IN THE SHADOW OF TEST RUGBY: Having heartily sunk their teeth into the Anglo-Welsh Cup over recent weeks, the Premiership clubs can now look forward to reacquainting themselves with league action.
With a mere three points separating six teams in Premiership, we go into a crucial period for the competition - at the height of the November international season.
With Round Eight, nine and ten in quick succession there is the opportunity for the whole complexion of the table to change before we reached the halfway point in the League.
We kick off at Kingsholm where Karl Dickson will make history, finishing with a compelling triple-bill on Sunday.
Round Eight kicks off on Friday with the first of two intriguing clashes.
On Friday Gloucester roll out the red carpet for Saracens at Kingsholm.
Gloucester, who go into Round Eight eighth in the table, will come in with heaps of confidence, having scored seven tries - all coming from different scorers - as they brushed aside London Irish 47-7 in the Anglo-Welsh Cup last time out. They also edged out West Country rivals Bath 22-21 in their last league game in late October.
Saracens, meanwhile, have suffered back-to-back cup defeats at the hands of Sale Sharks and Harlequins, but they top the Premiership table having won six of their opening seven matches.
On Sunday, Exeter Chiefs and Harlequins meet at Sandy Park.
Reigning Premiership Champions Exeter, who are two points behind Saracens, have won their last six games in all competitions, including a 40-0 win over Scarlets in the cup last weekend.
We look at all the Round Eight action!
Friday, November 10
Gloucester v Saracens
(Kingsholm - Kick-off: 19.45; 19.45 GMT)
Gloucester's only defeat in their last four Premiership matches was 10-57 at Sale in round five.
The Cherry & Whites have won all five home games they have played at Kingsholm in all tournaments this year.
Saracens only defeat in Premiership this season came on a visit to Bath in Round Two.
Saracens three game away winning run in all tournaments ended at Sale in the Anglo-Welsh Cup on Friday.
Gloucester won the most recent encounter between the two sides 31-23 at Kingsholm in Premiership in February to end a run of three successive defeats to Saracens.
Saracens have won on three of their last six visits to Kingsholm in Premiership.
Karl Dickson becomes the first former Premiership rugby player to referee a match in the competition.
Gloucester: 15 Tom Hudson, 14 Ollie Thorley, 13 Billy Twelvetrees, 12 Andy Symons, 11 Henry Trinder, 10 Billy Burns, 9 Willi Heinz (captain), 8 Ruan Ackermann, 7 Lewis Ludlow, 6 Freddie Clarke, 5 Ed Slater, 4 Tom Savage, 3 John Afoa, 2 Richard Hibbard, 1 Josh Hohneck.
Replacements: 16 James Hanson, 17 Val Rapava Ruskin, 18 Gareth Denman, 19 Jeremy Thrush, 20 Jake Polledri, 21 Ben Vellacott, 22 Mark Atkinson, 23 Henry Purdy.
Saracens: 15 Alex Goode, 14 Sean Maitland, 13 Nick Tompkins, 12 Brad Barritt (captain), 11 Chris Wyles, 10 Alex Lozowski, 9 Richard Wigglesworth, 8 Jackson Wray, 7 Schalk Burger, 6 Calum Clark, 5 George Kruis, 4 Will Skelton, 3 Juan Figallo, 2 Schalk Brits, 1 Richard Barrington.
Replacements: 16 Christopher Tolofua, 17 Hayden Thompson-Stringer, 18 Vincent Koch, 19 Nick Isiekwe, 20 Joel Conlon, 21 Ben Spencer, 22 Marcelo Bosch, 23 Nathan Earle.
Referee: Karl Dickson
Assistant Referees: Peter Allan & Jack Makepeace.
TMO: David Rose
Saturday, November 18
Worcester Warriors v Northampton Saints
(Sixways - Kick-off: 13.00; 13.00 GMT)
Worcester Warriors' only victory in any competition in the last seven months was 30-20 at home to Brive in the European Challenge Cup on 14 October.
The Warriors most recent victory in Premiership was against Bath at Sixways in April.
Northampton Saints have slipped to two straight defeats in Premiership, at Gloucester and at home to Wasps.
The Saints only victory on the road in any tournament since March was 40-25 at London Irish on 24 September.
Northampton have lost just one of their last nine encounters with Worcester: 12-13 at Sixways in October 2013.
The Saints have won on three of their last four visits to Warriors.
Worcester Warriors: TBC
Northampton Saints: TBC
Referee: Andrew Jackson
Assistant Referees: Paul Burton & Philip Watters.
TMO: David Sainsbury
Wasps v Newcastle Falcons
(Ricoh Arena - Kick-off: 17.15; 17.15 GMT)
Wasps' 38-22 victory at Northampton in Round Seven of Premiership ended a four game losing run in the tournament.
Wasps have won only one of their last four games at Ricoh Arena: 41-10 over Harlequins in Round Two of the European Champions Cup.
Newcastle Falcons have lost just one of their last five first team matches: 13-30 at home to Leicester in Round Seven of Premiership.
The Falcons were defeated 24-34 on their visit to Exeter in Round Six to end a run of three successive away victories in the competition.
Newcastle have already visited Ricoh Arena this season, winning 53-41 in Round One of the Anglo-Welsh Cup, however the Falcons have not beaten Wasps anywhere in the Premiership since a trip to Adams Park in May 2012.
Newcastle Falcons: TBC
Referee: Matthew O'Grady
Assistant Referees: Anthony Woodthorpe & Dean Richards.
TMO: Trevor Fisher.
Sunday, November 19
Exeter Chiefs v Harlequins
(Sandy Park - Kick-off: 15.00; 15.00 GMT)
Exeter Chiefs solitary defeat in any competition since 1 September was 13-20 at Leicester in Round Five of Premiership.
The Devonians are unbeaten at Sandy Park since Bordeaux were the visitors in the European Champions Cup in December 2016.
Harlequins have won their last two Premiership encounters, both at Twickenham Stoop, scoring five tries each against Sale and Worcester.
The Londoners have not won three successive Premiership matches since May 2014.
Harlequins only away win in the tournament since March was 24-21 at Wasps in round three.
The Chiefs have won their last six fixtures against Harlequins in Premiership since ‘Quins 30-29 win at Sandy Park on 4 May 2014.
Exeter Chiefs: TBC
Referee: JP Doyle
Assistant Referees: Adam Leal & Jonathan Healy.
TMO: Stuart Terheege
Leicester Tigers v Sale Sharks
(Welford Road - Kick-off: 15.00; 15.00 GMT)
Leicester Tigers have won their last five Premiership matches since their 11-24 reversal at Northampton on 9 September.
The Tigers have won their last four matches at Welford Road in all competitions since Bath beat them there in Round One of Premiership.
Sale Sharks have won their last two matches, both in the Anglo-Welsh Cup, against Worcester and Saracens, but in Premiership their only victory in the last four rounds was 57-10 at home to Gloucester on 29 September.
The Sharks have lost their last ten away games in Premiership, their worst ever such run in the tournament.
The Tigers 41-18 win against the Sharks at Welford Road in April ended a three game losing run to Sale.
The Sharks have won just once at Welford Road since February 2008: 10-3 almost eight years later.
Leicester Tigers: TBC
Sale Sharks: TBC
Referee: Luke Pearce
Assistant Referees: Hamish Smales & Nigel Carrick.
TMO: Sean Davey
London Irish v Bath
(Madejski Stadium - Kick-off: 15.00; 15.00 GMT)
London Irish have won only once in any competition since Round One of Premiership, 44-7 away at Stade Francais in Round Two of the European Challenge Cup.
The Exiles most recent victory at Madejski Stadium was 55-48 again Yorkshire Carnegie in the second leg of last season's RFU Championship Final.
Bath have lost just one of their last seven first team matches, and that by a single point at home to Gloucester in Round Seven of Premiership.
Bath's only defeat on the road in any tournament this season came on a trip to Northampton in Premiership in September.
Bath have lost only once to London Irish in their last 13 Premiership matches, 22-29 at Madejski Stadium in September 2012.
London Irish: TBC
Referee: Thomas Foley
Assistant Referees: Paul Dix & Wayne Falla.
TMO: Keith Lewis
PREMIERSHIP MATCH REPORT: Second-half tries from Ollie Thorley and Tom Hudson ensured Gloucester keep their perfect home record intact with a remarkable come-from-behind 23-17 win over Saracens.
The Cherry & Whites trailed 3-9 at the break at Kingsholm after the returning Alex Lozowski outscored Billy Twelvetrees by three penalties to one – but in truth, Saracens should have been way out in front.
And Johan Ackermann’s half-time words obviously did the trick for Gloucester as, despite a Schalk Brits score before the hour mark, they put 17 unanswered points on Sarries to surge to an unlikely victory, although Ben Spencer’s last-gasp kick earned them a bonus point.
The first half was characterised by heroic defence from the home side as Saracens threw everything but the kitchen sink at them – enjoying a massive 74 percent of possession.
The Cherry & Whites actually initially led through Twelvetrees’ long-range three-pointer, but Lozowski soon levelled the scores after the hosts were penalised for not releasing.
Sarries’ flyhalf pushed a drop-goal attempt wide after 15 minutes as Gloucester’s defence held firm, but referee Karl Dickson – the former Harlequins scrumhalf making his refereeing debut in Premiership Rugby – was kept busy for the remainder of the half.
He awarded three more kickable penalties the visitors’ way, with Lozowski nailing two and pulling another left of the posts to leave the scores at 9-3 at the break despite Sarries’ dominance.
And they were made to pay after the break by a transformed Gloucester.
The hosts enjoyed their best period of the match for the ten minutes after half-time, Twelvetrees eventually rewarding them with three precious points from the tee after Calum Clark was pinged for not rolling away.
They briefly switched off, however, allowing Brits to get involved in three phases in a powerful Saracens move that the South African finished off himself, before shocking the European champions with 17 unanswered points.
First Thorley produced a brilliant finish to an exceptional team try, gathering Billy Burns’ chip perfectly before holding off the defenders to score in the corner.
And then Hudson squeezed over underneath the posts as the galvanised Cherry & Whites used all their momentum to send Kingsholm into raptures heading into the final ten minutes – Twelvetrees continuing to impress from the tee to notch both conversions.
Lozowski saw a penalty drift wide with six minutes remaining, but as Saracens continued their late onslaught Ben Spencer’s last-minute kick ensured Mark McCall’s charges returned to north London with at least a losing bonus point.
Tries: Thorley, Hudson
Cons: Twelvetrees 2
Pens: Twelvetrees 3
Pens: Lozowski 3, Spencer
Gloucester: 15 Tom Hudson, 14 Ollie Thorley, 13 Billy Twelvetrees, 12 Andy Symons, 11 Henry Trinder, 10 Billy Burns, 9 Willi Heinz (captain), 8 Ruan Ackermann, 7 Lewis Ludlow, 6 Freddie Clarke, 5 Ed Slater, 4 Tom Savage, 3 John Afoa, 2 Richard Hibbard, 1 Josh Hohneck
Replacements: 16 James Hanson, 17 Val Rapava Ruskin, 18 Gareth Denman, 19 Jeremy Thrush, 20 Jake Polledri, 21 Ben Vellacott, 22 Mark Atkinson, 23 Henry Purdy
Saracens: 15 Alex Goode, 14 Sean Maitland, 13 Nick Tompkins, 12 Brad Barritt (captain), 11 Chris Wyles, 10 Alex Lozowski, 9 Richard Wigglesworth, 8 Schalk Burger, 7 Calum Clark, 6 George Kruis, 5 Nick Isiekwe, 4 Will Skelton, 3 Juan Figallo, 2 Schalk Brits, 1 Richard Barrington
Replacements: 16 Christopher Tolofua, 17 Hayden Thompson-Stringer, 18 Vincent Koch, 19 Mark Flanagan, 20 Joel Conlon, 21 Ben Spencer, 22 Marcelo Bosch, 23 Nathan Earle
Referee: Karl Dickson
Assistant referees: Peter Allan, Jack Makepeace
TMO: David Rose