SHOWDOWN IN AMERICA: Newcastle Falcons and Saracens set sail to the United Stated as the Premiership Rugby takes their second ever match overseas and Philadelphia becomes the 36th venue to host a Premiership Rugby match.
The two sides will face off in Philadelphia in a titanic Premiership Round Three bout with the Falcons going into the contest off the back of their best start to a campaign in 13 years.
But the back-to-back European Cup champions could have the edge having played Stateside against London Irish in 2016.
Saracens boss Mark McCall admits he is looking forward to the challenges facing both sides ahead of the clash on Saturday.
He said: "We were lucky to go over to New York two years ago to play against London Irish.
"It is difficult to bring your whole training ground out to a venue so far away but it is something everyone can look forward to and as a squad, we’re looking forward to going to Philadelphia,"
Following the success of the inaugural Premiership Rugby regular season match New York’s Arena, the League will again stage a match in the United States, this time at the home of the Philadelphia Union.
The chance to play in front of an entirely different audience is something Falcons director of rugby Richards is certainly relishing as he takes his buoyant Falcons side to the historic American city.
He said: "From a playing perspective, if you ask all the players and coaches they’re excited by it and why wouldn’t you be?
"It’s an exciting adventure to get your name out there in the States which ordinarily you wouldn’t do if you played the game up at Kingston Park,"
The Premiership clash is an opportunity to expand the game into all corners of the globe.
And having taken his team stateside in 2015, McCall believes the game is expanding in the US.
"It’s hugely important to Premiership Rugby, there’s a lot of sports to compete against," the Saracens chief said.
"Premiership Rugby is a really good product and the rugby audience in America appears to be growing all the time and there seems to be interested in the game.
"We hope to catch the interest of them over there with events like this I think it can only be a good thing,"
We take a look at all Round Three action!
Friday, September 15
Northampton Saints v Bath Rugby
(Franklin’s Gardens - Kick-off: 19.45, 18.45 GMT)
Northampton Saints have scored 24 points, including three tries, in both of their matches this year, however in the first, they conceded 55, but in the second it was only 11. The Saints have lost just once at Franklin’s Gardens in Premiership Rugby since November, to Leicester in March.
Bath Rugby’s only defeat in the last four rounds of Premiership Rugby was at Sale in the final game of the 2016/17 campaign. Bath’s victory at Leicester on the opening weekend ended a seven game losing streak on the road in Premiership Rugby.
Bath achieved the season’s double over The Saints in 2016/17, something they had not achieved since 1999/2000. Bath have not won successive league games at Franklin’s Gardens since 1994.
Bath: 15 Anthony Watson, 14 Semesa Rokoduguni, 13 Jonathan Joseph, 12 Ben Tapuai, 11 Matt Banahan, 10 Rhys Priestland, 9 Kahn Fotuali’i, 8 Taulupe Faletau, 7 Sam Underhill, 6 Matt Garvey (captain), 5 Elliott Stooke, 4 Charlie Ewels, 3 Anthony Perenise, 2 Tom Dunn, 1 Beno Obano.
Replacements: 16 Jack Walker, 17 Nick Auterac, 18 Scott Andrews, 19 James Phillips, 20 Paul Grant, 21 Darren Allinson, 22 Freddie Burns, 23 Max Clark.
Northampton Saints: 15 Ahsee Tuala, 14 George North, 13 Rob Horne, 12 Luther Burrell, 11 Tom Collins, 10 Harry Mallinder, 9 Nic Groom, 8 Teimana Harrison, 7 Jamie Gibson, 6 Courtney Lawes (captain), 5 David Ribbans, 4 Michael Paterson, 3 Paul Hill, 2 Mikey Haywood, 1 Alex Waller.
Replacements: 16 Reece Marshall, 17 Campese Ma’afu, 18 Kieran Brookes, 19 Christian Day, 20 Lewis Ludlam, 21 Cobus Reinach, 22 James Grayson, 23 Ben Foden.
Referee: Thomas Foley
Assistant referees: Jack Makepeace, Simon McConnell
TMO: Graham Hughes
Worcester Warriors v Exeter Chiefs
(Sixways - Kick-off: 19.45, 18.45 GMT)
Worcester Warriors have slipped to four straight defeats in Premiership Rugby since beating Bath 25-19 at Sixways in April. The Warriors have lost their last two home games, to Leicester and Wasps, but have not been defeated three times in succession at Sixways since February 2016.
Exeter Chiefs only defeat in Premiership Rugby since November came on the opening evening this season at Gloucester. The Chiefs have not lost successive away games in the tournament since April 2016.
Exeter have a perfect played ten, won ten record against Worcester in Premiership Rugby, with the Warriors most recent success over the Devonians being 25-14 at the old County Ground in League Division 1 in 2004.
Worcester Warriors: 15 Josh Adams, 14 Perry Humphreys, 13 Jackson Willison, 12 Ben Te’o, 11 Bryce Heem, 10 Tom Heathcote, 9 Jonny Arr, 8 GJ van Velze, 7 Sam Lewis, 6 Matt Cox, 5 Pierce Phillips, 4 Donncha O’Callaghan (captain), 3 Biyi Alo, 2 Jack Singleton, 1 Ryan Bower.
Replacements: 16 Joe Taufete’e, 17 Ethan Waller, 18 Gareth Milasinovich, 19 Christian Scotland-Williamson, 20 Alafoti Faosiliva, 21 Peter Stringer, 22 Sam Olver, 23 Jamie Shillcock.
Exeter Chiefs: 15 Phil Dollman, 14 Jack Nowell, 13 Henry Slade, 12 Ian Whitten, 11 Olly Woodburn, 10 Gareth Steenson, 9 Nic White, 8 Sam Simmonds, 7 Don Armand, 6 Dave Dennis, 5 Jonny Hill, 4 Mitch Lees, 3 Tomas Francis, 2 Jack Yeandle (captain), 1 Carl Rimmer.
Replacements: 16 Elvis Taione, 17 Ben Moon, 18 Harry Williams, 19 Sam Skinner, 20 Matt Kvesic, 21 Stuart Townsend, 22 Max Bodilly, 23 Lachie Turner.
Referee: Ian Tempest
Assistant referees: Adam Leal, Philip Watters
TMO: Keith Lewis
Sale Sharks v London Irish
(AJ Bell Stadium - Kick-off: 20.00, 19.00GMT)
Sale Sharks have won just one of their last five Premiership Rugby matches: 27-24 at home to Bath in the final round of last season. The Sharks have not begun a Premiership Rugby campaign with three straight defeats since 2012/13.
London Irish’s seven game winning run in all competitions ended with their visit to Exeter Chiefs on Saturday. The Exiles have not won away from home in the tournament since visiting London Welsh in February 2015.
Sale achieved the season’s double over London Irish the last time the two clubs met in the 2015/16 campaign. London Irish have lost on all four previous visits they have made to AJ Bell Stadium, with their most recent triumph on ‘Sale soil’ being at the Stadium in Bolton in April 2011 in a game that The Sharks moved from their usual Edgeley Park home at the time.
Sale Sharks: 15 Will Addison (captain), 14 Denny Solomona, 13 Sam James, 12 Mark Jennings, 11 Josh Charnley, 10 AJ MacGinty, 9 Faf de Klerk, 8 Josh Strauss, 7 Ben Curry, 6 Jono Ross, 5 Josh Beaumont, 4 Bryn Evans, 3 Alex Tarus, 2 Marc Jones, 1 Ross Harrison
Replacements: 16 Rob Webber, 17 James Flynn, 18 Halani Aulika, 19 Andre Ostrikov, 20 Tom Curry, 21 TJ Ioane, 22 Will Cliff, 23 Mike Haley
London Irish: 15 Tommy Bell, 14 Alex Lewington, 13 Aseli Tikoirotuma, 12 Luke McLean, 11 Topsy Ojo, 10 James Marshall, 9 Brendan McKibbin, 8 Ofisa Treviranus 7 Blair Cowan, 6 Mike Coman, 5 Sebastian De Chaves, 4 Franco van der Merwe, 3 Ben Franks (captain), 2 Dave Porecki, 1 Danny Hobbs-Awoyemi
Replacements: 16 David Paice, 17 Harry Elrington, 18 Petrus Du Plessis, 19 Josh McNally, 20 Conor Gilsenan, 21 Scott Steele, 22 Greig Tonks 23 Napolioni Nalaga
Referee: Wayne Barnes
Assistant referees: Hamish Smales, Wayne Falla
TMO: Stuart Terheege
Saturday, September 16
Leicester Tigers v Gloucester Rugby
(Welford Road - Kick-off: 15.00, 14.00GMT)
Leicester Tigers have slipped to defeats in the first two rounds of Premiership Rugby play and have never before lost their opening three games of a season in the tournament. Tigers lost 23-27 to Bath at Welford Road on the opening weekend and have not been defeated in back-to-back Premiership Rugby games at the 125-year-old stadium since 2011.
Gloucester Rugby’s only win in the last four rounds of Premiership Rugby was 28-21 at home to Exeter in round 1. Gloucester have won just one away game in the tournament since 16 September 2016: at Bristol in March.
The Tigers have lost just one of their last nine fixtures against Gloucester: 16-33 at Kingsholm in October 2014, whilst Gloucester’s most recent victory at Welford Road was 30-17 in October 2007.
Leicester Tigers: TBC
Referee: Craig Maxwell-Keys
Assistant referees: Nigel Carrick, John Meredith
TMO: Sean Davey
Newcastle Falcons v Saracens
(Talen Energy Stadium, 17.00 USA time, 22.00 UK time, 21.00GMT)
Newcastle Falcons have won their last four Premiership Rugby matches and have not won five in succession in the competition since 2009. The last time the Falcons won the opening three rounds of a Premiership Rugby campaign was in 2004/05 – also, the last time they were as high as second in the league going into round 3.
Saracens make their second trip to the USA having beaten London Irish in Harrison, New Jersey, in March 2016. Saracens have won just one of their last four Premiership Rugby fixtures overcoming Northampton at Twickenham in the London double-header.
Saracens have won their last seventeen matches against Newcastle in all competitions since the Falcons 13-9 victory at Kingston Park in Premiership Rugby in February 2009.
Newcastle Falcons: TBC
Referee: John-Paul Doyle
Assistant referees: Dean Richards, Paul Burton
TMO: David Sainsbury
Sunday, September 17
Wasps v Harlequins
(Ricoh Arena - Kick-off: 15.00, 14.00GMT)
Wasps only defeat in their last five games of Premiership Rugby was in last season’s final to Exeter Chefs at Twickenham Stadium. Wasps have won their last twenty Premiership Rugby matches at the Ricoh Arena, already comfortably their best home winning sequence ever in the competition.
Harlequins have won just two of their last six Premiership Rugby matches, both at home, to Wasps in April and to Gloucester last Saturday. ‘Quins most recent away win in the tournament came on a visit to Gloucester on 4 March.
The last seven matches between the two clubs in Premiership Rugby have all been won by the home side on the day. Harlequins have lost on all of their three previous visits to Ricoh Arena and have not beaten Wasps on their own soil since a clash in the European Champions Cup at Adams Park in 2014.
Referee: Andrew Jackson
Assistant referees: Anthony Woodthorpe, Paul Dix
TMO: David Rose