PREVIEW: Premiership, Round Three
IN THE SPOTLIGHT: After an unbeaten pre-season and a win in their Premiership opener against Sale Sharks – optimism was everywhere at Newcastle Falcons.
But they were brought back down to earth with a bump by Bath last weekend at the Rec and Falcons No.8 Mark Wilson admits his side learned a valuable lesson.
Todd Blackadder's Bath side ran in eight tries in a record 58-5 win in the West Country as Dean Richards' side were caught out early and often.
But Wilson – who has started both games for the Falcons at No.8 – is taking the positives from such a chastening experience early in the season.
"We had a really good start against Sale but last week was one of those where we have to park it as soon as we can," he said.
"We did not turn up physically or mentally and that is what happens if you take a team lightly because the Premiership is so competitive, you are going to get punished.
"We are going to replicate the performance we had against Sale this weekend and show the right kind of attitude and I think we will be fine.
"There are no major changes we need to do, it is just a case of making sure the boys have that individual responsibility to prepare mentally and actually turn up on the day and have some pride in the shirt.
"I think maybe a little bit of complacency crept in because of how well the week before went. We just showed up. Bath is a tough place to go, just like anywhere in this Premiership, and you have got to be on your money especially away from home but it is a lesson we have learnt, a harsh lesson.
"It has probably happened at the best time of the season because now we know when we do go away to these teams we have to prepare properly."
After victory over the Sharks on the first weekend at Kingston Park – next up are Leicester Tigers.
Vereniki Goneva – signed from the Tigers in the off-season – will be keen to make an impression for the Falcons but Wilson insists his side will need to get the basics right first before their wing can run riot.
"The boys are excited for Leicester. Regardless of what happened last week it is Leicester at home. It is one of the best teams in the league. It is what every professional player gets excited about, especially on our home pitch," he added.
"We are certainly a more confident side so we are looking forward to it and ready to play.
"They have not had the start they wanted either but they do simple things very well. We are not going to change our game plan massively. We have to go with the right attitude, knowing they are a physical side and ready to compete at the set-piece.
"I think in all these Premiership games this season, the set-piece is so important and it gives us the platform for us to get into our game so it is something we will work hard on this week and make sure is right."
We take a look at all the Round Three action!
Friday, September 16:
Sale Sharks v Gloucester
(AJ Bell Stadium, Sale - Kick-off: 19.45; 18.45 GMT)
The Sharks only defeat in their last 13 Premiership matches at AJ Bell Stadium was 11-12 to Gloucester in Round 21 last season.
Gloucester are without a win since beating Sale 12-11 in April. However, their most recent defeat on the road was 30-35 in Round 19 of thePremiership last year.
Gloucester's only defeat to Sale in their last four meetings was 6-23 at AJ Bell Stadium in March 2015.
Sale Sharks: 15 Byron McGuigan, 14 Will Addison. 13 Sam James, 12 Johnny Leota, 11 Paolo Odogwu, 10 Dan Mugford, 9 Mike Phillips, 8 Josh Beaumont (captain), 7 David Seymour, 6 Cameron Neild, 5 Jonathan Mills, 4 Bryn Evans, 3 Halani Aulika, 2 Neil Briggs, 1 Eifion Lewis-Roberts.
Replacements: 16 Ross Harrison, 17 Kieran Longbottom, 18 Andrei Ostrikov, 19 Magnus Lund, 20 Laurence Pearce, 21 Peter Stringer, 22 Nev Edwards, 23 Sam Bedlow.
Gloucester: 15 Tom Marshall, 14 Charlie Sharples, 13 Matt Scott, 12 Mark Atkinson, 11 Henry Purdy, 10 Billy Burns, 9, Greig Laidlaw (captain), 8 Ben Morgan, 7 Matt Kvesic, 6 Lewis Ludlow, 5 Joe Latta, 4 Tom Savage, 3 John Afoa, 2 Richard Hibbard, 1 Yann Thomas.
Replacements: 16 Darren Dawidiuk, 17 Cameron Orr, 18 Paul Doran-Jones, 19 Gareth Evans, 20 Jacob Rowan, 21 Willi Heinz, 22 James Hook, 23 Billy Twelvetrees.
Referee: Ian Tempest
Assistant Referees: Paul Burton, Simon McConnell
TMO: Sean Davey
Saturday, September 17:
Exeter Chiefs v Harlequins
(Sandy Park, Exeter - Kick-off: 15.00; 14.00 GMT)
The Chiefs have not lost successive matches at Sandy Park since September 2014.
Harlequins recorded a narrow victory over Bristol in Round One of the Premiership and went down at Sale last weekend.
The Londoners only away victory in any tournament since early January was 32-25 at London Irish on May 1.
Exeter have achieved the season's double over Harlequins for the past two years with 'Quins most recent victory over the Devonians being 30-29 at Sandy Park in May 2014.
Exeter Chiefs: 15 Lachie Turner, 14 Olly Woodburn, 13 Ollie Devoto, 12 Henry Slade, 11 Ian Whitten, 10 Gareth Steenson (captain), 9 Will Chudley, 8 Thomas Waldrom, 7 Julian Salvi, 6 Don Armand, 5 Geoff Parling, 4 Mitch Lees, 3 Greg Holmes, 2 Luke Cowan-Dickie, 1 Ben Moon.
Replacements: 16 Jack Yeandle, 17 Alec Hepburn, 18 Tomas Francis, 19 Damian Welch, 20 Dave Dennis, 21 Dave Lewis, 22 Sam Hill, 23 James Short.
Harlequins: 15 Mike Brown, 14 Marland Yarde, 13 Joe Marchant, 12 Winston Stanley, 11 Charlie Walker, 10 Tim Swiel, 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 Mark Lambert, 18 Will Collier, 19 George Merrick, 20 James Chisholm, 21 Karl Dickson, 22 James Lang, 23 Alofa Alofa.
Referee: Matthew Carley
Assistant referees: Paul Dix, Thomas Foley
TMO: David Sainsbury
Bath v Worcester Warriors
(Recreation Ground, Bath - Kick-off: 15.00; 14.00 GMT)
Bath's only defeat in their last six fixtures at the Recreation Ground was to Saracens in April.
Worcester Warriors five game losing run in the Premiership was halted with their 23-all draw with Gloucester on Friday.
Worcester have not won away from home since a trip to Harlequins in March.
Bath have won their last seven contests with Worcester since the Warriors 16-7 victory at Sixways in November 2011. Warriors have lost on all eleven previous visits to the Recreation Ground in all competitions.
Bath: 15 Tom Homer, 14 Semesa Rokoduguni, 13 Matt Banahan, 12 Dan Bowden, 11 Anthony Watson, 10 George Ford (captain), 9 Kahn Fotuali’i, 8 Leroy Houston, 7 David Sisi, 6 Charlie Ewels, 5 Dave Attwood, 4 Luke Charteris, 3 Henry Thomas, 2 Ross Batty, 1 Nick Auterac.
Replacements: 16 Tom Dunn, 17 Nathan Catt, 18 Kane Palma-Newport, 19 Elliott Stooke, 20 Zach Mercer, 21 Will Homer, 22 Aled Brew, 23 Jeff Williams.
Worcester Warriors: 15 Jamie Shillcock, 14 Dean Hammond, 13 Wynand Olivier, 12 Jackson Willison, 11 Perry Humphreys, 10 Tom Heathcote, 9 Jonny Arr, 8 Phil Dowson (captain), 7 Carl Kirwan, 6 Marco Mama, 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 Tevita Cavubati, 21 Luke Baldwin, 22 Tiff Eden, 23 Josh Adams.
Referee: Craig Maxwell-Keys
Assistant referees: Philip Watters, Nigel Carrick
TMO: Geoffrey Warren
Saracens v Northampton Saints
(Allianz Park, London - Kick-off: 15.00; 14.00 GMT)
Defending Premiership champions, Saracens, have made the perfect start to their defence with two bonus point victories – only Harlequins in 2012 and themselves in 2013 and have begun their campaigns with 15 league points after three rounds.
The last three encounters between the two clubs have actually been won by the away side on the day, whilst Northampton are the only visiting side to have won more than once at Allianz Park – doing so on three separate occasions.
Saracens: 15 Alex Goode, 14 Chris Ashton, 13 Marcelo Bosch, 12 Brad Barritt (captain), 11 Chris Wyles, 10 Alex Lozowski, 9 Richard Wigglesworth, 8 Billy Vunipola, 7 Schalk Burger, 6 Michael Rhodes, 5 Jim Hamilton, 4 Maro Itoje, 3 Petrus Du Plessis, 2 Schalk Brits, 1 Mako Vunipola.
Replacements: 16 Jamie George, 17 Richard Barrington, 18 Juan Figallo, 19 Kelly Brown, 20 Jackson Wray, 21 Ben Spencer, 22 Duncan Taylor, 23 Sean Maitland
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 Mikey Haywood, 1 Alex Waller.
Replacements: 16 Charlie Clare, 17 Campese Ma’afu, 18 Paul Hill, 19 Sam Dickinson, 20 Jamie Gibson, 21 Nic Groom, 22 Harry Mallinder, 23 Ben Foden.
Referee: Gregory M Garner
Assistant referees: Luke Pearce, Roy Maybank
TMO: Trevor Fishe
Sunday, September 18:
Wasps v Bristol
(Ricoh Arena, Coventry - Kick-off: 14.30; 13.30 GMT)
Wasps have won their last ten matches at Ricoh Arena in all competitions since Saracens beat them there last Christmas.
The two clubs have not met since April 2009, whilst Wasps only defeat to Bristol since 2001 came at the Memorial Stadium in the Premiership in September 2006.
Wasps: 15 Rob Miller, 14 Christian Wade, 13 Elliot Daly, 12 Jimmy Gopperth, 11 Frank Halai, 10 Danny Cipriani, 9 Joe Simpson, 8 Guy Thompson, 7 Thomas Young, 6 Alex Rieder, 5 James Gaskell(captain), 4 Matt Symons, 3 Jake Cooper-Woolley, 2 Tommy Taylor, 1 Simon McIntyre.
Replacements: 16 Ashley Johnson 17 Matt Mullan 18 Phil Swainston 19 Kearnan Myall 20 Nathan Hughes 21 Craig Hampson 22 Kyle Eastmond 23 Josh Bassett.
Bristol: 15 Jordan Williams, 14 Ryan Edwards, 13 William Hurrell, 12 Thretton Palamo, 11 Tom Varndell, 10 Tusi Pisi, 9 Will Cliff, 8 Mitch Eadie, 7 Olly Robinson, 6 Jack Lam(captain), 5 Joe Joyce, 4 Ian Evans, 3 Anthony Perenise, 2 Ross McMillan, 1 Ryan Bevington.
Replacements: 16 Chris Brooker, 17 Soane Tonga’uiha, 18 Gaston Cortes, 19 James Phillips, 20 Jordan Crane, 21 Martin Roberts, 22 Adrian Jarvis, 23 Ben Mosses.
Referee: Tim Wigglesworth
Assistant referees: Ross Campbell, Gareth Copsey
TMO: Keith Lewis
Newcastle Falcons v Leicester Tigers
(Kingston Park, Newcastle - Kick-off: 15.00; 14.00 GMT)
Leicester Tigers 22-34 defeat at home to Wasps last weekend represented only the second time that Tigers had lost at home in the Premiership with their opponents gaining maximum points and Leicester gaining none.
The Tigers won their most recent away game, at Gloucester in Round One, but have not won back-to-back away games in the competition since March 2015.
Newcastle's 26-14 victory over Tigers at Kingston Park in February ended an 11-game losing streak to Leicester in the Premiership.
Newcastle Falcons: 15 Simon Hammersley, 14 Vereniki Goneva, 13 Dominic Waldouck, 12 Juan Pablo Socino, 11 Sinoti Sinoti, 10 Mike Delany, 9 Sonatane Takulua, 8 Ally Hogg, 7 Will Welch (captain), 6 Mark Wilson, 5 Evan Olmstead, 4 Calum Green, 3 Jon Welsh, 2 Scott Lawson, 1 Sam Lockwood.
Replacements: 16 Ben Sowrey, 17 Rob Vickers, 18 Paddy Ryan, 19 Will Witty, 20 Dan Temm, 21 Michael Young, 22 Joel Hodgson, 23 Belisario Agulla
Leicester Tigers: 15 Mathew Tait (captain), 14 Telusa Veainu, 13 Peter Betham, 12 Owen Williams, 11 JP Pietersen, 10 Freddie Burns, 9 Ben Youngs, 8 Luke Hamilton, 7 Brendon O'Connor, 6 Mike Williams, 5 Graham Kitchener, 4 Mike Fitzgerald, 3 Dan Cole, 2 George McGuigan, 1 Ellis Genge.
Replacements: 16 Tom Youngs, 17 Marcos Ayerza, 18 Greg Bateman, 19 Ed Slater, 20 Will Evans, 21 Jono Kitto, 22 Jack Roberts, 23 Adam Thompstone.
Referee: JP Doyle
Assistant referees: Peter Allan, Jonathan Healy
TMO: Rowan Kitt