PREVIEW: Premiership, Round 18
IN THE SPOTLIGHT: Wasps scrumhalf Dan Robson is set to make his 100th Premiership Rugby appearance when the log leaders host Worcester Warriors.
The Coventry-based side sit top of the table by five points from Exeter Chiefs and Robson insists his side must take confidence from both their league position and their 24-3 victory Bath at the start of the month – their last outing.
But the scrumhalf is not taking Worcester lightly after they earned a crucial 41-24 win over Bristol Rugby in Round 17.
And the former Gloucester man believes the time off between Premiership Rugby matches will only benefit the squad as they approach an important block of fixtures.
"It will mean a lot to play 100 games in the Premiership," said Robson.
"It is a big deal and something that you look at when you start out as a bit of a milestone so to get there is a big deal so it will be nice to have that.
"We have to take confidence from our position in the league and our last performance against Bath was impressive and put us in a good league position.
"We are pretty confident we have a good gameplan going into the weekend but we are not taking anything for granted with Worcester coming because they will be scrapping hard after their win over Bristol,"
In the reverse fixture at Sixways in Round 10, Wasps came out on top winning 26-12 but Robson knows this weekend’s clash will not be decided by previous results.
And the centurion-in-waiting is preparing for an aerial bombardment at the Ricoh Arena when Gary Gold’s side make the short trip to Coventry on Sunday.
"Worcester pride themselves on their forward pack and their defence," added Robson.
"Since Gary Gold came in they have tightened up that defence and their gameplan.
"They kick a lot so we have to be aware of the high balls and be ready to field them well.
"We need to prepare to put them under pressure, hopefully, it will be a good day at the Ricoh Arena and we can come away with the points.
"It was good to have weekends off and put feet up a little bit, mentally it is quite nice to have a break but when we come into training, we are fully focused on the rest of the season,"
We look ahead to all the Round 18 action!
Friday, March 25:
Bristol Rugby v Gloucester Rugby
(Ashton Gate - Kick-off: 19.45; 19.45 GMT)
Bristol Rugby have won just once in Premiership Rugby since the 12th round, 12-11 at home to Bath on February 26.
Bristol have won two of their last three home games in Premiership Rugby at Ashton Gate.
Gloucester Rugby’s only victory in their last four Premiership Rugby matches was 31-23 at home to Saracens in Round 15. Gloucester have not won away from home in the competition since a visit to Sale on September 16.
Gloucester have lost just one of their last six matches against Bristol, 26-29 at Memorial Stadium in February 2008. Gloucester’s only previous visit to Ashton Gate was actually a home game, moved there due to renovation at Kingsholm, beating Bristol 35-13 in April 2007.
Bristol: 15 Jason Woodward, 14 Jack Wallace, 13 Will Hurrell, 12 Tusi Pisi, 11 David Lemi, 10 Billy Searle, 9 Alby Mathewson, 8 Mitch Eadie, 7 Jack Lam, 6 Sam Jeffries, 5 Mark Sorenson, 4 James Phillips, 3 Gaston Cortes, 2 Marc Jones (captain), 1 Ryan Bevington
Replacements: 16 Max Crumpton, 17 Jack O’Connell, 18 Jamal Ford-Robinson, 19 Jordan Crane, 20 Nick Fenton-Wells, 21 Rhodri Williams, 22 Jack Tovey, 23 Luke Arscott
Gloucester: 15 Tom Marshall, 14 Jonny May, 13 Henry Trinder, 12 Andy Symons, 11 David Halaifonua, 10 Billy Burns, 9 Willi Heinz (captain), 8 Ben Morgan, 7 Jacob Rowan, 6 Sione Kalamafoni, 5 Jeremy Thrush, 4 Tom Savage, 3 Josh Hohneck, 2 Richard Hibbard, 1 Paddy McAllister,
Replacements: 16 Motu Matu’u, 17 Yann Thomas, 18 Paul Doran-Jones, 19 Tom Denton, 20 Lewis Ludlow, 21 Callum Braley, 22 Billy Twelvetrees, 23 Charlie Sharples.
Referee: JP Doyle
Assistant Referees: Jack Makepeace, Ross Campbell
TMO: Rowan Kitt
Saturday, March 25:
Harlequins v Newcastle Falcons
(Twickenham Stoop - Kick-off: 15.00; 15.00 GMT)
Harlequins have lost their last three matches at the Twickenham Stoop in all tournaments, against Edinburgh in the European Challenge Cup, Sale in the Anglo-Welsh Cup and Leicester in Premiership Rugby. The Leicester defeat spoilt their perfect run of seven home wins out seven in Premiership Rugby this season.
Newcastle Falcons only win in the last four rounds of Premiership Rugby was 46-31 at home to Northampton Saints in round 15. The Tynesiders’ two away wins in Premiership Rugby this season were at Gloucester in round four and Northampton in round nine.
The Falcons have lost just one of their last four fixtures with Harlequins, 25-46 at Twickenham Stoop in this equivalent fixture in round 19 last year. Newcastle have not been victorious at The Stoop in Premiership Rugby since winning 20-18 in September 2000.
Harlequins: 15 Mike Brown, 14 Marland Yarde, 13 Joe Marchant, 12 Jamie Roberts, 11 Tim Visser, 10 Nick Evans, 9 Danny Care, 8 Mat Luamanu, 7 Dave Ward (captain), 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 Charlie Matthews, 20 Jack Clifford, 21 Charlie Mulchrone, 22 Tim Swiel, 23 Alofa Alofa
Newcastle Falcons: 15 Alex Tait, 14 Vereniki Goneva, 13 Dominic Waldouck, 12 Juan Pablo Socino, 11 Sinoti Sinoti, 10 Joel Hodgson, 9 Sonatane Takulua, 8 Nili Latu, 7 Will Welch (captain), 6 Callum Chick, 5 Mark Wilson, 4 Calum Green, 3 Jon Welsh, 2 Scott Lawson, 1 Rob Vickers
Replacements: 16 Ben Sowrey, 17 Ben Harris, 18 David Wilson, 19 Evan Olmstead, 20 Ally Hogg, 21 Michael Young, 22 Mike Delany, 23 Chris Harris
Referee: Tom Foley
Assistant referees: Hamish Smales, Adam Leal
TMO: Keith Lewis
Northampton Saints v Leicester Tigers
(Franklin’s Gardens - Kick-off: 15.00; 15.00 GMT)
Northampton Saints have lost just two of their last seven Premiership Rugby encounters, both away from home, to Bath and Newcastle Falcons in rounds 14 and 15 respectively.
The Saints have won their last five matches at Franklin’s Gardens in all tournaments since Leinster beat them there in the European Champions Cup in December, whilst their most recent loss at the venue in Premiership Rugby was to Newcastle in round nine.
Leicester Tigers have lost just one of their last six first team matches, 15-34 at home to Exeter Chiefs in Premiership Rugby on March 3. Leicester have won their last two away games, at Harlequins in Premiership Rugby and at Saracens in the semi-final of the Anglo-Welsh Cup (the final being on neutral ground), and have not won three away games in a row since December 2015.
The Tigers have won their last six matches against the Saints in all tournaments since their 19-23 reversal at Franklin’s Gardens in Premiership Rugby in December 2014 – although just one of those victories was played in Northampton.
Northampton Saints: 15 Ahsee Tuala, 14 Ben Foden, 13 Nafi Tuitavake, 12 Harry Mallinder, 11 George North, 10 Stephen Myler, 9 Nic Groom, 8 Louis Picamoles, 7 Calum Clark, 6 Tom Wood (captain), 5 Christian Day, 4 Courtney Lawes, 3 Kieran Brookes, 2 Dylan Hartley, 1 Alex Waller
Replacements: 16 Mikey Haywood, 17 Ethan Waller, 18 Paul Hill, 19 Jamie Gibson, 20 Teimana Harrison, 21 Lee Dickson, 22 Luther Burrell, 23 Ken Pisi
Leicester Tigers: 15 Telusa Veainu, 14 Adam Thompstone, 13 Mathew Tait, 12 Maxime Mermoz, 11 J P Pietersen, 10 Freddie Burns, 9 Ben Youngs, 8 Luke Hamilton, 7 Brendon O’Connor, 6 Mike Fitzgerald, 5 Graham Kitchener, 4 Dom Barrow, 3 Dan Cole, 2 Tom Youngs (captain), 1 Ellis Genge
Replacements: 16 George McGuigan, 17 Michele Rizzo, 18 Pat Cilliers, 19 Mike Williams, 20 Lachlan McCaffrey, 21 Ben White, 22 Owen Williams, 23 Jack Roberts
Referee: Greg M Garner
Assistant referees: Andrew P Jackson, Roy Maybank
TMO: Stuart Terheege
Exeter Chiefs v Sale Sharks
(Sandy Park - Kick-off: 15.00; 15.00 GMT)
Exeter Chiefs are unbeaten in the last ten rounds of Premiership Rugby since their 10-13 loss at home to Bath Rugby on October 30 – a sequence which has seen two draws. The Chiefs most recent defeat at Sandy Park was to Bordeaux in the European Champions Cup on December 11.
Sale Sharks have lost their last two Premiership Rugby matches, at Saracens and at home to Northampton. The Sharks only away win in Premiership Rugby this season came on a trip to Bristol in round sevens.
Exeter have lost just one of their last four fixtures against The Sharks, 17-23 at AJ Bell Stadium in February 2015, whilst Sharks solitary victory at Sandy Park was 55-12 in April 2014.
Exeter Chiefs: 15 Phil Dollman, 14 Jack Nowell, 13 Ian Whitten, 12 Ollie Devoto, 11 Olly Woodburn, 10 Henry Slade, 9 Stuart Townsend, 8 Thomas Waldrom, 7 Don Armand (captain), 6 Kai Horstmann, 5 Geoff Parling, 4 Mitch Lees, 3 Harry Williams, 2 Luke Cowan-Dickie, 1 Ben Moon
Replacements: 16 Jack Yeandle, 17 Carl Rimmer, 18 Tomas Francis, 19 Jonny Hill, 20 Sam Simmonds, 21 Jack Maunder, 22 Joe Simmonds, 23 James Short
Sale Sharks: 15 Mike Haley, 14 Denny Solomona, 13 Sam James, 12 Mark Jennings, 11 Byron McGuigan, 10 AJ MacGinty, 9 Mike Phillips, 8 Josh Beaumont (captain), 7 Tom Curry, 6 Cameron Neild, 5 Andrei Ostrikov, 4 Bryn Evans, 3 Halani Aulika, 2 Rob Webber, 1 Ross Harrison
Replacements: 16 Ben Curry, 17 James Flynn, 18 Kieran Longbottom, 19 George Nott, 20 Laurence Pearce, 21 Peter Stringer, 22 Sam Bedlow, 23 Josh Charnley
Referee: Craig Maxwell-Keys
Assistant referees: Anthony Woodthorpe, Paul Burton
TMO: Geoff Warren
Sunday, March 26:
Wasps v Worcester Warriors
(Ricoh Arena - Kick-off: 14.30; 14.30 GMT)
Wasps have lost just one of their last nine Premiership Rugby fixtures, 28-34 at Sale in round 15. Wasps only defeat at Ricoh Arena in any competition since Saracens won there in December 2015 was to Ospreys in the Anglo-Welsh Cup in February.
Worcester Warriors have doubled their tally of Premiership Rugby victories this season in the four games since Gary Gold has been the head coach. The Warriors only victory on the road in the past twelve months was on a visit to Cardiff Blues in the Anglo-Welsh Cup on February 4.
Wasps have won their last five Premiership Rugby matches against Worcester since the Warriors 29-23 victory at Sixways four years ago. Worcester have not won on Wasps soil since a 6-0 victory at Adams Park on New Year’s Day 2012.
Wasps: 15 Kurtley Beale, 14 Christian Wade, 13 Alapati Leiua, 12 Jimmy Gopperth, 11 Willie Le Roux, 10 Danny Cipriani, 9 Dan Robson, 8 Alex Rieder, 7 Thomas Young, 6 James Haskell, 5 Kearnan Myall, 4 Will Rowlands, 3 Marty Moore, 2 Ashley Johnson (captain), 1 Simon McIntyre
Replacements: 16 Tom Cruse, 17 Matt Mullan, 18 Jake Cooper-Woolley, 19 Matt Symons, 20 Guy Thompson, 21 Joe Simpson, 22 Brendan Macken, 23 Josh Bassett
Worcester Warriors: 15 Chris Pennell, 14 Bryce Heem, 13 Wynand Olivier, 12 Jackson Willison, 11 Josh Adams, 10 Ryan Mills, 9 Francois Hougaard, 8 Marco Mama, 7 Sam Lewis, 6 Chris Vui, 5 Will Spencer, 4 Donncha O’Callaghan (captain), 3 Nick Schonert, 2 Joe Taufete’e, 1 Val Rapava Ruskin
Replacements: 16 Jaba Bregvadze, 17 Ryan Bower, 18 Biyi Alo, 19 Phil Dowson, 20 Dewald Potgieter, 21 Luke Baldwin, 22 Ryan Lamb, 23 Dean Hammond
Referee: Luke Pearce
Assistant referees: Ian Tempest, Simon McConnell
TMO: David Grashoff
Saracens v Bath Rugby
(Allianz Park - Kick-off: 15.00; 15.00 GMT)
Saracens have won their last two Premiership Rugby matches, against Sale and Newcastle Falcons, to end a three-game winless run in the competition. Saracens have not been defeated at Allianz Park in Premiership Rugby since Northampton Saints were the visitors in March 2016.
Bath Rugby have slipped to two successive defeats in Premiership Rugby, at Bristol and at home to Wasps. Bath’s only away victory since beating Exeter at Sandy Park in October was on a trip to Bristol in the European Challenge Cup on January 13.
Bath beat Saracens 14-11 at the Recreation Ground in round 10 but have not won successive contests with the Londoners since 2004. Bath have not been successful on Saracens “soil” since a 16-14 victory at Vicarage Road in Premiership Rugby in February 2010.
Saracens: 15 Alex Goode, 14 Chris Ashton, 13 Marcelo Bosch, 12 Brad Barritt (captain), 11 Sean Maitland, 10 Owen Farrell, 9 Richard Wigglesworth, 8 Billy Vunipola, 7 Jackson Wray, 6 Michael Rhodes, 5 Jim Hamilton, 4 Maro Itoje, 3 Juan Figallo, 2 Jamie George, 1 Mako Vunipola
Replacements: 16 Schalk Brits, 17 Titi Lamositele, 18 Vincent Koch, 19 Kelly Brown, 20 Joel Conlon, 21 Henry Taylor, 22 Alex Lozowski, 23 Duncan Taylor
Bath: 15 Anthony Watson, 14 Semesa Rokoduguni, 13 Jonathan Joseph, 12 Ben Tapuai, 11 Matt Banahan, 10 George Ford, 9 Kahn Fotuali’i, 8 Taulupe Faletau, 7 Francois Louw , 6 Tom Ellis, 5 Luke Charteris, 4 Charlie Ewels, 3 Max Lahiff, 2 Ross Batty, 1 Nathan Catt
Replacements: 16 Chris Brooker, 17 Beno Obano, 18 Kane Palma-Newport, 19 Elliott Stooke, 20 Paul Grant, 21 Chris Cook, 22 Adam Hastings, 23 Jack Wilson
Referee: Wayne Barnes
Assistant referees: Tom Foley, Paul Dix
TMO: Graham Hughes