Preview: Premiership, Round One
NEW CHALLENGES: As the Premiership season kick-off in full-steam, one man who can't wait to take charge of his first Premiership match is the ever-ready Gloucester head coach Johan Ackermann.
Ackermann joined Gloucester last month after he guided the Lions to this year’s Super Rugby Final.
The South African - who replaced former Brumbies coach Laurie Fischer - admitted that he’s very much looking forward to his first Premiership game at Kingsholm.
"It’s going to be a great experience for myself, I had a bit of a taste of it last Friday, but the real McCoy is this Friday.
"Hopefully it’s a sold out stadium and I can’t wait to experience the atmosphere I’ve heard all about,"
And, talking about the prospect of taking on the defending champions in the first round, Ackermann said: "We’ve had a good look at them and they’re obviously a quality team, I’ve the utmost respect for what they’ve achieved. They’re a quality side, very close, work extremely hard and are a physical side.
"It’s a great challenge but this is why we play the game, to test yourself constantly at the highest level. Playing against Exeter, as the defending champions in the first round, is a great start and we’ll know where we are.
"But you can only control what you can control. We can control our own mindset and how we pitch up on Friday. We need to focus on ourselves and what we do although we will respect the opposition,"
We take a look at all the Round one action!
Friday, September 1
Gloucester v Exeter Chiefs
(Kingshold - Kick-off: 19.45; 18.45 GMT)
Gloucester Rugby concluded last season with three defeats in all tournaments including a loss in the European Challenge Cup final to Stade Francais at BT Murrayfield. Gloucester’s only victory in round one in the last seven seasons came at Newcastle in 2015.
Reigning Premiership Rugby champions Exeter Chiefs are unbeaten in their last 17 fixtures in the competition, and if they avoid defeat tonight will break Leicester Tigers previous record of unbeaten games set between 1999-2000. The Chiefs most recent defeat in the tournament was at home to Bath at the end of October. The Devonians have won just once on the opening weekend in the past four seasons: 52-0 at London Welsh in 2014.
The last seven fixtures between the two clubs in Premiership Rugby are evenly split with three wins apiece plus a draw. The Chiefs have won on three of their last five visits to Kingsholm in the competition.
Gloucester: 15 Jason Woodward, 14 Ollie Thorley, 13 Andy Symons, 12 Mark Atkinson, 11 Henry Purdy, 10 Billy Burns, 9 Willi Heinz (captain), 8 Ben Morgan, 7 Jacob Rowan, 6 Lewis Ludlow, 5 Jeremy Thrush, 4 Tom Savage, 3 Fraser Balmain, 2 Richard Hibbard, 1 John Afoa
Replacements: 16 Motu Matu'u, 17 Josh Hohneck, 18 Gareth Denman, 19 Ed Slater, 20 Ruan Ackermann, 21 Ben Vellacott, 22 Billy Twelvetrees, 22 Matt Scott
Exeter: 15 Phil Dollman, 14 Olly Woodburn, 13 Henry Slade, 12 Ian Whitten, 11 Max Bodilly, 10 Gareth Steenson, 9 Nic White, 8 Sam Simmonds, 7 Don Armand, 6 Dave Dennis, 5 Jonny Hill, 4 Ollie Atkins, 3 Harry Williams, 2 Jack Yeandle (captain), 1 Ben Moon
Replacements: 16 Elvis Taione, 17 Carl Rimmer, 18 Tomas Francis, 19 Sam Skinner, 20 Matt Kvesic, 21 Jack Maunder, 22 Jack Nowell, 23 Lachie Turner
Referee: Matthew Carley
Assistant referees: Paul Dix, Jonathan Healy
TMO: Sean Davey
Newcastle Falcons v Worcester Warriors
(Kingston Park - Kick-off: 19.45; 18.45 GMT)
Dean Richards begins his 15th season leading a Premiership Rugby club, the tournament’s most experienced head coach has been in charge for 294 Premiership Rugby matches since his first with Leicester Tigers in 1998.
Newcastle Falcons finished the 2016/17 campaign in the 8th spot having won three of their last four matches. The Falcons beat Sale in round 1 last season – their first victory on the opening weekend since 2007.
Worcester Warriors only victory in the last five rounds of Premiership Rugby in 2016/17 was 25-19 at home to Bath on April 15. Warriors have not won away from home in the competition since a trip to Harlequins in March 2016.
Newcastle’s 16-14 victory over Worcester in their most recent meeting at Kingston Park in April ended a four game losing run to the Warriors, whilst Worcester’s record at Kingston Park in Premiership Rugby is won three, drawn two, lost five.
Newcastle: 15 Simon Hammersley, 14 Alex Tait, 13 Chris Harris, 12 Josh Matavesi, 11 Belisario Agulla, 10 Joel Hodgson, 9 Sonatane Takulua, 8 Callum Chick, 7 Will Welch (captain), 6 Mark Wilson, 5 Will Witty, 4 Calum Green, 3 Jon Welsh, 2 Kyle Cooper, 1 Rob Vickers
Replacements: 16 Scott Lawson, 17 Sami Mavinga, 18 Trevor Davison, 19 Tevita Cavubati, 20 Nili Latu, 21 Sam Stuart, 22 Craig Willis, 23 Juan Pablo Socino
Worcester: 15 Josh Adams, 14 Dean Hammond, 13 Wynand Olivier, 12 Jackson Willison, 11 Bryce Heem, 10 Tom Heathcote, 9 Jonny Arr, 8 GJ van Velze, 7 Sam Lewis, 6 Matt Cox, 5 Will Spencer, 4 Donnacha O'Callaghan (captain), 3 Nick Schonert, 2 Jack Singleton, 1 Ryan Bower
Replacements: 16 Joe Taufete'e, 17 Ethan Waller, 18 Biyi Alo, 19 Pierce Phillips, 20 Alafoti Faosiliva, 21 Peter Stringer, 22 Sam Olver, 23 Ben Te'o
Referee: Wayne Barnes
Assistant referees: Adam Leal, Wayne Falla
TMO: Rowan Kitt
Saturday, September 2
Saracens v Northampton Saints
(Twickenham Stadium - Kick-off: 14.00; 13.00 GMT)
Saracens have lost their last two Premiership Rugby matches, at Wasps in round 22 and at Exeter in last season’s semifinal. They have not lost three in a row in the tournament since March 2010 - ten months before Mark McCall took over as head coach. Saracens have won on their last five visits to Twickenham Stadium since Northampton beat them there in the 2014 Premiership Rugby final. They have not lost in the London double-header since 2011.
Northampton Saints finished the 2016-17 season with three straight victories, against Harlequins in round 22 than winning both playoff fixtures, against Connacht and Stade Francais, to gain a place in this season’s Champions Cup.
Northampton have made three previous visits to Twickenham in Premiership Rugby, losing there to Leicester in 2013 final, beating Saracens in the following year’s final and overcoming Harlequins in the ‘Big Game’ in December 2014. The Saints have been defeated in round 1 in the past two seasons.
Saracens only defeat to Northampton in their last six fixtures in all competitions was 15-20 at Allianz Park in Premiership Rugby in March 2016.
Saracens: 15 Alex Goode, 14 Sean Maitland, 13 Duncan Taylor, 12 Brad Barritt (captain), 11 Nathan Earle, 10 Alex Lozowski, 9 Richard Wigglesworth, 8 Jackson Wray, 7 Schalk Burger, 6 Maro Itoje, 5 George Kruis, 4 Dominic Day, 3 Vincent Koch, 2 Schalk Brits, 1 Richard Barrington.
Replacements: 16 Scott Spurling, 17 Hayden Thompson-Stringer, 18 Juan Figallo, 19 Nick Isiekwe, 20 Michael Rhodes, 21 Ben Spencer, 22 Marcelo Bosch, 23 Chris Wyles.
Northampton Saints: 15 Ahsee Tuala, 14 Ben Foden, 13 Nafi Tuitavake, 12 Luther Burrell, 11 Tom Collins, 10 Harry Mallinder, 9 Nic Groom, 8 Mitch Eadie, 7 Lewis Ludlam, 6 Tom Wood, 5 Christian Day, 4 Courtney Lawes, 3 Kieran Brookes, 2 Dylan Hartley (captain), 1 Alex Waller.
Replacements: 16 Mikey Haywood, 17 Campese Ma’afu, 18 Paul Hill, 19 David Ribbans, 20 Jamie Gibson, 21 Alex Mitchell, 22 James Grayson, 23 Ken Pisi.
Referee: Craig Maxwell-Keys
Assistant referees: Jack Makepeace, Roy Maybank
TMO: Geoffrey Warren
Wasps v Sale Sharks
(Ricoh Arena - Kick-off: 15.00, 14.00 GMT)
Wasps topped the Premiership Rugby table last season leading the way from round 12 onwards but eventually lost out to Exeter Chiefs in extra time of a thrilling Premiership Rugby final.
Wasps have won their last 19 Premiership Rugby fixtures at the Ricoh Arena – comfortably the club’s best ever sequence of wins at home. Wasps beat Exeter at the Ricoh Arena in round 1 last season to end an unwanted run of four successive defeats on the opening weekend.
Sale Sharks finished in 10th spot in Premiership Rugby last season, beating Bath at AJ Bell Stadium in round 22. Sale’s only away win in the tournament last season came at relegated Bristol at the end of October, whilst their only victory in round 1 in the last six seasons was at Gloucester in 2013.
The last six meetings between the two clubs in Premiership Rugby have been evenly shared with three wins each. The Sharks most recent victory on Wasps’ soil was 21-17 at Adams Park in March 2014.
Wasps: 15 Willie Le Roux, 14 Christian Wade, 13 Gaby Lovobalavu, 12 Jimmy Gopperth, 11 Josh Bassett, 10 Danny Cipriani, 9 Dan Robson, 8 Nathan Hughes, 7 Alex Rieder, 6 Ashley Johnson, 5 Kearnan Myall, 4 Joe Launchbury (captain), 3 Jake Cooper-Woolley, 2 Tom Cruse, 1 Simon McIntyre.
Replacements: 16 Will Rowlands, 17 Matt Mullan, 18 Marty Moore, 19 Matt Symons, 20 Jack Willis, 21 Joe Simpson, 22 Juan De Jongh, 23 Marcus Watson.
Sale Sharks: 15 Mike Haley, 14 Denny Solomona, 13 Will Addison, 12 Sam James, 11 Byron McGuigan, 10 AJ MacGinty, 9 Francois de Klerk, 8 Josh Strauss, 7 Ben Curry, 6 Jono Ross, 5 Josh Beaumont, 4 Bryan Evans, 3 Halani Aulika, 2 Rob Webber, 1 Ross Harrison.
Replacements: 16 Marc Jones, 17 James Flynn, 18 Alex Tarus, 19 Andrei Ostrikov, 20 TJ Ioane, 21 Tom Curry, 22 Will Cliff, 23 Mark Jennings.
Referee: JP Doyle
Assistant referees: Paul Burton, Michael Hudson
TMO: David Sainsbury
London Irish v Harlequins
(Twickenham Stadium - Kick-off: 16.45, 15.45 GMT)
London Irish return to the Premiership after just one season’s absence playing in the Championship. The Exiles have lost on their last seven visits to Twickenham Stadium since beating Saracens there in the London double header in 2010, the most recent occasion time they have won in round 1 of Premiership Rugby.
Harlequins finished in 6th spot last year but their only win in the last four rounds was 32-13 at home to Wasps at the end of April. ‘Quins only defeat in their last ten visits to Twickenham was to Northampton in the 2014 ‘Big Game’. The only time that Harlequins have been defeated on the opening weekend since 2006 was against Wasps in the 2009 London double header.
Harlequins have lost only one of their last twelve encounters with London Irish in all competitions: 13-18 at Madejski Stadium in Premiership Rugby in October 2013. The two clubs have met on seven previous occasions at Twickenham (five in London double-headers), with the Exiles only two wins coming on their first two encounters in 2004 and 2006.
London Irish: 15 Tommy Bell, 14 Alex Lewington, 13 Ciaran Hearn, 12 Fergus Mulchrone, 11 Topsy Ojo, 10 James Marshall, 9 Scott Steele, 8 Ofisa Treviranus, 7 Blair Cowan, 6 Mike Coman, 5 Sebastian De Chaves, 4 Franco van der Merwe, 3 Petrus Du Plessis, 2 David Paice (captain), 1 Danny Hobbs-Awoyemi.
Replacements: 16 Dave Porecki, 17 Gordon Reid, 18 Ben Franks, 19 Josh McNally, 20 Conor Gilsenan, 21 Brendan McKibbin, 22 Greig Tonks, 23 Aseli Tikoirotuma.
Harlequins: 15 Mike Brown, 14 Marland Yarde, 13 Joe Marchant, 12 Jamie Roberts, 11 Charlie Walker, 10 Marcus Smith, 9 Danny Care, 8 Jack Clifford, 7 Dave Ward, 6 Chris Robshaw, 5 James Horwill (captain), 4 Ben Glynn, 3 Will Collier, 2 Rob Buchanan, 1 Joe Marler.
Replacements: 16 Joe Gray, 17 Mark Lambert, 18 Kyle Sinckler, 19 George Merrick, 20 Mat Luamanu, 21 Charlie Mulchrone, 22 Demetri Catrakilis, 23 Winston Stanley.
Referee: Tom Foley
Assistant referees: Hamish Smales, Nigel Carrick
TMO: Roy Marfleet
Sunday, September 3
Leicester Tigers v Bath Rugby
(Welford Road - Kick-off: 15.00; 14.00 GMT)
Leicester Tigers lost out to Wasps by the narrowest of margins in last season’s Premiership Rugby semi-final at the Ricoh Arena after finishing 4th in the league table. Tigers only defeat at Welford Road in the competition since New Year’s Day was to Exeter Chiefs at the beginning of March Leicester Tigers have begun a new campaign with a victory in round 1 for the past five seasons, since Chiefs won 30-28 at Welford Road in the opening weekend in 2011.
Bath Rugby finished last season in 5th place in the table but won just twice in the last seven rounds, against Leicester at Twickenham and Gloucester at the Recreation Ground. Bath’s only round 1 loss since 2006 came at Gloucester in 2009.
The last six meetings between the two clubs in Premiership Rugby are evenly split with three wins apiece, whilst Bath’s only victory at Welford Road in Premiership Rugby was 13-12 in November 2003.
Leicester Tigers: 15 Telusa Veainu, 14 Nick Malouf, 13 Manu Tuilagi, 12 Matt Toomua, 11 Jonny May, 10 George Ford, 9 Ben Youngs, 8 Sione Kalamafoni, 7 Brendon O’Connor, 6 Dominic Ryan, 5 Graham Kitchener, 4 Dom Barrow, 3 Logovi’i Mulipola, 2 Tom Youngs (captain), 1 Ellis Genge.
Replacements: 16 Harry Thacker, 17 Greg Bateman, 18 Dan Cole, 19 Mike Williams, 20 Luke Hamilton, 21 Sam Harrison, 22 Joe Ford, 23 Mathew Tait.
Bath: 15 Anthony Watson, 14 Semesa Rokoduguni, 13 Jonathan Joseph, 12 Max Clark, 11 Matt Banahan, 10 Rhys Priestland, 9 Chris Cook, 8 Taulupe Faletau, 7 Francois Louw, 6 Matt Garvey (captain), 5 Elliott Stooke, 4 Luke Charteris, 3 Kane Palma-Newport, 2 Tom Dunn, 1 Beno Obano.
Replacements: 16 Jack Walker, 17 Nick Auterac, 18 Anthony Perenise, 19 James Phillips, 20 Paul Grant, 21 Kahn Fotuali’i, 22 Freddie Burns, 23 Ben Tapuai.
Referee: Luke Pearce
Assistant referees: Anthony Woodthorpe, Simon McConnell
TMO: Graham Hughes