Preview: Premiership, Round three
SAFFA FLAVOUR: The Premiership Rugby kicks off with a compelling west country derby as League new-boys Bristol Bears make the short trip to take on Gloucester Rugby on Friday.
Following Gloucester’s draw 31-31 against Bath Rugby at the Rec last weekend, head coach Johan Ackermann has made three changes to the starting line-up.
Set to make their first competitive starts for Gloucester Rugby are the South African summer signings of Franco Marais (hooker) and Gerbrandt Grobler (second row). The final change sees Jake Polledri come into the back row with Ruan Ackermann switching from the flank to number eight.
Head Coach Ackermann admitted that last weekend’s at Bath had been an eventful one, but a good learning experience.
“There were some highlights and some low moments,” he said. “We were in control and then let it slip, but credit to the players for coming back and getting three points out of the game.
“As a group, we learned a lot. We didn’t respect the ball enough, we lost possession in contact, we tried to force offloads. And one or two skill errors cost us, not just in terms of momentum but because they (Bath) got points from them,”
But this weekend, the Bristol Bears are the opposition and Ackermann admits that last year’s promotion winners are acquitting themselves well in the Premiership.
“There is a bit more footage on them now that we can analyse, look at their strengths and see if there are any areas that we can hopefully exploit. But they’ve already shown what we knew before the season started – that they’ve going to be highly competitive, well coached and with a lot of X-factor across the board.
“They’ve proved that at Saracens last weekend, they proved it in round one. They’re not here just to make up numbers in the competition, they’ve made it quite clear they want to stay in the Premiership and they’ve going to be highly motivated and very tough to beat. We’ll obviously have to be at our best,”
Meanwhile, Bristol Bears coach Pat Lam has made nine changes to his team, including Springbok and new loan signing Zane Kirchner listed among the replacements.
Lam said: “We’ve put a focus on our execution and making sure our teamwork is spot on. Gloucester have started the season strongly so that teamwork will be vital for us to compete at Kingsholm.
“We love these games; it tests us a group. When you go away from home, you have to be united as a team and there’s an excitement about Friday,”
All the action of Round three!
Friday, September 14
Gloucester Rugby v Bristol Bears
Gloucester Rugby have made an unbeaten start to a new Gallagher Rugby campaign for the first time since 2016-17. Gloucester’s only defeat in their last four home games in all tournaments was to Bath in round 21 last season.
Bristol Bears six game winning run in all competitions ended at Saracens last weekend. The Bears have not won away from home in Premiership Rugby since beating Sale by a single point in Salford on New Year’s Day 2017.
Gloucester’s only defeat in their last seven fixtures with Bristol was 26-29 at Memorial Stadium in February 2008.
Gloucester: 15 Jason Woodward, 14 Charlie Sharples, 13 Henry Trinder, 12 Billy Twelvetrees, 11 Matt Banahan, 10 Danny Cipriani, 9 Callum Braley, 8 Ruan Ackermann, 7 Lewis Ludlow, 6 Jake Polledri, 5 Gerbrandt Grobler, 4 Ed Slater (captain), 3 Fraser Balmain, 2 Franco Marais, 1 Val Rapava Ruskin
Replacements: 16 James Hanson, 17 Josh Hohneck, 18 Ciaran Knight, 19 Freddie Clarke, 20 Ben Morgan, 21 Ben Vellacott, 22 Mark Atkinson, 23 Tom Hudson
Bristol: 15 Piers O’Conor, 14 Luke Morahan, 13 Siale Piutau, 12 Tusi Pisi, 11 Ryan Edwards, 10 Ian Madigan, 9 Harry Randall, 8 Jack Lam, 7 George Smith, 6 Steve Luatua (captain), 5 Chris Vui, 4 Joe Joyce, 3 John Afoa, 2 Shaun Malton, 1 Yann Thomas
Replacements: 16 Harry Thacker, 17 Jake Woolmore, 18 Jake Armstrong, 19 Ed Holmes, 20 Nick Haining, 21 Nic Stirzaker, 22 Callum Sheedy, 23 Zane Kirchner
Referee: Tom Foley
Assistant Referees: Wayne Falla & Adam Leal.
TMO: Sean Davey.
Saturday, September 15
Exeter Chiefs v Sale Sharks
(Sandy Park, 15.00)
Exeter Chiefs have not been defeated in a Premiership Rugby regular season fixture since they visited Wasps on 18 February. Exeter have never begun a Premiership Rugby campaign with three straight victories whilst their only defeat at Sandy Park in the competition since October 2016 was by the narrowest of margins to Worcester last February.
Sale Sharks ended a four-game losing run with their victory at home to Worcester last weekend. The Sharks have lost their last three away games since beating Northampton 34-25 at Franklin’s Gardens in early March.
Exeter have lost just one of their last seven encounters with Sale: 17-23 at AJ Bell Stadium in February 2016. The Sharks only previous victory at Sandy Park was 55-12 in April 2014 (the only time Exeter have conceded 50 at the venue).
Exeter Chiefs: 15 Phil Dollman, 14 Jack Nowell, 13 Henry Slade, 12 Ollie Devoto, 11 Santiago Cordero, 10 Joe Simmonds, 9 Jack Maunder, 8 Sam Simmonds, 7 Matt Kvesic, 6 Don Armand (captain), 5 Jonny Hill, 4 Ollie Atkins, 3 Harry Williams, 2 Luke Cowan-Dickie, 1 Ben Moon
Replacements: 16 Jack Yeandle, 17 Alec Hepburn, 18 Tomas Francis, 19 Toby Salmon, 20 Sean Lonsdale, 21 Sam Maunder, 22 Gareth Steenson, 23 Alex Cuthbert
Sale Sharks: 15 Byron McGuigan, 14 Denny Solomona, 13 Sam James, 12 Mark Jennings, 11 Marland Yarde, 10 AJ MacGinty, 9 Will Cliff, 1 Ross Harrison, 2 Cameron Neild, 3 WillGriff John, 4 Bryn Evans, 5 James Phillips, 6 Jono Ross (captain), 7 Tom Curry, 8 Josh Beaumont
Replacements: 16 Rob Webber, 17 Alexandru Tarus, 18 Joe Jones, 19 Josh Strauss, 20 Ben Curry, 21 Gus Warr, 22 Luke James, 23 Paolo Odogwu
Referee: Karl Dickson
Assistant Referees: Paul Dix & Philip Watters.
TMO: Stuart Terheege.
Harlequins v Bath Rugby
(Twickenham Stoop, 15.00)
Harlequins only victory in the last seven rounds of Gallagher Premiership Rugby was 51-23 at home to Sale on the opening weekend of the season. Quins have won just twice at Twickenham Stoop in Premiership Rugby in 2018 – against Bath in March and Sale two weeks ago.
Bath Rugby are without a win in the opening two rounds of Gallagher Premiership Rugby and have not been winless in the opening three rounds since 2005-06. Bath’s only away win in Premiership Rugby since January was at Gloucester in round 21 last season.
The last five meetings between the two clubs have all been won by the home side on the day, whilst Bath’s most recent victory at Twickenham Stoop was by a solitary point in May 2015.
Harlequins: 15 Aaron Morris, 14 Nathan Earle, 13 Joe Marchant, 12 Ben Tapuai, 11 Charlie Walker, 10 Marcus Smith, 9 Danny Care, 8 James Chisholm, 7 Chris Robshaw (captain), 6 Luke Wallace, 5 Dino Lamb, 4 Matt Symons, 3 Will Collier, 2 Elia Elia, 1 Mark Lambert
Replacements: 16 Dave Ward, 17 Joe Marler, 18 Phil Swainston, 19 Stan South, 20 Renaldo Bothma, 21 Charlie Mulchrone, 22 James Lang, 23 Paul Lasike
Bath: 15 Tom Homer, 14 Semesa Rokoduguni, 13 Jackson Willison, 12 Jamie Roberts, 11 Joe Cokanasiga, 10 Freddie Burns, 9 Max Green, 8 Zach Mercer, 7 Sam Underhill, 6 Tom Ellis, 5 Luke Charteris (captain), 4 Elliott Stooke, 3 Henry Thomas, 2 Tom Dunn, 1 Nathan Catt
Replacements: 16 Jack Walker, 17 Jacques van Rooyen, 18 Anthony Perenise, 19 Charlie Ewels, 20 Taulupe Faletau, 21 Chris Cook, 22 Rhys Priestland, 23 Aled Brew
Referee: Matthew Carley
Assistant Referees: Roy Maybank & Anthony Woodthorpe.
TMO: David Rose.
Northampton Saints v Saracens
(Franklin’s Gardens, 15.00)
Northampton Saints last four fixtures in Gallagher Premiership Rugby have all been won by the home side on the day. The Saints were beaten five times at Franklin’s Gardens in the tournament last season.
Saracens have not been beaten in Premiership Rugby since they visited Sandy Park in early March. Saracens four defeats on the road in the competition last season were at Bath, Gloucester, Harlequins and Exeter.
Saracens have won their last seven encounters with Northampton in all competitions and have won on their last five visits to Franklin’s Gardens, including the victory over Exeter Chiefs in the final of the Anglo-Welsh Cup in 2015.
Northampton Saints: 15 Ahsee Tuala, 14 Taqele Naiyaravoro, 13 Luther Burrell, 12 Piers Francis, 11 Tom Collins, 10 Dan Biggar, 9 Cobus Reinach, 8 Teimana Harrison, 7 Heinrich Brüssow, 6 James Haskell, 5 Courtney Lawes, 4 David Ribbans, 3 Ehren Painter, 2 Dylan Hartley, 1 Alex Waller
Replacements: 16 Mike Haywood, 17 Francois Van Wyk, 18 Ben Franks, 19 Api Ratuniyarawa, 20 Jamie Gibson, 21 Alex Mitchell, 22 Andrew Symons, 23 Harry Mallinder
Saracens: 15 Liam Williams, 14 David Strettle, 13 Nick Tompkins, 12 Brad Barritt, 11 Alex Lewington, 10 Alex Goode, 9 Ben Spencer, 8 Billy Vunipola, 7 Mike Rhodes, 6 Nick Isiekwe, 5 Will Skelton, 4 Maro Itoje, 3 Vincent Koch, 2 Jamie George, 1 Mako Vunipola
Replacements: 16 Christopher Tolofua, 17 Richard Barrington, 18 Titi Lamositele, 19 George Kruis, 20 Ben Earl, 21 Richard Wigglesworth, 22 Alex Lozowski, 23 Sean Maitland
Referee: JP Doyle
Assistant Referees: Christophe Ridley & Peter Allan.
TMO: Keith Lewis.
Worcester Warriors v Newcastle Falcons
Worcester Warriors have lost their last three Gallagher Premiership Rugby matches whilst their only victory in the first three rounds of the tournament in any season since 2012 was 13-12 at home to Northampton in 2015.
Newcastle Falcons have slipped to four straight Premiership Rugby defeats but have not lost five in succession in the tournament since season 2015-16. The Falcons only away win since March in any competition was at Leicester in round 21 of Premiership Rugby last season.
The last four meetings between the two clubs have all gone the way of the home side on the day whilst Newcastle’s solitary victory at Sixways since 2004 was in October 2013.
Newcastle Falcons: 15 Simon Hammersley, 14 Adam Radwan, 13 Chris Harris, 12 Johnny Williams, 11 Sinoti Sinoti, 10 Toby Flood, 9 Sonatane Takulua, 8 Callum Chick, 7 Will Welch (captain), 6 Mark Wilson, 5 Will Witty, 4 Calum Green, 3 Logovi’i Mulipola, 2 George McGuigan, 1 Sami Mavinga,
Replacements: 16 Santiago Socino, 17 Adam Brocklebank, 18 Jack Payne, 19 Tevita Cavubati, 20 Gary Graham, 21 Sam Stuart, 22 Joel Hodgson, 23 Tom Penny
Worcester Warriors: 15 Chris Pennell, 14 Bryce Heem, 13 Francois Venter, 12 Ryan Mill, 11 Josh Adams, 10 Duncan Weir, 9 Francois Hougaard, 8 GJ van Velze (captain), 7 Sam Lewis, 6 Marco Mama, 5 Darren Barry, 4 Pierce Phillips, 3 Simon Kerrod, 2 Joe Taufete’e, 1 Callum Black
Replacements: 16 Jack Singleton, 17 Ryan Bower, 18 Gareth Milasinovich, 19 Anton Bresler, 20 Alafoti Faosiliva, 21 Michael Heaney, 22 Jono Lance, 23 Ashley Beck
Referee: Wayne Barnes
Assistant Referees: Jack Makepeace & Steve Lee.
TMO: Trevor Fisher.
Sunday, September 16
Wasps v Leicester Tigers
(Ricoh Arena, 15.00)
Wasps have lost two of their last three Gallagher Premiership Rugby matches including a first home defeat at the Ricoh Arena in the tournament since January against Exeter in round 2.
Leicester Tigers have won two of their last three Premiership Rugby matches, whilst their only defeat away from home in the competition since February was at Exeter on the opening weekend.
Leicester’s 16-15 victory at Welford Road in March ended a run of five successive defeats to Wasps in Premiership Rugby. The Tigers only previous win at Ricoh Arena was on their first visit in May 2015.
Wasps: 15 Elliot Daly, 14 Christian Wade, 13 Juan de Jongh, 12 Michael Le Bourgeois, 11 Josh Bassett, 10 Lima Sopoaga, 9 Dan Robson, 8 Nathan Hughes, 7 Nizaam Carr, 6 Ashley Johnson, 5 James Gaskell, 4 Joe Launchbury (captain), 3 Kieran Brookes, 2 Tommy Taylor, 1 Ben Harris
Replacements: 16 Tom Cruse, 17 Zurabi Zhvania, 18 Will Stuart, 19 Will Rowlands, 20 Ben Morris, 21 Joe Simpson, 22 Billy Searle, 23 Rob Miller
Leicester Tigers: 15 Telusa Veainu, 14 Adam Thompstone, 13 Manu Tuilag, 12 Gareth Owen, 11 Jonny May, 10 George Ford, 9 Ben Young, 8 Sione Kalamafoni, 7 Guy Thompson, 6 David Denton, 4 Mike Williams, 5 Will Spencer, 3 Dan Cole, 2 Tom Youngs (captain), 1 Greg Bateman
Replacements: 16 Jimmy Stevens, 17 David Feao, 18 Joe Heyes, 19 Harry Wells, 20 Sam Lewis, 21 Ben White, 22 Tom Hardwick, 23 Jordan Olowofela