PREVIEW: Premiership, Round 16
IN THE SPOTLIGHT: London Irish host in-form Worcester Warriors in the first game of a Sunday Premiership double-header, before Leicester Tigers travel to league-leaders Saracens.
The league's bottom two sides are up first.
Worcester travel to the Madejski Stadium looking to make it three wins on the spin after last weekend's derby victory over Gloucester and an impressive 6-5 win away at defending Champions Exeter Chiefs the week before.
Alan Solomons' men are now within touching distance of Northampton Saints and Harlequins above them as they look to climb the table.
Worcester last met Irish in Round 11, winning 23-8 at Sixways, while Sunday's hosts have not won since the opening day of the season, but three losing bonus points in their last four games gives them cause for optimism.
Meanwhile, Saracens are looking to maintain their lead at the top of the table, after moving ahead of Exeter last weekend.
Saracens triumphed at Welford Road in December, beating Leicester 29-17 and will be looking to repeat that performance on Sunday.
Leicester come into this game off the back of a 33-18 win over Harlequins and need to win to keep up their hopes of making the semifinals.
We take a look at all the Round 16 action!
Saturday, February 24:
Exeter Chiefs v Northampton Saints
(Sandy Park, Exeter - Kick-off: 14.00; 14.00 GMT)
Exeter Chiefs have slipped to three straight defeats in the Premiership but have not lost four in a row since 2014-15.
The Chiefs tripped up at home to Worcester in Round 14 and have not been defeated in successive matches at Sandy Park in the tournament since the end of the 2013-14 campaign.
Northampton Saints last four games in the Premiership have all been won by the home side on the day, whilst the Saints' only away victory in the tournament since last March came on a trip to London Irish at the end of September.
The Saints most recent victory over the Chiefs was by a solitary point at Franklin's Gardens in September 2016, whilst the East Midlanders have not been victorious at Sandy Park since February 2014.
Exeter Chiefs: 15 Lachie Turner, 14 Ian Whitten, 13 Ollie Devoto, 12 Sam Hill, 11 Olly Woodburn, 10 Gareth Steenson (captain), 9 Will Chudley, 8 Thomas Waldrom, 7 Julian Salvi, 6 Don Armand, 5 Jonny Hill, 4 Sam Skinner, 3 Greg Holmes, 2 Luke Cowan-Dickie, 1 Alec Hepburn.
Replacements: 16 Jack Innard, 17 Ben Moon, 18 Marcus Street, 19 Mitch Lees, 20 Matt Kvesic, 21 Stu Townsend, 22 Joe Simmonds, 23 Phil Dollman.
Northampton: 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 Heinrich Brüssow, 6 Jamie Gibson, 5 Christian Day (captain), 4 David Ribbans, 3 Kieran Brookes, 2 Mikey Haywood, 1 Campese Ma’afu.
Replacements: 16 Reece Marshall, 17 Francois van Wyk, 18 Jamal Ford-Robinson, 19 Michael Paterson, 20 Tom Wood, 21 Cobus Reinach, 22 Stephen Myler, 23 Nafi Tuitavake.
Referee: Christophe Ridley
Assistant referees: Matthew O'Grady, Greg Macdonald
TMO: Keith Lewis
Bath v Sale Sharks
(Recreation Ground, Bath - Kick-off: 14.30; 14.30 GMT)
Bath's four-game winning run in all competitions ended at Newcastle on Friday.
Bath's record at the Recreation Ground in the Premiership this season is won four, lost three, but they have yet to manage successive victories.
Sale Sharks have lost just twice in the last seven rounds of the Premiership, 16-20 at Gloucester in Round 12 and 3-13 at home to Saracens last weekend.
The last six meetings between the two clubs have been won by the home side on the day whilst the Sharks most recent victory at The Recreation Ground was in March 2014.
Bath: 15 Darren Atkins, 14 Aled Brew, 13 Will Hurrell, 12 Ben Tapuai, 11 Cooper Vuna, 10 James Wilson, 9 Kahn Fotuali’i, 8 Taulupe Faletau, 7 Josh Bayliss, 6 Zach Mercer, 5 Elliott Stooke, 4 Matt Garvey (captain), 3 Henry Thomas, 2 Ross Batty, 1 Beno Obano.
Replacements: 16 Michael van Vuuren, 17 Lucas Noguera, 18 Max Lahiff, 19 Luke Charteris, 20 James Phillips, 21 Chris Cook, 22 Jack Wilson, 23 Tom Homer.
Sale Sharks: 15 Mike Haley, 14 Denny Solomona, 13 Will Addison (captain), 12 Luke James, 11 Marland Yarde, 10 Sam James, 9 Faf De Klerk, 8 Josh Strauss, 7 Ben Curry, 6 Jono Ross, 5 Andrei Ostrikov, 4 Josh Beaumont, 3 WillGriff John, 2 Rob Webber, 1 Ross Harrison.
Replacements: 16 Marc Jones, 17 James Flynn, 18 Alexandru Tarus, 19 George Nott, 20 Cameron Neild, 21 Will Cliff, 22 Josh Charnley 23 Cameron Redpath.
Referee: Ian Tempest
Assistant referees: Hamish Smales, Roy Maybank
TMO: Geoffrey Warren
Gloucester v Wasps
(Kingsholm, Gloucester - 14.30; 14.30 GMT)
Gloucester's last six matches in the Premiership have all gone with home field advantage.
The Cherry & White’s only defeat at Kingsholm in any competition this season was to Pau in Round Six of the European Challenge Cup.
Wasps have lost just once in the last nine rounds of the Premiership: 15-38 at home to Saracens on January 7.
Wasps are the best away side in the tournament having lost on just two of their seven trips so far.
The last six meetings between the two clubs have all gone the way of the home side whilst Wasps most recent success at Kingsholm came on December 28, 2014.
Gloucester: 15 Jason Woodward, 14, Charlie Sharples, 13 Billy Twelvetrees, 12 Mark Atkinson, 11 Henry Trinder, 10 Billy Burns, 9 Callum Braley, 8 Ruan Ackermann, 7 Lewis Ludlow, 6 Jake Polledri, 5 Mariano Galarza, 4 Ed Slater (captain), 3 John Afoa, 2 Richard Hibbard, 1 Josh Hohneck.
Replacements: 16 Motu Matu’u, 17 Paddy McAllister, 18 Fraser Balmain, 19 Tom Savage, 20 Freddie Clarke, 21 Ben Vellacott, 22 Matt Scott, 23 David Halaifonua.
Wasps: 15 Willie Le Roux, 14 Christian Wade, 13 Juan de Jongh, 12 Jimmy Gopperth, 11 Josh Bassett, 10 Rob Miller, 9 Dan Robson, 8 Guy Thompson, 7 Thomas Young, 6 Ashley Johnson, 5 Will Rowlands, 4 James Gaskell (captain), 3 Jake Cooper-Woolley, 2 Tom Cruse, 1 Matt Mullan.
Replacements: 16 TJ Harris, 17 Simon McIntyre, 18 Marty Moore, 19 Kearnan Myall, 20 Ben Harris, 21 Joe Simpson, 22 Brendan Macken, 23 Owain James.
Referee: Karl Dickson
Assistant referees: Tim Wigglesworth, Wayne Falla
TMO: David Rose
Harlequins v Newcastle Falcons
(Twickenham Stoop, London - Kick-off: 14.30, 14.30 GMT)
Harlequins have slipped to three straight defeats in the Premiership but have not lost four in succession in the tournament in the same season since 2006/07.
Quins have lost just twice at home in Premiership Rugby this season, to Leicester in Round Four and Wasps in Round 14.
Newcastle Falcons' only defeat in their last six Premiership fixtures was 325 at Saracens on February 10.
The Falcons have already won four times away from home in Premiership this season and have only once before exceeded this total – in 1997-98 when they were Champions.
The last eight fixtures between the two clubs have all been won by the home side on the day, whilst the Falcons have not been victorious at Twickenham Stoop in Premiership Rugby since September 2000.
Harlequins: 15 Aaron Morris, 14 Charlie Walker, 13 Joe Marchant, 12 Jamie Roberts, 11 Alofa Alofa, 10 Marcus Smith, 9 Jono Kitto, 8 James Chisholm, 7 Dave Ward, 6 Luke Wallace, 5 James Horwill (captain), 4 Ben Glynn, 3 Kyle Sinckler, 2 Joe Gray, 1 Mark Lambert.
Replacements: 16 Charlie Piper, 17 Cameron Holenstein, 18 Will Collier, 19 Charlie Matthews, 20 Archie White, 21 Dave Lewis, 22 Demetri Catrakilis, 23 Tim Visser.
Newcastle Falcons: 15 Simon Hammersley, 14 Vereniki Goneva, 13 Chris Harris, 12 Josh Matavesi, 11 Sinoti Sinoti, 10 Toby Flood, 9 Michael Young, 8 Nili Latu, 7 Will Welch (captain), 6 Mark Wilson, 5 Will Witty, 4 Calum Green, 3 Jon Welsh, 2 Kyle Cooper, 1 Rob Vickers.
Replacements: 16 Santiago Socino, 17 Sam Lockwood, 18 Trevor Davison, 19 Sean Robinson, 20 Callum Chick, 21 Sonatane Takulua, 22 Joel Hodgson, 23 Maxime Mermoz.
Referee: Tom Foley
Assistant referees: Philip Watters Jonathan Healy
TMO: Trevor Fisher
Sunday, February 25:
London Irish v Worcester Warriors
(Madejski Stadium, Reading - Kick-off: 13.00; 13.00 GMT)
London Irish are still without a victory in the Premiership since they beat Harlequins at Twickenham Stadium in Round One.
The Exiles most recent victory in the tournament at Madejski Stadium came when Gloucester were the visitors for the St Patrick's Day match in March 2016.
Worcester Warriors have won back-to-back Premiership encounters, at Exeter and at home to Gloucester, but have not won three in a row in the competition for almost two years.
The Warriors failed to win away from home at all in the tournament last year, but have claimed two notable scalps this campaign, triumphing at Leicester and at Exeter.
Worcester have won their last two fixtures against London Irish, but both were played at Sixways. The Warriors only previous victory in Reading was 20-15 in September 2005.
London Irish: 15 James Marshall, 14 Joe Cokanasiga, 13 Tom Fowlie, 12 Johnny Williams, 11 Alex Lewington, 10 Greig Tonks, 9 Piet van Zyl, 8 Ofisa Treviranus, 7 Conor Gilsenan, 6 Arno Botha, 5 Teofilo Paulo, 4 Franco van der Merwe (captain), 3 Ollie Hoskins, 2 David Paice, 1 Ben Franks.
Replacements: 16 Dave Porecki, 17 Harry Elrington, 18 Petrus Du Plessis, 19 Sebastian De Chaves, 20 Jake Schatz, 21 Scott Steele, 22 Tommy Bell, 23 Aseli Tikoirotuma.
Worcester Warriors: 15 Chris Pennell, 14 Bryce Heem, 13 Jackson Willison, 12 Ryan Mills, 11 Josh Adams, 10 Jamie Shillcock, 9 Francois Hougaard, 8 GJ van Velze, 7 Sam Lewis, 6 Alafoti Faosiliva, 5 Darren Barry, 4 Donncha O’Callaghan (captain), 3 Nick Schonert, 2 Jack Singleton, 1 Ethan Waller.
Replacements: 16 Kurt Haupt, 17 Ryan Bower, 18 Gareth Milasinovich, 19 Anton Bresler, 20 Will Spencer, 21 Matt Cox, 22 Jonny Arr, 23 Dean Hammond.
Referee: John-Paul Doyle
Assistant referees: Paul Dix, Anthony Woodthorpe
TMO: David Grashoff
Saracens v Leicester Tigers
(Allianz Park, London - Kick-off: 15.30; 15.30 GMT)
Saracens have won their last five Premiership matches since their single point defeat to Harlequins at Twickenham Stoop on December 3.
Saracens have lost only one of their last 22 home games in the Premiership: 18-20 to Exeter at Allianz Park in November.
Leicester Tigers two victories in the last seven rounds of the Premiership were both in their last two home games, against London Irish and Harlequins.
The Tigers have suffered seven straight away losses in all tournaments since beating Newcastle at Kingston Park in Round Seven of the Premiership.
The Tigers have not beaten Saracens in the Premiership since March 20, 2016 at Welford Road. However, they did win at Allianz Park in the semifinal of last season's Anglo-Welsh Cup.
Saracens: 15 Alex Goode, 14 Nathan Earle, 13 Marcelo Bosch, 12 Brad Barritt, 11 Chris Wyles, 10 Alex Lozowski, 9 Ben Spencer, 8 Jackson Wray, 7 Schalk Burger, 6 Calum Clark, 5 Nick Isiekwe, 4 Dominic Day, 3 Juan Figallo, 2 Schalk Brits, 1 Richard Barrington.
Replacements: 16 Scott Spurling, 17 Hayden Thompson-Stringer, 18 Titi Lamositele, 19 Mark Flanagan, 20 Sione Vailanu, 21 Tom Whiteley, 22 Max Malins, 23 Rotimi Segun.
Leicester Tigers: 15 Telusa Veainu, 14 Adam Thompstone, 13 Manu Tuilagi, 12 Gareth Owen, 11 Jonah Holmes, 10 Matt Toomua (captain), 9 Sam Harrison, 8 Sione Kalamafoni, 7 Brendon O’Connor, 6 Mike Williams, 5 Graham Kitchener, 4 Mike Fitzgerald, 3 Logovi’i Mulipola, 2 Tatafu Polota-Nau, 1 Greg Bateman.
Replacements: 16 Tom Youngs, 17 Michele Rizzo, 18 Pat Cilliers, 19 Harry Wells, 20 Luke Hamilton, 21 Harry Simmons, 22 Joe Ford, 23 Mathew Tait.
Referee: Craig Maxwell-Keys
Assistant referees: Adam Leal, Peter Allan
TMO: Sean Davey