Preview: Premiership, Round Seven
IN THE SPOTLIGHT: Ollie Devoto is banking on home comforts to help reignite the Exeter Chiefs ahead of Sunday's crunch Premiership encounter with former club Bath at Sandy Park.
After back-to-back losses in the European Champions Cup against ASM Clermont Auvergne and Ulster, the Devon outfit resume domestic matters this weekend with a mouth-watering local derby encounter.
With a sell-out crowd already assured and both clubs desperate to claim vital league points, the 23-year-old – who swapped playing life in the Roman City for that of Exeter – believes this latest match-up has all the makings of a classic encounter.
"Having played in these local derbies before they are the games you look forward to the most. We are really excited for it," said Devoto. "The derby games against the Chiefs are some of the ones I remember the most because I remember the atmosphere at Sandy Park and they were some of the best games to be involved in."
Although defeated right at the death in Ulster last time out, the England international felt the display in Belfast provided plenty of positives from which to build this week.
"It is important for us to get results now. We always back ourselves at home and this weekend is going to be a huge game for us," he continued. "I think it is important we now start turning performances like Saturday into actual results. We have caught little glimpses of what we can do, but it is about riding the pressure.
"Sometimes in games, the opposition are going to get the upper hand, but it is about coming through those difficult patches intact.
"There were a lot of positives to take from the Ulster game. We put ourselves in a position to win it which not many teams can do over there in European competition because it is so tough."
With just two wins this term, it's been a spluttering start to the campaign for last season's beaten Premiership finalists, but a victory this weekend against a Bath outfit that have lost only once under new coach Todd Blackadder would certainly help lift spirits.
"I would say there has been a little bit of a ramp-up in training this week. I think you need to get into just the right mindset and we have had a good few days' training," added Devoto.
"There is no need to panic but the senior boys are really driving standards and we are looking to get some really good performances in, particularly before the Anglo-Welsh Cup the following week."
Sunday's fixture will be the first meeting of the two Westcountry rivals since last term, when honours were shared in the respective fixtures. Bath won on the opening day at the Rec 19-17 before the Chiefs gained revenge back in February, winning the return leg 26-17.
We take a look at all the Round Seven action!
Friday, October 28:
Northampton Saints v Gloucester
(Franklin's Gardens, Northampton - Kick-off: 19.45; 18.45 GMT)
Northampton are unbeaten in their last five Premiership encounters with Gloucester since Gloucester's 26-24 victory at Kingsholm in September 2013.
The Cherry & Whites have not won at Franklin's Gardens since February 2013.
Northampton Saints: 15 Ben Foden, 14 James Wilson, 13 George Pisi, 12 Harry Mallinder, 11 George North, 10 Stephen Myler, 9 Lee Dickson, 8 Louis Picamoles, 7 Calum Clark, 6 Tom Wood (captain), 5 Christian Day, 4 Courtney Lawes, 3 Kieran Brookes, 2 Mikey Haywood, 1 Alex Waller.
Replacements: 16 Dylan Hartley, 17 Ethan Waller, 18 Paul Hill, 19 Michael Paterson, 20 Jamie Gibson, 21 Tom Kessell, 22 Rory Hutchinson, 23 Ahsee Tuala.
Gloucester: 15 James Hook, 14 Charlie Sharples, 13 Matt Scott, 12 Mark Atkinson, 11 Jonny May,; 10 Billy Twelvetrees, 9 Greig Laidlaw (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 Motu Matu'u, 17 Cameron Orr, 18 Salesi Ma'afu, 19 Joe Latta, 20 Matt Kvesic, 21 Willi Heinz, 22 Billy Burns, 23 Henry Purdy.
Referee: Tom Foley
Assistant Referees: Ross Campbell, Steve Lee
TMO: Stuart Terheege
Saturday, October 29:
Harlequins v Worcester Warriors
(Twickenham Stoop, London - Kick-off: 15.00; 14.00 GMT)
Worcester Warriors single victory in any tournament since March was 11-9 at home to Newcastle Falcons in Round Five.
Worcester's most recent away victory came in this equivalent fixture last season on March 19 at Twickenham Stoop.
That victory ended a 15-game losing run in the Premiership against the Londoners.
The Warriors have won on three of their 10 previous visits to the Stoop – twice in the Premiership in 2005 and 2016 and once in the 2007-08 Anglo-Welsh Cup.
Harlequins: 15 Mike Brown, 14 Marland Yarde, 13 Joe Marchant, 12 Winston Stanley, 11 Tim Visser, 10 Nick Evans, 9 Danny Care(captain), 8 James Chisholm, 7 Luke Wallace, 6 Chris Robshaw, 5 James Horwill, 4 Charlie Matthews, 3 Will Collier, 2 Rob Buchanan, 1 Joe Marler.
Replacements: 16 Joe Gray, 17 Mark Lambert, 18 Adam Jones, 19 Mat Luamanu, 20 Dave Ward, 21 Karl Dickson, 22 Tim Swiel, 23 Alofa Alofa.
Worcester Warriors: 15 Jamie Shillcock, 14 Chris Pennell, 13 Jackson Willison, 12 Ben Te'o, 11 Dean Hammond, 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 Jaba Bregvadze, 1 Val Rapava Ruskin.
Replacements: 16 Niall Annett, 17 Na'ama Leleimalefaga, 18 James Johnston, 19 Charlie Hewitt, 20 Dewald Potgieter, 21 Luke Baldwin, 22 Josh Adams , 23 Wynand Olivier.
Referee: Luke Pearce
Assistant referees: Gregory M Garner, Roy Maybank
TMO: David Rose
Saracens v Leicester Tigers
(Allianz Park, London - Kick-off: 15.00; 14.00 GMT)
Saracens have lost just one of their last 18 fixtures in all tournaments: 10-17 at Harlequins in the Premiership on September 24.
Saracens have not been defeated at Allianz Park since Northampton were the visitors in the Premiership on March 5.
Leicester Tigers last five matches have all been won by the home side on the day, whilst in their last six away games in all competitions the Tigers have conceded 24 tries and scored 16.
Saracens: 15 Alex Goode, 14 Sean Maitland, 13 Nick Tompkins, 12 Brad Barritt (captain), 11 Chris Wyles, 10 Owen Farrell, 9 Ben Spencer, 8 Billy Vunipola, 7 Schalk Burger, 6 Jackson Wray, 5 Jim Hamilton, 4 Michael Rhodes, 3 Juan Figallo, 2 Jamie George, 1 Mako Vunipola.
Replacements: 16 Schalk Brits, 17 Richard Barrington, 18 Petrus Du Plessis, 19 Mark Flanagan, 20 Kelly Brown, 21 Richard Wigglesworth, 22 Alex Lozowski, 23 Marcelo Bosch.
Leicester Tigers: 15 Mathew Tait, 14 Adam Thompstone, 13 Peter Betham, 12 Jack Roberts, 11 JP Pietersen, 10 Owen Williams, 9 Ben Youngs, 8 Lachlan McCaffrey, 7 Brendon O'Connor, 6 Mike Fitzgerald, 5 Graham Kitchener, 4 Ed Slater, 3 Dan Cole, 2 Tom Youngs (captain), 1 Marcos Ayerza.
Replacements: 16 George McGuigan, 17 Ellis Genge, 18 Logovi'i Mulipola, 19 Luke Hamilton, 20 Will Evans, 21 Sam Harrison, 22 Freddie Burns, 23 George Catchpole.
Referee: Wayne Barnes
Assistant referees: Craig Maxwell-Keys, Matthew Carley
TMO: Rowan Kitt
Sunday, October 30:
Wasps v Newcastle Falcons
(Ricoh Arena, Coventry - Kick-off: 14.30; 14.30 GMT)
Wasps only defeat in any competition this season was 14-30 against Saracens at Allianz Park in Round Six of the Premiership.
Wasps have won their last 13 matches at Ricoh Arena since Saracens beat them there in the Premiership on December 27.
Wasps are unbeaten in their last six fixtures with the Falcons, since Newcastle's 14-10 victory at Adams Park in May 2012.
Wasps: 15 Rob Miller, 14 Christian Wade, 13 Elliot Daly, 12 Kyle Eastmond, 11 Frank Halai, 10 Jimmy Gopperth, 9 Joe Simpson, 8 Nathan Hughes, 7 Guy Thompson, 6 Alex Rieder, 5 Kearnan Myall, 4 Joe Launchbury (captain), 3 Marty Moore, 2 Ashley Johnson, 1 Matt Mullan.
Replacements: 16 Tom Cruse, 17 Tom Bristow, 18 Jake Cooper-Woolley, 19 Matt Symons, 20 James Gaskell, 21 Dan Robson, 22 Danny Cipriani, 23 Alapati Leiua.
Newcastle: 15 Simon Hammersley, 14 Marcus Watson, 13 Dominic Waldouck, 12 Juan Pablo Socino, 11 Sinoti Sinoti, 10 Mike Delany, 9 Michael Young, 8 Callum Chick, 7 Will Welch (captain), 6 Mark Wilson, 5 Evan Olmstead, 4 Calum Green, 3 Jon Welsh, 2 Ben Sowrey, 1 Sam Lockwood.
Replacements: 16 Scott Lawson, 17 Rob Vickers, 18 David Wilson, 19 Will Witty, 20 Ally Hogg, 21 Sonatane Takulua, 22 Joel Hodgson, 23 Fred Burdon.
Referee: Craig Maxwell-Keys
Assistant referees: Peter Allan, Philip Watters
TMO: Trevor Fisher
Bristol v Sale Sharks
(Ashton Gate, Bristol - Kick-off: 15.00; 15.00 GMT)
The two sides have not met since February 2009 with Sale taking the last four encounters since Bristol's most recent success in the series: 10-6 at Edgeley Park on New Year's Day 2007.
This is Sale's first ever visit to Ashton Gate with their most recent victory on Bristol soil coming in November 2006.
Bristol: 15 Jordan Williams, 14, Ryan Edwards, 13 Will Hurrell, 12 Gavin Henson, 11 David Lemi, 10 Shane Geraghty, 9 Will Cliff, 8 Jordan Crane (captain) 7 Jon Fisher, 6 Mitch Eadie, 5 Mark Sorenson, 4 James Phillips, 3 Anthony Perenise, 2 Chris Brooker, 1 Kyle Traynor.
Replacements: 16 Rob Hawkins, 17 Soane Tonga’uiha, 18 Gaston Cortes, 19 Ian Evans, 20 Ben Glynn, 21 Jack Lam, 22 Rhodri Williams, 23 Jack Tovey.
Sale Sharks: 15 Mike Haley, 14 Byron McGuigan, 13 Will Addison, 12 Johnny Leota, 11 Paolo Odogwu, 10 Sam James, 9 Peter Stringer, 8 Josh Beaumont(captain) 7 Magnus Lund, 6 Cameron Neild, 5 Andrei Ostrikov, 4 Bryn Evans, 3 Halani Aulika, 2 Neil Briggs, 1 Ross Harrison.
Replacements: 16 Eifion Lewis-Roberts, 17 Brian Mujati, 18 Jonathan Mills, 19 David Seymour, 20 Tom Curry, 21 Mike Phillips, 22 Dan Mugford, 23 Mark Jennings.
Referee: JP Doyle
Assistant referees: Tom Foley, Andrew Pearce
TMO: Graham Hughes
Exeter Chiefs v Bath
(Sandy Park, Exeter - kick-off: 15.00; 15.00 GMT)
Exeter Chiefs are without a victory in their last four fixtures in all tournaments since beating Bristol 41-17 at Ashton Gate on September 23.
The Chiefs have won just one of their last four home games: 36-25 against Harlequins in Round Three of the Premiership.
Bath have lost only once under the stewardship of Todd Blackadder: 14-34 at Leicester in Round Four of the Premiership.
Exeter Chiefs: 15 Lachlan Turner, 14 Olly Woodburn, 13 Ian Whitten, 12 Henry Slade, 11 James Short, 10 Gareth Steenson(captain), 9 Dave Lewis, 8 Thomas Waldrom, 7 Kai Horstmann, 6 Dave Dennis, 5 Geoff Parling, 4 Mitch Lees, 3 Harry Williams, 2 Jack Yeandle, 1 Moray Low.
Replacements: 16 Elvis Taione, 17 Carl Rimmer, 18 Tomas Francis, 19 Jonny Hill, 20 Ben White, 21 Jack Maunder, 22 Sam Hill, 23 Ollie Devoto.
Bath: 15 Tom Homer, 14 Semesa Rokoduguni, 13 Jonathan Joseph, 12 Matt Banahan, 11 Aled Brew, 10 George Ford(captain), 9 Kahn Fotuali’i, 8 Charlie Ewels, 7 Tom Ellis, 6 Matt Garvey(c), 5 Dave Attwood, 4 Luke Charteris, 3 Henry Thomas, 2 Ross Batty, 1 Nick Auterac.
Replacements: 16 Tom Dunn, 17 Max Lahiff, 18 Kane Palma-Newport, 19 Elliott Stooke, 20 Guy Mercer, 21 Will Homer, 22 Rhys Priestland, 23 Jeff Williams.
Referee: Ian Tempest
Assistant referees: Roger Baileff, Luke Pearce
TMO: David Grashoff