Premiership, Round Four - teams and predictions
BEARS CHALLENGE: After the lost matches at Kingston Park and The Recreation Ground, the weekend kicks off at 14.00 at the Stoop Memorial Ground where Pat Lam’s third-placed Bristol Bears makes the trip to take on Harlequins.
Leaders Exeter Chiefs host Gloucester in the 15.00 kick-off before all eyes turn to Franklin’s Gardens for the arrival of Worcester Warriors for a 16.30 start.
Sale Sharks and Wasps take centre stage at the AJ Bell on Sunday, kicking off at 15.00, with the Sharks defending an impressive recent record against Lee Blackett’s side.
Saturday 26 December
Harlequins v Bristol Bears
(Twickenham Stoop, 14.00)
Harlequins has won their last two Premiership Rugby matches, both on the road at Northampton and Gloucester and has not won three in a row in the competitions since March 2019. The Londoners have lost their last three fixtures at Twickenham Stoop in Premiership Rugby and has not lost four successive home games in the tournament since season 2009/10.
Bristol Bears has won their last two Premiership Rugby matches but both fixtures against Worcester and Northampton were played at Ashton Gate. The Bears has lost their last two away games in the tournament, but both were to Wasps at the Ricoh Arena.
The Bears beat Harlequins 28-15 the last time the two clubs met in March and has not won successive encounters against Quins in Premiership Rugby since 2006. Bristol won on their most recent visit to the Twickenham Stoop in October, but that match was against London Irish.
They have not beaten Harlequins on their home patch since a victory in the European Cup in December 2007 whilst their most recent victory there in Premiership Rugby was in September 2001.
@rugby365: Harlequins to win by 5 points
Harlequins: 15 Mike Brown, 14 Louis Lynagh, 13 James Lang, 12 Ben Tapuai, 11 Ross Chisholm, 10 Marcus Smith, 9 Danny Care, 8 Alex Dombrandt (captain), 7 Will Evans, 6 James Chisholm, 5 Glen Young, 4 Dino Lamb, 3 Wilco Louw, 2 Scott Baldwin, 1 Jordan Els.
Replacements: 16 Elia Elia, 17 Santiago Garcia Botta, 18 Simon Kerrod, 19 Hugh Tizard, 20 Tom Lawday, 21 Martin Landajo, 22 Lennox Anyanwu, 23 Tyrone Green.
Bristol Bears: 15 Max Malins, 14 Siva Naulago, 13 Semi Radradra, 12 Piers O’Conor, 11 Ioan Lloyd, 10 Callum Sheedy, 9 Harry Randall, 8 Nathan Hughes, 7 Dan Thomas, 6 Steven Luatua (captain), 5 Ed Holmes, 4 Dave Attwood, 3 John Afoa, 2 Will Capon, 1 Yann Thomas.
Replacements: 16 Bryan Byrne, 17 Jake Woolmore, 18 Max Lahiff, 19 Joe Joyce, 20 Jake Heenan, 21 Andy Uren, 22 Alapati Leiua, 23 Niyi Adeolokun.
Referee: Matthew Carley
Assistant Referees: Karl Dickson & Andrew Jackson.
TMO: Wayne Barnes.
Exeter Chiefs v Gloucester
(Sandy Park, 15.00)
Exeter Chiefs has gained maximum points from the opening three rounds of Premiership Rugby; only one other side has begun a new campaign with four successive bonus-point victories, namely Saracens in 2018-19. Exeter has lost just once at Sandy Park in any competition since February, 19-22 to London Irish, in Round 21 of Premiership Rugby.
Gloucester’s only victory in their last six Premiership Rugby fixtures (excluding the walkover against Northampton) was 40-24 at home to Wasps on 28 November. The Cherry & Whites has won only once away from home in any competition since October 2019, namely 44-15 at Worcester in Round 14 of Premiership Rugby last season.
The Chiefs’ only defeat in their last five fixtures against Gloucester in Premiership Rugby was 17-24 at Kingsholm in February 2019. Gloucester beat Exeter at Sandy Park in the European Cup in December 2018 but have not been successful there in Premiership Rugby since a single point victory in January 2015.
@rugby365.com: Exeter to win by 15 points
Exeter Chiefs: 15 Stuart Hogg, 14 Olly Woodburn, 13 Ian Whitten, 12 Ollie Devoto, 11 Tom O’Flaherty, 10 Joe Simmonds (captain), 9 Jack Maunder, 8 Sam Simmonds, 7 Jannes Kirsten, 6 Dave Ewers, 5 Sam Skinner, 4 Jonny Gray, 3 Harry Williams, 2 Luke Cowan-Dickie, 1 Ben Moon.
Replacements: 16 Jack Yeandle, 17 Alec Hepburn, 18 Marcus Street, 19 Don Armand, 20 Richard Capstick, 21 Sam Hidalgo-Clyne, 22 Harvey Skinner, 23 Tom Hendrickson.
Gloucester: 15 Kyle Moyle, 14 Louis Rees-Zammit, 13 Chris Harris, 12 Mark Atkinson, 11 Jonny May, 10 Lloyd Evans, 9 Charlie Chapman, 8 Ruan Ackermann, 7 Lewis Ludlow (captain), 6 Jordy Reid, 5 Matias Alemanno, 4 Ed Slater, 3 Fraser Balmain, 2 Jack Singleton, 1 Val Rapava-Ruskin.
Replacements: 16 Henry Walker, 17 Jamal Ford-Robinson, 18 Ciaran Knight, 19 Alex Craig, 20 Seb Nagle-Taylor, 21 Toby Venner, 22 George Barton, 23 Tom Seabrook.
Referee: Tom Foley
Assistant Referees: Sara Cox & Neil Chivers.
TMO: David Rose.
Northampton Saints v Worcester Warriors
(Franklin’s Gardens, 16.30)
Northampton Saints’ most recent victory in Premiership Rugby was at London Irish on 22 August. The Saints’ only victory at Franklin’s Gardens in any tournament in 2020 came on 12 January, beating Benetton Rugby there in the European Champions Cup.
Worcester Warriors has lost their last two Premiership Rugby fixtures since beating London Irish by a single point at Sixways on the opening weekend. The Warriors has won only once away from home in Premiership Rugby since November 2019 (excluding the walkover against Sale), and that was at London Irish in September.
The Saints have won their last five fixtures against the Warriors since Worcester’s 30-15 home win in November 2017. Worcester has not been victorious at Franklin’s Gardens since a 10-9 win there in Premiership Rugby on New Year’s Day 2007.
@rugby365.com: Saints to win by six points
Northampton Saints: 15 George Furbank, 14 Matt Proctor, 13 Fraser Dingwall, 12 Rory Hutchinson, 11 Ahsee Tuala, 10 Dan Biggar, 9 Alex Mitchell, 8 Teimana Harrison, 7 Lewis Ludlam (co-captain), 6 Courtney Lawes, 5 Nick Isiekwe, 4 David Ribbans, 3 Paul Hill, 2 Sam Matavesi, 1 Alex Waller (co-captain).
Replacements: 16 Mikey Haywood, 17 Francois van Wyk, 18 Owen Franks, 19 Alex Moon, 20 Shaun Adendorff, 21 Tom James, 22 Tom Collins, 23 Taqele Naiyaravoro.
Worcester Warriors: 15 Melani Nanai, 14 Perry Humphreys, 13 Ollie Lawrence, 12 Ashley Beck, 11 Nick David, 10 Billy Searle, 9 Francois Hougaard, 8 Marco Mama, 7 Matt Kvesic, 6 Ted Hill (captain), 5 Andrew Kitchener, 4 Justin Clegg, 3 Nick Schonert, 2 Niall Annett, 1 Ethan Waller.
Replacements: 16 Beck Cutting, 17 Marc Thomas, 18 Richard Palframan, 19 Joe Batley, 20 Cornell du Preez, 21 Gareth Simpson, 22 Duncan Weir, 23 Oli Morris.
Referee: Christophe Ridley (30th Premiership game).
Assistant Referees: Paul Dix & Jamie Leahy.
TMO: Nigel Carrick. Citing Officer: Jay Curts.
Sunday 27 December
Sale Sharks v Wasps
(AJ Bell Stadium, 15.00)
Sale Sharks’ only defeat in the first three rounds of Premiership Rugby was to newly-promoted Newcastle at Kingston Park on 27 November. The Sharks have lost just once at AJ Bell Stadium in Premiership Rugby since August (excluding the walkover against Worcester) and that was to Bath on 13 September.
Wasps’ only win in their last four Premiership Rugby was 23-20 at home to Bristol in Round 1. Wasps’ only defeat away from home in any competition since February was 24-40 at Gloucester in Round 2 of Premiership Rugby.
Sale Sharks has won their last three Premiership Rugby matches against Wasps since Wasps 31-13 victory at AJ Bell Stadium in September 2018, their only victory in 11 previous visits to the venue in all tournaments.
@rugby365.com: Sale Sharks to win by 7 points
Sale Sharks: 15 Sam James, 14 Luke James, 13 Roahn Janse van Rensburg, 12 Sam Hill, 11 Marland Yarde, 10 AJ MacGinty, 9 Faf de Klerk (captain), 8 Daniel du Preez, 7 Tom Curry, 6 Cobus Wiese, 5 JP du Preez, 4 Matt Postlethwaite, 3 Coenie Oosthuizen, 2 Akker van der Merwe, 1 Valerey Morozov.
Replacements: 16 Curtis Langdon, 17 Ross Harrison, 18 Will-Griff John, 19 James Phillips, 20 Sam Dugdale, 21 Will Cliff, 22 Robert du Preez, 23 Tom Roebuck.
Wasps: 15 Lima Sopoaga, 14 Zach Kibirige, 13 Paolo Odogwu, 12 Michael Le Bourgeois, 11 Josh Bassett, 10 Charlie Atkinson, 9 Will Porter, 8 Alfie Barbeary, 7 Thomas Young (captain), 6 Ben Morris, 5 James Gaskell, 4 Will Rowlands, 3 Kieran Brookes, 2 Tom Cruse, 1 Tom West.
Replacements: 16 Tommy Taylor, 17 Simon McIntyre, 18 Jeff Toomaga-Allen, 19 Levi Douglas, 20 Tom Willis, 21 Dan Robson, 22 Jimmy Gopperth, 23 Juan de Jongh.
Referee: Craig Maxwell-Keys (84th Premiership game).
Assistant Referees: Jack Makepeace & Anthony Woodthorpe.
TMO: Ian Tempest.