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Preview: Premiership, Round 18

Thu, 27 Mar 2014 14:15
Premiership-trophy
East-Midlands derby
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With five rounds to go in the Premiership things are starting to hot up as each point becomes vital.
 
There are some important match ups in this round, none more so than when Bath take on Sale with Nick Abendanon playing his 200th game for the South-West England club. 
 
Sale come off a fantastic win against the table toping Northampton Saints and will be looking to add to what will only be Baths second loss of the season after they went down 10-23 at home to Saracens in round 16. 
 
Sale's Director of Rugby Steve Diamond says his team are not getting ahead of themselves after defeating Saints but is rather focused on making the play-off as the tournament begins to draw to a close.
 
"If we get into the top four it's anybody's competition. It's probably a little bit too far for us at the moment so we are focusing on getting into the top European competition, whatever it may be.
 
"If we can win two or three more games, and get bonus points in the games we lose, then we will see where we are," he said
 
It is a tough final stretch for the Sharks as they face some of the bigger clubs in the rounds to come.
 
"we have Bath to come, as well as Quins, Exeter and Leicester who are big sides.
 
"If we don't have the same energy and attitude in those games then we won't win them, if we do we may well win them," added Diamond.
 
The East Midlands derby is another huge match as Premiership’s second and third-placed sides go head-to-head in the chase for the end of season play-offs.
 
Northampton saints captain Tom Wood has been a motivated man this week ahead of the highly-anticipated clash against Leicester.
 
"We’re not short of motivation this week," Wood said
 
"It is a local derby and we know what it means in the town to all the fans. We've had our heartaches against Leicester in the past and we owe our fans a big performance here on Saturday.
 
"Hopefully it will galvanise us and get us back on the front foot. We’ve got to focus on the details and stick to our guns. We know we’re a top side; we’ve proven that all year, and we need to make sure that we focus on getting back together as a group, revisiting what makes us good and what’s got us to where we are."
 
We take a look at all of the matches:
 
Friday, March 28
 
Bath v Sale Sharks
(Recreation Ground - Kick-off: 19.45 GMT)
 
Bath Rugby’s only loss in their last six Premiership Rugby encounters was 10-23 at home to Saracens in round 16. Bath have not lost successive matches at the Rec in the tournament since December 2011.
 
Sale Sharks have also lost just one of their last six Premiership fixtures: 10-15 at home to Saracens in round 14. The Sharks have won four of their last five away games in all competitions and are going for a fourth successive victory on the road in the Premiership, something that they haven't achieved since October 2004.
 
Bath have won just one of their last five matches against Sale in the Premiership: 31-10 at The Rec in this equivalent fixture last season. The Sharks have been victorious at the Rec only once since 2006: 16-13 on 3rd December 201
 
Teams:
 
Bath: 15 Nick Abendanon, 14 Anthony Watson, 13 Ollie Devoto, 12 Kyle Eastmond, 11 Semesa Rokoduguni, 10 George Ford, 9 Peter Stringer, 8 Leroy Houston, 7 Guy Mercer, 6 Matt Garvey, 5 Dave Attwood, 4 Stuart Hooper (captain), 3 David Wilson, 2 Ross Batty, 1 Paul James.
Replacements: 16 Tom Dunn, 17 Nathan Catt, 18 Anthony Perenise, 19 Dominic Day, 20 Carl Fearns, 21 Micky Young, 22 Gavin Henson, 23 Horacio Agulla.
 
Sale: 15 Tom Arscott, 14 Tom Brady, 13 Jonny Leota, 12 Sammy Tuitupou, 11 Mark Cueto, 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 Marc Jones, 1 Eifion Lewis Roberts.
Replacements: 16 Aston Croall, 17 Ross Harrison, 18 Henry Thomas, 19 Jonathan Mills, 20 Mark Easter, 21 Will Cliff, 22 Nick Macleod, 23 Rob Miller.
 
Referee: Dean Richards
Assistant referees: Ashley Rowden, Kelvin Stewart
TMO: David Grashoff
 
Saturday, March 29
 
Chiefs v Gloucester 
(Sandy Park- Kick-off: 15.00 GMT)
 
Exeter Chiefs have won just one of their last seven Premiership Rugby matches: 18-0 at home to London Irish in round 16. The Chiefs are going for successive home wins in the same season at Sandy Park in the tournament for the first time since last May.
 
Gloucester’s last four matches have all been won by the home side on the day, whilst Gloucester have not been victorious on the road in the Premiership since they visited London Irish over Christmas.
 
Exeter have won their last two fixtures against Gloucester including a 29-12 victory at Kingsholm in round five, and are going for a first ever season’s double over their opponents.
 
Teams:
 

Exeter Chiefs: 15 Luke Arscott, 14 Fetu'u Vainikolo, 13 Ian Whitten, 12 Phil Dollman, 11 Matt Jess, 10 Henry Slade, 9 Dave Lewis, 8 Kai Horstmann, 7 Tom Johnson, 6 Dave Ewers, 5 Damian Welch, 4 Dean Mumm (captain), 3 Hoani Tui, 2 Jack Yeandle, 1 Ben Moon.
Replacements: 16 Luke Cowan-Dickie, 17 Carl Rimmer, 18 Alex Brown, 19 Don Armand, 20 James Scaysbrook, 21 Haydn Thomas, 22 Gareth Steenson, 23 Sam Hill.

Gloucester: 15 Rob Cook, 14 Charlie Sharples, 13 Mike Tindall, 12 Billy Twelvetrees (captain) 11 Jonny May, 10 Ryan Mills, 9 Jimmy Cowan, 8 Ben Morgan, 7 Matt Kvesic, 6 Sione Kalamafoni, 5 Will James, 4 Elliott Stooke, 3 Shaun Knight, 2 Darren Dawidiuk, 1 Nick Wood.
Replacements: 16 Koree Britton, 17 Yann Thomas, 18 Sila Puafisi, 19 Lua Lokotui, 20 Gareth Evans, 21 Tavis Knoyle, 22 Freddie Burns, 23 Henry Trinder.

Referee: Matthew Carly.
Assistant Referees: Ross Campbell & Paul Dix.
TMO: Geoff Warren. 
 
Harlequins v London Irish
(Twickenham Stoop - Kick-off: 15.00 GMT)
 
Harlequins last eight matches in Premiership Rugby have all been won by the home side on the day.
 
Harlequins have won their last six home Premiership games since losing 12-22 to Saracens in round four.
 
London Irish have slipped to three straight defeats since beating Wasps at Adams Park on 15th February.
 
The Exiles have won three of their last five away games in all tournaments.
 
London Irish were victorious 18-13 against Harlequins in Reading in round five, to end a five game losing streak to their once close neighbour, and have not achieved a season’s double over Harlequins since 2004/05.
 
Andrew Small is taking charge of this match, and the away side has won the last seven times he has refereed in the Premiership.
 
Teams:
 

Harlequins: 15 Mike Brown, 14 Ollie Lindsay-Hague, 13 Matt Hopper, 12 Jordan Turner-Hall, 11 Sam Smith, 10 Nick Evans, 9 Danny Care, 8 Nick Easter, 7 Chris Robshaw (captain), 6 Luke Wallace, 5 George Robson, 4 Nick Kennedy, 3 Kyle Sinckler, 2 Dave Ward, 1 Joe Marler.
Replacements: 16 Max Crumpton, 17 Mark Lambert, 18 Paul Doran Jones, 19 Charlie Matthews, 20 Tom Guest, 21 Karl Dickson, 22 Ben Botica, 23 Tim Molenaar.

London Irish: 15 James O'Connor, 14 Topsy Ojo, 13 Fergus Mulchrone, 12 Eamonn Sheridan, 11 Marland Yarde, 10 Shane Geraghty, 9 Tomás O'Leary, 8 Ofisa Treviranus, 7 Blair Cowan, 6 Kieran Low, 5 Nic Rouse, 4 George Skivington (captain), 3 Jamie Hagan, 2 Jimmy Stevens, 1 Matt Parr.
Replacements: 16 Mike Mayhew, 17 John Yapp, 18 Leo Halavatau, 19 Jebb Sinclair, 20 Gerard Ellis, 21 Alex Lewington, 22 Myles Dorrian, 23 Darren Allinson.

Referee: Andrew Small.
Assistant Referees: Gareth Copsey & Andy Watson.
TMO: Keith Lewis.
 
Wasps v Saracens
(Adams Park - Kick-off: 15.00 GMT)
 
London Wasps’ 13-11 last gasp victory at Worcester on Friday ended a five games losing run in all tournaments.
 
Wasps have won only one of their last five Premiership Rugby fixtures at Adams Park: 19-16 over Exeter on 5th January.
 
Saracens are the best away side in the Premiership with their only defeat on the road in the tournament this season coming at Northampton in round six. Sarries have lost only once in the competition at any venue since that encounter: 13-22 at home to London Irish in round 13.
 
Saracens have been victorious in their last five fixtures against Wasps in all tournaments including four straight wins at Adams Park.
 
Teams:
 

Wasps: 15 Andrea Masi, 14 Jonah Holmes, 13 Elliot Daly, 12 Chris Bell, 11 Tom Howe, 10 Andy Goode, 9 Joe Simpson, 8 Nathan Hughes, 7 Guy Thompson, 6 James Haskell, 5 Kearnan Myall, 4 Tom Palmer, 3 Jake Cooper-Woolley, 2 Tom Lindsay, 1 Simon McIntyre.
Replacements: 16 Carlo Festuccia, 17 Ricky Reeves, 18 Phil Swainston, 19 James Cannon, 20 Sam Jones, 21 Brett Sheehan, 22 Joe Carlisle, 23 Charlie Hayter.

Saracens: 15 Andrea Masi, 14 Jonah Holmes, 13 Elliot Daly, 12 Chris Bell, 11 Tom Howe, 10 Andy Goode, 9 Joe Simpson, 8 Nathan Hughes, 7 Guy Thompson, 6 James Haskell, 5 Kearnan Myall, 4 Tom Palmer, 3 Jake Cooper-Woolley, 2 Tom Lindsay, 1 Simon McIntyre.
Replacements: 16 Carlo Festuccia, 17 Ricky Reeves, 18 Phil Swainston, 19 James Cannon, 20 Sam Jones, 21 Brett Sheehan, 22 Joe Carlisle, 23 Charlie Hayter.

Referee: Luke Pearce.
Assistant Referees: Stuart Terheege & Simon McConnell.
TMO: David Sainsbury.
 
Northampton Saints v Leicester Tigers
Franklin’s Gardens - Kick-off: 15.15 GMT)
 
Northampton Saints have lost their last two games, to Exeter in the Anglo-Welsh Cup final, and at Sale in Premiership Rugby, but have not lost three successive first team fixtures since November 2012.
 
The Saints only defeat at Franklin’s Gardens since Leicester last visited 12 months ago was to Leinster in the European Cup in December.
 
Leicester Tigers are the current form team in the Premiership having gained 24 league points from their last six matches and are unbeaten in the competition since they visited Saracens on 21st December.
 
Leicester are undefeated in their last nine encounters with Northampton in all tournaments since the Saints won 27-19 at Franklin’s Gardens in the Premiership in the opening round of the 2010/11 season.
 
The Tigers have won on their last two visits to Northampton but have not won three in a row at the venue since 2002.
 
Teams: 

Northampton Saints: 15 Ben Foden, 14 Jamie Elliott, 13 George Pisi, 12 Luther Burrell, 11 George North, 10 Will Hooley, 9 Kahn Fotuali'i, 8 Tom Wood, 7 Phil Dowson, 6 Calum Clark, 5 Christian Day, 4 Courtney Lawes, 3 Salesi Ma'afu, 2 Dylan Hartley (captain), 1 Alex Waller.
Replacements: 16 Mike Haywood, 17 Ethan Waller, 18 Tom Mercey, 19 James Craig, 20 Gerrit-Jan van Velze, 21 Lee Dickson, 22 James Wilson, 23 Ken Pisi.

Leicester Tigers: 15 Mathew Tait, 14 Vereniki Goneva, 13 Manusamoa Tuilagi, 12 Anthony Allen, 11 Adam Thompstone, 10 Owen Williams, 9 Ben Youngs, 8 Jordan Crane, 7 Julian Salvi, 6 Jamie Gibson, 5 Ed Slater (captain), 4 Louis Deacon, 3 Logovi'i Mulipola, 2 Tom Youngs, 1 Marcos Ayerza.
Replacements: 16 Rob Hawkins, 17 Boris Stankovich, 18 Fraser Balmain, 19 Graham Kitchener, 20 Pablo Matera, 21 David Mele, 22 Toby Flood, 23 Scott Hamilton.

Referee: Wayne Barnes.
Assistant Referees: Roger Bailiff & Gordon Goodliffe.
TMO: Trevor Fisher.
 
Sunday, March 30
 
Falcons v Worcester Warriors
(Kingston Park - Kick-off: 14.00 GMT)
 
Newcastle Falcons have lost their last eleven Premiership Rugby matches but at least gained two league points in their most recent defeat at Gloucester, and gaining a first try bonus point in the tournament since they visited Sale in March 2009. 
 
Newcastle’s only victory at Kingston Park in the Premiership this season came against London Irish in round six.
 
Worcester Warriors have lost 22 successive Premiership matches since beating Wasps at Sixways on 1st March 2013 – their only victory in the tournament since December 2012. The Warriors have triumphed just once away from home in the Premiership since season 2008/09: 6-0 at Wasps on New Year’s Day 2012.
 
Newcastle gained their first victory over Worcester since 2009 when they met at Sixways in round five, and are going for a first ever season’s double over the Warriors. Worcester’s only previous victory at Kingston Park came on their first ever visit in April 2005, although they have drawn two of their last three fixtures at the venue, both with a 16-all scorline.
 
Teams:
 

Newcastle Falcons: 15 Alex Tait, 14 Noah Cato, 13 Gonzalo Tiesi (captain), 12 Danny Barnes, 11 Sinoti Sinoti, 10 Phil Godman, 9 Warren Fury, 8 Chris York 7 Andy Saull, 6 Mark Wilson, 5 Fraser McKenzie, 4 Scott MacLeod, 3 Oliver Tomaszczyk, 2 Scott Lawson, 1 Rob Vickers.
Replacements: 16 George McGuigan, 17 Gary Strain, 18 Scott Wilson, 19 Sean Tomes, 20 Richard Mayhew, 21 Mike Blair, 22 Joel Hodgson, 23 James Fitzpatrick

Worcester Warriors: 15 Chris Pennell, 14 Josh Drauniniu, 13 Alex Grove, 12 Ravai Fatiaki, 11 David Lemi, 10 Ryan Lamb, 9 Jonny Arr, 8 Jonathan Thomas (captain), 7 Sam Betty, 6 Mike Williams, 5 Mariano Galarza, 4 James Percival, 3 Rob O'Donnell, 2 Agustin Creevy, 1 Ofa Fainga'anuku.
Replacements: 16 Ed Shervington, 17 Paul Andrew, 18 Jerome Schuster, 19 Semisi Taulava, 20 Richard de Carpentier, 21 Paul Hodgson, 22 Ignacio Mieres, 23 Andy Symon.

Referee: Tim Wigglesworth.
Assistant Referees: Peter Huckle & Andrew Pearce.
TMO: Rowan Kitt.
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