Preview: Premiership, Round 11
WITH CHRISTMAS SPECIAL VIDEO: We are approaching the halfway stage in Premiership with just four points separating five teams near the top of the table, ensuring the picture could change completely over the course of the Christmas and New Year weekends.
We kick off Round 11 at Sixways with a match that could have huge significance at the bottom of the table, followed by four matches on Saturday and another sell-out crowd at Sandy Park finishing off a compelling weekend of Premiership action.
We look at all the Round 11 action!
Friday, December 22
Worcester Warriors v London Irish
(Sixways - Kick-off: 07.45; 07.45 GMT)
Worcester Warriors have won two of their last three Premiership matches, at home to Northampton and away at Leicester.
The Warriors beat Oyonnax 35-14 in their most recent fixture at Sixways, although they were beaten there 14-18 by Sale in their Round 10 Premiership match.
London Irish have won only once in any competition since the opening weekend of the 2017-18 season: 44-7 over Stade Francais in Paris in Round Two of the European Challenge Cup.
The Exiles have not won away from home in Premiership since a trip to Oxford to take on London Welsh in February 2015.
The Warriors won their most recent encounter with London Irish 12-6 at Sixways in March 2016 to end a run of five successive Exiles victories in this fixture.
Worcester: 15 Chris Pennell, 14 Bryce Heem, 13 Jackson Willison, 12 Ryan Mills, 11 Josh Adams, 10 Jono Lance, 9 Francois Hougaard, 8 Gerrit-Jan van Velze, 7 Sam Lewis, 6 David Denton, 5 Will Spencer, 4 Donncha O'Callaghan (captain), 3 Nick Schonert, 2 Jack Singleton, 1 Ethan Waller.
Replacements: 16 Joe Taufete'e, 17 Ryan Bower, 18 Gareth Milasinovich, 19 Darren Barry, 20 Alafoti Faosiliva, 21 Michael Dowsett, 22 Sam Olver, 23 Perry Humphreys.
London Irish: 15 Greig Tonks, 14 Joe Cokanasiga, 13 Fergus Mulchrone (captain), 12 Luke McLean, 11 Alex Lewington, 10 James Marshall, 9 Ben Meehan, 8 Ofisa Treviranus, 7 Blair Cowan, 6 Mike Coman, 5 Teofilo Paulo, 4 Franco van der Merwe, 3 Petrus Du Plessis, 2 Saia Fainga'a, 1 Ben Franks.
Replacements: 16 Tom Woolstencroft, 17 Gordon Reid, 18 Lovejoy Chawatama, 19 Sebastian De Chaves, 20 Max Northcote-Green, 21 Scott Steele, 22 Tommy Bell, 23 Aseli Tikoirotuma.
Referee: Wayne Barnes
Assistant referees: JP Doyle & Paul Dix
TMO: Stuart Terheege
Saturday, December 23
Newcastle Falcons v Harlequins
(Kingston Park - Kick-off: 15.00; 15.00 GMT)
Newcastle Falcons have won their last three matches in all tournaments since their 7-29 reversal at home to Gloucester in Round Nine of Premiership.
The Falcons have lost three of their last four Premiership fixtures at Kingston Park.
Harlequins 20-19 victory over Saracens at Twickenham Stoop in Round 10 of Premiership ended a two game losing run in the competition.
The Londoners last six matches in the tournament have all been won by the home side on the day, whilst Quins only away win in Premiership this season was at Wasps in Round Three.
The last seven encounters between the two clubs have gone the way of home field advantage.
Harlequins most recent success at Kingston Park was 35-9 on 1 December 2013.
Newcastle Falcons: 15 Simon Hammersley, 14 Vereniki Goneva, 13 Chris Harris, 12 Juan Pablo Socino, 11 Sinoti Sinoti, 10 Toby Flood, 9 Sonatane Takulua, 8 Nili Latu, 7 Gary Graham, 6 Mark Wilson (captain), 5 Will Witty, 4 Calum Green, 3 Jon Welsh, 2 Kyle Cooper, 1 Rob Vickers.
Replacements: 16 Ben Sowrey, 17 Sam Lockwood, 18 Scott Wilson, 19 Sean Robinson, 20 Ryan Burrows, 21 Michael Young, 22 Joel Hodgson, 23 Alex Tait.
Harlequins: 15 Mike Brown, 14 Charlie Walker, 13 Alofa Alofa, 12 Jamie Roberts, 11 Tim Visser, 10 Marcus Smith, 9 Jono Kitto, 8 Renaldo Bothma, 7 Chris Robshaw, 6 James Chisholm, 5 Ben Glynn, 4 George Merrick, 3 Kyle Sinckler, 2 Dave Ward (captain), 1 Joe Marler.
Replacements: 16 Charlie Piper, 17 Lewis Boyce, 18 Phil Swainston, 19 Charlie Matthews, 20 Mat Luamanu, 21 Dave Lewis, 22 James Lang, 23 Henry Cheeseman
Referee: Luke Pearce
Assistant referees: Hamish Smales & John Meredith
TMO: Graham Hughes
Northampton Saints v Exeter Chiefs
(Franklin's Gardens - Kick-off: 15.00; 15.00 GMT)
Northampton Saints play their first Premiership match in over a decade without Jim Mallinder at the helm, having lost their last five matches in the competition since beating Harlequins 3022 at Franklin's Gardens at the end of September.
Exeter Chiefs were defeated home and away by Leinster in the European Champions Cup to end a nine game winning run in all competitions since their 13-20 loss at Leicester in Round Five of Premiership.
The two sides have already met in the Anglo-Welsh Cup this season with Exeter triumphant 43-28 last month at Sandy Park.
The Chiefs only previous victory at Franklin's Gardens was 24-18 in Premiership in November 2014.
Northampton Saints: 15 Harry Mallinder, 14 Ahsee Tuala, 13 Rob Horne, 12 Luther Burrell, 11 Ben Foden, 10 Piers Francis, 9 Nic Groom, 8 Teimana Harrison, 7 Jamie Gibson, 6 Courtney Lawes, 5 Api Ratuniyarawa, 4 Michael Paterson, 3 Jamal Ford-Robinson, 2 Dylan Hartley (captain), 1 Campese Ma’afu.
Replacements: 16 Mikey Haywood, 17 Francois van Wyk, 18 Paul Hill, 19 David Ribbans, 20 Tom Wood, 21 Cobus Reinach, 22 Tom Stephenson, 23 Ken Pisi.
Exeter Chiefs: 15 Henry Slade, 14 Jack Nowell, 13 Ian Whitten, 12 Sam Hill, 11 Olly Woodburn, 10 Gareth Steenson (captain), 9 Will Chudley, 8 Sam Simmonds, 7 Don Armand, 6 Dave Ewers, 5 Jonny Hill, 4 Sam Skinner, 3 Harry Williams, 2 Luke Cowan-Dickie, 1 Ben Moon.
Replacements: 16 Jack Yeandle, 17 Carl Rimmer, 18 Greg Holmes, 19 Mitch Lees, 20 Thomas Waldrom, 21 Stuart Townsend, 22 Joe Simmonds, 23 James Short.
Referee: Thomas Foley
Assistant referees: Anthony Woodthorpe & Simon McConnell
TMO: David Grashoff
Sale Sharks v Bath
(AJ Bell Stadium - Kick-off: 15.00; 15.00 GMT)
Sale Sharks three game winning run in all competitions ended at Cardiff Blues last Sunday.
The Sharks have lost just once at AJ Bell Stadium since September: 6-10 to Exeter Chiefs in Premiership on 27 October.
Bath's two Premiership defeats in their last six matches were both to south-west rivals, Gloucester and Exeter.
Bath have slipped to successive away defeats at Exeter in Premiership and at Toulon in the European Champions Cup.
The last five meetings between the two clubs have all been won by the home side on the day whilst Bath's only previous victory at AJ Bell Stadium in Premiership was in September 2014.
Sale Sharks: 15 James O’Connor, 14, Denny Solomona, 13 Sam James, 12 Rohan Janse van Rensburg, 11 Byron McGuigan, 10 AJ MacGinty, 9 Francois de Klerk, 8 Josh Strauss, 7 Ben Curry, 6 Jono Ross (captain), 5 Andrei Ostrikov, 4 Bryn Evans, 3 WillGriff John, 2 Rob Webber, 1 Ross Harrison.
Replacements: 16 Marc Jones, 17 James Flynn, 18 Halani Aulika, 19 George Nott, 20 Cameron Neild, 21 Will Cliff, 22 Mike Haley, 23 Josh Charnley.
Bath: 15 Anthony Watson, 14 Jack Wilson, 13 Matt Banahan, 12 Rhys Priestland, 11 Aled Brew, 10 Freddie Burns, 9 Kahn Fotuali’i, 8 Paul Grant, 7 Francois Louw, 6 Matt Garvey (captain), 5 Elliott Stooke, 4 Charlie Ewels, 3 Henry Thomas, 2 Michael van Vuuren, 1 Lucas Noguera.
Replacements: 16 Nathan Charles, 17 Nick Auterac, 18 Max Lahiff, 19 James Phillips, 20 Zach Mercer, 21 Levi Douglas, 22 Chris Cook, 23 James Wilson.
Referee: Ian Tempest
Assistant referees: Jack Makepeace & Wayne Falla
TMO: Trevor Fisher
Wasps v Gloucester
(Ricoh Arena - Kick-off: 15.00; 15.00 GMT)
Wasps have won their last four Premiership matches since their 19-38 reversal to Saracens at Allianz Park on 8 October.
Wasps have been defeated twice at the Ricoh Arena in Premiership this season, to Harlequins in Round Three and Bath in Round Five.
Gloucester's only loss in their last nine matches in all tournaments was 24-26 at Leicester in the Anglo-Welsh Cup on 4 November.
The Cherry & Whites have won their last five Premiership matches but have not won six in a row in the tournament since 2003.
The last five meetings between the two clubs have all gone with home field advantage whilst Gloucester's only victory on Wasps soil since 2008 was by a single point at Adams Park in Premiership in February 2011.
Wasps: 15 Willie le Roux, 14 Christian Wade, 13 Juan de Jongh, 12 Kyle Eastmond, 11 Josh Bassett, 10 Danny Cipriani, 9 Joe Simpson, 8 Nizaam Carr, 7 Thomas Young, 6 Jack Willis, 5 James Gaskell, 4 Joe Launchbury (captain), 3 Marty Moore, 2 Tom Cruse, 1 Simon McIntyre.
Replacements: 16 Ashley Johnson, 17 Ben Harris, 18 Jake Cooper-Woolley, 19 Kearnan Myall, 20 Guy Thompson, 21 Dan Robson, 22 Rob Miller, 23 Gaby Lovobalavu.
Gloucester: 15 Tom Marshall, 14, Charlie Sharples, 13 Billy Twelvetrees, 12 Mark Atkinson, 11 Ollie Thorley, 10 Billy Burns, 9 Willi Heinz (captain), 8 Ruan Ackermann, 7 Lewis Ludlow, 6 Jake Polledri, 5 Ed Slater, 4 Tom Savage, 3 John Afoa, 2 James Hanson, 1 Paddy McAllister.
Replacements: 16 Richard Hibbard, 17 Cameron Orr, 18 Josh Hohneck, 19 Jeremy Thrush, 20 Freddie Clarke, 21 Ben Vellacott, 22 Owen Williams, 23 Henry Trinder.
Referee: Craig Maxwell-Keys
Assistant referees: Adam Leal & Matthew O'Grady
TMO: Geoff Warren
Sunday, December 24
Leicester Tigers v Saracens
(Welford Road - Kick-off: 15.00; 15.00 GMT)
Leicester Tigers have lost their last two Premiership matches, to Worcester Warriors and Wasps, since beating Sale Sharks 35-27 at Welford Road on 19 November.
Tigers were defeated by Worcester in their most recent Premiership game at Welford Road and have not lost successive games at the venue in the competition for six years.
Saracens have slipped to seven successive defeats in all tournaments, equalling their worst run in the professional era set in 2003.
Saracens have not won away from home since beating Northampton 57-13 in round 1 of the European Champions Cup in October.
Leicester won the most recent encounter between the two clubs in the semifinal of last year's AngloWelsh Cup at Allianz Park, but the Tigers only victory over the Londoners in their last seven meetings in Premiership was 21-13 at Welford Road in March 2016.
Leicester Tigers: 15 Mathew Tait, 14 Adam Thompstone, 13 Manu Tuilagi, 12 Matt Toomua, 11 Jonny May, 10 George Ford, 9 Ben Youngs, 8 Sione Kalamafoni, 7 Mike Williams, 6 Valentino Mapapalangi, 5 Graham Kitchener, 4 Mike Fitzgerald, 3 Dan Cole, 2 Tom Youngs (captain), 1 Logovi’i Mulipola.
Replacements: 16 Tatafu Polota-Nau, 17 Kyle Traynor, 18 Chris Baumann, 19 Harry Wells, 20 Luke Hamilton, 21 Sam Harrison, 22 Joe Ford, 23 Nick Malouf.
Saracens: 15 Alex Goode, 14 Sean Maitland, 13 Marcelo Bosch, 12 Alex Lozowski, 11 Chris Wyles, 10 Owen Farrell, 9 Ben Spencer, 8 Jackson Wray, 7 Schalk Burger, 6 Nick Isiekwe, 5 George Kruis, 4 Will Skelton, 3 Juan Figallo, 2 Jamie George, 1 Mako Vunipola.
Replacements: 16 Christopher Tolofua, 17 Richard Barrington, 18 Vincent Koch, 19 Michael Rhodes, 20 Calum Clark, 21 Tom Whiteley, 22 Nick Tompkins, 23 Nathan Earle.
Referee: Matthew Carley
Assistant referees: Peter Allan & Paul Dix
TMO: Rowan Kitt