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 WRAP: Exeter Chiefs leapfrogged Saracens at the top of the Premiership Rugby table after Jonny Hill's second-half double saw off Harlequins.
Leicester Tigers dug deep to extend their Premiership Rugby winning streak to six with a hard-fought victory over Sale Sharks.
While Freddie Burns returned to haunt London Irish for the second time in as many weeks as he kicked visiting Bath Rugby to victory at the Madejski Stadium.
Exeter Chiefs 31-17 Harlequins
Lachie Turner wasted no time in getting the Chiefs off the mark with the first try, but James Chisholm blasted his way over in response just minutes later.
Olly Woodburn continued his prolific form with a try in the corner, but Tim Visser struck back for Harlequins and Marcus Smith landed a penalty to edge his side in front at the break.
After the interval, Exeter lock Hill powered over to wrestle back control from the London side, and the giant second-row finished off a long-range try to round off the victory in the final quarter.
The game started with Rob Baxter’s side knowing that a win would take them top, and with that in mind, Turner took just five minutes to trouble the scorers.
Harlequins responded with No.8 Chisholm, still working his way back to full fitness, crashing his way through the 22 to shock the Devon crowd.
On 24 minutes a sweeping backs move gave Woodburn the overlap and the deadly wing held off Ross Chisholm’s tackle for a well-taken finish.
The visitors’ second try was all of the makings of Smith, who punted upfield and then passed to Visser after Gareth Steenson had misjudged where the kick would land.
On 44 minutes Don Armand muscled his way towards the Harlequins line, enabling Hill to touch down a couple of phases later, with Steenson again adding the extras.
And with 12 minutes left to play Woodburn made a break down the left before the ball found its way to Hill, who had an easy run in to seal the bonus point.
Tries: Turner, Woodburn, Hill 2
Cons: Steenson 4
Tries:J. Chisholm, Visser
Cons: Smith 2
Exeter: 15 Phil Dollman, 14 Lachie Turner, 13 Ian Whitten, 12 Ollie Devoto, 11 Olly Woodburn, 10 Gareth Steenson, 9 Nic White, 8 Thomas Waldrom, 7 Julian Salvi, 6 Don Armand, 5 Jonny Hill, 4 Mitch Lees, 3 Moray Low, 2 Jack Yeandle (captain), 1 Ben Moon.
Replacements: 16 Luke Cowan-Dickie, 17 Alec Hepburn, 18 Greg Holmes, 19 Toby Salmon, 20 Sam Skinner, 21 Will Chudley, 22 Joe Simmonds, 23 Sam Hill.
Harlequins: 15 Ross Chisholm, 14 Alofa Alofa, 13 Harry Sloan, 12 James Lang, 11 Tim Visser, 10 Marcus Smith, 9 Jono Kitto, 8 Mat Luamanu, 7 Jack Clifford, 6 James Chisholm, 5 James Horwill (captain), 4 Charlie Matthews, 3 Will Collier, 2 Dave Ward, 1 Mark Lambert.
Replacements: 16 Charlie Piper, 17 Lewis Boyce, 18 Phil Swainston, 19 George Merrick, 20 Ben Glynn, 21 Ian Prior, 22 Gabriel Ibitoye, 23 Charlie Walker.
Referee: JP Doyle
Assistant referees: Adam Leal, Jonathan Healy
TMO: Stuart Terheege
Leicester Tigers 35-27 Sale Sharks
Ben Curry opened the scored following a lovely chip-kick from Mike Haley allowed the teenager to find space and go over for the visitors.
Referee Luke Pearce then awards the home side a penalty-try and sent Curry to the sin bin for collapsing the maul.
But the Sharks regained the advantage as the visitors worked the phases to create the extra man out wide, allowing Mark Jennings to score.
An incisive Tigers attack then caused the Sale defence to be out of position allowing Ellis Genge to go under the posts.
But the visitors went in at the break ahead after Marland Yarde, who started and finished a crisp move to cap off his first start with a try.
An early Tigers penalty from Ford put the home side ahead, but Sale got their bonus point with their fourth try of the afternoon when Jono Ross powered over after more good phase work from the Sharks, deep in the Tigers half.
The Tigers edged in front inside the final 15 minutes as Ford’s kick to the wing eluded Yarde to find the hands of Gareth Owen who fought over the line for the try, with the conversion added by Ford.
After Yarde was shown the yellow card for a series of high tackles, the Tigers went in search of their bonus point try and got there thanks to Nick Malouf’s late burst in the corner to settle the score in the home side’s favour.
Tries: Penalty try, Genge, Owen, Malouf
Cons: Ford 2
Pens: Ford 3
Tries: Curry, Jennings, Yarde, Ross
Cons: de Klerk 2
Pen: de Klerk
Yellow Cards: Ben Curry (Sale Sharks, 23), Marland Yarde (Sale Sharks, 73), Teluse Veainu (Leicester Tigers, 1)
Leicester: 15 Telusa Veainu, 14 Nick Malouf, 13 Matt Smith, 12 Gareth Owen, 11 Adam Thompstone, 10 Joe Ford, 9 Sam Harrison, 8 Valentino Mapapalangi, 7 Will Evans, 6 Mike Williams, 5 Graham Kitchener, 4 Mike Fitzgerald, 3 Greg Bateman, 2 Tom Youngs (captain), 1 Ellis Genge.
Replacements: 16 Harry Thacker, 17 Kyle Traynor, 18 Chris Baumann, 19 Harry Wells, 20 Brendon O’Connor, 21 Harry Simmons, 22 Tom Hardwick, 23 Jonah Holmes.
Sale Sharks: 15 Mike Haley, 14 Denny Solomona, 13 Sam James, 12 Mark Jennings, 11 Marland Yarde, 10 James O’Connor, 9 Faf De Klerk, 8 Josh Strauss, 7 Ben Curry, 6 Jono Ross (captain), 5 Andre Ostrikov, 4 Bryn Evans, 3 WillGriff John, 2 Rob Webber, 1 Ross Harrison.
Replacements: 16 Marc Jones, 17 James Flynn, 18 Alexandru Tarus, 19 George Nott, 20 Sam Moore, 21 Cameron Neild, 22 Will Cliff, 23 Josh Charnley.
Referee: Luke Pearce
Assistant referees: Hamish Smales, Nigel Carrick
TMO: Sean Davey
London Irish 18-22 Bath Rugby
In an eight-try thriller, second-half scores from Gareth Owen and Nick Malouf ensured the Tigers secured the bonus point victory after the Sharks had led at the break
Faultless with the boot all day, Burns kicked 17 points for Bath in a 22-18 win after playing a similarly pivotal role in their 26-22 triumph in the Anglo-Welsh Cup there on November 4.
Irish were first on the board through the boot of Tommy Bell, who slotted an early penalty after Bath were pulled up for offside.
But Todd Blackadder’s side hit back quickly, the charging bulk of Matt Banahan powering through a few moments later for the game’s first try after good work by Aled Brew and Paul Grant, Burns slotting the conversion.
James Marshall dotted down soon after for the home side cut the gap to 10-8 as Irish rallied.
Burns, capped ten times for England, then landed a drop goal after 23 minutes for another three points, before power was added to precision moments later when he sent a penalty sailing through the posts from near halfway.
Irish hit back and thought they had sliced the lead when Blair Cowan crossed, but this was ruled out by the officials.
But the hosts did strike a blow just before half-time through another Bell penalty as the sides went into half-time at 11-16.
A tricky kick from the touchline ten minutes after half-time was another test for Burns, but he sent it through with the minimum of fuss once more as Bath stretched their advantage.
The game got scrappier, playing into the visitors’ hands, with Burns adding another three-pointer midway through the second period to cement an 11-point lead.
Irish valiantly kept hammering away at the Bath backline, and replacement Scott Steele crashed over with five minutes to go to ensure a frantic finale, Greig Tonks on hand with the extras.
Irish relentlessly poured forward in search of a winning score and nearly had it in the final seconds, but Ollie Hoskins was held up just short of the line.
Tries: Marshall, Steele
Pens: Bell 2
Pens: Burns 4
London Irish: 15 James Marshall, 14 Joe Cokanasiga, 13 Fergus Mulchrone, 12 Luke McLean, 11 Alex Lewington, 10 Tommy Bell, 9 Ben Meehan, 8 Blair Cowan, 7 Conor Gilsenan, 6 Max Northcote-Green, 5 Sebastian De Chaves, 4 Franco van der Merwe, 3 Petrus du Plessis, 2 David Paice (captain), 1 Ben Franks.
Replacements: 16 Dave Porecki, 17 Harry Elrington, 18 Ollie Hoskins, 19 Will Lloyd, 20 Mike Coman, 21 Scott Steele, 22 Greig Tonks, 23 Tom Fowlie.
Bath: 15 Tom Homer, 14 Jack Wilson, 13 James Wilson, 12 Matt Banahan, 11 Aled Brew, 10 Freddie Burns, 9 Kahn Fotuali’i, 8 Paul Grant, 7 Zach Mercer, 6 Matt Garvey (captain), 5 Elliott Stooke, 4 Luke Charteris, 3 Anthony Perenise, 2 Tom Dunn, 1 Beno Obano
Replacements: 16 Michael van Vuuren, 17 Nick Auterac, 18 Max Lahiff, 19 Levi Douglas, 20 Josh Bayliss, 21 Darren Allinson, 22 Josh Lewis, 23 Darren Atkins.
Referee: Thomas Foley
Assistant referees: Paul Dix, Wayne Falla
TMO: Keith Lewis