Thu 2 May 2013 | 02:00

Preview: Premiership, Round 22

Preview: Premiership, Round 22
Thu 2 May 2013 | 02:00
Preview: Premiership, Round 22

Guy Mercer is under no illusions about the importance of Bath's final match of the season, and insists the players are ready to end their Premiership season on a high.

Bath sit seventh in the Premiership ahead of a final day trip to league leaders Saracens and know only a win will give them an outside chance of finishing in the top six and qualifying for Europe's elite club competition.

Even victory might not be enough with sixth-placed Exeter Chiefs hosting Gloucester in the knowledge that victory will render any Bath heroics meaningless.

And with Bath needing to make history by becoming the first visiting team to win at Saracens' Allianz Park in all competitions Mercer and co will need to be at their very best.

Saracens are already guaranteed a home semifinal in the play-offs but will be determined to bounce back from their European Cup semifinal defeat at the hands of Toulon at Twickenham last weekend.

But despite the odds being stacked against them, Mercer insists Bath are ready for the challenge ahead.

"There is a lot riding on this game for both sides," said the 23-year-old.

"Saracens will want to bounce back from their Heineken Cup exit and they won't want to go into a semifinal off the back of three straight defeats.

"And we want to be playing in the Heineken Cup and we know we need to win to do that. It's knock-out rugby and these are the sort of games you want to be playing in so everyone can't wait.

"We have been talking about this being a real opportunity rather than something daunting or something we should fear.

"We proved we belong up there by beating Leicester last time and we have to bring the same attitude at Allianz Park."

Saracens currently top the Premiership and with a home semifinal already guaranteed you could be forgiven for thinking they will take things easy against Bath.

But having lost last time out in the league at Gloucester before seeing their European charge ended last weekend veteran prop John Smit insists Sarries will be going all out for a win to ensure they arrive in the play-offs full of confidence.

"It's an important game for us as well because we have to make sure our home ground remains a fortress and we have that confidence to retain and to work on," said the former South Africa captain, who will leave Saracens at the end of the season to take over as the Natal Sharks Chief Executive.

"Confidence is a very strong tool at this time in the season and that's what Bath presents and we'll need to play well to be successful.

"They have become a far better organised unit. They are far more difficult to beat these days under the guidance of Gary Gold. He's given them a lot of guidance so we'll have to be very well prepared.

"They have a good set piece and they don't just run everything now I think like they used to. They put you in corners and they put you in uncomfortable situations and how we manage those will decide how far we go against them."

We have a look at all of the Round 22 action!

Saturday, May 4

Sale v Wasps
(Salford City Stadium – Kick-off: 14.30; 13.30 GMT)

London Wasps' trip to Sale Sharks may not be crucial in terms of the Premiership standings but according to Sharks hooker Tommy Taylor it's absolutely vital his team sign off a below-par campaign with a much-needed win.

Until a late season run of form and a points' deduction for London Welsh; Sale has been battling against the dreaded drop from the Premiership all season.

But with the chance of still finishing ninth in the table should the Sharks secure a bonus-point win against out-of-form London Wasps; Taylor admits Sale will go out all guns blazing at the weekend.

Sale's 47-7 defeat at Northampton Saints in the last round of the Premiership ended a three-game unbeaten run, while they have won just one of their last six fixtures at the Salford City Stadium in all competitions.

The teams:

Sale: 15 Mark Cueto, 14 Will Addison, 13 Johnny Leota, 12 Sam Tuitupou, 11 Tom Brady, 10 Nick Macleod, 9 Dwayne Peel, 8 James Gaskell, 7 David Seymour (captain), 6 Dan Braid, 5 Andrei Ostrikov, 4 Kearnan Myall, 3 Henry Thomas, 2 Marc Jones, 1 Alasdair Dickinson.
Replacements: 16 Tommy Taylor, 17 Ross Harrison, 18 Tony Buckley, 19 Tom Holmes, 20 Andy Powell, 21 Nathan Fowles, 22 Sam James, 23 Charlie Amesbury.

London Wasps: 15 Hugo Southwell (captain), 14 Tom Varndell, 13 Elliot Daly, 12 Chris Bell, 11 Christian Wade, 10 Tommy Bell, 9 Joe Simpson, 8 Billy Vunipola, 7 Sam Jones, 6 Ashley Johnson, 5 Marco Wentzel, 4 Tom Palmer, 3 Phil Swainston, 2 Tom Lindsay, 1 Simon McIntyre.
Replacements: 16 T Rhys Thomas, 17 Zak Taulafo, 18 Lorenzo Romano, 19 James Cannon, 20 Jonathan Poff, 21 Charlie Davies, 22 Charlie Hayter, 23 Jack Wallace.

Referee: Dean Richards
Assistant Referees: Ashley Rowden & Gordon Goodliffe.

London Welsh v Worcester Warriors
(Kassam Stadium – Kick-off: 14.30; 13.30 GMT)

Wing Josh Drauniniu believes the table doesn't reflect the whole picture as Worcester Warriors travel to the Kassam Stadium to face his old club London Welsh on the final day of the  Premiership regular season.

The 27-year-old left London Welsh to join then newly promoted Aviva Premiership outfit Worcester at the start of the 2011 season with the Exiles making their own way out of the Championship during that campaign.

London Welsh have lost their last 11 in the Premiership since their 15-9 victory at home against London Irish on December 1 and sit bottom of the table with 18 points and one game left of the regular season.

Meanwhile Worcester's only triumph in their last ten Premiership fixtures was 29-23 at home to London Wasps on March 1 with the Warriors winless away from Sixways in the league all season.

The teams:

London Welsh: 15 Tom Arscott, 14 Dan Caprice, 13 Seb Stegmann, 12 James Lewis, 11 Nick Scott, 10 Gordon Ross (captain), 9 Rob Lewis, 8 Alfie To'oala, 7 Lee Beach, 6 Daniel Browne, 5 Matt Corker, 4 Kirill Kulemin, 3 Arthur Joly, 2 Greg Bateman, 1 Tom Bristow.
Replacements: 16 Dan George, 17 James Tideswell, 18 Billy Moss, 19 Adam Brown, 20 Julio Cabello Farias, 21 Mike Denbee, 22 Alex Davies, 23 Joe Ajuwa.

Worcester: 15 Chris Pennell, 14 Josh Drauniniu, 13 Andy Short, 12 Alex Grove, 11 Ben Howard, 10 Andy Goode, 9 Jonny Arr, 8 Richard de Carpentier, 7 Sam Betty, 6 Neil Best, 5 Chris Jones, 4 James Percival (captain), 3 Euan Murray, 2 Ed Shervington, 1 Matt Mullan.
Replacements: 16 Aleki Lutui, 17 Rob O'Donnell, 18 John Andress, 19 Dean Schofield, 20 Jake Abbott, 21 Paul Hodgson, 22 Danny Gray, 23 Max Stelling.

Referee: Mathew Carley
Assistant Referees: Paul Dix & Stuart Terheege.

Harlequins v Northampton Saints
(Twickenham Stoop – Kick-off: 14.30; 13.30 GMT)

Joe Marler insists Harlequins are determined to head into the Premiership semi-finals in winning form – and he expects Northampton Saints to want to do the same when they meet on Saturday.

Reigning champions Quins welcome the Saints to the Twickenham Stoop with both sides having already secured their semi-final place, but England international Marler doesn't believe it will lessen the intensity of the game in any way.

After a slight dip in form that saw Conor O'Shea's side lose back-to-back games against league leaders Saracens and Gloucester Rugby, Marler believes Quins are nearing the best form once more and he wants that to continue against the Saints.

The teams:

Harlequins: 15 Mike Brown, 14 Tom Williams, 13 George Lowe, 12 Tom Casson, 11 Ugo Monye, 10 Nick Evans, 9 Danny Care, 8 Nick Easter, 7 Luke Wallace, 6 Tom Guest, 5 George Robson, 4 Olly Kohn, 3 James Johnston, 2 Rob Buchanan, 1 Joe Marler.
Replacements: 16 Joe Gray, 17 Mark Lambert, 18 Will Collier, 19 Charlie Matthews, 20 Maurie Fa'asavalu, 21 Karl Dickson, 22 Ben Botica, 23 Ross Chisholm.

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

Referee: Tim Wigglesworth
Assistant Referees: Andrew Pearce & Gareth Copsey.
TMO: David Grashoff.

Exeter Chiefs v Gloucester
(Sandy Park – Kick-off: 14.30; 13.30 GMT)

Exeter Chiefs may be gunning for the win they need to secure a European Cup place next season but Gloucester Rugby flanker Peter Buxton admits he's looking to celebrate a landmark of his own on Saturday.

The 34-year-old will draw the curtain on his 11-year stay with the Cherry & Whites at Sandy Park with their own fate in Europe's premier competition already secure.

But despite marking his last appearance at Kingsholm with a memorable 28-23 victory over Saracens last time out, the 34-year-old is expecting an equally tough test from the Chiefs.

Five wins from their last six Premiership games have catapulted Exeter up the table, and with Bath Rugby two points adrift in seventh place any sort of win will secure a top-six berth for the hosts.

The teams:

Exeter: 15 Luke Arscott, 14 Jack Nowell, 13 Phil Dollman, 12 Jason Shoemark, 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 Brett Sturgess.
Replacements: 16 Chris Whitehead, 17 Carl Rimmer, 18 Craig Mitchell, 19 Aly Muldowney, 20 Dave Ewers, 21 Will Chudley, 22 Henry Slade, 23 Ian Whitten.

Gloucester: 15 Rob Cook, 14 Charlie Sharples, 13 Henry Trinder, 12 Billy Twelvetrees, 11 Jonny May, 10 Freddie Burns, 9 Dan Robson, 8 Ben Morgan 7 Akapusi Qera, 6 Sione Kalamafoni, 5 Lua Lokotui, 4 Tom Savage (captain), 3 Shaun Knight, 2 Koree Britton, 1 Nick Wood.
Replacements: 16 Darren Dawidiuk, 17 Dan Murphy, 18 Yann Thomas, 19 Peter Buxton, 20 Andy Hazell, 21 Dave Lewis, 22 Mike Tindall, 23 Shane Monahan.

Saracens v Bath
(Allianz Park – Kick-off: 14.30; 13.30 GMT)

Guy Mercer is under no illusions about the importance of Bath Rugby's final match of the season, and the flanker insists the players are ready to end their Premiership season on a high and qualify for the European Cup.

Bath sit seventh in the Premiership ahead of a final day trip to league leaders Saracens and know only a win will give them an outside chance of finishing in the top six and qualifying for Europe's elite club competition.

Even victory might not be enough with sixth-placed Exeter Chiefs hosting Gloucester Rugby in the knowledge that victory will render any Bath heroics meaningless.

And with Bath needing to make history by becoming the first visiting team to win at Saracens' Allianz Park in all competitions Mercer and co will need to be at their very best.

The teams:

Saracens: 15 Chris Wyles, 14 Chris Ashton, 13 Joel Tomkins, 12 Owen Farrell, 11 David Strettle, 10 Charlie Hodgson, 9 Neil de Kock, 8 Jackson Wray, 7 Andy Saull, 6 Kelly Brown, 5 Alistair Hargreaves, 4 Steve Borthwick (captain), 3 Matt Stevens, 2 Schalk Brits, 1 Mako Vunipola.
Replacements: 16 John Smit, 17 Rhys Gill, 18 Carlos Nieto, 19 Mouritz Botha, 20 George Kruis, 21 Richard Wigglesworth, 22 Duncan Taylor, 23 Joe Maddock.

Bath: 15 Ollie Devoto, 14 Horacio Agulla, 13 Ben Williams, 12 Kyle Eastmond, 11 Semesa Rokoduguni, 10 Stephen Donald, 9 Michael Claassens, 8 Simon Taylor, 7 Guy Mercer, 6 Francois Louw (captain), 5 Dave Attwood, 4 Dominic Day, 3 David Wilson, 2 Rob Webber, 1 Paul James.
Replacements: 16 Ross Batty, 17 Nathan Catt, 18 Anthony Perenise, 19 Will Spencer, 20 Mat Gilbert, 21 Nick Koster, 22 Peter Stringer, 23 Tom Biggs.

Referee: Martin Fox
Assistant Referees: Nigel Carrick & Roy Maybank.
TMO: Graham Hughes

Leicester Tigers v London Welsh
(Welford Road – Kick-off: 14.30; 13.30 GMT)

Leicester Tigers have already qualified for the play-offs for a ninth successive season and require two points from this game to secure home field advantage for the Premiership Rugby semifinals. The Tigers' 26-27 reversal at Bath in the last round ended a four game winning run in the competition. Leicester have lost only one game at Welford Road in any competitions since September: 27-32 to Saracens in round 16.

London Irish beat London Welsh 47-28 in round 21 but have not managed back to back wins in the competition since February. The Exiles are the poorest travelling team in the Premiership this season having gained just five league points from their ten away trips so far, a victory at Gloucester and a losing bonus point at London Welsh.

The Tigers' are unbeaten in their last seven encounters with London Irish in all competitions whilst the Exiles have won just once at Welford Road since their first visit in 1923: 20-19 in May 2003.

The teams:

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

London Irish: 15 Tom Homer, 14 Topsy Ojo, 13 Jonathan Joseph, 12 Guy Armitage, 11 Marland Yarde, 10 Ian Humphreys, 9 Darren Allinson, 8 Ofisa Treviranus, 7 Jamie Gibson, 6 Matt Garvey, 5 Bryn Evans, 4 George Skivington (captain), 3 Halani Aulika, 2 Scott Lawson, 1 Alex Corbisiero.
Replacements: 16 David Paice, 17 Jerry Yanuyanutawa, 18 Leo Halavatau, 19 Kieran Low, 20 Jebb Sinclair, 21 Declan Danaher, 22 Shane Geraghty, 23 Jack Moates.

Referee: Luke Pearce
Assistant Referees: Kevin Stewart & Andrew Watson.

PV: 2

Preview: Premiership, Round 22 | Rugby365