Premiership: Last season’s hero Freddie Burns starts as Leicester Tigers face huge test first-up against Exeter Chiefs

Dylan Coetzee

The 2022/23 Premiership season begins this weekend as six intriguing matches take place, including the clash between Exeter Chiefs and Leicester Tigers.

The West Country derby between Bristol Bears and Bath has been rescheduled for Saturday while Sale Sharks’ encounter with Northampton Saints is moved to Sunday, with the other scheduled opening round games set to take place on Saturday going ahead.

Saturday

Exeter Chiefs v Leicester Tigers

Form: Exeter Chiefs have won just two of their last six Gallagher Premiership Rugby matches, both at Sandy Park, against Bath and Harlequins. Exeter’s only defeat at Sandy Park in Premiership Rugby since February was to today’s opponents, Leicester, on 27 March. Gallagher Premiership Rugby champions, Leicester Tigers, have won their last five matches in the competition since their 26-20 reversal to Harlequins at the Twickenham Stoop on 23 April. Tigers have won only three of their last seven away games in Premiership Rugby. Leicester have been victorious on the opening weekend for the past two seasons. The Tigers achieved a Premiership Rugby double over the Chiefs last season including a 34-19 victory at Mattioli Woods Welford Road in Round 1. Leicester’s victory at Sandy Park in March was their first triumph at the venue since September 2014.

Prediction: Exeter by 3

The teams:

Exeter: 15 Joe Simmonds, 14 Jack Nowell, 13 Ian Whitten, 12 Solomone Kata, 11 Olly Woodburn, 10 Harvey Skinner, 9 Stuart Townsend, 8 Richard Capstick, 7 Christ Tshiunza, 6 Jannes Kirsten, 5 Jonny Gray, 4 Jack Dunne, 3 Marcus Street, 2 Jack Yeandle (c), 1 Alec Hepburn
Replacements: 16 Jack Innard, 17 James Kenny, 18 Patrick Scickerling, 19 Ruben van Heerden, 20 Dave Ewers, 21 Jack Maunder, 22 Rory O’Loughlin, 23 Facundo Cordero

Leicester: 15 Chris Ashton, 14 Harry Potter, 13 Matt Scott, 12 Jimmy Gopperth, 11 Hosea Saumaki, 10 Freddie Burns, 9 Ben Youngs, 8 Hanro Liebenberg (c), 7 Tommy Reffell, 6 George Martin, 5 Eli Snyman, 4 Harry Wells, 3 Dan Cole, 2 Charlie Clare, 1 James Cronin
Replacements: 16 Joe Taufete’e, 17 Francois van Wyk, 18 Will Hurd, 19 Cameron Henderson, 20 Olly Cracknell, 21 Richard Wigglesworth, 22 Phil Cokanasiga, 23 Kini Murimurivalu

Venue: Sandy Park
Kick-off: 15:00 BST (14:00 GMT)
Referee: Christophe Ridley
Assistant Referees: Phil Watters, Peter Allan
TMO: David Rose

London Irish v Worcester Warriors

Form: London Irish have won just one of their last six Gallagher Premiership Rugby matches: 42-14 at Newcastle on 22 April. The Exiles’ most recent victory at Brentford Community Stadium in Premiership Rugby was 43-12 against today’s opponents, Worcester, in early March. London Irish have lost on the opening weekend for the past two seasons, both to Worcester Warriors. Worcester Warriors’ 43-27 home victory over Bath in Round 26 ended a four-game losing run in Gallagher Premiership Rugby. The Warriors have not been victorious away from home in Premiership Rugby since beating London Irish at the Twickenham Stoop in September 2020. Worcester have won in Round 1 for the past three seasons. The last four Premiership Rugby fixtures between the two clubs have all been won by the home side on the day. Worcester have made three previous visits to Brentford Community Stadium losing two in the Premiership and drawing a thriller in the final of the Premiership Rugby Cup in May 25-all after extra time but lifting the trophy because they scored more tries.

Prediction: London Irish by 20

The teams:

London Irish: 15 James Stokes, 14 Will Joseph, 13 Curtis Rona, 12 Benhard van Rensburg, 11 Ollie Hassell-Collins, 10 Paddy Jackson, 9 Ben White, 8 Josh Basham, 7 Tom Pearson, 6 Ben Donnell, 5 Adam Coleman (c), 4 Rob Simmons, 3 Lovejoy Chawatama, 2 Matt Cornish, 1 Facundo Gigena
Replacements: 16 Agustin Creevy, 17 Danilo Fischetti, 18 Ciaran Parker, 19 Api Ratuniyarawa, 20 Jack Cooke, 21 Caolan Englefield, 22 Luca Morisi, 23 Henry Arundell

Worcester: 15 Jamie Shillcock, 14 Perry Humphreys, 13 Ollie Lawrence, 12 Francois Venter, 11 Alex Hearle, 10 Billy Searle, 9 Gareth Simpson, 8 Matt Kvesic, 7 Cameron Neild (c), 6 Fergus Lee-Warner, 5 Andrew Kitchener, 4 Joe Batley, 3 Murray McCallum, 2 Hame Faiva, 1 Valeriy Morozov
Replacements: 16 Curtis Langdon, 17 Rory Sutherland, 18 Jay Tyack, 19 Graham Kitchener, 20 Tom Dodd, 21 Will Chudley, 22 Owen Williams, 23 Noah Heward

Venue: Brentford Community Stadium
Kick-off: 15:00 BST (14:00 GMT)
Referee: Wayne Barnes
Assistant Referees: Neil Chivers, Gareth Holsgrove
TMO: Stuart Terheege

Newcastle Falcons v Harlequins

Form: Newcastle Falcons have won only once in Premiership Rugby in 2022: 45-10 at Worcester on 2 April. The Falcons’ most recent “victory” at Kingston Park in Premiership Rugby was their declared win over Sale on Boxing Day. Newcastle have been victorious in Round 1 in three of their last five opening fixtures in Premiership Rugby. Harlequins’ only victory in their last four league matches was 28-24 against Gloucester at Twickenham Stadium on 21 May. Quins have not won away from home in the tournament since beating London Irish 41-14 at Brentford Community Stadium on 3 April. Harlequins have won on the opening weekend just twice in the last five seasons. The Londoners’ only defeat in their last six matches against Newcastle in Premiership Rugby was 22-25 at Kingston Park in February 2021. Quins have won on two of their last three visits to Kingston Park including a 26-20 victory in the opening round last season.

Prediction: Harlequins by 12

The teams:

Newcastle: 15 Alex Tait, 14 Adam Radwan, 13 Ben Stevenson, 12 Pete Lucock, 11 Nathan Earle, 10 Brett Connon, 9 Josh Barton, 8 Will Welch (c), 7 Jamie Blamire, 6 Sean Robinson, 5 Sebastian de Chaves, 4 Greg Peterson, 3 Trevor Davison, 2 George McGuigan, 1 Phil Brantingham
Replacements: 16 Charlie Maddison, 17 Logovi’i Mulipola, 18 Mark Tampin, 19 George Merrick, 20 Tom Marshall, 21 Cameron Nordli-Kelemeti, 22 Tian Schoeman, 23 George Wacokecoke

Harlequins: 15 Tyrone Green, 14 Nick David, 13 Luke Northmore, 12 Lennox Anyanwu, 11 Cadan Murley, 10 Tommy Allan, 9 Lewis Gjaltema, 8 Alex Dombrandt (c), 7 Tom Lawday, 6 Jack Kenningham, 5 Irne Herbst, 4 George Hammond, 3 Wilco Louw, 2 George Head, 1 Joe Marler
Replacements: 16 Jack Walker, 17 Simon Kerrod, 18 Will Collier, 19 Dino Lamb, 20 Will Evans, 21 Jack Stafford, 22 Will Edwards, 23 Joe Marchant

Venue: Kingston Park
Kick-off: 15:00 BST (14:00 GMT)
Referee: Luke Pearce
Assistant Referees: Andrew Jackson, Alex Thomas
TMO: Claire Hodnett

Bristol Bears v Bath

Form: Bristol Bears have won two of their last four Premiership Rugby encounters. The Bears have lost just twice at Ashton Gate in Premiership Rugby in 2022 – to London Irish and Harlequins. Bristol have not been victorious on the opening weekend since beating Bath at Ashton Gate in 2019. Bath Rugby’s only victory in their last six Gallagher Premiership Rugby fixtures was 27-24 at home to London Irish on 21 May. Bath’s only victory on the road in any competition was on their long trip to Newcastle in Premiership Rugby at the end of February. Bath have lost on the opening weekend for the past four season’s since beating Leicester 27-23 at Welford Road in 2017. Bath’s 29-27 victory over the Bears at the Recreation Ground in March ended a five-game losing streak to Bristol in Premiership Rugby. Bath have won just once at Ashton Gate in Premiership Rugby, 19-9 in March 2008.

Prediction: Bristol by 10

The teams:

Bristol Bears: 15 Charles Piutau, 14 Luke Morahan, 13 Piers O’Conor, 12 Sam Bedlow, 11 Rich Lane, 10 Callum Sheedy, 9 Harry Randall, 8 Magnus Bradbury, 7 Jake Heenan (c), 6 Sam Jeffries, 5 Chris Vui, 4 Joe Joyce, 3 Kyle Sinckler, 2 Bryan Byrne, 1 Ellis Genge
Replacements: 16 Will Capon, 17 Jake Woolmore, 18 Max Lahiff, 19 Ed Holmes, 20 Sam Lewis, 21 Andy Uren, 22 AJ MacGinty, 23 Jack Bates

Bath: 15 Tom de Glanville, 14 Gabriel Hamer-Webb, 13 Will Butt, 12 Cameron Redpath, 11 Matt Gallagher, 10 Piers Francis, 9 Ben Spencer (c), 8 Jaco Coetzee, 7 Chris Cloete, 6 Josh Bayliss, 5 Josh McNally, 4 Dave Attwood, 3 Aranos Coetzee, 2 Tom Dunn, 1 Beno Obano
Replacements: 16 Niall Annett, 17 Lewis Boyce, 18 Johannes Jonker, 19 Will Spencer, 20 Ewan Richards, 21 Louis Schreuder, 22 Orlando Bailey, 23 Richard de Carpentier

Venue: Ashton Gate
Kick-off: 17:30 BST (16:30 GMT)
Referee: Matthew Carley
Assistant Referees: Greg Macdonald, Jonathan Healy
TMO: Rowan Kitt

Sunday

Gloucester v Wasps

Form: Gloucester Rugby have won two of their last three Gallagher Premiership Rugby matches, both by huge margins at Kingsholm, 64-0 against Bath and 54-7 over Saracens. Gloucester have lost only once at Kingsholm in Premiership Rugby since 2 January, 21-27 to this week’s opponents Wasps in early April. Gloucester have lost on the opening weekend for the past two seasons. Wasps are without a win in their last three Gallagher Premiership Rugby matches since beating Worcester 41-12 at the Coventry Building Society Arena on 23 April. Wasps’ only victory in their last six away games in Premiership Rugby was on their trip to Kingsholm on 2 April. Wasps’ victory at Gloucester in Round 22 last season ended a three-game losing run to the Cherry and Whites and was their first victory at Kingsholm since 2013.

Prediction: Gloucester by 14

The teams:

Gloucester: 15 Lloyd Evans, 14 Louis Rees-Zammit, 13 Chris Harris, 12 Mark Atkinson, 11 Ollie Thorley, 10 Adam Hastings, 9 Charlie Chapman, 8 Ben Morgan, 7 Harry Taylor, 6 Ruan Ackermann (c), 5 Alex Craig, 4 Freddie Clarke, 3 Fraser Balmain, 2 Jack Singleton, 1 Harry Elrington
Replacements: 16 Santiago Socino, 17 Val Rapava-Ruskin, 18 Jamal Ford-Robinson, 19 Cameron Jordan, 20 Albert Tuisue, 21 Ben Meehan, 22 Billy Twelvetrees, 23 Kyle Moyle

Wasps: 15 Matteo Minozzi, 14 Zach Kibirige, 13 Sam Spink, 12 Burger Odendaal, 11 Josh Bassett, 10 Charlie Atkinson, 9 Dan Robson, 8 Alfie Barbeary, 7 Brad Shields, 6 Tom Willis, 5 Kiran McDonald, 4 Joe Launchbury (c), 3 John Ryan, 2 Tom Cruse, 1 Robin Hislop
Replacements: 16 Dan Frost, 17 Elliot Millar-Mills, 18 Biyi Alo, 19 Ben Morris, 20 Jack Willis, 21 Will Porter, 22 Ryan Mills, 23 Ali Crossdale

Venue: Kingsholm Stadium
Kick-off: 15:00 BST (14:00 GMT)
Referee: Anthony Woodthorpe
Assistant Referees: Simon Harding, James Clarke
TMO: Ian Tempest

Sale Sharks v Northampton Saints

Form: Sale Sharks‘ only defeat in their last six Gallagher Premiership Rugby matches was 12-18 at home to Saracens on 1 April, this is their only defeat at Salford City Stadium in Premiership Rugby since losing there to Exeter in early October. The Sharks have been victorious in Round 1 for the past two seasons. Northampton Saints finished off the regular season with six wins from their last seven games before losing out at Leicester in the semi-finals. Saints have lost their last two away games in Premiership Rugby and have not lost three in succession on the road since December 2020. Northampton have been successful on the opening weekend in two of the past three seasons. Sale have lost just two of their last ten encounters with Northampton in Premiership Rugby, both at cinch Stadium at Franklin’s Gardens in 2019 and 2021. The Saints have won only twice in ten previous visits to Salford City Stadium in Premiership Rugby, on their first trip in 2012 and in 2017.

Prediction: Sale Sharks by 3

The teams:

Sale Sharks: 15 Luke James, 14 Tom Roebuck, 13 Sam James, 12 Manu Tuilagi, 11 Tom O’Flaherty, 10 Robert du Preez, 9 Gus Warr, 8 Daniel du Preez, 7 Ben Curry (c), 6 Jean-Luc du Preez, 5 Matt Postlethwaite, 4 Cobus Wiese, 3 Nick Schonert, 2 Akker van der Merwe, 1 Simon McIntyre
Replacements: 16 Tommy Taylor, 17 Ross Harrison, 18 Coenie Oosthuizen, 19 Josh Beaumont, 20 Jono Ross, 21 Joe Simpson, 22 Tom Curtis, 23 Arron Reed

Northampton Saints: 15 Tom Collins, 14 Ollie Sleightholme, 13 Matt Proctor, 12 Fraser Dingwall (c), 11 Courtnall Skosan, 10 James Grayson, 9 Alex Mitchell, 8 Juarno Augustus, 7 Aaron Hinkley, 6 Angus Scott-Young, 5 Alex Coles, 4 Lukhan Salakaia-Loto, 3 Paul Hill, 2 Mike Haywood, 1 Alex Waller
Replacements: 16 Sam Matavesi, 17 Emmanuel Iyogun, 18 Alfie Petch, 19 Alex Moon, 20 Sam Graham, 21 Tom James, 22 Tom Litchfield, 23 George Furbank

Venue: AJ Bell Stadium
Kick-off: 15:00 BST (14:00 GMT)
Referee: Tom Foley
Assistant Referees: Andrew Jackson, Wayne Falla
TMO: Dean Richards

READ MORE: Premiership: Planet Rugby’s power rankings ahead of the new season