We’re ready for another enthralling round of Gallagher Premiership Rugby and with European competition returning next week, clubs will be keen to end this block of fixtures in a positive fashion.
Harlequins vs Exeter Chiefs
Harlequins will be welcoming back Kyle Sinckler to their starting line-up for their Friday night clash with Exeter Chiefs. The England star, who enjoyed a very strong Autumn series, is the main change to Paul Gustard’s line-up while James Lang is starting at fly-half.
Similarly, Exeter haven’t made wholesale changes to their starting XV. The notable change is that Joe Simmonds replaces Gareth Steenson in the number 10 shirt. Rob Baxter is resting all his players who were recently playing for their national teams, probably with the view of playing them in the clubs upcoming European games.
It is possible that this ‘weakened’ Chiefs team could be closely matched by their opposition. Quins’ form has improved over the international period, and the inclusion of Sinckler will be vastly important against a strong Exeter scrum. Exeter are still yet to lose a game in the Premiership this season and it is perhaps unlikely that they will lose tonight.
Bristol Bears vs Leicester Tigers
Many fans will feel like they’re still waiting to see Bristol at their best. Harry Thacker rumbled over for a hattrick against Wasps last time out as the Bears ran their hosts really close, but fell just short. Bristol didn’t lose too many players to international teams, but what might be a cause of concern is that they were unable to dominate and beat their opposition during the autumn window.
As for Leicester, they have lost the last two rounds of the Premiership. They looked unconvincing against Gloucester, but a good second half performance against Saracens might give them some confidence. With Manu Tuilagi, Ben Youngs and George Ford returning to the backline, Tigers will have more firepower at Ashton Gate, making them the likely victors on Saturday.
Gloucester Rugby vs Worcester Warriors
Winning last time out, Worcester dominated Harlequins’ forwards and backs. While star man Ben Te’o has featured for England this autumn, he is not invovled for his club side this weekend. In his absence though, Ryan Mills has been exemplary, possibly warranting an England call up of his own.
Home side Gloucester had a really disappointing game last weekend at Sandy Park. They were completely nullified by Exeter after just 12 minutes, possibly denting some confidence in the Gloucester ranks. We might expect a similar a side to play against Worcester, however, being at Kingsholm could give the Cherry and Whites the advantage.
Northampton Saints vs Newcastle Falcons
Northampton have had two contrasting games over the last couple of weeks. They rampaged against Wasps at Franklins Gardens with a very going side, but with a similar side at Sale last weekend, they fell short to a controlled Sharks side. Dan Biggar will be returning from Wales duty and Chris Boyd will be hopeful that the time away from Saints has refreshed the fly-half.
Scoring a try just 15 seconds into your @premrugby debut?— Northampton Saints ?? (@SaintsRugby) November 29, 2018
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Watch our first chat with @olliesleights, the 18 year old lighting it up out wide for Saints ????https://t.co/aqvZX651VQ pic.twitter.com/iJm021QKjV
Falcons finally picked up their second win of the domestic season last Friday when they convincingly turned over Bath at Kingston Park. Johnny Williams continued to impress for the Falcons, but it is Mark Wilson’s return that will take the headlines. England’s man of the series has become a favourite this Autumn and could help propel Newcastle to a win at the Gardens.
Saracens vs Wasps
It must be a frightening prospect having to face Wasps after the internationals. The reason being, Mark McCall could really want to win a game against a top four rival or could target the Champions Cup games. The Sarries boss has included Liam Williams, Jamie George, Maro Itoje and Richard Wigglesworth for this Round 9 clash as they are available for selection again so it could be a very uncomfortable game for Wasps.
Winning last weekend, Wasps haven’t been in the best of form over the Autumn internationals. Brad Shields, Nathan Hughes and Elliot Daly are all in the travelling 23 as Michele Campagnaro who starts for the first time. The problem for Wasps is that they’re visiting Sarries at the Allianz, a place where the hosts barely ever drop points.
Bath Rugby vs Sale Sharks
In contrast to Bath, Sale won last weekend. This week, they’re away from the AJ Bell, but will have virtually all their first-string players. Denny Solomona was really impressive for Sharks last week, scoring two tries and causing three turnovers. The side look stronger now with the Du Preez brothers and could pull off a win at the Rec.
Bath have been fairly tepid all season and their loss at Newcastle last weekend prompted embarrassment amongst the players. Bath supporters will be looking forward to the return of Joe Cokanasiga this weekend as the winger shone for England with his rampaging runs which have been missed by Todd Blackadder’s side. This is really a game that you can see Sale winning, especially with Bath in such dire straits at the moment.
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