The Premiership continues on Wednesday as five matches take place, with play-off contenders Wasps, Bath and Sale Sharks all having home games.
Exeter Chiefs v Gloucester
Rob Baxter insists his Exeter Chiefs side can ill afford to take their mind off matters in the Premiership, even though a mouth-watering Champions Cup quarter-final tie looms large on the horizon.
Having banged in five wins out of five since the top flight started last month, the quest to secure home advantage in the Premiership play-offs remains a key objective for Baxter’s table toppers ahead of this home clash with Gloucester.
Not surprisingly, Baxter reverts back to virtually the same starting line-up that defeated Worcester Warriors 59-7 in their last home game. Of those who started at Northampton, only centre Hendrickson keeps his place. His inclusion means Ian Whitten is shunted to the wing with Alex Cuthbert ruled out with a slight niggle.
On the bench, England international Ollie Devoto returns for the first time since the Leicester Tigers game having recovered from an ankle injury.
Meanwhile, the Cherry and Whites have made 15 changes to the starting line-up that defeated London Irish on the weekend, with Billy Twelvetrees captaining the side from fly-half.
Tom Hudson starts at full-back, joined by Charlie Sharples and Matt Banahan in the back three, with Tom Seabrook and Henry Trinder occupying the centre.
In the forwards, Charlie Beckett and Danny Drake pack down in the engine room, with Jordy Reid starting in the back-row, alongside academy flanker, Josh Gray.
Will Crane, on loan from Hartpury RFC, earns a spot on the bench glittered with academy prospects ready to make their mark.
Form: Exeter Chiefs have won their last six matches since their reversal to Harlequins at Twickenham Stoop on 29 February. The Chiefs’ only Premiership Rugby defeat at Sandy Park since November was to Sale on 25 January. Gloucester have won their last two Premiership fixtures but have not won three in succession in the competition since April 2019. Gloucester’s only victory away from home in any tournament since October was 44-15 at Worcester in Round 14. Exeter beat Gloucester 26-15 at Kingsholm in Round 10 and have never before achieved a Premiership Rugby season’s double over the Cherry & Whites. Gloucester’s only victory at Sandy Park since January 2015 came in a pool game in last season’s European Champions Cup.
Exeter: 15 Stuart Hogg, 14 Jack Nowell, 13 Henry Slade, 12 Tom Hendrickson, 11 Ian Whitten, 10 Joe Simmonds (c), 9 Jack Maunder, 8 Sam Simmonds, 7 Jacques Vermeulen, 6 Dave Ewers, 5 Jonny Hill, 4 Jonny Gray, 3 Harry Williams, 2 Luke Cowan-Dickie, 1 Ben Moon
Replacements: 16 Jack Yeandle, 17 Alec Hepburn, 18 Tomas Francis, 19 Sam Skinner, 20 Jannes Kirsten, 21 Sam Hidalgo-Clyne, 22 Gareth Steenson, 23 Ollie Devoto
Gloucester: 15 Tom Hudson, 14 Charlie Sharples, 13 Henry Trinder, 12 Tom Seabrook, 11 Matt Banahan, 10 Billy Twelvetrees (c), 9 Charlie Chapman, 8 Ruan Ackermann, 7 Jordy Reid, 6 Josh Gray, 5 Danny Drake, 4 Charlie Beckett, 3 Jamal Ford-Robinson, 2 Henry Walker, 1 Corne Fourie
Replacements: 16 Todd Gleave, 17 Alex Seville, 18 Ciaran Knight, 19 Cameron Jordan, 20 Will Crane, 21 Joe Simpson, 22 George Barton, 23 Alex Morgan
Venue: Sandy Park
Kick-off: 17:30 BST (16:30 GMT)
Referee: Christophe Ridley
Assistant referees: Sara Cox, Paul Dix
TMO: Geoff Warren
— Leicester Tigers (@LeicesterTigers) September 8, 2020
Wasps v Leicester Tigers
Lee Blackett has named his side for Wasps’ Premiership Round 19 match with Leicester Tigers at Ricoh Arena on Wednesday.
Kieran Brookes returns from the shoulder injury he sustained in the first game back against Northampton Saints to start at tighthead prop.
Newly promoted first-team squad member, 19-year-old Alfie Barbeary, is named at blindside flanker for his first Premiership start.
There is one potential Wasps debutant in the 23 as new signing Levi Douglas is named as a replacement.
Centre Sam Spink is also in line to make his first appearance since the restart from the bench, after returning from a groin injury.
For Leicester, Ellis Genge will captain the club for the first time in the loosehead prop’s 74th appearance for the club. He is joined by Jake Kerr and Nephi Leatigaga in the front-row.
Cameron Henderson makes his first starting appearance at lock, after arriving at the club in the summer, and will partner Blake Enever in the second-row.
In the back-row, Ollie Chessum is named at blindside flanker, Thom Smith at openside and Jordan Coghlan at number eight.
Smith is one of two vice captains for the Round 19 fixture alongside scrum-half Ben White.
Zack Henry starts at fly-half in his fourth appearance for Tigers, partnering White as half-backs.
Guy Porter is included at centre alongside Dan Kelly – in his first start – with Harry Simmons and Harry Potter on the wings and George Worth at full-back.
Charlie Clare, Facundo Gigena and Joe Heyes are the front-row cover on the bench, with Harry Wells and Sam Lewis included as fellow forwards. Ben Youngs, Johnny McPhillips and Andrew Forsyth provide backline cover.
Form: Wasps have lost just once in the last eight rounds of Premiership Rugby: 11-20 to Sale Sharks at the Ricoh Arena on 25 August; this was Wasps’ only home defeat in any competition since January. Leicester Tigers’ only win in the last six rounds of the Premiership was 13-7 at home to London Irish on 26 August. The Tigers have won just three times on the road this season, at Bath in the Premiership Rugby Cup in October and twice in the European Challenge Cup, at Cardiff Blues in November and Calvisano in December. Leicester have lost just one of their last four fixtures against Wasps: 35-41 at Ricoh Arena in September 2018. The Tigers’ only victory in their seven previous visits to Coventry in all competitions was on their first-ever trip in May 2015.
Wasps: 15 Matteo Minozzi, 14 Zach Kibirige, 13 Malakai Fekitoa, 12 Ryan Mills, 11 Marcus Watson, 10 Jacob Umaga, 9 Dan Robson, 8 Brad Shields, 7 Thomas Young, 6 Alfie Barbeary, 5 James Gaskell, 4 Joe Launchbury (c), 3 Kieran Brookes, 2 Gabriel Oghre, 1 Tom West
Replacements: 16 Tom Cruse, 17 Simon McIntyre, 18 Jeff Toomaga-Allen, 19 Levi Douglas, 20 Jack Willis, 21 Sam Wolstenholme, 22 Jimmy Gopperth, 23 Sam Spink
Leicester: 15 George Worth, 14 Harry Potter, 13 Dan Kelly, 12 Guy Porter, 11 Harry Simmons, 10 Zack Henry, 9 Ben White, 8 Jordan Coghlan, 7 Thom Smith, 6 Ollie Chessum, 5 Blake Enever, 4 Cameron Henderson, 3 Nephi Leatigaga, 2 Jake Kerr, 1 Ellis Genge (c)
Replacements: 16 Charlie Clare, 17 Facundo Gigena, 18 Joe Heyes, 19 Harry Wells, 20 Sam Lewis, 21 Ben Youngs, 22 Johnny McPhillips, 23 Andrew Forsyth
Venue: Ricoh Arena
Kick-off: 17:30 BST (16:30 GMT)
Referee: Karl Dickson
Assistant referees: Ian Tempest, Hamish Smales
TMO: Nigel Carrick
Team's up! 🐺
⚫ Duncan Taylor is back
🔴 Rotimi Segun returns
⚫ 10 Academy products in starting XV
— Saracens Rugby Club (@Saracens) September 8, 2020
Sale Sharks v Saracens
Cobus Wiese, the latest addition to Sale Sharks’ South African contingent, is set to make his first appearance for the club this week, as director of rugby Steve Diamond makes 11 changes to his matchday squad to face Saracens on Wednesday.
Diamond has opted to rotate his squad for the visit of three-time Champions Cup winners Saracens after the Sharks recorded their first ever bonus-point victory over Leicester Tigers at Welford Road on Saturday. Diamond once again shows his faith in a number of promising academy talents with wholesome changes throughout the squad including the addition of England U20 stars Arron Reed and Tom Roebuck.
After an impressive performance as a replacement on Saturday, Russian international Valery Morozov makes his second Premiership start at loosehead, alongside Curtis Langdon and Will-Griff John at hooker and tighthead respectively.
The all-South African second-row of Lood de Jager and Jean-Luc du Preez is switched for an equally commanding English version consisting of James Phillips and Matt Postlethwaite. The two powerhouse locks have academy graduates Cameron Neild and Ben Curry behind them in the back-row, along with Springbok Daniel du Preez at number eight.
Will Cliff links back up with Robert du Preez in the half-back roles in a partnership that dominated the pre-pandemic season. Outside them, Sam Hill will make his home debut for Sale in his second appearance for the club, with the former Exeter centre joined by Sam James in midfield.
After a string of impressive performances at full-back, Luke James gets a well-deserved rest for the midweek fixture with the Premiership champions. He is replaced by Simon Hammersley in the number 15 shirt. Hammersley is joined in the back three by England U20 stars Roebuck and Reed.
Meanwhile, Duncan Taylor is set for his first Saracens outing since February against Sale Sharks on Wednesday.
The Scotland international has recovered from injury to start in the centre alongside Argentine Juan Pablo Socino, who makes his fifth Sarries appearance since joining the club.
Their involvement in the midfield means Dom Morris switches to the wing in a back three that includes fellow academy graduates Elliott Obatoyinbo and Rotimi Segun.
Featuring as a replacement last time out, Tom Whiteley will take the nine shirt in Manchester, and Manu Vunipola lines up outside him at fly-half.
Tom Woolstencroft scored a hat-trick on his last match as Saracens captain and provides experience in the pack with flanker Calum Clark.
The latter is joined in the back-row by Sean Reffell and Andy Christie, who both made their senior debuts against Sale in 2017 and 2018 respectively.
Academy prop Sam Crean earns another run out in the starting loosehead jersey with Alec Clarey at tighthead, while Joel Kpoku and Callum Hunter-Hill take the second-row slots.
On the bench, Doncaster Knights loanee Robin Hislop could make his Saracens and Premiership debut.
Form: Sale Sharks have won their last three Premiership Rugby encounters but have not won four in succession in the competition since February 2016. The Sharks’ solitary reversal in their last five games at AJ Bell Stadium in all tournaments was 22-32 to Exeter Chiefs in Round 15 of the Premiership. Saracens’ 18-28 home defeat to Wasps on Saturday ended a three-match winning run. Saracens have won two of their last three away games, at Northampton in Round 12 and at London Irish in Round 17. Saracens have lost only one of their last nine Premiership Rugby fixtures with Sale: 24-18 the last time the two teams met in Salford on 4 January 2019.
Sale: 15 Simon Hammersley, 14 Tom Roebuck, 13 Sam James, 12 Sam Hill, 11 Arron Reed, 10 Robert du Preez, 9 Will Cliff, 8 Daniel du Preez, 7 Ben Curry (c), 6 Cameron Neild, 5 James Phillips, 4 Matt Postlethwaite, 3 Will-Griff John, 2 Curtis Langdon, 1 Valerey Morozov
Replacements: 16 Ewan Ashman, 17 Bevan Rodd, 18 Jake Cooper-Woolley, 19 Cobus Wiese, 20 Jean-Luc du Preez, 21 Faf de Klerk, 22 Tom Curtis, 23 Connor Doherty
Saracens: 15 Elliott Obatoyinbo, 14 Dom Morris, 13 Duncan Taylor, 12 Juan Pablo Socino, 11 Rotimi Segun, 10 Manu Vunipola, 9 Tom Whiteley, 8 Andy Christie, 7 Sean Reffell, 6 Calum Clark, 5 Callum Hunter-Hill, 4 Joel Kpoku, 3 Alec Clarey, 2 Tom Woolstencroft, 1 Sam Crean
Replacements: 16 Kapeli Pifeleti, 17 Robin Hislop, 18 Josh Ibuanokpe, 19 Cameron Boon, 20 Janco Venter, 21 Alex Day, 22 Will Hooley, 23 Harry Sloan
Venue: AJ Bell Stadium
Kick-off: 18:00 BST (17:00 GMT)
Referee: Craig Maxwell-Keys
Assistant referees: Wayne Falla, Peter Allan
TMO: Trevor Fisher
📋 Team Announcement @JoshJMcNally captains the Blue, Black and White for the first time as Bath Rugby welcome Worcester Warriors to the Rec for Round 1⃣9⃣.
— Bath Rugby (@bathrugby) September 8, 2020
Bath v Worcester Warriors
Josh McNally captains the Blue, Black and White for the first time as Bath face Worcester Warriors at the Rec in Round 19.
Stuart Hooper makes 11 changes to the side that secured a 41-27 bonus-point victory over Harlequins last time out as they search for back-to-back wins.
Lewis Boyce, Jack Walker and Christian Judge form a new front-row partnership for Round 19 and come in to replace Beno Obano, Tom Dunn and Will Stuart respectively.
McNally swaps in for Charlie Ewels, who is rested for the first time since rugby’s restart and will partner up with Elliott Stooke at lock and Tom Ellis and Zach Mercer stand in for Josh Bayliss and Taulupe Faletau.
Will Chudley and Josh Matavesi start at scrum-half and fly-half respectively and are joined in the backline by Max Clark who replaces Jonathan Joseph in midfield, Gabriel Hamer-Webb comes in on the wide channel to replace the in-form Ruaridh McConnochie and Tom de Glanville replaces Anthony Watson.
Meanwhile, Samoa international wing Ed Fidow will make his first appearance for Worcester since January in Wednesday’s Premiership match.
Fidow suffered a groin injury in an inter-squad match last month, a week before the 2019/20 season resumed, and has missed five matches since then.
But Fidow has now regained fitness and will become the 42nd player used by Warriors since the resumption. Replacement loosehead prop Kai Owen will become the 43rd if he comes off the bench having recovered from a hamstring injury.
Fidow played for Samoa in the Rugby World Cup in Japan last year and made three appearances for Warriors – scoring a try at Saracens in his last outing – before he tore a hamstring in a Premiership Rugby Shield match in January.
Warriors have made 14 changes to the side that faced Bristol Bears last Friday with centre Ollie Lawrence the sole starter. Billy Searle, Callum Black, Richard Palframan and Matt Cox all start having played as replacements against Bristol.
Lock Justin Clegg will make his first Premiership start after two appearances off the bench against Wasps and Exeter Chiefs.
Clegg forms a new second-row pairing with fellow Academy graduate James Scott as Andrew Kitchener starts a three-match suspension following his sending off against Bristol.
Sam Lewis and Tom Dodd have both recovered from head injuries and will take their places in a new-look back-row alongside Cox who will make his first Premiership start in 22 months.
Assistant club captain Will Butler will again lead the team although club captain Ted Hill has been named as a replacement.
Form: Bath have lost just once since the return to the Premiership: 23-27 at home to Wasps on 31 August. Bath have lost three times at the Recreation Ground in Premiership Rugby this season, to Saracens, Bristol and Wasps. Worcester Warriors’ only win in the last 11 rounds of the Premiership was 29-14 at home to Harlequins on 26 August, while their only away victory in the competition this season was also against Harlequins, in November. Bath have lost just twice to the Warriors in their last 14 league encounters, the most recent of which was 19-21 at Sixways in January 2019. The Warriors have never won in 15 previous visits to the Recreation Ground in all competitions.
Bath: 15 Tom de Glanville, 14 Semesa Rokoduguni, 13 Max Clark, 12 Cameron Redpath, 11 Gabriel Hamer-Webb, 10 Josh Matavesi, 9 Will Chudley, 8 Zach Mercer, 7 Miles Reid, 6 Tom Ellis, 5 Elliott Stooke, 4 Josh McNally (c), 3 Christian Judge, 2 Jack Walker, 1 Lewis Boyce
Replacements: 16 Ross Batty, 17 Juan Schoeman, 18 Kieran Verden, 19 Mike Williams, 20 Sam Underhill, 21 Max Green, 22 Orlando Bailey, 23 Jonathan Joseph
Worcester: 15 Chris Pennell, 14 Nick David, 13 Ollie Lawrence, 12 Will Butler (c), 11 Ed Fidow, 10 Billy Searle, 9 Jono Kitto, 8 Tom Dodd, 7 Sam Lewis, 6 Matt Cox, 5 James Scott, 4 Justin Clegg, 3 Richard Palframan, 2 Beck Cutting, 1 Callum Black
Replacements: 16 Isaac Miller, 17 Kai Owen, 18 Joe Morris, 19 Ted Hill, 20 Matti Williams, 21 Gareth Simpson, 22 Scott van Breda, 23 Alex Hearle
Venue: The Rec
Kick-off: 19:45 BST (18:45 GMT)
Referee: Andrew Jackson
Assistant referees: Adam Leal, Phil Watters
TMO: David Rose
🙌 A reminder of our team for London Irish.
👀 André may make his debut.
— Harlequins 🃏 (@Harlequins) September 8, 2020
London Irish v Harlequins
London Irish director of rugby Declan Kidney has rewarded Jack Cooke for his performances since the restart, with the flanker set to captain the Exiles for the first time at senior level.
The squad includes 13 London Irish Academy representatives, whether that be past or present, for Wednesday’s fixture against Harlequins.
Allan Dell, Matt Cornish and Ollie Hoskins form the front-row, and an Academy duo of Ben Donnell and Chunya Munga combine in the second-row.
Captain Cooke starts at blindside flanker and Josh Smart, who is set for his Premiership debut, is at openside flanker. Isaac Curtis-Harris completes the pack in the number eight jersey.
Ben Meehan and Jacob Atkins are the half-back duo, as Phil Cokanasiga and Ross Neal create a new partnership in the centres.
Ollie Hassell-Collins and Dan Norton are named on the wings, with the latter making his first start for London Irish, and James Stokes finishes off the line-up in the 15 shirt.
Meanwhile, Harlequins boss Paul Gustard makes 11 changes to the starting line-up that played in front of 3,500 at the Stoop last weekend.
Among the team changes this week and set to make their full Harlequins debuts from the bench, new Springbok signing Andre Esterhuizen and England U20 second-row George Hammond are named in the matchday 23 as Harlequins look to bounce back from defeat to Bath last week.
Returning to the starting XV, fly-half Marcus Smith will look to surpass 500 Premiership points, with the young playmaker currently sitting on 491 points to date. Only former England fly-half Jonny Wilkinson will have reached this Premiership milestone at a younger age, while Smith would become only the third Harlequin of all time to score 500 points in the Premiership.
Elsewhere, full-back Aaron Morris will hit 50 games for Harlequins.
Form: London Irish have lost their last seven Premiership Rugby fixtures since beating Gloucester on 22 February and have gained just two bonus-points in the process. The Exiles’ most recent success at Twickenham Stoop was in the “away” game to Harlequins on 15 February. Harlequins’ only win in the last four rounds of Premiership Rugby was 30-17 against Northampton at Twickenham Stoop on 30 August. Quins have played two previous “away” games at The Stoop in the Premiership, beating London Scottish there in January 1999 and London Irish the following November. London Irish have won their last three Premiership fixtures against Harlequins and have only once before won four in succession against their now co-tenants, between 2000 to 2001.
London Irish: 15 James Stokes, 14 Dan Norton, 13 Ross Neal, 12 Phil Cokanasiga, 11 Ollie Hassell-Collins, 10 Jacob Atkins, 9 Ben Meehan, 8 Isaac Curtis-Harris, 7 Josh Smart, 6 Jack Cooke (c), 5 Chunya Munga, 4 Ben Donnell, 3 Ollie Hoskins, 2 Matt Cornish, 1 Allan Dell
Replacements: 16 Ben Atkins, 17 Harry Elrington, 18 Lovejoy Chawatama, 19 George Nott, 20 Izaiha Moore-Aiono, 21 Caolan Englefield, 22 Brendan Macken, 23 Tom Homer
Harlequins: 15 Aaron Morris, 14 Cadan Murley, 13 Luke Northmore, 12 James Lang, 11 Nathan Earle, 10 Marcus Smith, 9 Scott Steele, 8 James Chisholm, 7 Chris Robshaw (c), 6 Tom Lawday, 5 Stephan Lewies, 4 Dino Lamb, 3 Simon Kerrod, 2 Scott Baldwin, 1 Santiago Garcia Botta
Replacements: 16 Joe Gray, 17 Marc Thomas, 18 Will Collier, 19 George Hammond, 20 Archie White, 21 Martin Landajo, 22 Andre Esterhuizen, 23 Ross Chisholm
Venue: Twickenham Stoop
Kick-off: 19:45 BST (18:45 GMT)
Referee: Matthew Carley
Assistant referees: Luke Pearce, Tom Foley
TMO: Stuart Terheege