Premiership preview: Friday

Date published: April 6 2017

Worcester Warriors travel to Sale Sharks while Newcastle Falcons host Gloucester in the Premiership on Friday.

Sale Sharks v Worcester Warriors

Sale Sharks have named a strong side to take on Worcester Warriors in their clash at the AJ Bell Stadium.

Steve Diamond has opted to stick with the same matchday 23, which recorded a losing bonus point at Sandy Park against Exeter Chiefs in Round 18 of the Premiership.

Ross Harrison will be making his 150th Sharks appearance, at the age of 24. Harrison made his debut for the club back in 2012 against La Vila, and has become to become a regular in the side over the last five years.

Meanwhile, England international Ben Te’o returns to the Warriors starting line-up.

The powerful centre has been limited to just eight appearances for his club this season but has scored four times in the process and is a welcome return ahead of Warriors’ run-in to the end of the season.

Te’o slots into the side at 12 alongside outside centre Jackson Willison, while Ryan Mills and Francois Hougaard form the half-back combination.

In the back three, Chris Pennell and Josh Adams are joined by Perry Humphreys, who starts in place of the suspended Bryce Heem.

The only change in the pack comes in the front row, where Ryan Bower replaces Val Rapava Ruskin who misses out with a rib problem.

In the replacements, Ryan Grant could be set for his Warriors debut while Darren Barry is recalled to the squad, with his last appearance coming in the Anglo-Welsh Cup win over Cardiff Blues at the start of February.

Ryan Lamb is also named on the bench and could make his 50th appearance for the club.

Form: Sale Sharks’ home record in Premiership Rugby this season is won four, lost five. Worcester Warriors only victory in the last four rounds of Premiership Rugby was 41-24 at home to Bristol on March 5. Sale had won seven successive matches against the Warriors in all tournaments up until February 2016, but since then the two encounters both played at Sixways have ended in a Worcester win and a draw. The Warriors have not won on Sharks soil since a 17-9 victory at Edgeley Park in November 2008.

The teams:

Sale Sharks: 15 Mike Haley, 14 Denny Solomona, 13 Sam James, 12 Mark Jennings, 11 Byron McGuigan, 10 AJ MacGinty, 9 Mike Phillips, 8 Josh Beaumont (c), 7 Tom Curry, 6 Cameron Neild, 5 Andrei Ostrikov, 4 Bryn Evans, 3 Halani Aulika, 2 Rob Webber, 1 Ross Harrison
Replacements: 16 Ben Curry, 17 James Flynn, 18 Kieran Longbottom, 19 George Nott, 20 Laurence Pearce, 21 James Mitchell, 22 Sam Bedlow, 23 Josh Charnley

Worcester Warriors: 15 Chris Pennell, 14 Perry Humphreys, 13 Jackson Willison, 12 Ben Te’o, 11 Josh Adams, 10 Ryan Mills,9 Francois Hougaard, 8 Marco Mama, 7 Sam Lewis, 6 Chris Vui, 5 Will Spencer, 4 Donncha O’Callaghan (c), 3 Nick Schonert, 2 Joe Taufete’e, 1 Ryan Bower
Replacements: 16 Jaba Bregvadze, 17 Ryan Grant, 18 Biyi Alo, 19 Darren Barry, 20 Dewald Potgieter, 21 Luke Baldwin, 22 Ryan Lamb, 23 Wynand Olivier

Date: Friday, April 7
Venue: AJ Bell Stadium
Kick-off: 19:45 local (18:45 GMT)
Referee: Matthew Carley
Assistant Referees: Hamish Smales, Wayne Falla
TMO: Trevor Fisher

Newcastle Falcons v Gloucester

Alex Tait will make his 200th appearance for Newcastle Falcons when he starts against Gloucester at Kingston Park.

The 29-year-old full-back this week pledged his future to his home club with a new long-term deal, and forms part of a side showing eight changes from the one which fell to Harlequins in their last league outing.

A new half-back pairing sees Michael Young and Mike Delany linking up, Chris Harris coming into the centres with Marcus Watson starting on the left wing.

Kyle Cooper and David Wilson join the front row, Evan Olmstead coming in at lock as Mark Wilson moves back to flanker in a back-row which sees the return of Ally Hogg at number eight.

Gloucester, meanwhile, have made four changes to their starting line-up.

The Cherry and Whites travel north looking to make it three wins on the bounce, having defeated Bristol and Cardiff Blues in recent weeks.

After a tough European encounter against the Blues, and faced with a six day turnaround, Gloucester make one change to the back-line and three changes to the pack.

Billy Burns is forced to sit this one out having left the field injured against Cardiff. Billy Twelvetrees who took over at fly-half on Saturday will continue to partner Willi Heinz at half-back. Mark Atkinson takes Twelvetrees’ place in midfield.

There are two changes to the front row where Motu Matu’u makes his first Premiership start of the season with Richard Hibbard moving to the replacements, while John Afoa replaces Josh Hohneck at tighthead prop.

The final change is in the second row where Mariano Galarza will partner Tom Savage instead of the injured Jeremy Thrush.

Amongst the replacements, Lloyd Evans, who started three of the club’s Anglo-Welsh fixtures this season, could make his first Premiership appearance of the season.

Form: The Falcons home record in Premiership Rugby this season is won five, lost four with the defeats all being to four of the teams currently occupying the top five spots in the league. Gloucester Rugby’s record in the last four rounds of Premiership Rugby is won two, lost two, outscoring their opponents by 13 tries to 12, but only tallying one try bonus point – three times finishing a match on three. Gloucester won their most recent away game 32-14 at Bristol, and have not achieved successive away victories in the tournament since season 2014-15. Newcastle won 18-13 when they played the Gloucester at Kingsholm in Round 4 but have not achieved a Premiership Rugby double over the west countrymen since 2011/12.

The teams:

Newcastle Falcons: 15 Alex Tait, 14 Vereniki Goneva, 13 Chris Harris, 12 Juan Pablo Socino, 11 Marcus Watson, 10 Mike Delany, 9 Michael Young, 8 Ally Hogg, 7 Will Welch (c), 6 Mark Wilson, 5 Evan Olmstead, 4 Calum Green, 3 David Wilson, 2 Kyle Cooper, 1 Rob Vickers
Replacements: 16 Scott Lawson, 17 Ben Harris, 18 Jon Welsh, 19 Will Witty, 20 Callum Chick, 21 Sonatane Takulua, 22 Joel Hodgson, 23 Sinoti Sinoti

Gloucester: 15 Tom Marshall, 14 Charlie Sharples, 13 Henry Trinder, 12 Mark Atkinson, 11 Jonny May, 10 Billy Twelvetrees, 9 Willi Heinz (c), 8 Ben Morgan, 7 Jacob Rowan, 6 Ross Moriarty, 5 Mariano Galarza, 4 Tom Savage, 3 John Afoa, 2 Motu Matu’u, 1 Paddy McAllister
Replacements: 16 Richard Hibbard, 17 Yann Thomas, 18 Josh Hohneck, 19 Tom Denton, 20 Lewis Ludlow, 21 Callum Braley, 22 Lloyd Evans, 23 Henry Purdy

Date: Friday, April 7
Venue: Kingston Park
Kick-off: 20:00 local (19:00 GMT)
Referee: Luke Pearce
Assistant Referees: Anthony Woodthorpe, Gareth Copsey
TMO: Geoffrey Warren