Bath v Worcester – Bath are back!! At least for this week. A ruthless dispatching of a poor Newcastle brought back some pleasant memories for the Rec. A single swallow does not make a summer and Bath will expect to back up this performance against the wobbling Warriors. There were some bright spots for Worcester last week and if it hadn’t been for a debatable Red card they would have had their first win of the season. Worcester’s set piece was especially impressive and if they can set the platform the finishing from Vuna and Humphreys (oosh what a try) will get them on the board. On the other hand Ford’s quality lifts Bath to a level Worcester won’t cope with and Rokoduguni is our early shout for a Lions bolter, you heard it here first. Bath by 15 points.
Exeter vs Harlequins – Exeter will look to bounce back from only their second home defeat in two years against a Harlequins side that have been struggling for rhythm so far this season. The main question for Exeter is whether to revert to the security that Steenson brings or persist with the potential of Slade. Steenson’s ability to move their pack around the pitch would be perfectly suited to beating Harlequins. Quins conceded yet more tries and penalties from the driving maul and this Achilles heel was Exeter’s main strength of last year. More of the same from Kingston as Harlequins, at times, look frankly indifferent. The talent of players such as Clifford, Roberts, Robshaw etc is not in question yet in club colours there is a familiar fragility to this Quins team. Exeter should comfortably return to winning ways, by 10 points or more.
Saracens v Northampton – If the prospect of two top four contenders slugging it out isn’t enough to get you to tune in just think about Billy vs Louis, if they collide Allianz Park’s temporary stands may collapse. Saracens look supremely comfortable in any situation, defending superbly, controlling territory and finishing clinically. Meanwhile with Myler back at 10 Saint’s look far surer in their game plan and created far more against Bristol. Saint’s have had success at Allianz Park in the past by physically matching them and getting round the outside of the Saracens press (think Champions Cup quarter final last year). However, with the form Saracens are in, with the ‘Italian’ Lozowski fitting in seamlessly, the safe money is on Saracens continuing their unbeaten run. Saracens by 10.
Wasps v Bristol – Being loath to read too much into a season after two weeks is just a sensible thing to do. However, Wasps’ early form makes this particular match look fairly clear cut, and despite a spirited, and not unimpressive, start to premiership life, Bristol will undoubtedly struggle in this fixture. With Eastmond fit, the question hangs over Cipriani, but it was the pack led by Launchbury that were the key to their first win at Welford since 2008. Combined with Pisi and friends’ propensity to cough the ball up (joint highest turnovers and highest penalties conceded), the amount of tackles the impressive Lam has made will have to be through the roof to keep this tight. Watch out for Young jnr vs Robinson jnr in the back row, we know who we would back in a battle of the seniors. Wasps’ bonus point win at home, and watch for the inevitable Wade on Varndell, apprentice becomes master, matchup.
Newcastle v Tigers – On the back of two performances that were well below par, and that’s being kind, both of these sides have not just points to prove, but seasons to kick start. Oh to be a fly on the wall around Oval Park this week, as the Tigers will try to put right the lack of accuracy, and, most shockingly, physicality that gave Wasps their impressive win. Equally Newcastle were roundly played off the park by Bath, but will remember their victory in this fixture last season. You have to back Cockerill to get the Tigers’ quality showing, but Newcastle’s opening win will give them confidence that the comforts of home can bring success. The return of Barrow and Veainu should boost the grunt and guile of the Tigers, while having been bullied last week (by Richard’s own admission) Welch will want to put himself about, and hope the boys follow. Tigers by two scores (they do have a terrible record on plastic though….).
Written by Rory Wood & Sam Duke Wallace for www.TheRugbyPod.com