Preview: Premiership, Round Nine
There will be four Premiership matches played at the same time on Saturday as the chasing pack look to close the gap on Saracens.
There will be four Premiership matches played at the same time on Saturday as the chasing pack look to close the gap on Saracens.
The log-leaders face a Sale Sharks side that have won just once on their travels in the Premiership since February but according to Sale fullback Rob Miller a visit to the Allianz Park holds no fears.
Added to Sale's unwanted away-day statistic is the fact they have only beaten Saracens once since 2008 but after beating basement boys Worcester Warriors last time out in the Premiership - Miller insists all that could change this weekend for the Sharks.
From a personal point of view, Miller is desperate to rewrite last season's record books - he managed just two tries all season and didn't play after February as he suffered a shoulder injury.
It was in stark contrast to his previous season when he scored 13 tries for the Sharks and was nominated for the Game Changer of the Season Award, before being called up to the England Saxons.
But after last season's relegation flirtation, it's a different story all-together this time around for Sale - they sit in seventh position just four points behind fourth placed Harlequins and are now looking up rather than down.
Miller said: "Saracens have been a top side for the past couple of years - we know what they are about, they are big physical direct team and we have to go down there and really try to have a crack at them.
"Playing away from home is tough especially at the top four but we are going down with a clear game plan.
"Everybody knows what we are trying to do at Saracens and we will go for the win and, if not, stay within seven points to pick up the losing bonus point.
"Points on the road are precious, whether it is top four or teams below; you really have to step up your performances to pick up as many points as you can."
Sale's performances this season have been a far cry from the difficulties they experienced last year, both on and off the pitch, and Miller believes the Sharks are reaping the rewards of a harmonious dressing room this campaign.
"We have a great team spirit here and a great culture and we all want to play for each other and really put in a performance," he added.
"I think we have shown that in the start to our season and we still feel that we can improve and training each day we can reach that level to compete against the likes of Saracens."
We look at all the weekend's matches:
Friday, November 29
Gloucester v Leicester Tigers
(Kingsholm - Kick-off: 15.00; 15.00 GMT)
Gloucester have lost their last four Premiership encounters since beating Newcastle at Kingston Park on 29th September.
The Cherry and Whites have won just one of their four encounters in the Premiership at Kingsholm this season: 26-24 over Northampton in Round Three.
Leicester Tigers have won their last three matches in all tournaments and ended a three game winless run in the Premiership with their 20-11 home win over London Irish on Saturday.
The Tigers only win away from home in the Premiership in their last four trips was at Exeter in Round Four.
Gloucester have won just one of their last six encounters with Leicester in all competitions: 27-21 at Kingsholm, in this equivalent fixture last season. The last six clashes between the two clubs in Gloucester have been evenly shared, three wins apiece.
Gloucester: 15 Rob Cook, 14 Shane Monahan, 13 Henry Trinder, 12 Billy Twelvetrees, 11 Jonny May, 10 Freddie Burns, 9 Dan Robson, 8 Ben Morgan, 7 Matt Kvesic, 6 Tom Savage (captain), 5 James Hudson, 4 Lua Lokotui, 3 Shaun Knight, 2 Darren Dawidiuk, 1 Nick Wood.
Replacements: 16 Huia Edmonds, 17 Yann Thomas, 18 Rupert Harden, 19 Elliott Stooke, 20 Matt Cox, 21 Jimmy Cowan, 22 Mike Tindall, 23 Martyn Thomas.
Leicester: 15 Scott Hamilton, 14 Blaine Scully, 13 Adam Thompstone, 12 Dan Bowden, 11 Miles Benjamin, 10 Toby Flood (captain), 9 Ben Youngs, 8 Thomas Waldrom, 7 Julian Salvi, 6 Jamie Gibson, 5 Graham Kitchener, 4 Louis Deacon, 3 Dan Cole, 2 Tom Youngs, 1 Marcos Ayerza.
Replacements: 16 Neil Briggs, 17 Boris Stankovich, 18 Fraser Balmain, 19 Sebastian De Chaves, 20 Jordan Crane, 21 Sam Harrison, 22 Owen Williams, 23 Javiah Pohe.
Referee: Greg Garner
Assistant referees: Paul Burton, Gareth Copsey
TMO: Trevor Fisher
Saturday, November 30
London Irish v London Wasps
(Madejski Stadium - Kick-off: 15.00; 15.00 GMT)
London Irish have slipped to five straight defeats in all competitions and in Premiership have secured just one victory since the opening weekend: 18-13 at home to Harlequins in Round Five.
The Exiles have won only two of their last five Premiership encounters played at Madesjki Stadium.
London Wasps have lost their last three matches in all tournaments since beating Gloucester 32-30 at Kingsholm on 2nd November, that victory ended an unwanted run of seven straight away defeats in the
The last ten encounters between the two clubs in the Premiership have all been won by the home side on the day, whilst Wasps have not been victorious in Reading in the tournament since 16th March 2008.
London Irish: 15 James O'Connor, 14 Topsy Ojo, 13 Fergus Mulchrone, 12 Eamonn Sheridan, 11 Alex Lewington, 10 Shane Geraghty, 9 Tomás O'Leary, 8 Chris Hala'ufia, 7 Blair Cowan, 6 Jebb Sinclair, 5 George Skivington (c), 4 Ian Gough, 3 Leo Halavatau, 2 Jimmy Stevens, 1 John Yapp.
Replacements: 16 Mike Mayhew, 17 Matt Parr, 18 Jamie Hagan, 19 Nic Rouse, 20 Ofisa Treviranus, 21 Guy Armitage, 22 Myles Dorrian, 23 Darren Allinson.
London Wasps: 15 Elliot Daly, 14 Christian Wade, 13 Chris Bell, 12 Charlie Hayter, 11 Will Helu, 10 Andy Goode, 9 Charlie Davies, 8 Sam Jones, 7 Guy Thompson, 6 James Haskell, 5 Kearnan Myall, 4 Joe Launchbury, 3 Jake Cooper-Woolley, 2 Carlo Festuccia, 1 Matt Mullan.
Replacements: 16 Neil Cochrane, 17 Simon McIntyre, 18 Taione Vea, 19 Tom Palmer, 20 Ed Jackson, 21 Joe Simpson, 22 Joe Carlisle, 23 Ben Jacobs.
Referee: Dean Richards
Assistant referees: Kevin Stewart, Andrew Pearce
TMO: Rowan Kitt
Saracens v Sale Sharks
(Allianz Park - Kick-off: 15.00; 15.00 GMT)
Saracens continue to top the Premiership table having lost only once in the opening eight rounds: 20-41 at Northampton on 26th October.
Saracens have won all nine regular season Premiership matches they have played since moving to their new stadium at Allianz Park.
Sale Sharks 26-10 home win over bottom placed Worcester Warriors on Friday was their first in the Premiership since Round Five.
The Sharks have won just once away from home in the Premiership since February: 22-16 at Gloucester on 7th September.
Sale’s only Premiership victory over Saracens since 2008 was 28-22 at Edgeley Park on 2nd January 2011, whilst the only occasion in which Sale have won on Saracens soil in Premiership history came at Vicarage Road in September 2005.
Saracens: 15 Alex Goode, 14 Jack Wilson, 13 Chris Wyles, 12 Owen Farrell, 11 David Strettle, 10 Charlie Hodgson, 9 Neil de Kock, 8 Ernst Joubert, 7 Will Fraser, 6 Jackson Wray, 5 George Kruis, 4 Steve Borthwick (captain), 3 Matt Stevens, 2 Schalk Brits, 1 Richard Barrington.
Replacements: 16 Jamie George, 17 Jared Saunders, 18 James Johnston, 19 Eoin Sheriff, 20 Kelly Brown, 21 Richard Wigglesworth, 22 Duncan Taylor, 23 Marcelo Bosch.
Sale Sharks: 15 Rob Miller, 14 Charlie Ingall, 13 Mark Jennings, 12 Jonny Leota, 11 Will Addison, 10 Danny Cipriani, 9 Dwayne Peel, 8 James Gaskell, 7 David Seymour, 6 Dan Braid, 5 Michael Paterson, 4 Andrei Ostrikov, 3 Vadim Cobilas, 2 Tommy Taylor, 1 Ross Harrison.
Replacements: 16 Marc Jones, 17 James Flynn, 18 Tony Buckley, 19 Jonathan Mills, 20 Mark Easter, 21 Will Cliff, 22 Nick Macleod, 23 Tom Brady.
Referee: JP Doyle
Assistant referees: Andy Watson, Nigel Carrick
TMO: Sean Davey
Worcester Warriors v Northampton Saints
(Sixways - Kick-off: 15.00; 15.00 GMT)
Worcester Warriors only victory in any competition this season was 21-16 at Cardiff Blues in the Anglo Welsh Cup on 8th November.
The Warriors have not been victorious at their own Sixways ground since London Wasps were the visitors in Premiership on 1st March.
Northampton Saints have lost only once since late September: 13-19 at Castres in the European Cup.
The Saints solo away loss in the Premiership this season was 24-26 at Gloucester in Round Three.
Worcester’s only victory in their last eight clashes with Northampton was 12-3 at Sixways on 30th September 2011. The Saints record at Worcester in the tournament is a creditable won five, lost two.
Worcester Warriors: 15 Chris Pennell, 14 James Stephenson, 13 Alex Grove, 12 Josh Matavesi, 11 Dean Hammond, 10 Ignacio Mieres, 9 Paul Hodgson, 8 Jonathan Thomas (captain), 7 Sam Betty, 6 Richard de Carpentier, 5 Mariano Galarza, 4 James Percival, 3 Rob O'Donnell, 2 Chris Brooker, 1 Ofa Fainga'anuku.
Replacements: 16 Ed Shervington, 17 George Porter, 18 John Andress, 19 Mike Williams, 20 Chris Jones, 21 Jeremy Su'a, 22 Paul Warwick, 23 Max Stelling.
Northampton Saints: 15 Glenn Dickson, 14 Ken Pisi, 13 Dom Waldouck, 12 Luther Burrell, 11 Tom Collins, 10 Stephen Myler, 9 Lee Dickson, 8 Sam Dickinson, 7 Tom Wood, 6 Calum Clark, 5 Christian Day, 4 Samu Manoa, 3 Salesi Ma'afu, 2 Dylan Hartley (captain), 1 Alex Waller.
Replacements: 16 Mike Haywood, 17 Ethan Waller, 18 Tom Mercey, 19 Courtney Lawes, 20 Phil Dowson, 21 Alex Day, 22 Vasily Artemyev, 23 Tom Stephenson.
Referee: Tim Wigglesworth
Assistant referees: Paul Dix , Stuart Terheege
TMO: David Sainsbury
Bath v Exeter Chiefs
(The Recreational Ground - Kick-off: 15.00; 15.00 GMT)
Bath have won their last seven matches in all tournaments since tripping up at Sale on 4th October.
Bath have lost only once at The Rec in the Premiership in their last dozen encounters since September 2012: 0-22 to Saracens in December 2012.
Exeter Chiefs three game winning run in the Premiership ended at home to Saracens on Saturday.
The Chiefs only away defeat in the tournament since February was 11-38 at Northampton in the opening weekend of this season.
Exeter’s solitary victory over Bath in any tournament came way back in January 1978 at the old County Ground in the first round of the John Player Cup.
The Chiefs have already visited the Rec this season, being defeated there 15-37 in the Anglo-Welsh Cup two weeks ago.
Bath: 15 Anthony Watson, 14 Horacio Agulla, 13 Jonathan Joseph, 12 Ollie Devoto, 11 Matt Banahan, 10 George Ford, 9 Peter Stringer, 8 Leroy Houston, 7 Francois Louw (captain), 6 Matt Garvey, 5 Dave Attwood, 4 Dominic Day, 3 David Wilson, 2 Rob Webber, 1 Nathan Catt.
Replacements: 16 Ross Batty, 17 Paul James, 18 Anthony Perenise, 19 Ryan Caldwell, 20 Carl Fearns, 21 Martin Roberts, 22 Tom Heathcote, 23 Nick Abendanon
Exeter Chiefs: 15 Luke Arscott, 14 Jack Nowell, 13 Phil Dollman, 12 Jason Shoemark, 11 Matt Jess, 10 Gareth Steenson, 9 Dave Lewis, 8 Dave Ewers, 7 Ben White, 6 Tom Johnson, 5 Damian Welch, 4 Dean Mumm (captain), 3 Hoani Tui 2 Jack Yeandle, 1 Ben Moon.
Replacements: 16 Chris Whitehead, 17 Brett Sturgess, 18 Alex Brown, 19 Don Armand, 20 Kai Horstmann, 21 Haydn Thomas, 22 Henry Slade, 23 Ian Whitten.
Referee: Matthew Carley
Assistant referees: Robin Goodliffe, Peter Huckle
TMO: Keith Lewis
Sunday, December 1
Newcastle Falcons v Harlequins
(Kingston Park - Kick-off: 15.00; 15.00 GMT)
Newcastle Falcons have slipped to back-to-back Premiership defeats at the hands of Saracens and Northampton, scoring just a single penalty goal in the process.
The Falcons have won their last two matches at Kingston Park in all tournaments with both victories being against London Irish.
Harlequins have won their last three Premiership matches since their 13-18 reversal against London Irish in Reading on 5th October.
Harlequins have not conceded a try bonus point since they visited Exeter in October 2012.
Newcastle’s only win over Harlequins in their last seven meetings in the Premiership was 33-18 at Kingston Park in March 2011, whilst Quins most recent victory at Kingston Park in the competition came in November 2006 when Dean Richards was in charge.
Newcastle Falcons: 15 Alex Tait, 14 Noah Cato, 13 Danny Barnes, 12 Adam Powell, 11 Ryan Shortland, 10 Phil Godman, 9 Mike Blair, 8 Ally Hogg, 7 Will Welch (captain), 6 Richard Mayhew, 5 Fraser McKenzie, 4 Carlo del Fava, 3 Kieran Brookes, 2 Scott Lawson, 1 Rob Vickers.
Replacements: 16 George McGuigan, 17 Grant Shiells, 18 Scott Wilson, 19 Sean Tomes, 20 Chris York, 21 Warren Fury, 22 Rory Clegg, 23 James Fitzpatrick.
Harlequins: 15 Mike Brown, 14 Tom Williams, 13 Matt Hopper, 12 Tom Casson, 11 Sam Smith, 10 Nick Evans, 9 Danny Care, 8 Tom Guest, 7 Luke Wallace, 6 Joe Trayfoot, 5 George Robson, 4 Nick Easter (captain), 3 Will Collier, 2 Dave Ward, 1 Joe Marler.
Replacements: 16 Harry Allen, 17 Mark Lambert, 18 Paul Doran-Jones, 19 Charlie Matthews, 20 James Chisholm, 21 Sam Stuart, 22 Ben Botica, 23 Charlie Walker.
Referee: Andrew Small
Assistant referees: Roy Maybank , Ashley Rowden
TMO: Graham Hughes