Worcester vs Gloucester
Friday night the Warriors will host Gloucester, with both teams hoping to exorcise the demons of their last 40 minutes of Rugby where they conceded 29 and 31 points respectively. Gloucester will be feeling the more aggrieved having let such a formidable lead slip, but in the first half they showed that they have the firepower and quality to hurt sides. If the likes of Scott and the ever improving Moriaty can carry with purpose as they did last week, they will cause Worcester problems. With the league set to be so tight, home games such as these will be must win for the Warriors, however, they will still be missing three of their best in Pennell, Hougaard and Heem. Even away from home, expect Gloucester to bounce back and sneak this one by less than a score.
Worcester Warriors: 15 Jackson Willison, 14 Dean Hammond, 13 Wynand Olivier, 12 Ben Te’o, 11 Cooper Vuna, 10 Ryan Lamb, 9 Jonny Arr, 8 GJ van Velze ©, 7 Marco Mama, 6 Alafoti Faosiliva, 5 Darren Barry, 4 Donncha O'Callaghan, 3 James Johnston, 2 Niall Annett, 1 Val Rapava Ruskin
Replacements: 16 Jaba Bregvadze, 17 Na’ama Leleimalefaga, 18 Mike Daniels, 19 Christian Scotland-Williamson, 20 Carl Kirwan, 21 Luke Baldwin, 22 Tom Heathcote, 23 Perry Humphreys
Gloucester: 15 Tom Marshall, 14 Charlie Sharples, 13 Matt Scott, 12 Billy Twelvetrees, 11 Henry Purdy, 10 Billy Burns, 9 Greig Laidlaw ©, 8 Ben Morgan, 7 Matt Kvesic, 6 Ross Moriarty, 5 Mariano Galarza, 4 Tom Savage, 3 John Afoa, 2 Richard Hibbard, 1 Yann Thomas
Replacements: 16 Darren Dawidiuk, 17 Cameron Orr, 18 Paul Doran-Jones, 19 Joe Latta, 20 Jacob Rowan, 21 Willi Heinz, 22 James Hook, 23 Mark Atkinson
Sale vs Harlequins
Friday night at the AJ Bell, is there a harder away trip in England? Last year Sale only lost once at home, and despite an extremely disappointing result away to Newcastle last week they should find the comforts of home reassuring. The North South divide is epitomised by the quiffed, man bun sporting, coffee shop owning back row of Clifford, Wallace and Robshaw, going up against the far more abrasive (Northern) Pearce, Beaumont and Ioane. Clifford vs Beaumont will have big England connotations and I would not be surprised to see Eddie amongst the dozen people at the AJ Bell. In years past, Quins have just not fancied turning up to these sort of away games and we could see Sale bully them into submission. Sale by a score.
Sale Sharks: 15 Byron McGuigan, 14 Will Addison, 13 Sam James, 12 Johnny Leota, 11 Paolo Odogwu, 10 AJ MacGinty, 9 Mike Phillips, 8 Josh Beaumont ©, 7 David Seymour, 6 TJ Ioane, 5 Jonathan Mills, 4 Bryn Evans, 3 Halani Aulika, 2 Neil Briggs, 1 Eifion Lewis-Roberts
Replacements: 16 Cameron Neild, 17 Ross Harrison, 18 Kieran Longbottom, 19 Andrei Ostrikov, 20 Laurence Pearce, 21 James Mitchell, 22 Dan Mugford, 23 Nev Edwards
Harlequins: 15 Ross Chisholm, 14 Marland Yarde, 13 Joe Marchant, 12 Jamie Roberts, 11 Tim Visser, 10 Nick Evans, 9 Danny Care ©, 8 Jack Clifford, 7 Luke Wallace, 6 Chris Robshaw, 5 James Horwill, 4 Sam Twomey, 3 Kyle Sinckler, 2 Rob Buchanan, 1 Joe Marler
Replacements: 16 Dave Ward, 17 Owen Evans, 18 Will Collier, 19 James Chisholm, 20 Mat Luamanu, 21 Karl Dickson, 22 Ruaridh Jackson, 23 Winston Stanley
Leicester vs Wasps
There will be tries. Two of the (soon to be) most exciting back-lines in Europe will go head to head in this old rivalry and new midlands derby. Leicester’s record-breaking comeback will have them full of confidence, but it is worrying that their capacity to ship cheap points persists from last season. If Tuilagi and co keep flying out of the line, Elliot Daly could have a field day running his outside arcs. That being said, Wasps’ midfield is hardly a defensive wall, and with Eastmond fit, it will be interesting if Dai reverts to the ever-dependable Gopperth or a bit of Cippers magic. Launchbury vs Barrow in the second row is battle of the back-ups in England terms, while the back rows who best get their guns outside firing will carry the day. Leicester at home to win by a score, in what could be a classic.
Leicester: 15 Mathew Tait, 14 Adam Thompstone, 13 Peter Betham, 12 Matt Smith, 11 JP Pietersen, 10 Freddie Burns, 9 Sam Harrison, 8 Lachlan McCaffrey, 7 Brendon O'Connor, 6 Luke Hamilton, 5 Mike Fitzgerald, 4 Ed Slater, 3 Dan Cole, 2 Tom Youngs ©, 1 Marcos Ayerza
Replacements: 16 George McGuigan, 17 Ellis Genge, 18 Greg Bateman, 19 Graham Kitchener, 20 Mike Williams, 21 Ben Youngs, 22 Owen Williams, 23 Jack Roberts
Wasps: 15 Rob Miller, 14 Christian Wade, 13 Elliot Daly, 12 Jimmy Gopperth, 11 Josh Bassett, 10 Danny Cipriani, 9 Joe Simpson, 8 Guy Thompson, 7 Thomas Young, 6 Sam Jones, 5 Matt Symons, 4 Joe Launchbury ©, 3 Marty Moore, 2 Tommy Taylor, Simon McIntyre
Replacements: 16 Ashley Johnson, 17 Matt Mullan, 18 Jake–Cooper Woolley, 19 James Gaskell, 20 Nathan Hughes, 21 Craig Hampson, 22 Brendan Macken, 23 Frank Halai
Bath vs Newcastle
Bath are back…? An impressively gritty win away at Franklin’s Gardens has got the Blackadder era up and running but it did come at a cost. Both Denton and Faletau limped off, and the oft over stocked number eight slot looks bare again for the West Country outfit. However, their pack will still contain Attwood, Garvey and possibly Charteris, and the pedigree available should be enough for Bath to see off Newcastle. Although quality was never really Bath’s problem, and the Falcons could use the confidence of a strong opening start to string some results together. Rokoduguni vs Sinoti Sinoti is a match-up of not only the best names in the Premiership, but two of the best wingers in the competition, and if the weather is good they could light up this game. The Bath pack and a (semi) rejuvenated Ford should prove too much for Newcastle, but how many times was that said last year? A Bath win by two scores or more.
Bath: 15 Tom Homer, 14 Semesa Rokoduguni, 13 Jonathan Joseph, 12 Max Clark, 11 Matt Banahan, 10 George Ford ©, 9 Kahn Fotuali'i, 8 Zach Mercer, 7 David Sisi, 6 Charlie Ewels, 5 Dave Attwood, 4 Luke Charteris, 3 Kane Palma-Newport, 2 Ross Batty, 1 Nick Auterac
Replacements: 16 Tom Dunn, 17 Beno Obano, 18 Max Lahiff, 19 Elliott Stooke, 20 Levi Douglas, 21 Chris Cook, 22 Rhys Priestland, 23 Jeff Williams
Newcastle: 15 Simon Hammersley, 14 Vereniki Goneva, 13 Chris Harris, 12 Juan Pablo Socino, 11 Sinoti Sinoti, 10 Mike Delany, 9 Sonatane Takulua, 8 Mark Wilson, 7 Will Welch ©, 6 Evan Olmstead, 5 Will Witty, 4 Calum Green, 3 Jon Welsh, 2 Scott Lawson, 1 Alex Rogers
Replacements: 16 Ben Sowrey, 17 Sam Lockwood, 18 Paddy Ryan, 19 Sean Robinson, 20 Ally Hogg, 21 Michael Young, 22 Joel Hodgson, 23 Dominic Waldouck
Bristol vs Northampton
After seven long years premiership rugby finally returns to Bristol. Ashton Gate will be absolutely bouncing and, after a strong showing in their opening match, so should the team. Hurrell slotted straight into premiership life and his hard running will be crucial for Bristol if they are to cause an upset. Jack Lam will also have his hands full trying to cope with the Northampton power game and specifically Picamoles’ lower half (his quads, behave). If Bristol can match up physically, behind the scrum Saints’ poor form and lack of direction has carried on from last year. Mallinder is a huge talent but looks better suited at twelve, where he would have played at U20 if not for injury, and the same question remains that if you stop Saints rolling round the corner do they have a Plan B? We hope the emotion of the occasion will be enough to give Bristol the smallest of winning margins. Bristol by a last minute 60 metre Henson penalty.
Bristol: 15 Jack Wallace, 14 Ryan Edwards, 13 Will Hurrell, 12 Ben Mosses, 11 Tom Varndell, 10 Tusi Pisi, 9 Will Cliff, 8 Jordan Crane, 7 Jack Lam ©, 6 Jon Fisher, 5 Ben Glynn, 4 Ian Evans, 3 Gaston Cortes, 2 Ross McMillan, 1 Soane Tonga’uiha
Replacements: 16 Chris Brooker, 17 Kyle Traynor, 18 Anthony Perenise, 19 James Phillips, 20 Olly Robinson, 21 Mitch Eadie, 22 Rhodri Williams, 23 Adrian Jarvis
Northampton: 15 Ahsee Tuala, 14 Ken Pisi, 13 George Pisi, 12 Luther Burrell, 11 George North, 10 Stephen Myler, 9 Lee Dickson, 8 Louis Picamoles, 7 Teimana Harrison, 6 Tom Wood ©, 5 Michael Paterson, 4 Courtney Lawes, 3 Kieran Brookes, 2 Dylan Hartley, 1 Alex Waller
Replacements: 16 Mikey Haywood, 17 Campese Ma’afu, 18 Paul Hill, 19 Sam Dickinson, 20 Jamie Gibson, 21 Nic Groom, 22 Harry Mallinder, 23 Ben Foden
Exeter vs Saracens
Sandy Park is a notoriously hard place to go, but Saracens do have a winning record in Devon and the Champions will fancy themselves. These teams both rely heavily on gain-line dominance in attack and in defence. Expect an immensely physical encounter (check out Hepburn on Taylor last week, oomph) and the Vunipolas’ ability to not only carry hard, but their excellent offloading skills will cause Exeter problems, especially given the way the Chiefs looked to tire at the Ricoh last week. Potentially a game for the purists given both side’s pragmatic styles, the team that controls territory will win the match, and it was Exeter’s failure to do this that cost them in the final back in May. For this reason Farrell’s potential absence will be huge, the England man’s summer form was exceptional and Lozowski had a mixed debut at Twickers. If Farrell plays Saracens will edge it, if he doesn’t Exeter will. The only certainty is that Waldrom will score from a yard out.
Exeter: 15 Phil Dollman, 14 Lachie Turner, 13 Ollie Devoto, 12 Sam Hill, 11 Ian Whitten, 10 Henry Slade, 9 Will Chudley, 8 Thomas Waldrom, 7 Julian Salvi, 6 Don Armand, 5 Damian Welch, 4 Geoff Parling ©, 3 Greg Holmes, 2 Luke Cowan-Dickie, 1 Ben Moon
Replacements: 16 Jack Yeandle, 17 Alec Hepburn, 18 Harry Williams, 19 Mitch Lees, 20 Dave Dennis, 21 Dave Lewis, 22 Gareth Steenson, 23 Max Bodilly
Saracens: 15 Alex Goode, 14 Chris Ashton, 13 Marcelo Bosch, 12 Brad Barritt ©, 11 Sean Maitland, 10 Alex Lozowski, 9 Richard Wigglesworth, 8 Billy Vunipola, 7 Schalk Burger, 6 Jackson Wray, 5 George Kruis, 4 Maro Itoje, 3 Petrus Du Plessis, 2 Jamie George, 1 Mako Vunipola
Replacements: 16 Schalk Brits, 17 Richard Barrington, 18 Juan Figallo, 19 Jim Hamilton, 20 Michael Rhodes, 21 Ben Spencer, 22 Duncan Taylor, 23 Mike Ellery
Written by Rory Wood & Sam Duke-Wallace for The Rugby Pod.