PREVIEW: Premiership, Round four
IN THE SPOTLIGHT: Bottom-of-the-log Bristol Rugby would hope that home ground advantage counts in their favour when they take on Exeter Chiefs at Ashton Gate.
Bristol coach Andy Robinson names an unchanged backline as Bristol look to end a run of three successive defeats in the Premiership.
While Kyle Traynor is set to make his first Premiership start for Bristol Rugby on Friday.
The Scotland international is one of six changes, all in the pack, for the South-West derby at Ashton Gate.
In the forwards, Gaston Cortes returns to the front row, while James Phillips and Mark Sorenson form a new-look second row partnership.
Jon Fisher recovers from a toe injury to start in the back row and Jordan Crane also returns.
"It’s great to have Friday night rugby back at Ashton Gate and we’re buoyed by the knowledge that there will be a bumper crowd to support the team," Robinson said.
"The key messages to the squad this week has been to stick together, keep fighting and keep working hard. We know where we need to improve and we’re looking to embrace the challenge that Exeter Chiefs will bring under the floodlights,"
Ben Mosses (knee) is sidelined for up to twelve weeks and the centre is joined by Gavin Henson (dead leg), Ben Glynn (shoulder), Marc Jones (knee), David Lemi (knee), Callum Sheedy (hamstring), Glen Townson (knee) and Ryan Bevington (head).
Max Crumpton, Jamal Ford-Robinson and Charlie Amesbury are all named among the replacements and could make their first competitive outings of the campaign if they feature.
We take a look at all the Round Four action!
Friday, September 23:
Bristol Rugby v Exeter Chiefs
(Ashton Gate, Bristol - Kick-off: 19.45; 18.45 GMT)
Bristol Rugby have slipped to three straight defeats on their return to Premiership Rugby, although they did attain a losing bonus point in Round one and have twice finished with a try tally of three.
Bristol have not been victorious at Ashton Gate since last season’s RFU Championship semifinal second leg against Bedford.
Exeter Chiefs opened their winning account in Premiership Rugby for 2016/17 with a home victory over Harlequins on Saturday. The Chiefs only away win from their last five trips in Premiership Rugby was 62-24 at Harlequins in Round 22.
The two sides have never clashed before in Premiership Rugby, and last locked horns in the final of the
RFU Championship in season 2009/10 with Exeter taking both legs to earn promotion. This is the Devonians first visit to Ashton Gate.
Bristol: 15 Jordan Williams, 14 Ryan Edwards, 13 Will Hurrell, 12 Thretton Palamo, 11 Tom Varndell, 10 Tusi Pisi, 9 Will Cliff, 8 Jordan Crane, 7 Jack Lam (captain), 6 Jon Fisher, 5 Mark Sorenson, 4 James Phillips, 3 Gaston Cortes, 2 Ross McMillan, 1 Kyle Traynor.
Replacements: 16 Max Crumpton, 17 Soane Tonga’uiha, 18 Jamal Ford-Robinson, 19 Joe Joyce, 20 Mitch Eadie, 21 Martin Roberts, 22 Adrian Jarvis, 23 Charlie Amesbury.
Exeter: 15 Lachie Turner, 14 Olly Woodburn, 13 Henry Slade, 12 Sam Hill, 11 Ian Whitten, 10 Gareth Steenson (captain), 9 Will Chudley, 8 Thomas Waldrom, 7 Julian Salvi, 6 Dave Dennis, 5 Damian Welch, 4 Mitch Lees, 3 Greg Holmes, 2 Luke Cowan-Dickie, 1 Alec Hepburn.
Replacements: 16 Jack Yeandle, 17 Ben Moon, 18 Harry Williams, 19 Geoff Parling, 20 Kai Horstmann, 21 Dave Lewis, 22 Ollie Devoto, 23 James Short.
Referee: Tom Foley
Assistant Referees: Greg Macdonald, Paul Dix
TMO: Sean Davey
Saturday, September 24:
Harlequins v Saracens
(Twickenham Stoop, Harlequins - Kick-off: 15.00; 14.00 GMT)
All three of Harlequins matches in Premiership Rugby this season have been won by the home side on the day. This is Harlequins first game at Twickenham Stoop since losing there 24-62 to Exeter in Round 22 last season – the most points they have ever conceded in any competition at the venue.
Saracens winning streak continued with a 13th successive victory in all competitions, against Northampton at Allianz Park on Saturday. Saracens lost just twice on the road in Premiership Rugby last season, at Harlequins in Round nine and at Leicester in Round 17.
Saracens only defeat in their last nine Premiership Rugby encounters with Harlequins was 23-29 at The Stoop on January 9. The North Londoners have won on seven of their last nine visits to Twickenham Stoop.
Harlequins: 15 Mike Brown, 14 Marland Yarde, 13 Matt Hopper, 12 Jamie Roberts, 11 Tim Visser, 10 Tim Swiel, 9 Danny Care (captain), 8 James Chisholm, 7 Luke Wallace, 6 Chris Robshaw, 5 James Horwill, 4 George Merrick, 3 Will Collier, 2 Rob Buchanan, 1 Joe Marler.
Replacements: 16 Joe Gray, 17 Mark Lambert, 18 Kyle Sinckler, 19 Sam Twomey, 20 Dave Ward, 21 Karl Dickson, 22 Ruaridh Jackson, 23 Alofa Alofa.
Saracens: 15 Alex Goode, 14 Mike Ellery, 13 Marcelo Bosch, 12 Brad Barritt (captain), 11 Chris Wyles, 10 Alex Lozowski, 9 Richard Wigglesworth, 8 Billy Vunipola, 7 Jackson Wray, 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 Scott Spurling, 21 Ben Spencer, 22 Nick Tompkins, 23 Matt Gallagher.
Referee: Craig Maxwell-Keys
Assistant Referees: Nigel Carrick, Phil Watters
TMO: David Grashoff
Worcester Warriors v Sale Sharks
(Sixways, Worcester - Kick-off: 15.00; 14.00 GMT)
Worcester Warriors are without a win in their last seven Premiership Rugby matches, although they did draw 23-all at home to Gloucester in Round two. The Warriors most recent victory in the competition was 12-6 in a tryless encounter with London Irish at Sixways on March 26.
Sale Sharks only victory in the first three rounds of Premriship Rugby was 19-10 at home to Harlequins in Round two. The Sharks have won two of their last four away games in the tournament, at London Irish and at Newcastle both last season.
Worcester beat Sale 31-23 in this equivalent fixture at Sixways in Round 13 last year and have not achieved back-to-back successes against Sale since 2008. The Sharks only victory at Sixways in Premiership Rugby since 2009 came in February 2014.
Worcester Warriors: 15 Jamie Shillcock, 14 Perry Humphreys, 13 Wynand Olivier, 12 Jackson Willison, 11 Cooper Vuna, 10 Ryan Lamb, 9 Jonny Arr, 8 Phil Dowson (captain), 7 Carl Kirwan, 6 Alafoti Faosiliva, 5 Darren Barry, 4 Donncha O’Callaghan, 3 Nick Schonert, 2 Niall Annett, 1 Val Rapava Ruskin
Replacements: 16 Jaba Bregvadze, 17 Na’ama Leleimalefaga, 18 James Johnston, 19 Christian Scotland-Williamson, 20 Tevita Cavubati, 21 Luke Baldwin, 22 Max Stelling, 23 Josh Adams
Sale Sharks: 15 Byron McGuigan, 14 Nev Edwards, 13 Will Addison, 12 Johnny Leota, 11 Paolo Odogwu, 10 AJ MacGinty, 9 Peter Stringer, 8 Josh Beaumont (captain), 7 David Seymour, 6 Cameron Neild, 5 Jonathan Mills, 4 Bryn Evans, 3 Kieran Longbottom, 2 Neil Briggs, 1 Eifion Lewis-Roberts
Replacements: 16 Ross Harrison, 17 Halani Aulika, 18 Andrei Ostrikov, 19 Laurence Pearce, 20 Magnus Lund, 21 Mike Phillips, 22 Dan Mugford, 23 Nick Scott
Referee: JP Doyle
Assistant Referees: Gregory M Garner, Roy Maybank
TMO: David Rose
Gloucester Rugby v Newcastle Falcons
(Kingsholm, Gloucester - Kick-off: 15.00; 14.00 GMT)
Gloucester Rugby beat Sale 26-13 at AJ Bell Stadium on Friday to achieve their first victory since beating the same opponents at the same venue in April. Gloucester have won only one of their last five matches at Kingsholm in all tournaments, that was a 16-9 win over Exeter in Premiership Rugby on April 15.
Newcastle Falcons’ only win in their last five Premiership Rugby fixtures was 19-17 at home to Sale on the opening day of the new season. The Tynesiders have not won away from home in Premiership Rugby since defeating London Welsh 23-3 at Kassam Stadium in October 2014.
Gloucester’s only reversal in their last six encounters with Falcons in Premiership Rugby was 10-20 at Kingston Park in November 2014. Newcastle have won only twice at Kingsholm in the tournament, in April 1998 and April 2012.
Gloucester: 15 Tom Marshall, 14 Charlie Sharples, 13 Matt Scott, 12 Mark Atkinson, 11 Henry Purdy, 10 Billy Burns, 9 Willi Heinz (captain), 8 Ben Morgan, 7 Jacob Rowan, 6 Ross Moriarty, 5 Mariano Galarza, 4 Tom Savage, 3 John Afoa, 2 Richard Hibbard, 1 Paddy McAllister
Replacements: 16 Darren Dawidiuk, 17 Yann Thomas, 18 Paul Doran-Jones, 19 Joe Latta, 20 Gareth Evans, 21 Greig Laidlaw, 22 James Hook, 23 Billy Twelvetrees
Newcastle Falcons: 15 Simon Hammersley, 14 Alex Tait, 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 Rob Vickers
Replacements: 16 Ben Sowrey, 17 Alex Rogers, 18 Paddy Ryan, 19 Will Witty, 20 Daniel Temm, 21 Michael Young, 22 Joel Hodgson, 23 Belisario Agulla
Referee: Dean Richards
Assistant Referees: Andrew Jackson & Jonathan Healy
TMO: David Sainsbury
Northampton Saints v Wasps
(Franklin’s Gardens, Northampton - Kick-off: 15.00; 14.00 GMT)
Northampton Saints only win in the first three rounds of Premiership Rugby was 32-10 at Bristol in Round two. The Saints have lost two of their last three matches at Franklin’s Gardens, to Leicester in Round 20 and to Bath in Round one.
Wasps have dropped only one possible league point so far this season, in the opening round 25-20 victory over Exeter at Ricoh Arena – ending on three tries. The only other occasion that Wasps won their first three games of a new Premiership Rugby season was in 2009/10, where they lost to London Irish in Round four.
Wasps won both encounters with Northampton in Premiership Rugby last season but have not achieved successive victories at Franklin’s Gardens since 2005.
Northampton Saints: 15 Ben Foden, 14 Ken Pisi, 13 George Pisi, 12 Harry Mallinder, 11 George North, 10 Stephen Myler, 9 Nic Groom, 8 Louis Picamoles, 7 Jamie Gibson, 6 Tom Wood (captain), 5 Sam Dickinson, 4 Courtney Lawes, 3 Kieran Brookes, 2 Mikey Haywood, 1 Alex Waller.
Replacements: 16 Charlie Clare, 17 Campese Ma’afu, 18 Paul Hill, 19 Michael Paterson, 20 Teimana Harrison, 21 Tom Kessell, 22 Rory Hutchinson, 23 Ahsee Tuala.
Wasps: 15 Rob Miller, 14 Christian Wade, 13 Elliot Daly, 12 Jimmy Gopperth, 11 Josh Bassett, 10 Danny Cipriani, 9 Joe Simpson, 8 Nathan Hughes, 7 Guy Thompson, 6 Sam Jones, 5 James Gaskell (captain), 4 Matt Symons, 3 Jake Cooper-Woolley, 2 Tommy Taylor, 1 Matt Mullan.
Replacements: 16 Ashley Johnson, 17 Simon McIntyre, 18 Marty Moore, 19 Kearnan Myall, 20 Thomas Young, 21 Dan Robson, 22 Kyle Eastmond, 23 Nick De Luca
Referee: JP Doyle
Assistant Referees: Gregory M Garner, Roy Maybank
TMO: David Rose
Sunday, September 25:
Leicester Tigers v Bath Rugby
(Welford Road, Leicester - Kick-off: 15.00; 14.00 GMT)
All three of Leicester Tigers games in Premiership Rugby so far have been won by the away side on the day. Tigers were defeated 34-22 by Wasps in their most recent match at Welford Road and have not slipped to back-to-back home defeats in Premriship Rugby since October 2011.
Bath Rugby reside at the top of the Premiership Rugby table, a position they have not occupied since they beat Leicester at the Recreation Ground in Round three of the 2014/15 campaign. Bath have won their last four matches since tripping up by a single point at Northampton in Round 21 last season.
The last five fixtures between the two clubs have all been won by the home side on the day, whilst Bath’s solitary victory at Welford Road in Premiership Rugby was 13-12 in November 2003.
Leicester Tigers: 15 Telusa Veainu, 14 Adam Thompstone, 13 Peter Betham, 12 Owen Williams, 11 JP Pietersen, 10 Freddie Burns, 9 Ben Youngs, 8 Lachlan McCaffrey, 7 Brendon O'Connor, 6 Mike Williams, 5 Graham Kitchener, 4 Mike Fitzgerald, 3 Dan Cole, 2 Tom Youngs (captain), 1 Marcos Ayerza
Replacements: 16 George McGuigan, 17 Ellis Genge, 18 Greg Bateman, 19 Ed Slater, 20 Will Evans, 21 Sam Harrison, 22 Jack Roberts, 23 Mathew Tait
Bath: 15 Tom Homer, 14 Semesa Rokoduguni, 13 Jonathan Joseph, 12 Matt Banahan, 11 Anthony Watson, 10 George Ford (captain), 9 Kahn Fotuali’i, 8 Leroy Houston, 7 Tom Ellis, 6 Matt Garvey, 5 Dave Attwood, 4 Charlie Ewels, 3 Henry Thomas, 2 Ross Batty, 1 Nathan Catt
Replacements: 16 Tom Dunn, 17 Beno Obano, 18 Max Lahiff, 19 Elliott Stooke, 20 Zach Mercer, 21 Will Homer, 22 Dan Bowden, 23 Jeff Williams
Referee: Matthew Carley
Assistant Referees: Tim Wigglesworth, Gareth Copsey
TMO: Trevor Fisher