Preview: Premiership, Round Two
IN THE SPOTLIGHT: Worcester Warriors boss Carl Hogg has called for an urgent improvement as his side prepare to face Gloucester at Sixways in the Premiership's M5 derby.
The fixture with the Cherry & Whites will see the club trial their new state-of-the-art playing surface, and Hogg has believes it's imperative Worcester put down an early-season marker following their defeat against Saracens at the London Double Header last weekend.
Worcester Warriors have slipped to five straight defeats in the Premiership, while David Humphreys' men have not lost their opening two fixtures of the season since 2013/14.
"It's the first game of the season at home, under lights and a local derby," said Hogg.
"It's imperative we put a marker down. We want to make this a really tough place for opposition to come to and that's something we intend to do on Friday.
"The atmosphere under lights at Sixways is normally phenomenal and I expect the same for this match.
"I feel that over the last couple of games we have not really got our ball in hand.
"We think our movement is a point of difference and something we are looking to develop and we are looking to get it on to the field on Friday.
"Saturday was a difficult afternoon because we didn’t have a huge amount of ball in hand but hopefully on Friday it gives us an opportunity.”
Warriors are sweating over the fitness of skipper GJ van Velze (head) and prop Nick Schonert (elbow), who picked up knocks in the defeat to Sarries.
Meanwhile Gloucester, who collapsed against Leicester Tigers last weekend, are also seeking their first Premiership victory of the season.
The two clubs met on four occasions last season, with each side winning its respective home game in the Premiership, but Gloucester achieved the double in the European Challenge Cup.
Gloucester's only victory at Sixways in Premiership Rugby since 2006 was by a single point in May 2010, but Humphreys is confident the pieces are in place to buck that trend.
"Everything we have been doing through pre-season – from the way we play to the way we prepare and our fitness – it is very different from what we had before," he said.
"Again, that first 50 minutes last weekend was as good a display as I have seen at Kingsholm for a long period of time.
"There are some huge positives to take away but what we have to make sure of is, when we get ourselves in those positions again, we kick on as the top teams do.
"We have some very experienced players there who have been in situations like that and they know how to see out games.
"We know, moving forward, we have some big challenges ahead and we have to respond the best way we can against Worcester."
We take a look at all the Round Two action:
Friday. September 9:
Worcester Warriors v Gloucester
(Sixways, Worcester - Kick-off: 19.45; 18.45 GMT)
Worcester Warriors have slipped to five straight defeats in the Premiership, while Gloucester have not lost their opening two fixtures of the season since 2013-14.
The two clubs met on four occasions last season with each side winning its respective home game in the Premiership, but Gloucester achieving the double in the European Challenge Cup.
Gloucester's only victory at Sixways in the Premiership since 2006 was by a single point in May 2010.
Worcester Warriors: 15 Jackson Willison, 14 Dean Hammond, 13 Wynand Olivier, 12 Ben Te'o, 11 Cooper Vuna, 10 Ryan Lamb, 9 Jonny Arr, 8 GJ van Velze (captain), 7 Marco Mama, 6 Alafoti Faosiliva, 5 Darren Barry, 4 Donncha O'Callaghan, 3 James Johnston, 2 Niall Annett, 1 Val Rapava Ruskin.
Replacements: 16 Jaba Bregvadze, 17 Na'ama Leleimalefaga, 18 Mike Daniels, 19 Christian Scotland-Williamson, 20 Carl Kirwan, 21 Luke Baldwin, 22 Tom Heathcote, 23 Perry Humphreys.
Gloucester: 15 Tom Marshall, 14 Charlie Sharples, 13 Matt Scott, 12 Billy Twelvetrees, 11 Henry Purdy, 10 Billy Burns, 9 Greig Laidlaw (captain), 8 Ben Morgan, 7 Matt Kvesic, 6 Ross Moriarty, 5 Mariano Galarza, 4 Tom Savage, 3 John Afoa, 2 Richard Hibbard, 1 Yann Thomas.
Replacements: 16 Darren Dawidiuk, 17 Cameron Orr, 18 Paul Doran-Jones, 19 Joe Latta, 20 Jacob Rowan, 21 Willi Heinz, 22 James Hook, 23 Mark Atkinson.
Referee: Luke Pearce
Assistant Referees: Paul Dix, Roy Maybank
TMO: Stuart Terheege
Sale Sharks v Harlequins
(AJ Bell Stadium, Sale - Kick-off: 20.15; 19.15 GMT)
Sale Sharks have won just one of their last four Premiership fixtures, while Harlequins began their campaign with victory in Round One for a sixth successive season in overcoming Bristol on Saturday but in the last three years they have slipped to defeat in Round Two.
Each side won its respective home game when the two clubs met in 2015/16, with Sale's 29-23 success at AJ Bell Stadium in March ending a four game winning run by Harlequins in this particular fixture.
Sale Sharks: 15 Byron McGuigan, 14 Will Addison, 13 Sam James, 12 Johnny Leota, 11 Paolo Odogwu, 10 AJ MacGinty, 9 Mike Phillips, 8 Josh Beaumont (captain), 7 David Seymour, 6 TJ Ioane, 5 Jonathan Mills, 4 Bryn Evans, 3 Halani Aulika, 2 Neil Briggs, 1 Eifion Lewis-Roberts.
Replacements: 16 Cameron Neild, 17 Ross Harrison, 18 Kieran Longbottom, 19 Andrei Ostrikov, 20 Laurence Pearce, 21 James Mitchell, 22 Dan Mugford, 23 Nev Edwards.
Harlequins: 15 Ross Chisholm, 14 Marland Yarde, 13 Joe Marchant, 12 Jamie Roberts, 11 Tim Visser, 10 Nick Evans, 9 Danny Care (captain), 8 Jack Clifford, 7 Luke Wallace, 6 Chris Robshaw, 5 James Horwill, 4 Sam Twomey, 3 Kyle Sinckler, 2 Rob Buchanan, 1 Joe Marler.
Replacements: 16 Dave Ward, 17 Owen Evans, 18 Will Collier, 19 James Chisholm, 20 Mat Luamanu, 21 Karl Dickson, 22 Ruaridh Jackson, 23 Winston Stanley.
Referee: Thomas Foley
Assistant Referees: Roger Baileff, Jonathan Healy
TMO: Keith Lewis
Saturday, September 10:
Bath v Newcastle Falcons
(Recreation Ground, Bath - Kick-off: 15.00; 14.00 GMT)
Bath have won their last two Premiership matches at home to Leicester and away at Northampton, while Newcastle Falcons beat Sale 19-17 at Kingston Park on Friday, but have not begun a Premiership season with victories in the opening two rounds since 2004-05.
Bath have been defeated just once at the Recreation Ground since February: 10-30 to champions Saracens on April 1.
Bath's only loss to Newcastle since October 2009 was 14-19 at Kingston Park on January 2, whilst Newcastle have not been victorious at the Recreation Ground since a trip in October 2009
Bath: 15 Tom Homer, 14 Semesa Rokoduguni, 13 Jonathan Joseph, 12 Max Clark, 11 Matt Banahan, 10 George Ford (captain), 9 Kahn Fotuali'i, 8 Zach Mercer, 7 David Sisi, 6 Charlie Ewels, 5 Dave Attwood, 4 Luke Charteris, 3 Kane Palma-Newport, 2 Ross Batty, 1 Nick Auterac.
Replacements: 16 Tom Dunn, 17 Beno Obano, 18 Max Lahiff, 19 Elliott Stooke, 20 Levi Douglas, 21 Chris Cook, 22 Rhys Priestland, 23 Jeff Williams.
Newcastle Falcons: 15 Simon Hammersley, 14 Vereniki Goneva, 13 Chris Harris, 12 Juan Pablo Socino, 11 Sinoti Sinoti, 10 Mike Delany, 9 Sonatane Takulua, 8 Mark Wilson, 7 Will Welch (captain), 6 Evan Olmstead, 5 Will Witty, 4 Calum Green, 3 Jon Welsh, 2 Scott Lawson, 1 Alex Rogers.
Replacements: 16 Ben Sowrey, 17 Sam Lockwood, 18 Paddy Ryan, 19 Sean Robinson, 20 Ally Hogg, 21 Michael Young, 22 Joel Hodgson, 23 Dominic Waldouck.
Referee: Ian Tempest
Assistant referees: Gareth Copsey, Simon McConnell
TMO: David Rose
Leicester Tigers v Wasps
(Welford Road, Leicester - Kick-off: 15.00; 14.00 GMT)
The Tigers have won their last six home games at Welford Road in all tournaments since Sale won there 3-10 in the Premiership in February.
Wasps were defeated on their two most recent away games, both to Exeter at Sandy Park, but have not lost three in a row on their travels in the competition since November 2014.
Wasps 36-24 victory over Tigers at Coventry in March ended a four-game winning run by their now near neighbours in this fixture, whilst Wasps have not been victorious at Welford Road since a 28-19 scoreline in the Premiership in September 2008.
Leicester Tigers: 15 Mathew Tait, 14 Adam Thompstone, 13 Peter Betham, 12 Matt Smith, 11 JP Pietersen, 10 Freddie Burns, 9 Sam Harrison, 8 Lachlan McCaffrey, 7 Brendon O'Connor, 6 Luke Hamilton, 5 Mike Fitzgerald, 4 Ed Slater, 3 Dan Cole, 2 Tom Youngs (captain), 1 Marcos Ayerza.
Replacements: 16 George McGuigan, 17 Ellis Genge, 18 Greg Bateman, 19 Graham Kitchener, 20 Mike Williams, 21 Ben Youngs, 22 Owen Williams, 23 Jack Roberts.
Wasps: 15 Rob Miller, 14 Christian Wade, 13 Elliot Daly, 12 Jimmy Gopperth, 11 Josh Bassett, 10 Danny Cipriani, 9 Joe Simpson, 8 Guy Thompson, 7 Thomas Young, 6 Sam Jones, 5 Matt Symons, 4 Joe Launchbury (captain), 3 Marty Moore, 2 Tommy Taylor, Simon McIntyre.
Replacements: 16 Ashley Johnson, 17 Matt Mullan, 18 Jake–Cooper Woolley, 19 James Gaskell, 20 Nathan Hughes, 21 Craig Hampson, 22 Brendan Macken, 23 Frank Halai.
Referee: Gregory M Garner
Assistant referees: Ross Campbell, Wayne Falla
TMO: Sean Davey
Sunday, September 11:
Bristol v Northampton Saints
(Ashton Gate, Bristol - Kick-off: 15.00; 14.00 GMT)
Bristol have played five previous Premiership matches at Ashton Gate, winning three and losing two, one of which, in April 2007, was classified as a Gloucester home game.
The Saints won their most recent away game 28-20 at Gloucester in Round 22 last season, and have not won two in a row on the road since December 2014.
The Saints beat Bristol the last time the two teams met: 30-8 at Franklin's Gardens in January 2009 but have not triumphed on Bristol soil in Premiership Rugby since a 19-16 victory in April 2006.
Bristol: 15 Jack Wallace, 14 Ryan Edwards, 13 Will Hurrell, 12 Ben Mosses, 11 Tom Varndell, 10 Tusi Pisi, 9 Will Cliff, 8 Jordan Crane, 7 Jack Lam (captain), 6 Jon Fisher, 5 Ben Glynn, 4 Ian Evans, 3 Gaston Cortes, 2 Ross McMillan, 1 Soane Tonga'uiha.
Replacements: 16 Chris Brooker, 17 Kyle Traynor, 18 Anthony Perenise, 19 James Phillips, 20 Olly Robinson, 21 Mitch Eadie, 22 Rhodri Williams, 23 Adrian Jarvis.
Northampton Saints: 15 Ahsee Tuala, 14 Ken Pisi, 13 George Pisi, 12 Luther Burrell, 11 George North, 10 Stephen Myler, 9 Lee Dickson, 8 Louis Picamoles, 7 Teimana Harrison, 6 Tom Wood (captain), 5 Michael Paterson, 4 Courtney Lawes, 3 Kieran Brookes, 2 Dylan Hartley, 1 Alex Waller.
Replacements: 16 Mikey Haywood, 17 Campese Ma’afu, 18 Paul Hill, 19 Sam Dickinson, 20 Jamie Gibson, 21 Nic Groom, 22 Harry Mallinder, 23 Ben Foden.
Referee: Craig Maxwell-Keys
Assistant referees: Dean Richards, Peter Allan
TMO: Graham Hughes
Exeter Chiefs v Saracens
(Sandy Park, Exeter - Kick-off: 15.00; 14.00 GMT)
Exeter Chiefs were narrowly defeated 20-25 at Wasps on Sunday and have never begun a Premiership season with a pair of defeats.
The only side to have beaten The Chiefs at their Sandy Park home since January 2015 was Saracens: 14-11 last February.
The two clubs met on three occasions in the Premiership last season including the Final at Twickenham, with Saracens running out victors every time.
Saracens, along with Leicester are the only visiting clubs to have won on four separate occasions at Sandy Park in the Premiership.
Exeter Chiefs: 15 Phil Dollman, 14 Lachie Turner, 13 Ollie Devoto, 12 Sam Hill, 11 Ian Whitten, 10 Henry Slade, 9 Will Chudley, 8 Thomas Waldrom, 7 Julian Salvi, 6 Don Armand, 5 Damian Welch, 4 Geoff Parling (captain), 3 Greg Holmes, 2 Luke Cowan-Dickie, 1 Ben Moon.
Replacements: 16 Jack Yeandle, 17 Alec Hepburn, 18 Harry Williams, 19 Mitch Lees, 20 Dave Dennis, 21 Dave Lewis, 22 Gareth Steenson, 23 Max Bodilly.
Saracens: 15 Alex Goode, 14 Chris Ashton, 13 Marcelo Bosch, 12 Brad Barritt (captain), 11 Sean Maitland, 10 Alex Lozowski, 9 Richard Wigglesworth, 8 Billy Vunipola, 7 Schalk Burger, 6 Jackson Wray, 5 George Kruis, 4 Maro Itoje, 3 Petrus Du Plessis, 2 Jamie George, 1 Mako Vunipola.
Replacements: 16 Schalk Brits, 17 Richard Barrington, 18 Juan Figallo, 19 Jim Hamilton, 20 Michael Rhodes, 21 Ben Spencer, 22 Duncan Taylor, 23 Mike Ellery.
Referee: JP Doyle
Assistant referees: Philip Watters, Paul Burton
TMO: Geoffrey Warren