at Agen, but have not won three in succession on their travels since September 2018. Wasps have won their last ten fixtures against the Warriors in Premiership Rugby since Worcester’s 2923 victory at Sixways in March 2013.
Worcester Warriors: 15 Jamie Shillcock, 14 Perry Humphreys, 13 Ollie Lawrence, 12 Ashley Beck, 11 Tom Howe, 10 Duncan Weir, 9 Michael Heaney, 8 Cornell du Preez, 7 Sam Lewis, 6 Marco Mama, 5 Graham Kitchener, 4 Anton Bresler, 3 Nick Schonert, 2 Matt Moulds (captain), 1 Ethan Waller.
Replacements: 16 Joe Taufete’e, 17 Ryan Bower, 18 Richard Palframan, 19 GJ van Velze, 20 Tom Dodd, 21 Jono Kitto, 22 Jono Lance, 23 Francois Venter.
Wasps: 15 Matteo Minozzi, 14 Zach Kibirige, 13 Juan de Jongh, 12 Jimmy Gopperth, 11 Josh Bassett, 10 Billy Searle, 9 Dan Robson (co-captain), 8 Nizaam Carr, 7 Thomas Young (co-captain), 6 Jack Willis, 5 James Gaskell, 4 Will Rowlands, 3 Kieran Brookes, 2 Tommy Taylor, 1 Simon McIntyre.
Replacements: 16 Gabriel Oghre, 17 Ben Harris, 18 Biyi Alo, 19 Thibaud Flament, 20 Sione Vailanu, 21 Sam Wolstenholme, 22 Michael Le Bourgeois, 23 Rob Miller.
Referee: Craig Maxwell-Keys
Assistant Referees: Adam Leal & Neil Chivers.
TMO: Claire Hodnett.
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Sunday, January 26
Harlequins v Saracens
(Twickenham Stoop, 15.00)
Harlequins have won just twice in the last six rounds of Premiership Rugby, although they did draw 30-all with Leicester in the ‘Big Game’ at Twickenham on 28 December. ‘Quins most recent victory at Twickenham Stoop was 23-19 against Gloucester on 1 December. Saracens only loss in their last six first-team matches was 7-14 at Exeter in round 7 of Premiership Rugby. Saracens only other defeat away from home this season was 3-10 at Munster in round 3 of the European Champions Cup.
Saracens have won their last three matches against Harlequins in Premiership Rugby since the Quins victory by a single point at Twickenham Stoop in December 2017.
Harlequins: 15 Aaron Morris, 14 Ross Chisholm, 13 Cadan Murley, 12 Paul Lasike, 11 Gabriel Ibitoye, 10 Marcus Smith, 9 Danny Care, 8 Alex Dombrandt, 7 Chris Robshaw (captain), 6 James Chisholm, 5 Matt Symons, 4 Stephan Lewies, 3 Will Collier, 2 Elia Elia, 1 Santiago Garcia Botta.
Replacements: 16 Jack Musk, 17 Nick Auterac, 18 Simon Kerrod, 19 Tevita Cavubati, 20 Semi Kunatani, 21 Martin Landajo, 22 Brett Herron, 23 Tom Penny.
Saracens: 15 Matt Gallagher, 14 Alex Lewington, 13 Alex Lozowski, 12 Brad Barritt (captain), 11 Rotimi Segun, 10 Manu Vunipola, 9 Richard Wigglesworth, 8 Jackson Wray, 7 Calum Clark, 6 Nick Isiekwe, 5 Joel Kpoku, 4 Callum Hunter-Hill, 3 Vincent Koch, 2 Jack Singleton, 1 Richard Barrington.
Replacements: 16 Tom Woolstencroft, 17 Titi Lamositele, 18 Josh Ibuanokpe, 19 Andy Christie, 20 Sean Reffell, 21 Ben Spencer, 22 Dom Morris, 23 Elliott Obatoyinbo.
Referee: Luke Pearce
Assistant Referees: Matthew Carley & Roy Maybank.
TMO: Graham Hughes.