Preview: Premiership, Round 13
Freddie Burns will look the lead Gloucester to victory over London Irish in a key Premiership clash at Kingsholm on Saturday.
Freddie Burns insists he's relishing the added responsibility placed on his shoulders this season and believes Gloucester have every chance of celebrating a Premiership top-four finish this campaign.
Burns has been a revelation this term as the Cherry and Whites have emerged as the surprise contenders for the end-of-season semifinal showdowns.
Revelling under the tutelage of Gloucester boss Nigel Davies and backs coach Mike Tindall - the former England centre - Burns has continually caught the eye.
His form has certainly not gone unnoticed at international level with Stuart Lancaster giving Burns his England debut in the famous win over New Zealand in December.
Burns credits his rise to international rugby to the likes of Davies and Tindall and believes there's no reason why he, and Gloucester, can't continue their eye-catching form throughout the 2012/13 campaign.
"Everything this year is about getting Gloucester back to where they were. I'm pleased with how I've been playing but I think there is still a lot more to come from me," he said.
"It's a great club to be at in that respect, Mike Tindall has had a big influence as backs coach and him and Nigel Davies have been great with the way they have gone about things.
"They have given me the responsibility to manage a game, and getting as many games as I did last year has helped me a lot. Even the last six games we lost last season helped me a lot, and I learned a lot from that.
"Coming into the season our target was to finish in the top six but given where we are now, I really want us to be in the top four come the end of the season.
With Burns likely to be heavily involved in the Six Nations next month, the Cherry and Whites could be without their talismanic No.10 for an extended period.
However, Farrell has no concerns about how the squad will cope.
"With the players we have in the squad, it's been good to see people stepping up when they get the chance. We've had people away for different things and it shows the depth we have now," he added.
"It's so tight at the top and that's fantastic for English rugby. Everyone is beating everyone and you can't rest on your performances."
Farrell will look the lead Gloucester to victory over London Irish at Kingsholm on Saturday.
We look at all the Round 13 action!
Friday, January 4:
Worcester Warriors v Leicester Tigers
(Sixways - 20.00)
Worcester Warriors’ last nine games in the Premiership have all been won by the home side on the day. The Warriors are unbeaten in their last eight encounters at Sixways in all competitions since Bath won there, 24-23, on September 1.
Leicester Tigers have strung together five successive victories in all competitions since their 14-12 reversal at London Wasps in the Premiership on November 25. The Tigers are the second best away side in the Premiership after Saracens, securing 18 league points from their six away trips so far.
The Tigers have won on their last four visits to Sixways including winning the Anglo-Welsh Cup there against Northampton in March. Worcester’s only win over Leicester since 2005 remains the 23-19 victory at Sixways in the Premiership on March 8, 2006.
Worcester Warriors: 15 Chris Pennell, 14 Josh Drauniniu, 13 Alex Grove, 12 Jon Clarke, 11 David Lemi, 10 Andy Goode, 9 Jonny Arr, 8 Semisi Taulava, 7 Matt Kvesic, 6 Sam Betty, 5 Dean Schofield, 4 James Percival (captain), 3 Euan Murray, 2 Aleki Lutui, 1 Ceri Jones.
Replacements: 16 Ed Shervington, 17 Matt Mullan, 18 John Andress, 19 Chris Jones, 20 Neil Best, 21 Ollie Frost, 22 Danny Gray, 23 Josh Matavesi.
Leicester Tigers: 15 Mathew Tait, 14 Scott Hamilton, 13 Matt Smith, 12 Dan Bowden, 11 Adam Thompstone, 10 Toby Flood, 9 Ben Youngs, 8 Thomas Waldrom, 7 Steve Mafi, 6 Tom Croft, 5 Ed Slater, 4 Louis Deacon (captain), 3 Martin Castrogiovanni, 2 Rob Hawkins, 1 Logovi'i Mulipola.
Replacements: 16 George Chuter, 17 Marcos Ayerza, 18 Dan Cole, 19 Graham Kitchener, 20 Julian Salvi, 21 Micky Young, 22 Anthony Allen, 23 Niall Morris.
Referee: JP Doyle
Assistant Referees: Andrew Pearce, Peter Huckle.
TMO: Trevor Fisher.
Saturday, January 5:
Exeter Chiefs v Northampton Saints
(Sandy Park - 15.00)
Exeter Chiefs are the best home side in the Premiership having tallied 24 league points from their six games so far. The Chiefs’ only loss at Sandy Park in any competition this season was to Clermont in the European Cup on October 20.
Northampton Saints have slipped to back-to-back Premiership defeats at the hands of the top two sides in the table - Harlequins and Saracens. The Saints’ only victory in their last four away games in the Premiership was a 27-16 win at struggling Sale on November 30.
The Chiefs’ solo win over the Saints in eight previous meetings in all competitions was a 30-9 victory at Sandy Park in the Premiership on March 6, 2011.
Exeter Chiefs: 15 Luke Arscott, 14 Gonzalo Camacho, 13 Ian Whitten, 12 Phil Dollman, 11 Matt Jess, 10 Gareth Steenson, 9 Haydn Thomas, 8 Richard Baxter (captain), 7 Ben White, 6 Tom Johnson, 5 James Hanks, 4 Dean Mumm, 3 Hoani Tui, 2 Neil Clark, 1 Ben Moon.
Replacements: 16 Jack Yeandle, 17 Carl Rimmer, 18 Craig Mitchell, 19 Tom Hayes, 20 Aly Muldowney, 21 Kevin Barrett, 22 Ignacio Mieres, 23 Sireli Naqelevuki.
Northampton Saints: 15 Ben Foden, 14 Ken Pisi, 13 George Pisi, 12 Dom Waldouck, 11 Jamie Elliott, 10 Stephen Myler, 9 Lee Dickson, 8 GJ van Velze, 7 Phil Dowson, 6 Calum Clark, 5 Mark Sorenson, 4 Courtney Lawes, 3 Paul Doran Jones, 2 Dylan Hartley (captain), 1 Soane Tonga''uiha.
Replacements: 16 Mike Haywood, 17 Alex Waller, 18 Tom Mercey, 19 Samu Manoa, 20 Tom Wood, 21 Martin Roberts, 22 Ryan Lamb, 23 Luther Burrell.
Referee: Greg Garner
Assistant Referees: Stuart Terheege, Ashley Rowden
TMO: Geoff Warren.
Gloucester v London Irish
(Kingsholm - 15.00)
Gloucester’s last seven encounters in the Premiership have all been won by the home side on the day, whilst Gloucester have won their last nine games at Kingsholm in all competitions since a Northampton victory there on the opening weekend of the season.
London Irish have won just one game in any competition since October: a 34-28 win over Sale Sharks in the Anglo-Welsh Cup on November 11. The Exiles’ most recent Premiership try was scored by Topsy Ojo against Exeter at Madejski Stadium.
The two clubs have already met on three occasions this season with Gloucester victorious each time – once in the Premiership and twice in the European Challenge Cup. London Irish have not won at Kingsholm since a visit on January 28, 2006.
Gloucester: 15 Rob Cook, 14 Charlie Sharples, 13 Mike Tindall (captain), 12 Billy Twelvetrees, 11 Shane Monahan, 10 Freddie Burns, 9 Jimmy Cowan, 8 Ben Morgan, 7 Akapusi Qera, 6 Sione Kalamafoni, 5 Will James, 4 Tom Savage, 3 Shaun Knight, 2 Huia Edmonds, 1 Dan Murphy.
Replacements: 16 Darren Dawidiuk, 17 Nick Wood, 18 Dario Chistolini, 19 Peter Buxton, 20 Matt Cox, 21 Dan Robson, 22 Tim Molenaar, 23 Martyn Thomas.
London Irish: 15 Tom Homer, 14 Jonathan Joseph, 13 Sailosi Tagicakibau, 12 Steve Shingler, 11 Marland Yarde, 10 Ian Humphreys, 9 Pat Phibbs, 8 Chris Hala'ufia, 7 Jebb Sinclair, 6 Matt Garvey, 5 Bryn Evans (captain), 4 George Skivington, 3 Halani Aulika, 2 David Paice, 1 Alex Corbisiero.
Replacements: 16 Scott Lawson, 17 Max Lahiff, 18 Leo Halavatau, 19 Kieran Low, 20 Jamie Gibson, 21 Guy Armitage, 22 Shane Geraghty, 23 Darren Allinson.
Referee: David Rose.
Assistant Referees: Roy Maybank, Gareth Copsey.
Sunday, January 6:
London Wasps v Bath
(Adams Park - 15.00)
London Wasps have won five of their last seven games in the Premiership and have climbed from 10th to fifth place in the table in the process. Wasps have won all eight matches played at Adams Park in all competitions this season.
Bath drew 12-all at Exeter Chiefs on Saturday – their first tie since they visited Harlequins on October 31, 2010. Bath are without a win in their last three Premiership encounters and have only won on the road once this season in the tournament: 24-23 at Worcester Warriors on September 1.
Wasps have beaten Bath just once in their last four fixtures, whilst Bath’s solo victory at Adams Park since 2005 was a 27-23 win on October 1, 2008.
London Wasps: 15 Hugo Southwell (captain), 14 Christian Wade, 13 Elliot Daly, 12 Chris Bell, 11 Tom Varndell, 10 Stephen Jones, 9 Joe Simpson, 8 Billy Vunipola, 7 James Haskell, 6 Ashley Johnson, 5 James Cannon, 4 Joe Launchbury, 3 Phil Swainston, 2 T Rhys Thomas, 1 Zak Taulafo.
Replacements: 16 Tom Lindsay, 17 Tim Payne, 18 Will Taylor, 19 Marco Wentzel, 20 Sam Jones, 21 Charlie Davies, 22 Nick Robinson, 23 Andrea Masi.
Bath: 15 Nick Abendanon, 14 Horacio Agulla, 13 Kyle Eastmond, 12 Matt Banahan, 11 Tom Biggs, 10 Stephen Donald, 9 Michael Claassens, 8 Ben Skirving, 7 Guy Mercer, 6 Francois Louw, 5 Dominic Day, 4 Stuart Hooper (captain), 3 David Wilson, 2 Lee Mears, 1 Paul James.
Replacements: 16 Tom Dunn, 17 Charlie Beech, 18 Anthony Perenise, 19 Dave Attwood, 20 Will Skuse, 21 Mark McMillan, 22 Tom Heathcote, 23 Dan Hipkiss.
Referee: Andrew Small.
Assistant Referees: Kevin Stewart, Nigel Carrick.
TMO: David Grashoff.
London Welsh v Harlequins
(Kassam Stadium - 15.00)
London Welsh have slipped to back-to-back Premiership defeats, but at Kassam Stadium the Exiles have won two of their last three games.
Harlequins, the defending Premiership champions, have topped the table since Round Seven. Quins’ only defeat in their last six encounters in the competition was a 21-18 loss at Bath on November 23.
Harlequins won 40-3 when the two clubs met at the Twickenham Stoop in Round Two. London Welsh’s only previous victory over Harlequins in a competitive match was in September 1972 with a 45-12 victory at Twickenham in the first round of the RFU Knockout Cup.
London Welsh: 15 Tom Arscott, 14 Dan Caprice, 13 Seb Jewell, 12 Sonny Parker, 11 Nick Scott, 10 Gordon Ross, 9 Rob Lewis, 8 Adam Balding, 7 Michael Hills, 6 Ed Jackson, 5 Kirill Kulemin, 4 Jonathon Mills (captain), 3 Paulica Ion, 2 Neil Briggs, 1 Frank Montanella.
Replacements: 16 Greg Bateman, 17 Tom Bristow, 18 James Tideswell, 19 Matt Corker, 20 Alfie To'oala, 21 Tyson Keates, 22 Alex Davies, 23 Tom Voyce.
Harlequins: 15 Ollie Lindsay-Hague, 14 Tom Williams, 13 George Lowe, 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 Sam Twomey, 20 Luke Wallace, 21 Karl Dickson, 22 Ben Botica, 23 Matt Hopper.
Referee: Llyr Ap Geraint-Roberts
Assistant Referees: Paul Dix, Robin Goodliffe.
Saracens v Sale Sharks
(Vicarage Road - 15.00)
Saracens only defeat in their last eight Premiership contests was a 12-3 loss at Worcester Warriors on November 23. This game is scheduled to be Saracens’ 159th and last Premiership encounter at Vicarage Road since October 1997 – their record in Watford being won 112, lost 43, drawn 3.
Sale Sharks doubled their tally of Premiership victories this season at home to Worcester on Friday. The Sharks’ only away win in the tournament since December 2011 was 24-19 at Gloucester on April 21.
Sale have won just one of their last eight Premiership encounters with Saracens: a 28-22 victory at Edgeley Park on January 2, 2011. The Sharks’ only victory at Vicarage Road in 17 previous visits in all competitions was 40-32 in the Premiership on September 25, 2005.
Saracens: 15 Chris Wyles, 14 James Short, 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 George Kruis, 4 Steve Borthwick (captain), 3 Matt Stevens, 2 Schalk Brits, 1 Mako Vunipola.
Replacements: 16 Jamie George, 17 Rhys Gill, 18 Petrus du Plessis, 19 Mouritz Botha, 20 Nick Fenton-Wells, 21 Neil de Kock, 22 Charlie Hodgson, 23 Duncan Taylor.
Sale Sharks: 15 Rob Miller, 14 Tom Brady, 13 Johnny Leota, 12 Sam Tuitupou, 11 Mark Cueto, 10 Danny Cipriani, 9 Dwayne Peel, 8 Andy Powell, 7 Richie Vernon, 6 James Gaskell, 5 Kearnan Myall, 4 Richie Gray, 3 Tony Buckley, 2 Marc Jones, 1 Ross Harrison.
Replacements: 16 Aston Croall, 17 Alasdair Dickinson, 18 Eifion Lewis-Roberts, 19 Tom Holmes, 20 Daniel Braid, 21 Will Cliff, 22 Charlie Amesbury, 23 Cameron Shepherd.
Referee: Tim Wigglesworth.
Assistant Referees: Paul Burton, Andrew Watson.