PREVIEW: Premiership, Round 21
SURVIVAL MODE ACTIVATED: As we move into Round 21, five of the teams are battling for the final two places in the Premiership Rugby semi-finals.
Two of those sides – Leicester Tigers and Newcastle Falcons – kick off what promises to be one of the most compelling weekends of the season… get those calculators ready!
This weekend promises to deliver not just drama but one of the red letter matches of the season – Gloucester Rugby v Bath Rugby.
Alongside the west country derby on Saturday, champions Exeter Chiefs entertain Sale Sharks while Harlequins make the trip to the Midlands to face Worcester Warriors.
On Sunday another bumper crowd will head to the Ricoh Arena where Wasps entertain local rivals Northampton while Saracens will be aiming to confirm a home Premiership Rugby semi-final at London Irish.
Take a look at all the action of Round 21
Friday, April 27
Leicester Tigers v Newcastle Falcons
(Welford Road - Kick-off: 19.45, 19.45 GMT)
Leicester Tigers five-game winning run in Premiership Rugby ended with their 21-27 home defeat to Northampton in round 20. Tigers’ record at home in Premiership Rugby this season is won six, lost four. Newcastle Falcons have lost just once in the last six rounds of Aviva Premiership Rugby: 13-27 at Worcester in round 19.
The Falcons have lost their last three away games in all competitions since beating Gloucester by a single point at Kingsholm in round 17 of Premiership Rugby.
Tigers have lost only once to Falcons in any competition since 2009: 14-26 at Kingston Park in Premiership Rugby in February 2016. Newcastle have won just twice at Welford Road, 25-19 in Premiership Rugby on 30 December 1997, and 18-6 when they were Gosforth RFC in April 1977.
Leicester: 15 Telusa Veainu, 14 Adam Thompstone, 13 Manu Tuilagi, 12 Matt Toomua, 11 Jonny May, 10 George Ford (captain), 9 Ben Youngs, 8 Sione Kalamafoni, 7 Brendon O’Connor, 6 Luke Hamilton, 5 Graham Kitchener, 4 Mike Fitzgerald, 3 Dan Cole, 2 Tatafu Polota-Nau, 1 Ellis Genge.
Replacements: 16 Tom Youngs, 17 Greg Bateman, 18 Logovi’i Mulipola, 19 Harry Wells, 20 Mike Williams, 21 Sam Harrison, 22 Mathew Tait, 23 Jonah Holmes.
Newcastle: 15 Simon Hammersley, 14 Vereniki Goneva, 13 Chris Harris, 12 Josh Matavesi, 11 Sinoti Sinoti, 10 Joel Hodgson, 9 Michael Young, 8 Ally Hogg, 7 Gary Graham, 6 Mark Wilson (captain), 5 Sean Robinson, 4 Calum Green, 3 Scott Wilson, 2 Scott Lawson, 1 Sam Lockwood.
Replacements: 16 Santiago Socino, 17 Rob Vickers, 18 Trevor Davison, 19 Will Witty, 20 Ryan Burrows, 21 Sonatane Takulua, 22 Juan Pablo Socino, 23 Alex Tait.
Referee: Luke Pearce
Assistant Referees: Tim Wigglesworth & Adam Leal.
TMO: Stuart Terheege.
Saturday, April 28
Exeter Chiefs v Sale Sharks
(Sandy Park - Kick-off: 15.00, 15.00 GMT)
Exeter Chiefs have won their last seven matches in all competitions since their 7-13 reversal away to Wasps in round 15 of Premiership Rugby. The Chiefs solitary defeat at Sandy Park in Premiership Rugby since October 2016 was by a single point to Worcester in February 2018.
Sale Sharks three-game winning run in Premiership Rugby ended with their 30-35 loss away at Newcastle in round 20. The Sharks have won three times away from home in Premiership Rugby this season, at Worcester, London Irish and Northampton.
Exeter’s only defeat to Sale in their last six encounters was 17-23 at AJ Bell Stadium in February 2016 whilst The Sharks only previous victory at Sandy Park was 55-12 in April 2014.
Exeter: 15 Lachie Turner, 14 Jack Nowell, 13 Henry Slade, 12 Sam Hill, 11 Santiago Cordero, 10 Joe Simmonds, 9 Nic White, 8 Sam Simmonds, 7 Don Armand, 6 Dave Ewers, 5 Sam Skinner, 4 Mitch Lees, 3 Tomas Francis, 2 Jack Yeandle (captain), 1 Alec Hepburn.
Replacements: 16 Luke Cowan-Dickie, 17 Ben Moon, 18 Greg Holmes, 19 Dave Dennis, 20 Thomas Waldrom, 21 Stuart Townsend, 22 Gareth Steenson, 23 Tom O’Flaherty.
Sale: 15 Will Addison, 14 Byron McGuigan, 13 Sam James, 12 Luke James, 11 Marland Yarde, 10 AJ MacGinty, 9 Faf de Klerk, 8 Jono Ross (captain), 7 Ben Curry, 6 Tom Curry, 5 Andrei Ostrikov, 4 Bryn Evans, 3 WillGriff John, 2 Rob Webber, 1 Ross Harrison.
Replacements: 16 Marc Jones, 17 Aexandru Tarus, 18 Halani Aulika, 19 Josh Beaumont, 20 Josh Strauss, 21 Will Cliff, 22 Johnny Leota, 23 Paolo Odogwu.
Referee: Karl Dickson.
Assistant Referees: JP Doyle & Paul Dix.
TMO: Keith Lewis
Gloucester Rugby v Bath Rugby
(Kingsholm - Kick-off: 15.00, 15.00 GMT)
Gloucester Rugby’s only defeat in their last five first-team matches was at Exeter in round 19 of Premiership Rugby. The Cherry & Whites have lost only once at Kingsholm this season in Premiership Rugby, and that by the narrowest of margins, to Newcastle in round 17.
Bath have lost their last four Premiership Rugby encounters since their 33-32 home win against Sale on 24 February. Bath’s only victory on the road in Premiership Rugby since November was on a trip to Worcester in January.
Gloucester beat Bath by a single point at the Recreation Ground in round 7 and have not achieved a season’s double over their near-neighbours since 2011/12. Bath have won on their last five visits to Kingsholm in all tournaments.
Gloucester: 15 Jason Woodward, 14 Tom Marshall, 13 Billy Twelvetrees, 12 Mark Atkinson, 11 Henry Trinder, 10 Billy Burns, 9 Callum Braley, 8 Ben Morgan, 7 Lewis Ludlow, 6 Jake Polledri, 5 Mariano Galarza, 4 Ed Slater (captain), 3 John Afoa, 2 James Hanson, 1 Josh Hohneck.
Replacements: 16 Motu Matu’u, 17 Paddy McAllister, 18 Fraser Balmain, 19 Tom Savage, 20 Ruan Ackermann, 21 Ben Vellacott, 22 Andy Symons, 23 David Halaifonua.
Bath: 15 Tom Homer, 14 Matt Banahan, 13 Max Clark, 12 James Wilson, 11 Aled Brew, 10 Rhys Priestland, 9 Kahn Fotuali’i, 8 Taulupe Faletau, 7 Francois Louw, 6 Tom Ellis, 5 Elliott Stooke, 4 Charlie Ewels (captain), 3 Anthony Perenise, 2 Tom Dunn, 1 Beno Obano.
Replacements: 16 Jack Walker, 17 Lucas Noguera, 18 Shaun Knight, 19 James Phillips, 20 Zach Mercer, 21 Max Green, 22 Freddie Burns, 23 Cooper Vuna.
Referee: Wayne Barnes
Assistant Referees: Peter Allan & Simon McConnell.
TMO: Rowan Kitt.
Worcester Warriors v Harlequins
(Sixways - Kick-off: 15.00, 15.00 GMT)
Worcester Warriors only victory in the last five rounds of Premiership Rugby was 27-13 at home to Newcastle on 7 April. The Warriors only defeat at Sixways in any competition since early January was to Leicester in round 17 of Premiership Rugby.
Harlequins have won only one of their last eight first-team fixtures: 20-5 at home to Bath in round 17 of Premiership Rugby. The Londoner’s only away win in Premiership Rugby this season was on their trip to Wasps in Mid-September.
The last four meetings between the two clubs in Premiership Rugby have been shared with two wins apiece, whilst Harlequins record at Sixways against all opponents in all tournaments is won eleven lost two.
Worcester: 15 Chris Pennell, 14 Bryce Heem, 13 Ben Te’o, 12 Jackson Willison, 11 Josh Adams, 10 Dorian Jones, 9 Francois Hougaard, 8 GJ van Velze, 7 Sam Lewis, 6 Marco Mama, 5 Darren Barry, 4 Donncha O’Callaghan (captain), 3 Nick Schonert, 2 Jack Singleton, 1 Ryan Bower.
Replacements: 16 Joe Taufete’e, 17 Ethan Waller, 18 Gareth Milasinovich, 19 Anton Bresler, 20 David Denton, 21 Jonny Arr, 22 Jamie Shillcock, 23 Dean Hammond.
Harlequins: 15 Mike Brown, 14 Charlie Walker, 13 Joe Marchant, 12 Jamie Roberts, 11 Alofa Alofa, 10 Marcus Smith, 9 Danny Care, 8 Mat Luamanu, 7 Luke Wallace, 6 Chris Robshaw, 5 Charlie Matthews, 4 George Merrick, 3 Kyle Sinckler, 2 Dave Ward (captain), 1 Joe Marler.
Replacements: 16 Elia Elia, 17 Mark Lambert, 18 Will Collier, 19 Stan South, 20 Archie White, 21 Dave Lewis, 22 James Lang, 23 Tim Visser.
Referee: Craig Maxwell-Keys
Assistant Referees: Jack Makepeace & Paul Burton.
TMO: David Grashoff.
Sunday, April 29
London Irish v Saracens
(Madejski Stadium - Kick-off: 15.00, 15.00 GMT)
London Irish’s two victories in the last five rounds of Premiership Rugby were at home to Worcester in February and away at Harlequins on 7 April; the victory over Warriors was the Exile’s only one at Madejski Stadium in Premiership Rugby this season.
Saracens have lost just twice in the last eight rounds of Premiership Rugby, at home to Leicester and away at Exeter in rounds 16 and 17 respectively. The loss to Exeter was their only defeat away from home in Premiership Rugby since early December.
Saracens have won their last five fixtures against London Irish since the Exiles 22-13 victory at Allianz Park in February 2014. Saracens have won on three of their last four visits to Madejski Stadium in all tournaments, including their victory there against Wasps in the 2016 European Challenge Cup semi-final.
London Irish: 15 Greig Tonks, 14 Joe Cokanasiga, 13 Tom Fowlie, 12 Johnny Williams, 11 Alex Lewington, 10 Theo Brophy Clews, 9 Piet van Zyl, 8 Ofisa Treviranus, 7 Blair Cowan, 6 Jake Schatz, 5 Franco van der Merwe, 4 Josh McNally, 3 Ollie Hoskins, 2 David Paice (captain), 1 Ben Franks.
Replacements: 16 Dave Porecki, 17 Harry Elrington, 18 Petrus Du Plessis, 19 Sebastian De Chaves, 20 Josh Basham, 21 Scott Steele, 22 Luke McLean, 23 Aseli Tikoirotuma.
Saracens: 15 Alex Goode, 14 Liam Williams, 13 Duncan Taylor, 12 Brad Barritt, 11 Sean Maitland, 10 Owen Farrell, 9 Ben Spencer, 8 Jackson Wray, 7 Schalk Burger, 6 Michael Rhodes, 5 George Kruis, 4 Maro Itoje, 3 Vincent Koch, 2 Jamie George, 1 Mako Vunipola.
Replacements: 16 Schalk Brits, 17 Richard Barrington, 18 Juan Figallo, 19 Nick Isiekwe, 20 Billy Vunipola, 21 Richard Wigglesworth, 22 Alex Lozowski, 23 Marcelo Bosch.
Referee: Ian Tempest
Assistant Referees: Hamish Smales & Philip Watters.
TMO: Davie Rose
Wasps v Northampton Saints
(Ricoh Arena - Kick-off: 15.00, 15.00 GMT)
Wasps only two victories in the last six rounds of Premiership Rugby were both at the Ricoh Arena, against London Irish and Worcester Warriors. Wasps only defeat in Coventry in Premiership Rugby since October was to Saracens in round 13.
Northampton Saints four-game losing run in Premiership Rugby ended with their victory over Leicester at Welford Road in round 20. The Saints have not won successive away games in Premiership Rugby in the same season since 2014/15.
Wasps have won their last five fixtures against The Saints since Northampton’s 52-30 victory at Franklin’s Gardens in March 2015. Northampton have made four previous visits to the Ricoh Arena and have lost on all four occasions whilst their most recent victory on Wasps turf was at Adams Park in December 2013.
Wasps: 15 Willie le Roux, 14 Christian Wade, 13 Juan de Jongh, 12 Jimmy Gopperth, 11 Elliot Daly, 10 Danny Cipriani, 9 Dan Robson, 8 Guy Thompson, 7 Thomas Young, 6 Jack Willis, 5 Will Rowlands, 4 Joe Launchbury (captain), 3 Jake Cooper-Woolley, 2 Tommy Taylor, 1 Simon McIntyre.
Replacements: 16 Tom Cruse, 17 Matt Mullan, 18 Marty Moore, 19 Kearnan Myall, 20 James Haskell, 21 Joe Simpson, 22 Gaby Lovobalavu, 23 Josh Bassett.
Northampton: 15 Ahsee Tuala, 14 Ben Foden (captain), 13 Luther Burrell, 12 Piers Francis, 11 George North, 10 Stephen Myler, 9 Cobus Reinach, 8 Mitch Eadie, 7 Teimana Harrison, 6 Jamie Gibson, 5 James Craig, 4 Api Ratuniyarawa, 3 Paul Hill, 2 Mikey Haywood, 1 Alex Waller.
Replacements: 16 Charlie Clare, 17 Campese Ma’afu, 18 Ehren Painter, 19 Alex Moon, 20 Heinrich Brüssow, 21 Alex Mitchell, 22 James Grayson, 23 Tom Collins.
Referee: Matthew Carley
Assistant Referees: Anthony Woodthorpe & Greg Macdonald.
TMO: David Sainsbury.