PREVIEW: PREMIERSHIP, ROUND EIGHT
IN THE SPOTLIGHT: After a two-week break the Premiership return with an action filled weekend as Sale Sharks face a difficult challenge when they lock horns with the reigning champions Saracens on Sunday.
With both Bath and Wasps playing before them, Saracens’ clash at Sale Sharks is even more mouth-watering, as the chips will be down to either keep or extend their advantage at the Premiership Rugby summit.
Sale Sharks coach Steve Diamond is fully aware the huge task at hand for his at the AJ Bell Stadium.
Sale Sharks return to the Premiership action, lying fifth in the table and face the reigning Premiership champions.
He said: "We’ve got difficult decisions to make in a couple of positions, there are a few lads who’ve come back from injury so generally we’re in a good position to pick from.
"We’ve had a few people out injured who haven’t played since last season, so they are fresh, we’re three months into the season, and five months to go – we’ve got our best players coming back on form hopefully,"
Diamond confirmed the latest injury news coming from the side: "Fridge (Eifion) has got an ACL and out for the rest of the season, Kieran Longbottom is a couple of weeks off from coming back, but we are pretty much back to full strength.
"I’m happy with James Flynn coming through, and we’ve got Ross Harrison so there is no need for a replacement, if any more injuries we may look,"
Focusing on the next few Premiership games, he said: "Saracens are the best side in the world. They are well run, well managed, and well coached, plus they look to be a good set of lads. They win most of their games so it’ll be a tough outing for us. I think, as we are a better side than we were last year, but so are they.
"We’re fortunate we have two Premiership games at home in this stint of games, but we’re only fortunate if we win them. We are playing top opposition, and we usually raise our game for these games,"
He added: "The crowds are up 75 percent which is great – we’re trying to play an entertaining brand of rugby, just unfortunate with the results, we haven’t played with a flyhalf yet! We’ve got a bigger crowd coming on Sunday then we had for Toulon, so hope it should be a good day out,"
We take a look at all the Round Eight action!
Friday, November 18:
Worcester Warriors v Northampton Saints
(Sixways, Worcester - Kick-off: 19.45; 21.45 GMT)
Worcester Warriors only victory in their last eleven Premiership Rugby matches was 11-9 at home to Newcastle Falcons on October 2. The Warriors have lost just one of their last five fixtures at Sixways in all tournaments, and that by a single point to Brive in the European Challenge Cup on October 22.
Northampton Saints last three encounters in Premiership Rugby have all been won by the home side on the day, whilst The Saints most recent victory on the road in the competition was at Bristol in Round two.
Northampton have lost just one of their last seven matches against Worcester, a 12-13 on their most recent visit to Sixways in October 2015.
Worcester Warriors: 15 Chris Pennell, 14 Dean Hammond, 13 Wynand Olivier, 12 Ryan Mills, 11 Cooper Vuna, 10 Jamie Shillcock, 9 Jonny Arr, 8 Phil Dowson (captain), 7 Carl Kirwan, 6 Dewald Potgieter, 5 Darren Barry, 4 Donncha O'Callaghan, 3 Nick Schonert, 2 Niall Annett, 1 Val Rapava Ruskin
Replacements: 16 Jack Singleton, 17 Na'ama Leleimalefaga, 18 Mike Daniels, 19 Andrew Kitchener, 20 Matt Cox, 21 Michael Dowsett, 22 Josh Adams, 23 Bryce Heem
Northampton Saints: 15 Ben Foden, 14 Jamie Elliott, 13 Luther Burrell, 12 Rory Hutchinson, 11 James Wilson, 10 Stephen Myler, 9 Lee Dickson, 8 Sam Dickinson (captain), 7 Calum Clark, 6 Jamie Gibson, 5 Christian Day, 4 Michael Paterson, 3 Kieran Brookes, 2 Mikey Haywood, 1 Alex Waller
Replacements: 16 Charlie Clare, 17 Ethan Waller, 18 Paul Hill, 19 James Craig, 20 Ben Nutley, 21 Tom Kessell, 22 Sam Olver, 23 Tom Collins
Referee: Greg Macdonald
Assistant referees: Paul Dix, Peter Allan
TMO: Geoffrey Warren
Bath Rugby v Bristol Rugby
(Recreation Ground, Bath - Kick-off: 19.45; 21.45 GMT)
Bath Rugby’s solitary defeat in their last eight Premiership Rugby matches was 14-34 at Leicester in Round four. Bath have lost just once at the Recreation Ground in Premiership Rugby since February, 10-30 to Saracens on April 1.
Bristol Rugby won their opening game of the season when Sale visited Ashton Gate for an Anglo-Welsh cup tie last Friday. Bristol are still without a win in Premiership Rugby since beating Worcester at Memorial Stadium in March 2009.
The two sides have already met at the Recreation Ground this season in the European Challenge Cup, with Bath running out 22-6 victors on October 5. Bristol’s most recent victory over Bath was 16-6 at Ashton Gate in Premiership Rugby in December 2006, whilst their last win at the Recreation Ground was 19-12 the previous month.
Bath: 15 Tom Homer, 14 Darren Atkins, 13 Max Clark, 12 Matt Banahan, 11 Jack Wilson, 10 Rhys Priestland , 9 Darren Allinson, 8 Taulupe Faletau, 7 Guy Mercer, 6 Tom Ellis, 5 Matt Garvey, 4 Elliott Stooke, 3 Kane Palma-Newport, 2 Ross Batty, 1 Nathan Catt
Replacements: 16 Tom Dunn, 17 Beno Obano, 18 Max Lahiff, 19 Paul Grant, 20 Zach Mercer, 21 Will Homer, 22 Adam Hastings, 23 Ben Tapuai
Bristol: 15 Jordan Williams; 14 Ryan Edwards, 13 Jason Woodward, 12 Will Hurrell, 11 Jack Tovey; 10 Billy Searle, 9 Rhodri Williams, 8 Jordan Crane (captain), 7 Olly Robinson, 6 Mitch Eadie, 5 Mark Sorenson, 4 Ian Evans, 3 Jamal Ford-Robinson, 2 Marc Jones, 1 Kyle Traynor
Replacements: 16 Rob Hawkins, 17 Ryan Bevington, 18 Gaston Cortes, 19 James Phillips, 20 Jon Fisher, 21 Will Cliff, 22 Adrian Jarvis, 23 Jack Wallace
Referee: Ian Tempest
Assistant referees: Philip Watters, Roger Baileff
TMO: Rowan Kitt
Newcastle Falcons v Exeter Chiefs
(Kingston Park, Newcastle - Kick-off: 20.00; 22.00 GMT)
Newcastle Falcons last three fixtures in Premiership Rugby have all been won by the home side on the day. Newcastle won their most recent home game in the competition 19-14 against Bristol in Round six but have not won successive matches at home since February.
Exeter Chiefs are without a win in the last three rounds of Premiership Rugby since beating Bristol 41-14 at Ashton Gate on September 23. The Chiefs have not gone four games without a win in the competition since New Year 2015.
Exeter’s only loss to Newcastle in ten previous meetings in Premiership Rugby was 24-29 at Kingston Park in October 2014.
Newcastle Falcons: 15 Alex Tait, 14 Marcus Watson, 13 Dominic Waldouck, 12 Juan Pablo Socino, 11 Sinoti Sinoti, 10 Mike Delany, 9 Michael Young, 8 Ally Hogg, 7 Will Welch (captain), 6 Mark Wilson, 5 Will Witty, 4 Calum Green, 3 Jon Welsh, 2 Scott Lawson, 1 Sam Lockwood
Replacements: 16 David Nelson, 17 Rob Vickers, 18 David Wilson, 19 Glen Young, 20 Opeti Fonua, 21 Sam Egerton, 22 Joel Hodgson, 23 Vereniki Goneva
Exeter Chiefs: 15 Phil Dollman, 14 Olly Woodburn, 13 Ollie Devoto, 12 Ian Whitten, 11 James Short, 10 Gareth Steenson (captain), 9 Will Chudley, 8 Thomas Waldrom, 7 Kai Horstmann, 6 Dave Dennis, 5 Jonny Hill, 4 Mitch Lees, 3 Harry Williams, 2 Jack Yeandle, 1 Ben Moon
Replacements: 16 Shaun Malton, 17 Carl Rimmer, 18 Greg Holmes, 19 Geoff Parling, 20 Ben White, 21 Jack Maunder, 22 Joe Simmonds, 23 Lachie Turner
Referee: Tim Wigglesworth
Assistant referees: John Meredith, Gareth Copsey
TMO: Trevor Fisher
Saturday, November 19
Gloucester Rugby v Wasps
(Kingsholm, Gloucester - Kick-off 16.30; 18.30 GMT)
Gloucester Rugby have won just once in the last eight rounds of Premiership Rugby which was a 26-13 win at Sale on September 16. The Cherry & Whites have slipped to four straight defeats at Kingsholm in the tournament but have never lost five in a row at home in Premiership Rugby.
Wasps solitary defeat in Premiership Rugby this campaign was 14-30 at Saracens in Round six. Wasps have not won away from home in any tournament since beating Northampton 20-15 at Franklin’s Gardens on September 24.
Gloucester’s 13-10 victory in this equivalent fixture last season ended a six game losing run to Wasps in the tournament. Wasps have won on three of their last ten visits to Kingsholm in Premiership Rugby.
Gloucester: 15 James Hook, 14 Charlie Sharples, 13 Matt Scott, 12 Mark Atkinson, 11 Henry Purdy, 10 Billy Burns, 9 Willi Heinz (c), 8 Ben Morgan, 7 Jacob Rowan, 6 Lewis Ludlow, 5 Mariano Galarza, 4 Tom Savage, 3 John Afoa, 2 Richard Hibbard, 1 Paddy McAllister
Replacements: 16 Motu Matu’u, 17 Yann Thomas, 18 Josh Hohneck, 19 Joe Latta, 20 Matt Kvesic, 21 Callum Braley, 22 Mat Protheroe, 23 Ollie Thorley
Wasps: 15 Rob Miller, 14 Christian Wade, 13 Kyle Eastmond, 12 Jimmy Gopperth, 11 Josh Bassett, 10 Danny Cipriani, 9 Dan Robson, 8 Guy Thompson, 7 Thomas Young, 6 James Gaskell, 5 Kearnan Myall, 4 Matt Symons, 3 Phil Swainston, 2 Tommy Taylor, 1 Matt Mullan (c)
Replacements: 16 Tom Cruse, 17 Tom Bristow, 18 Marty Moore, 19 Will Rowlands, 20 Ashley Johnson, 21 Joe Simpson, 22 Frank Halai, 23 Alapati Leiua
Referee: Dean Richards
Assistant referees: Roy Maybank, Simon McConnell
TMO: David Rose
Sunday, November 20
Sale Sharks v Saracens
(AJ Bell Stadium, Sale - Kick-off: 13.00; 15.00 GMT)
Sale Sharks have lost only one of their last four Premiership Rugby matches score was 3-30 at Bath in Round six. The only side that has beaten Sale at AJ Bell Stadium in Premiership Rugby since April 2015 has been Gloucester – doing so twice.
Saracens have lost just one of their last fourteen Premiership Rugby fixtures a 10-17 lost at Harlequins on September 24. Saracens were defeated 32-36 in their most recent away game at Gloucester in the Anglo-Welsh Cup, and have not lost successive games on their travels since January 2015.
Saracens have lost just one of their last ten encounters with Sale in Premiership Rugby, 10-14 at AJ Bell Stadium in February 2015, but have not been victorious at the stadium in the tournament since February 2014.
Sale Sharks: 15 Mike Haley, 14 Will Addison, 13 Sam James, 12 Sam Tuitupou, 11 Paolo Odogwu, 10 AJ MacGinty, 9 Peter Stringer, 8 Josh Beaumont (captain), 7 David Seymour, 6 Cameron Neild, 5 Andrei Ostrikov, 4 Bryn Evans, 3 Brian Mujati, 2 Neil Briggs, 1 Ross Harrison
Replacements: 16 Rob Webber, 17 James Flynn, 18 Halani Aulika, 19 TJ Ioane, 20 Ben Curry, 21 Mike Phillips, 22 Mark Jennings, 23 Tom Arscott
Saracens: 15 Andrew Fenby, 14 Mike Ellery, 13 Marcelo Bosch, 12 Brad Barritt (captain), 11 Chris Wyles, 10 Alex Lozowski, 9 Richard Wigglesworth, 8 Jackson Wray, 7 Schalk Burger, 6 Kelly Brown, 5 Jim Hamilton, 4 Mike Rhodes, 3 Juan Figallo, 2 Schalk Brits, 1 Richard Barrington
Replacements: 16 Scott Spurling, 17 Titi Lamositele, 18 Petrus Du Plessis, 19 Mark Flanagan, 20 Joel Conlon, 21 Ben Spencer, 22 Nick Tompkins, 23 Matt Gallagher
Referee: Andrew Jackson
Assistant referees: Ross Campbell, Jack Makepeace
TMO: David Sainsbury
Leicester Tigers v Harlequins
(Welford Road, Leicester - Kick-off: 15.15; 17.15 GMT)
Leicester Tigers last four matches in Premiership Rugby have all been won by the home side on the day, whilst the Tigers only home defeat in any competitions since February was 22-34 to Wasps in Premiership Rugby on September 10.
Harlequins have lost just once in their last six matches in any tournament by a single point in 71 at Edinburgh in the European Challenge Cup on October 22. Harlequins have won only once away from home in their last ten trips in Premiership Rugby, 32-25 at London Irish on May 1.
The last five fixtures between the two clubs in Premiership Rugby have all been won by the home side whilst ‘Quins have been victorious on three of their last six visits to Welford Road in the tournament.
Leicester: 15 Mathew Tait, 14 Adam Thompstone, 13 Peter Betham, 12 Owen Williams, 11 Tom Brady, 10 Freddie Burns, 9 Jono Kitto, 8 Lachlan McCaffrey, 7 Brendon O'Connor, 6 Tom Croft, 5 Mike Fitzgerald, 4 Ed Slater, 3 Greg Bateman, 2 Tom Youngs (captain), 1 Ellis Genge
Replacements: 16 Harry Thacker, 17 Marcos Ayerza, 18 Pat Cilliers, 19 Graham Kitchener, 20 Luke Hamilton, 21 Sam Harrison, 22 Jack Roberts, 23 George Worth
Harlequins: 15 Aaron Morris, 14 Marland Yarde, 13 Joe Marchant, 12 Winston Stanley, 11 Alofa Alofa, 10 Nick Evans, 9 Karl Dickson, 8 James Chisholm, 7 Dave Ward, 6 Luke Wallace, 5 James Horwill (captain), 4 Charlie Matthews, 3 Will Collier, 2 Rob Buchanan, 1 Mark Lambert
Replacements: 16 Joe Gray, 17 Dan Murphy, 18 Adam Jones, 19 Stan South, 20 George Naoupu, 21 Charlie Mulchrone, 22 Tim Swiel, 23 Charlie Walker
Referee: Craig Maxwell-Keys
Assistant referees: Paul Burton, Nigel Carrick
TMO: David Grashoff