PREVIEW: Premiership, Round Four
REDEMPTION: Just a few short months after Exeter Chiefs’ triumph over Wasps in the Premiership Rugby Final the two teams will meet again in Round Four of the new campaign.
Wasps will be out for revenge after suffering extra-time heartbreak at Twickenham in May with flank James Haskell expecting another close encounter.
Haskell’s side beat the Chiefs 25-20 at the Ricoh Arena last year before an enthralling 35-35 draw at Sandy Park in the reverse fixture in February.
And while Wasps finished top of the pile last term, both sides finished with 84 points, so the result at Sandy Park in Round Four could prove crucial come to the end of the season.
"Playing Exeter in Round Four is huge for the club," said Haskell. "As a player, it’s about just trying to pit yourself against the best and Exeter have been doing that for a long time.
"It will add a little bit more spice to the occasion the fact that we got beaten but we’ve played Exeter so many times in the last few years. You know it’s a big game, you have to raise yourself up.
"To be honest with you, they’ve been so close to winning the final which they managed to achieve last year, over the last couple of years they’re always a team to beat,"
And while Wasps saw their unbeaten home record ended by Harlequins at the weekend, Exeter Chiefs looked in fine form as they beat Worcester Warriors 41-10 at Sixways.
The win leaves the Chiefs a single point above Wasps in the league table as the familiar foes sit, once again, first and second in the Premiership Rugby standings.
"Us and Wasps finished on exactly the same points last season and one or two points is the difference between home semi-final or even a semi-final at all," added Chiefs wing, Jack Nowell.
"I think Wasps in Round four is going to be a big one. Wasps are a quality team, they’ve probably got even stronger from last year the main thing is that every point counts again.
"We like to back ourselves at home so again they’re going to be one of the top teams this season so that’s one of the teams we want to beat,"
We take a look at Round four action!
Friday, September 22
Gloucester Rugby v Worcester Warriors
(Kingsholm - Kick-off: 19.45, 18.45 GMT)
Gloucester Rugby have won just one of their last four Premiership Rugby encounters, over reigning champions Exeter Chiefs at Kingsholm in round 1. Gloucester’s most recent home defeat was also against Exeter, in round 22 last season.
Worcester Warriors have lost their last five Premiership Rugby matches since beating Bath 25-19 at Sixways in April. The Warriors have not won away from home in Premiership Rugby since a visit to Harlequins in March 2016.
The last three encounters between the two clubs have been evenly split with a win apiece plus a draw, whilst Worcester’s only previous victory at Kingsholm was 13-6 in Premiership Rugby in April 2009.
Gloucester: 15 Jason Woodward, 14 Charlie Sharples, 13 Billy Twelvetrees, 12 Mark Atkinson, 11 Ollie Thorley 10 Billy Burns, 9 Willi Heinz (captain), 8 Ruan Ackermann, 7 Jacob Rowan, 6 Freddie Clarke, 5 Jeremy Thrush; 4 Ed Slater, 3 John Afoa, 2 Motu Matu’u, 1 Val Rapava Ruskin.
Replacements: 16 Richard Hibbard, 17 Josh Hohneck, 18 Gareth Denman, 19 Tom Savage, 20 Lewis Ludlow, 21 Ben Vellacott, 22 Henry Trinder, 23 David Halaifonua.
Worcester: 15 Josh Adams, 14 Perry Humphreys, 13 Jackson Willison, 12 Ben Te’o, 11 Bryce Heem, 10 Ryan Mills, 9 Peter Stringer, 8 GJ van Velze, 7 Sam Lewis, 6 Alafoti Faosiliva, 5 Pierce Phillips, 4 Donncha O’Callaghan (captain), 3 Biyi Alo, 2 Jack Singleton, 1 Ryan Bower.
Replacements: 16 Joe Taufete’e, 17 Ethan Waller, 18 Gareth Milasinovich, 19 Christian Scotland-Williamson, 20 David Denton, 21 Jono Kitto, 22 Dean Hammond, 23 Jamie Shillcock.
Referee: Wayne Barnes
Assistant Referees: Adam Leal, Peter Allan.
TMO: Rowan Kitt.
Saturday, September 23
Bath Rugby v Newcastle Falcons
(Recreation Ground - Kick-off: 15.00, 14.00GMT)
Bath Rugby’s record over the last eight rounds of Premiership Rugby is an even, won four lost four, whilst their only defeat at the Recreation Ground in any competition since New Year’s Eve was to Wasps in round 17 of Premiership Rugby.
Newcastle Falcons’ four-game winning run in Premiership Rugby ended in Philadelphia on Saturday with their 7-29 reversal to Saracens. The Falcons have won their last two away games at Bristol and at Sale, but have not won three in a row on the road since 2013.
The last four encounters between the two clubs in Premiership Rugby have all been won by the home side on the day, whilst the Falcons have not won in Bath since October 2009.
Newcastle Falcons: TBC
Referee: Craig Maxwell-Keys
Assistant Referees: Anthony Woodthorpe, Roy Maybank.
TMO: David Sainsbury.
Harlequins v Leicester Tigers
(Twickenham Stoop - Kick-off: 15.00, 14.00GMT)
Harlequins have won their last two Premiership Rugby matches, against Gloucester and Wasps, but have not won three in a row in the tournament since May 2014. Quins lost just twice at the Twickenham Stoop last season in Premiership Rugby, against Leicester and Exeter.
Leicester Tigers ended a three-game losing run in Premiership Rugby with their 24-10 victory over Gloucester at Welford Road on Saturday. The Tigers record on the road in Premiership Rugby last season was won six, lost five.
Tigers achieved the season’s double over Harlequins last year for the first time since 2010/11. Leicester have not won three games in succession against the Londoners since 2008 and have won on their last two visits to the Twickenham Stoop, against Harlequins in February and Exeter in the final of the Anglo-Welsh Cup in March.
Leicester Tigers: TBC
Referee: Ian Tempest
Assistant Referees: Hamish Smales, Jonathan Healy.
TMO: Geoffrey Warren.
Saracens v Sale Sharks
(Allianz Park - Kick-off: 15.00, 14.00GMT)
Saracens last six matches in all competitions have been evenly split with three wins and three defeats. Saracens have lost just one of their last 24 home games in all competitions at all their home venues; 10-32 to Leicester in the semi-final of the Anglo-Welsh Cup in March – their most recent defeat at home in Premiership Rugby was to Northampton at Allianz Park in March 2016.
Sale Sharks have gained just three victories in their last seven Aviva Premiership Rugby contests but tallied four-try bonus points in that sequence. Sale have won just once away from home in Premiership Rugby in May 2016: 31-13 at relegated Bristol last October.
Saracens are unbeaten in their last six matches against Sale, whilst the Sharks only victory in their last twelve fixtures with Saracens was 14-10 at AJ Bell Stadium in February 2015. Sale have won only once on Saracens soil in Premiership Rugby history: 40-32 at Vicarage Road in September 2005.
Sale Sharks: TBC
Referee: Thomas Foley
Assistant Referees: Tim Wigglesworth, Paul Dix.
TMO: David Grashoff.
Sunday, September 24
Exeter Chiefs v Wasps
(Sandy Park - Kick-off: 15.00, 14.00GMT)
Exeter Chiefs only defeat in Premiership Rugby since last October was 21-28 at Gloucester on the opening evening of the new season. The Chiefs have not been defeated at Sandy Park in the competition since Bath were the visitors in round 7 last season.
Wasps lost their 100% winning record with their home defeat to Harlequins on Sunday but have lost only two of their last eight away games in Premiership Rugby – at Sale and at Harlequins.
Exeter have lost just one of their last six encounters with Wasps in Premiership Rugby: 20-25 at the Ricoh Arena in September 2016. Wasps have never won in ten previous visits to Sandy Park in all tournaments, although they did draw there 35-all in round 14 last season.
Exeter Chiefs: TBC
Referee: JP Doyle
Assistant Referees: Christophe Ridley, Simon McConnell.
TMO: Graham Hughes.
London Irish v Northampton Saints
(Madejski Stadium - Kick-off: 15.00, 14.00 GMT)
London Irish have lost their last two Premiership Rugby matches 7-37 at Exeter and 7-36 at Sale.
The Exiles have won their last three matches at Madejski Stadium since Jersey beat them there in the
semi-final of last year’s British & Irish Cup.
Northampton Saints have lost only one of their last four Premiership Rugby matches: 24-55 to Saracens at Twickenham in the London doubleheader. The Saints have lost their last three away games in the competition.
The East Midlanders’ only loss in their last seven encounters with London Irish in Premiership Rugby
was 23-25 on their most recent visit to Reading on Boxing Day 2015.
London Irish: TBC
Northampton Saints: TBC
Referee: Luke Pearce (64th Premiership game).
Assistant Referees: Jack Makepeace, Greg Macdonald.
TMO: Sean Davey.