Fri 22 Mar 2013 | 05:59

Preview: Premiership, Round 18

Preview: Premiership, Round 18
Fri 22 Mar 2013 | 05:59
Preview: Premiership, Round 18

London Wasps Director of Rugby Dai Young insists he will be thrusting his international stars straight back into Premiership action this weekend as they pursue a place in the top four.

Wasps welcomed back lock Joe Launchbury, second row James Haskell and Italy full-back Andrea Masi this week after a bruising last weekend of the Six Nations.

Their arrivals are timely with Wasps' charge for the top four hitting the buffers of late – the Londoners have lost their last two matches to London Irish and Worcester Warriors, having won five on the spin before that and they currently sit in sixth place, three points below fourth.

And as a result, Young admits he cannot afford to leave out his returning stars and let them recharge their batteries ahead of this weekend's home clash with Northampton Saints.

"They may need a week off but they're not going to get one – we're at the business end of the season," he said.

"We expect them to be a little bit tired but that's part and parcel of professional sport.

"And they want to play a part in the end of season push. We won't have to force them to play, they'll want to be a part of it."

With Saints in fourth place Saturday's match will go a significant way to deciding who extends their season – a point not lost on Wasps scrum-half Joe Simpson who will make his 100th appearance for the club.

He said: "Northampton can beat any of the top sides but have slipped up against some of the lesser sides much in the same way as we have, so they will be as keen as we are to get a result from that fixture, which would see them leapfrog us in terms of the table.

"There are also going to be some huge individual match-ups for some guys who are looking ahead to international selection for the EPS squad, wanting to prove themselves against their opposite numbers so there is going to be no love lost when the two sides face each other.

"There's no doubt that it's going to be a hard fought encounter; there's a lot at stake."

Saints meanwhile, have won their last three matches, including a 40-14 drubbing of London Irish last time out, and appear to have put their mid-season blip behind them.

And prop Alex Waller is calling on his side to reproduce last year's late surge which saw them book a semi-final place.

"It's very similar to last season when we went to Exeter and knew we had to win," he said.

"That was obviously a little later in the season, but it's good to know we have done it before in this sort of situation.

"We're coming into a decent run of form, so we want to keep that going but we know it's going to be a tough game.

"It makes a difference having the England guys back, they will have a big impact for us and hopefully help us in the next few weeks which will be vital for the season.

"Wasps have got a good home record so we're expecting a really big battle and will have to prepare well."

We look at all the Round 18 action!

Friday, March 22

Sale v Bath
(Salford City Stadium – Kick-off: 20.00; 20.00 GMT)

Thanks to an impressive run that has seen them win seven of their last nine matches, and three of their last four in the Premiership, Bath are in the hunt for a top-four finish.

Only eight points separate fourth and eighth with Bath currently seventh, seven points behind Northampton Saints who occupy the last semi-final spot.

With five matches remaining, Bath will face Harlequins, Leicester Tigers and Saracens in their last three, ensuring picking up the points against strugglers Sale will be key to their ambitions of extending their season.

But Attwood is only too aware that Bath will be punished at the Salford City Stadium if they let complacency set in.


Sale Sharks: 15 Cameron Shepherd, 14 Charlie Amesbury, 13 Johnny Leota, 12 Sammy Tuitupou, 11 Mark Cueto, 10 Nick Macleod, 9 Dwayne Peel, 8 Andy Powell, 7 David Seymour (captain), 6 Daniel Braid, 5 Andrei Ostrikov, 4 James Gaskell, 3 Henry Thomas, 2 Marc Jones, 1 Al Dickinson.
Replacements: 16 Tommy Taylor, 17 Ross Harrison, 18 Tony Buckley, 19 Fraser McKenzie, 20 Kearnan Myall, 21 Nathan Fowles, 22 Danny Cipriani, 23 Richie Vernon.

Bath: 15 Nick Abendanon, 14 Horacio Agulla, 13 Matt Banahan, 12 Kyle Eastmond, 11 Tom Biggs, 10 Tom Heathcote, 9 Peter Stringer, 8 Ben Skirving, 7 Carl Fearns, 6 Francois Louw, 5 Dave Attwood, 4 Stuart Hooper (captain), 3 David Wilson, 2 Rob Webber, 1 Paul James.
Replacements: 16 Ross Batty, 17 Nathan Catt, 18 Anthony Perenise, 19 Dominic Day, 20 Mat Gilbert, 21 Michael Claassens, 22 Ollie Devoto, 23 Semesa Rokoduguni.

Referee: JP Doyle
Assistant Referees: Ashley Rowden & Stuart Terheege.

Saturday, March 23

Exeter Chiefs v Leicester Tigers
(Sandy Park – Kick-off: 17.00; 17.00 GMT)

And after beating Harlequins 27-16 on their own patch in their last outing, prop Carl Rimmer is determined Exeter Chiefs carry their momentum into Saturday's clash with Leicester Tigers.

The Chiefs suffered one of their heaviest defeats at Welford Road in the reverse fixture pre-Christmas, going down 30-8 as Adam Thompstone romped to a hat-trick.

But with that win over Quins still fresh in the memory, the 26-year-old is confident it won't be the same outcome this weekend.

The teams:

Exeter Chiefs: 15 Luke Arscott, 14 Jack Nowell, 13 Sireli Naqelevuki, 12 Phil Dollman, 11 Matt Jess, 10 Gareth Steenson, 9 Haydn Thomas, 8 Richard Baxter (captain), 7 James Scaysbrook, 6 Ben White, 5 Damian Welch, 4 Dean Mumm, 3 Hoani Tui, 2 Jack Yeandle, 1 Carl Rimmer.
Replacements: 16 Chris Whitehead, 17 Brett Sturgess, 18 Craig Mitchell, 19 James Hanks, 20 Dave Ewers, 21 Will Chudley, 22 Henry Slade, 23 Ian Whitten.

Leicester Tigers: 15 Mathew Tait, 14 Niall Morris, 13 Manusamoa Tuilagi, 12 Anthony Allen, 11 Adam Thompstone, 10 Toby Flood (captain), 9 Ben Youngs, 8 Jordan Crane, 7 Julian Salvi, 6 Tom Croft, 5 Geoff Parling, 4 Ed Slater, 3 Dan Cole, 2 Tom Youngs, 1 Marcos Ayerza.
Replacements: 16 Rob Hawkins, 17 Logovi'i Mulipola, 18 Martin Castrogiovanni, 19 Thomas Waldrom, 20 Graham Kitchener, 21 Sam Harrison, 22 George Ford, 23 Matt Smith.

Referee: Tim Wigglesworth
Assistant Referees: Gareth Copsey & Paul Burton.
TMO: Geoffrey Warren.

Gloucester v London Welsh
(Kingsholm – Kick-off: 13.00; 13.00 GMT)

The fortunes of both sides could hardly be different with Gloucester still chasing a top four finish, while the Exiles are rooted to the foot of the table following a five-point deduction for fielding ineligible player Tyson Keats earlier in the season.

Form-wise Gloucester need a win having lost two of their last four Premiership matches, with London Welsh looking to arrest a run of seven defeats in all competitions and targeting a first Aviva Premiership win since December 1.

But despite the two sides experiencing vastly different campaigns, former Australian international hooker Edmonds is adamant the Cherry & Whites will be fully prepared for the challenge facing them on Saturday.

The teams:

Gloucester: 15 Rob Cook, 14 Charlie Sharples, 13 Mike Tindall, 12 Billy Twelvetrees, 11 Jonny May, 10 Freddie Burns, 9 Dan Robson, 8 Sione Kalamafoni, 7 Andy Hazell, 6 Peter Buxton, 5 Will James, 4 Jim Hamilton (captain), 3 Shaun Knight, 2 Huia Edmonds, 1 Nick Wood.
Replacements: 16 Koree Britton, 17 Yann Thomas, 18 Dario Chistolini, 19 Tom Savage, 20 Akapusi Qera, 21 Dave Lewis, 22 Henry Trinder, 23 Martyn Thomas.

London Welsh: 15 Seb Jewell, 14 Phil MacKenzie, 13 Gonzalo Tiesi, 12 Sonny Parker, 11 Seb Stegmann, 10 Gavin Henson, 9 Tyson Keats, 8 Daniel Browne, 7 Michael Hills, 6 Julio Cabello Farias, 5 Kirill Kulemin, 4 Jonathan Mills (captain), 3 James Tideswell, 2 Dan George, 1 Tom Bristow.
Replacements: 16 Greg Bateman, 17 Billy Moss, 18 Arthur Joly, 19 Matt Corker, 20 Adam Balding, 21 Alex Davies, 22 Gordon Ross, 23 Nick Scott.

Referee: Martin Fox
Assistant Referees: Andrew Watson & Paul Dix.

London Irish v Worcester
(Madejski Stadium – Kick-off: 15.00; 15.00 GMT)

A possible point's deduction for London Welsh coupled with some recent fine form for London Irish mean the Exiles are not so anxiously peering over their shoulders presently.

But in front of an expectant bumper crowd in Reading, Worcester, who ended a Premiership five-game losing streak last-time out against London Wasps, are determined to play the role of unwanted party poopers.

Worcester won 35-11 when the two clubs met in round five of the Premiership, and the Warriors are going for a first ever league double over the Exiles.

The West Midlanders have already been defeated at Madejski Stadium this season: 46-24 in the LV= Cup on 27 January, whilst the Warriors' only previous win at the venue came way back in September 2005.

The teams:

London Irish: 15 Tom Homer, 14 Topsy Ojo, 13 Guy Armitage, 12 Shane Geraghty, 11 Marland Yarde, 10 Ian Humphreys, 9 Pat Phibbs, 8 Chris Hala'ufia, 7 Ofisa Treviranus, 6 Matt Garvey, 5 Bryn Evans, 4 George Skivington (captain), 3 Halani Aulika, 2 David Paice, 1 Max Lahiff.
Replacements: 16 Scott Lawson, 17 Jerry Yanuyanutawa, 18 Leo Halavatau, 19 Jamie Gibson, 20 Jon Fisher, 21 Sailosi Tagicakibau, 22 Jonathan Joseph, 23 Jack Moates.

Worcester Warriors: 15 Chris Pennell, 14 Josh Drauniniu, 13 Alex Grove, 12 Jon Clarke, 11 David Lemi, 10 Andy Goode, 9 Paul Hodgson, 8 Blair Cowan, 7 Matt Kvesic, 6 Neil Best, 5 Dean Schofield, 4 James Percival (captain), 3 John Andress, 2 Ed Shervington, 1 Matt Mullan.
Replacements: 16 Aleki Lutui, 17 Ceri Jones, 18 Euan Murray, 19 Chris Jones, 20 Semisi Taulava, 21 Jonny Arr, 22 Danny Gray, 23 Josh Matavesi.

Referee: Wayne Barnes
Assistant Referees: Andrew Pearce & Peter Huckle.

Sunday, March 24

Saracens v Harlequins
(Allianz Park – Kick-off: 14.00; 14.00 GMT)

Harlequins, the new Anglo-Welsh Cup winners, have lost two of their last four matches in the Premiership, to Exeter and Wasps.

Quins, the best away side in the Premiership, have won their last six away games in all competitions since their 18-21 defeat at Bath in the Premiership on 23 November.

Harlequins only win over Saracens in their last seven meetings was 24-19 at Wembley Stadium on 31 March 2012.

The teams:

Saracens: 15 Alex Goode, 14 Chris Ashton, 13 Joel Tomkins, 12 Brad Barritt, 11 David Strettle, 10 Owen Farrell, 9 Richard Wigglesworth, 8 Ernst Joubert, 7 Will Fraser, 6 Kelly Brown, 5 Alistair Hargreaves, 4 Steve Borthwick (captain), 3 Matt Stevens, 2 Schalk Brits, 1 Mako Vunipola.
Replacements: 16 John Smit, 17 Nick Auterac, 18 Petrus du Plessis, 19 George Kruis, 20 Jackson Wray, 21 Neil de Kock, 22 Charlie Hodgson, 23 Chris Wyles.

Harlequins: 15 Mike Brown, 14 Ugo Monye, 13 Matt Hopper, 12 Jordan Turner-Hall, 11 Sam Smith, 10 Nick Evans, 9 Danny Care,8 Nick Easter, 7 Chris Robshaw (captain), 6 Tom Guest, 5 George Robson, 4 Charlie Matthews, 3 James Johnston, 2 Joe Gray, 1 Joe Marler.
Replacements: 16 Rob Buchanan, 17 Mark Lambert, 18 Will Collier, 19 Maurie Fa'asavalu, 20 Luke Wallace, 21 Karl Dickson, 22 Ben Botica, 23 George Lowe.

Referee: Greg Garner
Assistant Referees: Roy Maybank & Robin Goodliffe.
TMO: David Grashoff.

London Wasps v Northampton Saints
(Adams Park – Kick-off: 15.15; 15.15 GMT)

Wasps welcomed back lock Joe Launchbury, second row James Haskell and Italy full-back Andrea Masi this week after a bruising last weekend of the Six Nations.

Their arrivals are timely with Wasps' charge for the top four hitting the buffers of late – the Londoners have lost their last two matches to London Irish and Worcester Warriors, having won five on the spin before that and they currently sit in sixth place, three points below fourth.

And as a result, Young admits he cannot afford to leave out his returning stars and let them recharge their batteries ahead of this weekend's home clash with Northampton Saints.

The teams:

London Wasps: 15 Hugo Southwell, 14 Tom Varndell, 13 Elliot Daly, 12 Chris Bell 11 Christian Wade, 10 Stephen Jones, 9 Joe Simpson, 8 Billy Vunipola, 7 Sam Jones, 6 Ashley Johnson, 5 Marco Wentzel, 4 Tom Palmer, 3 Phil Swainston, 2 T Rhys Thomas, 1 Tim Payne.
Replacements: 16 Tom Lindsey, 17 Zak Taulafo, 18 Will Taylor, 19 James Haskell, 20 Joe Launchbury, 21 Stuart Cummins, 22 Nick Robinson, 23 Andrea Masi.

Northampton Saints: 15 Ben Foden, 14 James Wilson, 13 George Pisi, 12 Dom Waldouck, 11 Jamie Elliott, 10 Stephen Myler, 9 Lee Dickson, 8 GJ van Velze, 7 Phil Dowson, 6 Samu Manoa, 5 Christian Day, 4 Courtney Lawes, 3 Tom Mercey, 2 Dylan Hartley (captain), 1 Soane Tonga'uiha.
Replacements: 16 Ross McMillan, 17 Alex Waller, 18 Brian Mujati, 19 Tom Wood, 20 Ben Nutley, 21 Martin Roberts, 22 Ryan Lamb, 23 Tom May.

Referee: David rose
Assistant Referees: Nigel Carrick & Kevin Stewart.
TMO: Graham Hughes.

PV: 2
Preview: Premiership, Round 18 | Rugby365