Marcus Smith returns to start at 10 for Harlequins

Date published: December 31 2021 - Planet Rugby

The Premiership continues on Saturday and Sunday as five matches take place, with Sale, Exeter, Gloucester, Leicester and Northampton hosting Wasps, Bristol, Harlequins, Newcastle and Saracens respectively.


Sale Sharks v Wasps

Form: Sale Sharks only Gallagher Premiership Rugby victory since Round 5 was 30-6 at home to Northampton on 6 November. The Sharks only defeat at AJ Bell Stadium in any competition since mid-February was 15-25 to Exeter in Round 3 of Premiership Rugby. Wasps 38-30 victory at home to London Irish on Boxing Day ended a three-game losing run in Gallagher Premiership Rugby. Wasps only away win in Premiership Rugby this campaign was 27-17 at Bath on 30 October. The Sharks have lost just once to Wasps since September 2018: 23-26 on the West-Midlanders most recent visit to Salford twelve months ago.

Prediction: Sale by 10

The teams:

Sale: 15 Luke James, 14 Byron McGuigan, 13 Robert du Preez, 12 Rohan Janse van Rensburg, 11 Marland Yarde, 10 AJ MacGinty, 9 Will Cliff, 8 Daniel du Preez, 7 Ben Curry, 6 Jono Ross (c), 5 Lood de Jager, 4 Jean-Luc du Preez, 3 Nick Schonert, 2 Ewan Ashman, 1 Bevan Rodd
Replacements: 16 Tommy Taylor, 17 Simon McIntyre, 18 Coenie Oosthuizen, 19 Matt Postlethwaite, 20 Sam Dugdale, 21 Gus Warr, 22 Sam James, 23 Simon Hammersley

Wasps: 15 Ali Crossdale, 14 Francois Hougaard, 13 Sam Spink, 12 Michael Le Bourgeois, 11 Josh Bassett, 10 Jimmy Gopperth, 9 Sam Wolstenholme, 8 Alfie Barbeary, 7 Nizaam Carr, 6 Brad Shields (c), 5 Elliott Stooke, 4 Vaea Fifita, 3 Biyi Alo, 2 Dan Frost, 1 Tom West
Replacements: 16 Tom Cruse, 17 Robin Hislop, 18 Jeffery Toomaga-Allen, 19 Tim Cardall, 20 Tom Willis, 21 Will Porter, 22 Charlie Atkinson, 23 Rob Miller

Venue: AJ Bell Stadium
Kick-off: 14:00 GMT
Referee: Ian Tempest
Assistant referees: Hamish Smales, John Meredith
TMO: Claire Hodnett

Exeter Chiefs v Bristol Bears

Form: Exeter Chiefs have suffered just two defeats since Round 2 of Gallagher Premiership Rugby, both at home, to London Irish and Newcastle. The Chiefs have won their last two matches at Sandy Park, beating Saracens in Premiership Rugby and Montpellier in the European Champions Cup. Bristol Bears have lost their last three Gallagher Premiership Rugby encounters since beating Worcester at Ashton Gate on 6 November. The Bears have not lost four in succession in the competition since 2018. Bristol have won just once away from home in Premiership Rugby this season: 45-33 at London Irish in Round 7. Curiously, the last four fixtures between the two clubs in Premiership Rugby have all gone the way of the away side, whilst the Bears have won on their last three visits to Sandy Park in all competitions.

Prediction: Exeter by 7

The teams:

Exeter: 15 Stuart Hogg, 14 Jack Nowell, 13 Henry Slade, 12 Ollie Devoto, 11 Tom O’Flaherty, 10 Joe Simmonds, 9 Jack Maunder, 8 Sam Simmonds, 7 Jannes Kirsten, 6 Dave Ewers, 5 Jonny Hill, 4 Sam Skinner, 3 Sam Nixon, 2 Luke Cowan-Dickie (c), 1 Alec Hepburn
Replacements: 16 Jack Yeandle, 17 Ben Moon, 18 Josh Iosefa-Scott, 19 Sean Lonsdale, 20 Don Armand, 21 Sam Maunder, 22 Harvey Skinner, 23 Ian Whitten

Bristol: 15 Charles Piutau, 14 Luke Morahan, 13 Semi Radradra, 12 Sam Bedlow, 11 Ioan Lloyd, 10 Callum Sheedy, 9 Harry Randall, 8 Nathan Hughes, 7 Dan Thomas, 6 Fitz Harding, 5 Chris Vui, 4 Joe Joyce (c), 3 Kyle Sinckler, 2 Harry Thacker, 1 Yann Thomas
Replacements: 16 Will Capon, 17 Jake Woolmore), 18 John Afoa, 19 John Hawkins, 20 Mitch Eadie, 21 Andy Uren, 22 Piers O’Conor, 23 Henry Purdy

Venue: Sandy Park
Kick-off: 16:30 GMT
Referee: Luke Pearce
Assistant referees: Dean Richards, Paul Dix
TMO: David Rose


Gloucester v Harlequins

Form: Gloucester Rugby have lost just one of their last eight Gallagher Premiership Rugby matches: 13-19 at home to Exeter in round 7 – their only loss at Kingsholm in any competition since September. Harlequins beat Northampton 41-27 in “Big Game 13” at Twickenham Stadium on 27 December but have not won successive matches in Gallagher Premiership Rugby since October. The Quins record away from home in Premiership Rugby this campaign is, won two, lost two. Harlequins have won their last four Gallagher Premiership Rugby fixtures against Gloucester since Gloucester’s 29-7 triumph at the Twickenham Stoop in March 2019, whilst Harlequins have won on their last three visits to Kingsholm.

Prediction: Gloucester by 5

The teams:

Gloucester: 15 Lloyd Evans, 14 Louis Rees-Zammit, 13 Chris Harris, 12 Billy Twelvetrees, 11 Ollie Thorley, 10 Adam Hastings, 9 Ben Meehan, 8 Ruan Ackermann, 7 Lewis Ludlow (c), 6 Jordy Reid, 5 Matias Alemanno, 4 Freddie Clarke, 3 Fraser Balmain, 2 Jack Singleton, 1 Val Rapava-Ruskin
Replacements: 16 Santiago Socino, 17 Jamal Ford-Robinson, 18 Kirill Gotovtsev, 19 Andrew Davidson, 20 Jack Clement, 21 Charlie Chapman, 22 Tom Seabrook, 23 Kyle Moyle

Harlequins: 15 Tyrone Green, 14 Louis Lynagh, 13 Luke Northmore, 12 Andre Esterhuizen, 11 Joe Marchant, 10 Marcus Smith, 9 Danny Care, 8 Alex Dombrandt (c), 7 Jack Kenningham, 6 Tom Lawday, 5 Hugh Tizard, 4 Matt Symons, 3 Will Collier, 2 Jack Walker, 1 Joe Marler
Replacements: 16 Jack Musk, 17 Santiago Garcia Botta, 18 Simon Kerrod, 19 Dino Lamb, 20 Luke Wallace, 21 Lewis Gjaltema, 22 Will Edwards, 23 Huw Jones

Venue: Kingsholm
Kick-off: 15:00 GMT
Referee: Tom Foley
Assistant referees: Christophe Ridley, Jamie Leahy
TMO: Rowan Kitt

Leicester Tigers v Newcastle Falcons

Form: Leicester Tigers have won their last 15 first-team matches since their home defeat to Bristol in Round 21 of Gallagher Premiership Rugby last season. Since then, the Tigers have won all five Gallagher Premiership Rugby fixtures played at Mattioli Woods Welford Road, their best sequence at their citadel since 2016. Newcastle Falcons were declared winners against Sale on Boxing Day, their first “win” in Gallagher Premiership Rugby since beating Exeter 15-14 at Sandy Park at the beginning of November. The Falcons other away win this season was 20-13 at Bath in Round 2. Excluding unplayed fixtures, Newcastle have beaten Leicester just twice since 2009, both in Premiership Rugby, at Kingston Park in 2016 and at Welford Road in 2018. The Falcons only other victory at Leicester in Premiership Rugby was on 30 December 1997 in Dean Richards’ 314th and last game for the Tigers.

Prediction: Leicester by 10

The teams:

Leicester: 15 Freddie Steward, 14 Harry Potter, 13 Matt Scott, 12 Dan Kelly, 11 Guy Porter, 10 George Ford, 9 Ben Youngs, 8 George Martin, 7 Tommy Reffell, 6 Ollie Chessum, 5 Calum Green, 4 Eli Snyman, 3 Dan Cole, 2 Julián Montoya, 1 Ellis Genge (c)
Replacements: 16 Charlie Clare, 17 Nephi Leatigaga, 18 Joe Heyes, 19 Harry Wells, 20 Nic Dolly, 21 Jack van Poortvliet, 22 Freddie Burns, 23 Matías Moroni

Newcastle: 15 Mike Brown, 14 Mateo Carreras, 13 Matias Orlando, 12 Luther Burrell, 11 Adam Radwan, 10 Joel Hodgson, 9 Louis Schreuder, 8 Carl Fearns, 7 Will Welch (c), 6 Philip van der Walt, 5 Sean Robinson, 4 Greg Peterson, 3 Trevor Davison, 2 Charlie Maddison, 1 Adam Brocklebank
Replacements: 16 Robbie Smith, 17 Kyle Cooper, 18 Mark Tampin, 19 Callum Chick, 20 Gary Graham, 21 Sam Stuart, 22 Brett Connon, 23 Tom Penny

Venue: Mattioli Woods Welford Road
Kick-off: 15:00 GMT
Referee: Karl Dickson
Assistant referees: Anthony Woodthorpe, Dean Richards
TMO: Ian Tempest

Northampton Saints v Saracens

Form: Northampton Saints 27-41 defeat at Harlequins on 27 December ended a two-game winning run in Gallagher Premiership Rugby. The Saints have been defeated just once at cinch Stadium at Franklin’s Gardens in Premiership Rugby this campaign: 26-55 to Leicester on 30 October. Saracens have lost only once since Round 3 of Gallagher Premiership Rugby: 15-18 at Exeter on 4 December. Saracens have lost their last three away games in all competitions since beating Harlequins 29-22 at the Twickenham Stoop in Round 7 of Premiership Rugby. Sarries only defeat in their last eight Premiership Rugby fixtures with Northampton was 25-27 at StoneX Stadium in October 2019. Saracens’ solitary defeat in their last nine visits to Northampton’s home in all competitions was 9-23 in the final of the Premiership Rugby Cup in March 2019.

Prediction: Saracens by 3

The teams:

Northampton: 15 George Furbank, 14 Ollie Sleightholme, 13 Rory Hutchinson, 12 Piers Francis, 11 Courtnall Skosan, 10 Dan Biggar, 9 Alex Mitchell, 8 Juarno Augustus, 7 Lewis Ludlam (c), 6 Courtney Lawes, 5 Api Ratuniyarawa, 4 Alex Coles, 3 Paul Hill, 2 Sam Matavesi, 1 Alex Waller
Replacements: 16 James Fish, 17 Emmanuel Iyogun, 18 Conor Carey, 19 David Ribbans, 20 Tom Wood, 21 Tom James, 22 Fraser Dingwall, 23 Ahsee Tuala

Saracens: 15 Max Malins, 14 Sean Maitland, 13 Alex Lozowski, 12 Nick Tompkins, 11 Elliot Daly, 10 Alex Goode, 9 Aled Davies, 8 Billy Vunipola, 7 Ben Earl, 6 Theo McFarland, 5 Nick Isiekwe, 4 Maro Itoje, 3 Harvey Beaton, 2 Jamie George (c), 1 Mako Vunipola
Replacements: 16 Tom Woolstencroft, 17 Eroni Mawi, 18 Gareth Milasinovich, 19 Callum Hunter-Hill, 20 Jackson Wray, 21 Ivan van Zyl, 22 Manu Vunipola, 23 Rotimi Segun

Venue: Franklin’s Gardens
Kick-off: 15:00 GMT
Referee: Adam Leal
Assistant referees: Jonathan Healy, George Selwood
TMO: Craig Maxwell-Keys