Premiership preview: Saturday, Sunday

Date published: April 7 2017

Bath host Leicester Tigers at Twickenham while Northampton Saints visit Wasps this weekend in the Premiership.

Bath v Leicester Tigers

Charlie Ewels will make his 50th appearance for Bath. Ewels will be joined in the second row by Elliott Stooke, with co-captain Francois Louw returning from injury to take his place at openside flanker.

The South African international will be a part of a back row trio that includes Tom Ellis and Taulupe Faletau, who scored two tries in Bath’s 34-20 victory over Brive last weekend.

Ross Batty is the only change in the front row coming back into the side at hooker. The 29-year-old will be supported either side by Nathan Catt and Kane Palma-Newport.

George Ford returns at fly-half to co-captain the side and will look to influence proceedings alongside Kahn Fotuali’i, who continues at scrum-half.

Matt Banahan switches from inside centre to the left wing, with Semesa Rokoduguni, who celebrated his 50th try for the Club last Saturday, starting in the number 14 shirt.

In the midfield, Ben Tapuai and Jonathan Joseph will join forces at inside and outside centre respectively, as Bath look to break back into the top four of the Aviva Premiership.

Meanwhile, Ben Youngs is in line to make his 200th first-team appearance for Leicester Tigers.

Scrum-half Youngs made his debut as a 17-year-old during the 2006/07 season and is a four-time Premiership title winner in his time with the Tigers as well as playing in 70 Tests with England and in two with the British and Irish Lions.

He is joined at half-back by Freddie Burns who makes his 50th Premiership appearance for the club on Saturday.

The starting line-up is unchanged from the club’s last Premiership outing, the derby victory over Northampton Saints at Franklin’s Gardens a fortnight ago, as Tigers run out for the first time since the arrival of new head coach Matt O’Connor.

There are two changes among the replacements where forwards Fraser Balmain and Harry Thacker are included.

Form: After 221 successive home Premiership Rugby matches played at the Recreation Ground, Bath move to a new “home” venue for the first time – Twickenham. Bath have lost their last three matches since beating Harlequins 22-12 at the Recreation Ground on February 18. Bath have played four previous Premiership Rugby matches at HQ, losing two finals to Wasps in 2004 and Saracens in 2015, but beating Wasps there twice in “St George’s Day” matches in 2010 and 2011. Leicester Tigers only defeat in their last seven first team matches was 15-34 at home to Exeter Chiefs in Round 17 of Aviva Premiership Rugby. The Tigers have played ten previous Premiership Rugby matches at Twickenham, winning on four of their nine Final appearances and drawing 26-all there against Harlequins in the “Big Game” in 2008. Leicester have lost just one of their last four encounters with Bath in all competitions: 27-38 at the Recreation Ground in round 22 last season. The two clubs have met on four previous occasions at Twickenham with Bath winning three Cup Finals in 1989, 1994 and 1996, but Leicester taking the Zurich Championship title there in 2001.

The teams:

Bath: 15 Anthony Watson, 14 Semesa Rokoduguni, 13 Jonathan Joseph, 12 Ben Tapuai, 11 Matt Banahan, 10 George Ford (cc), 9 Kahn Fotuali’i, 8 Taulupe Faletau, 7 Francois Louw (cc), 6 Tom Ellis, 5 Elliott Stooke, 4 Charlie Ewels, 3 Kane Palma-Newport, 2 Ross Batty, 1 Nathan Catt
Replacements: 16 Chris Brooker, 17 Beno Obano, 18 Shaun Knight, 19 David Denton, 20 Zach Mercer, 21 Chris Cook, 22 Rhys Priestland, 23 Tom Homer

Leicester Tigers: 15 Telusa Veainu, 14 Adam Thompstone, 13 Mathew Tait, 12 Maxime Mermoz, 11 JP Pietersen, 10 Freddie Burns, 9 Ben Youngs, 8 Luke Hamilton, 7 Brendon O’Connor, 6 Mike Fitzgerald, 5 Graham Kitchener, 4 Dom Barrow, 3 Dan Cole, 2 Tom Youngs (c), 1 Ellis Genge
Replacements: 16 George McGuigan, 17 Michele Rizzo, 18 Fraser Balmain, 19 Mike Williams, 20 Harry Thacker, 21 Ben White, 22 Owen Williams, 23 Jack Roberts

Date: Saturday, April 8
Venue: Twickenham Stadium
Kick-off: 14:00 local (13:00 GMT)
Referee: JP Doyle
Assistant Referees: Simon McConnell, Andrew P Jackson
TMO: Graham Hughes

Exeter Chiefs v Bristol

Team news for the Chiefs sees Baxter make three changes to his starting line-up with Jonny Hill and Dave Dennis returning to the pack in place of Geoff Parling and Kai Horstmann, while Jack Maunder switches places with Stuart Townsend at scrum-half.

On the bench, the home side will be buoyed by the return of key figures such as Greg Holmes, Dave Ewers, Gareth Steenson and Michele Campagnaro.

Meanwhile, Ryan Edwards returns from a hernia injury to start in the backline.

The winger, who has been absent since December, is one of three changes to the starting line-up, as Gavin Henson returns from a toe injury and Jack Tovey is included.

Marc Jones captains the side from the front row, while Academy utility forward Sam Jeffries retains his place in the back row.

Academy centre James Newey is named among the replacements and could make his Premiership debut on Saturday.

Form: Exeter Chiefs are unbeaten in their last 11 Premiership Rugby matches since tripping up at home to Bath on October 30. The Chiefs have picked up a try bonus in their last five encounters in the competition and have not lost at Sandy Park since Bordeaux were the visitors in Round 3 of the European Champions Cup. Exeter have won their last four matches against Bristol, both legs of the 2010 RFU Championship final and the two meetings at Ashton Gate this season in Premiership Rugby and the Anglo-Welsh Cup. Bristol’s only previous victory at Sandy Park was 25-16 in the RFU Championship in December 2009.

The teams:

Exeter Chiefs: 15 Phil Dollman, 14 Jack Nowell, 13 Ian Whitten, 12 Ollie Devoto, 11 Olly Woodburn, 10 Henry Slade, 9 Jack Maunder, 8 Thomas Waldrom, 7 Don Armand (c), 6 Dave Dennis, 5 Jonny Hill, 4 Mitch Lees, 3 Harry Williams, 2 Luke Cowan-Dickie, 1 Ben Moon
Replacements: 16 Jack Yeandle, 17 Carl Rimmer, 18 Greg Holmes, 19 Geoff Parling, 20 Dave Ewers, 21 Stuart Townsend, 22 Gareth Steenson, 23 Michele Campagnaro

Bristol: 15 Jason Woodward, 14 Ryan Edwards, 13 Will Hurrell, 12 Gavin Henson, 11 Jack Tovey 10 Billy Searle, 9 Alby Mathewson, 8. Mitch Eadie, 7 Jack Lam, 6 Sam Jeffries, 5 Mark Sorenson, 4 James Phillips, 3 Gaston Cortes, 2 Marc Jones (c), 1 Ryan Bevington
Replacements: 16 Max Crumpton, 17 Jack O’Connell, 18 Jamal Ford-Robinson, 19 Ben Glynn, 20 Nick Fenton-Wells, 21 Rhodri Williams, 22 James Newey, 23 Charlie Amesbury

Date: Saturday, April 8
Venue: Sandy Park
Kick-off: 15:00 local (14:00 GMT)
Referee: Tom Foley
Assistant Referees: Adam Leal, Jonathan Healy
TMO: Rowan Kitt

Saracens v Harlequins

Mark McCall make four changes to the starting XV that defeated Glasgow Warriors in the Champions Cup quarter-final with Duncan Taylor, Ben Spencer, Schalk Brits and Vincent Koch all coming into the starting line-up.

Up front, Vincent Koch starts at tighthead prop in place of Juan Figallo, who has been ruled out for the rest of the season with a foot injury. Koch is joined by Schalk Brits in the front-row with the fleet-footed hooker rotating with Jamie George who takes his place on the bench – Mako Vunipola continues at loosehead prop.

At lock, Maro Itoje starts alongside Jim Hamilton whilst in the back-row Mark McCall names an unchanged loose-forward trio with Michael Rhodes (blindside flanker), Jackson Wray (openside flanker) and Billy Vunipola (number eight) all starting.

At half-back, Ben Spencer returns to the side at scrum-half, with Richard Wigglesworth named on the bench. Spencer, who has recovered from a leg injury that has sidelined him for two-weeks will partner Owen Farrell who starts at fly-half.

At centre Brad Barritt captains the side alongside Duncan Taylor who comes in for Marcelo Bosch who is rested for the game. In the back-three, Chris Ashton will be looking to add to his five-try tally under the arch at Wembley, he is named alongside Sean Maitland and Alex Goode.

Meanwhile, there is just one change to the Harlequins side that beat Newcastle Falcons at The Stoop last month. Jack Clifford starts in the back-row alongside Chris Robshaw and Mat Luamanu, as Dave Ward is named among the replacements.

Danny Care leads the side and will be supported by vice captains for the day, Mike Brown and James Horwill.

Form: Saracens have played nine previous Premiership Rugby matches at Wembley Stadium winning seven, drawing one (Leicester 2012) and losing one (Harlequins 2012). Harlequins have won their last two Premiership Rugby matches at Gloucester and at home to Newcastle, but have not won three in a row in the tournament since May 2014. Harlequins have visited Wembley Stadium on five previous occasions, all against Saracens but only winning once: 24-19 on 31 March 2012. Saracens had won eight successive matches against Harlequins in all tournaments but since have lost two of the last three. Quins were victorious 17-10 at The Stoop in round 4 and have not achieved a Premiership Rugby double over Saracens since season 2008-09.

The teams:

Saracens: 15 Alex Goode, 14 Chris Ashton, 13 Duncan Taylor, 12 Brad Barritt (c), 11 Sean Maitland, 10 Owen Farrell, 9 Ben Spencer, 8 Billy Vunipola, 7 Jackson Wray, 6 Michael Rhodes, 5 Jim Hamilton, 4 Maro Itoje, 3 Vincent Koch, 2 Schalk Brits, 1 Mako Vunipola
Replacements: 16 Jamie George, 17 Titi Lamositele, 18 Petrus Du Plessis, 19 Mark Flanagan, 20 Joel Conlon, 21 Richard Wigglesworth, 22 Alex Lozowski, 23 Nick Tompkins (55)

Harlequins: 15 Mike Brown (vc),14 Marland Yarde, 13 Joe Marchant, 12 Jamie Roberts, 11 Tim Visser, 10 Nick Evans, 9 Danny Care (c), 8 Mat Luamanu, 7 Jack Clifford, 6 Chris Robshaw, 5 James Horwill (vc), 4 George Merrick, 3 Will Collier, 2 Rob Buchanan, 1 Joe Marler
Replacements: 16 Joe Gray, 17 Mark Lambert, 18 Kyle Sinckler, 19 Charlie Matthews, 20 Dave Ward, 21 Charlie Mulchrone, 22 Tim Swiel, 23 Alofa Alofa

Date: Saturday, April 8
Venue: Wembley Stadium
Kick-off: 16:30 local (15:30 GMT)
Referee: Ian Tempest
Assistant Referees: Tim Wigglesworth, Roy Maybank
TMO: David Sainsbury

Wasps v Northampton Saints

A re-shuffled backline sees Jimmy Gopperth and Joe Simpson form the half-back combination, with Kurtley Beale moving into midfield alongside Elliot Daly. Willie Le Roux switches to full-back, enabling Josh Bassett to return to the wing following strong form this season.

In the pack, Guy Thompson makes his first start since returning from a thumb injury, sustained in January, and Ashley Johnson lines up on the blindside flank with James Haskell rested.

Phil Swainston starts at tighthead and Paul Doran Jones provides cover on the bench, having been brought in on a one-week-loan period from Gloucester Rugby, after injuries to Marty Moore, Jake Cooper-Woolley and Simon McIntyre.

Wasps other front row replacements are Tom Cruse and Tom Bristow, who has completed his loan period at Bristol.

Meanwhile, there are two changes to the Northampton side that played Leicester both come in the pack, with David Ribbans making his Premiership debut and Jamie Gibson also starting. Api Ratuniyarawa is named among the replacements.

Form: Wasps have lost just once in Premiership Rugby since Round 8: 28-34 at Sale on February 19. Wasps have won their last 16 Premiership Rugby matches at Ricoh Arena since Saracens bet them there on December 27 2015, a run which has also seen them obtain twelve maximum point victories. Northampton Saints have gained just two victories in the last five rounds of Premiership Rugby, at home to Worcester and at Sale in their most recent away game – Saints have not won successive away games in Premiership Rugby in the same season since 2014/15. Wasps have won their last three matches against Northampton (two of those at Franklin’s Gardens). The Saints have lost on all three previous visits to Ricoh Arena, against Wasps in the semi-final of the European Cup in 2007, against Cardiff Blues in the semi-final of the Anglo-Welsh cup in 2009 and versus Wasps in round 19 of Aviva Premiership Rugby last season.

The teams:

Wasps: 15 Willie Le Roux, 14 Christian Wade, 13 Elliot Daly, 12 Kurtley Beale , 11 Josh Bassett, 10 Jimmy Gopperth, , 9 Joe Simpson, 8 Guy Thompson, 7 Thomas Young, 6 Ashley Johnson, 5 Kearnan Myall, 4 Joe Launchbury (c), 3 Phil Swainston, 2 Tommy Taylor, 1 Matt Mullan
Replacements: 16 Tom Cruse,17 Tom Bristow,18 Paul Doran Jones,19 Matt Symons,20 Nathan Hughes,21 Dan Robson,22 Danny Cipriani,23 Alapati Leiua

Northampton Saints: 15 Ahsee Tuala, 14 George North, 13 Nafi Tuitavake, 12 Harry Mallinder, 11 Ben Foden , 10 Stephen Myler, 9 Nic Groom, 8 Louis Picamoles, 7 Tom Wood (c), 6 Jamie Gibson, 5 David Ribbans, 4 Courtney Lawes, 3 Kieran Brookes, 2 Dylan Hartley, 1 Alex Waller
Replacements: 16 Mikey Haywood, 17 Ethan Waller, 18 Paul Hill, 19 Api Ratuniyarawa, 20 Teimana Harrison, 21 Lee Dickson, 22 Luther Burrell, 23 Ken Pisi

Date: Sunday, April 9
Venue: Ricoh Arena
Kick-off: 15:00 local (14:00 GMT)
Referee: Craig Maxwell-Keys
Assistant Referees: Greg M Garner, Jack Makepeace
TMO: David Grashoff