Premiership: England lock Joe Launchbury returns to Wasps XV after nine months out

Colin Newboult

The Premiership continues on Saturday and Sunday as five matches take place, including the clash between Sale Sharks and Leicester Tigers.

Check out the teams and our predictions for the six games, here.

Friday

Bath v Harlequins

Form: Bath Rugby obtained their first win of the season in Round 13 at home to Worcester and have not won back-to-back matches in Premiership Rugby since March 2021. Harlequins have won their last seven first team matches since their 14-16 defeat at Leicester in Round 10 of Gallagher Premiership Rugby. Harlequins have been victorious in their last three away games in all competitions and have not won four in succession on their travels since 2013. Harlequins have won their last three matches against Bath since Bath’s 41-27 triumph at the Twickenham Stoop in September 2020. Quins have been successful on four of their last five visits to Bath in all competitions.

Prediction: Harlequins 15

The teams:

Bath: 15 Semesa Rokoduguni, 14 Gabriel Hamer-Webb, 13 Jonathan Joseph, 12 Cameron Redpath, 11 Will Muir, 10 Max Ojomoh, 9 Ben Spencer, 8 Nathan Hughes, 7 Ewan Richards, 6 Tom Ellis, 5 Mike Williams, 4 Josh McNally (c), 3 D’Arcy Rae, 2 Jacques du Toit, 1 Arthur Cordwell
Replacements: 16 Tom Doughty, 17 Will Vaughan, 18 Kieran Verden, 19 Will Spencer, 20 Jaco Coetzee, 21 Joe Simpson, 22 Will Butt, 23 Tom Prydie

Harlequins: 15 Tyrone Green, 14 Nick David, 13 Huw Jones, 12 Andre Esterhuizen, 11 Cadan Murley, 10 Tommy Allan, 9 Danny Care, 8 Viliami Taulani, 7 Luke Wallace, 6 Dino Lamb, 5 Hugh Tizard, 4 Matt Symons, 3 Will Collier, 2 Jack Walker (c), 1 Santiago Garcia Botta
Replacements: 16 Sam Riley, 17 Jordan Els, 18 Simon Kerrod, 19 George Hammond, 20 Archie White, 21 Lewis Gjaltema, 22 Oscar Beard, 23 Louis Lynagh

Venue: Recreation Ground
Kick-off: 19:45 GMT
Referee: Tom Foley
Assistant Referees: Luke Pearce, Paul Dix
TMO: Sara Cox

Saturday

London Irish v Exeter Chiefs

Form: London Irish’s only defeat in Gallagher Premiership Rugby since Round 7 was 30-38 at Wasps on Boxing Day. The Exiles have not been defeated in any competition at Brentford Community Stadium since Bristol were the visitors in Premiership Rugby at the end of October. Exeter Chiefs three game winning run in Gallagher Premiership Rugby ended with their 12-14 away defeat to Harlequins in Round 13. The Chiefs have lost just twice away from home in Premiership Rugby this campaign, at Leicester in September and at Harlequins on 8 January. London Irish beat Exeter 33-21 at Sandy Park in Round 6 and have only once before achieved a seasons’ double over the Devonians – in 2010/11.

Prediction: Exeter by 5

The teams:

London Irish: 15 James Stokes, 14 Ben Loader, 13 Curtis Rona, 12 Benhard van Rensburg, 11 Lucio Cinti, 10 Paddy Jackson, 9 Nick Phipps, 8 Sean O’Brien, 7 Tom Pearson, 6 Matt Rogerson (c), 5 Adam Coleman, 4 Rob Simmons, 3 Ollie Hoskins, 2 Matt Cornish, 1 Will Goodrick-Clarke
Replacements: 16 Mike Willemse, 17 Facundo Gigena, 18 Marcel van der Merwe, 19 Chunya Munga, 20 Olly Cracknell, 21 Juan Martin Gonzalez, 22 Hugh O’Sullivan, 23 Kyle Rowe

Exeter: 15 Stuart Hogg, 14 Olly Woodburn, 13 Ian Whitten, 12 Harvey Skinner, 11 Tom O’Flaherty, 10 Joe Simmonds (c), 9 Jack Maunder, 8 Don Armand, 7 Jannes Kirsten, 6 Dave Ewers, 5 Sam Skinner, 4 Jonny Gray, 3 Patrick Schickerling, 2 Jack Innard, 1 James Kenny
Replacements: 16 Jack Yeandle, 17 Billy Keast, 18 Josh Iosefa-Scott, 19 Dafydd Jenkins, 20 Santiago Grondona, 21 Sam Maunder, 22 Sean O’Brien, 23 Josh Hodge

Venue: Brentford Community Stadium
Kick-off: 15:00 GMT
Referee: Mathew Carley
Assistant Referees: Nick Wood, Phil Watters
TMO: Luke Pearce

Newcastle Falcons v Gloucester

Form: Newcastle Falcons’ only “win” in the last five rounds of Gallagher Premiership Rugby was a declared victory over Sale on Boxing Day. The Falcons’ 8-44 home defeat to Northampton in Round 13 was their first loss at Kingston Park in any competition since September. Gloucester Rugby’s only defeat in their last five Gallagher Premiership Rugby fixtures was 17-20 to Harlequins at Kingsholm on 2 January. Gloucester lost their opening away game in Premiership Rugby this season at Northampton in Round 1 but are unbeaten on their travels in the competition since, achieving four wins and a draw. Gloucester have lost only one of their last five encounters with the Falcons in Premiership Rugby: 10-22 on their most recent visit to Kingston Park in January 2021.

Prediction: Gloucester by 12

The teams:

Newcastle: 15 Mike Brown, 14 Adam Radwan, 13 Matias Orlando, 12 Pete Lucock, 11 Mateo Carreras, 10 Brett Connon, 9 Sam Stuart, 8 Callum Chick, 7 Will Welch (c), 6 Philip van der Walt, 5 Sean Robinson, 4 Greg Peterson, 3 Mark Tampin, 2 George McGuigan, 1 Adam Brocklebank
Replacements: 16 Charlie Maddison, 17 Conrad Cade, 18 Trevor Davison, 19 Gary Graham, 20 Mark Wilson, 21 Cameron Nordli-Kelemeti, 22 Will Haydon-Wood, 23 Tom Penny

Gloucester: 15 Lloyd Evans, 14 Santiago Carreras, 13 Chris Harris, 12 Billy Twelvetrees, 11 Ollie Thorley, 10 Adam Hastings, 9 Charlie Chapman, 8 Ruan Ackermann, 7 Lewis Ludlow (c), 6 Jordy Reid, 5 Freddie Clarke, 4 Ed Slater, 3 Fraser Balmain, 2 Jack Singleton, 1 Val Rapava-Ruskin
Replacements: 16 Santiago Socino, 17 Harry Elrington, 18 Kirill Gotovtsev, 19 Andrew Davidson, 20 Jack Clement, 21 Stephen Varney, 22 Giorgi Kveseladze, 23 Louis Rees-Zammit

Venue: Kingston Park
Kick-off: 19:00 GMT
Referee: Jack Makepeace
Assistant Referees: Greg Macdonald, Wayne Falla
TMO: Rowan Kitt

Worcester Warriors v Northampton Saints

Form: Worcester Warriors have won only one of their last five Gallagher Premiership Rugby matches and that by a single point at home to Wasps in Round 10. The Warriors’ home defeat to Toulon in the European Challenge Cup on 15 January was their first defeat at Sixways since Leicester beat them there in Premiership Rugby on 16 October. Northampton Saints started the 2021/22 Gallagher Premiership Rugby campaign with three straight victories but since then they have amassed only four more wins in the competition. The Saints have been victorious in three away games in Premiership Rugby this season, winning at Exeter in September, at Bristol in November and at Newcastle earlier this month.

Prediction: Northampton by 8

The teams:

Worcester: 15 Billy Searle, 14 Perry Humphreys, 13 Francois Venter, 12 Ashley Beck, 11 Duhan van der Merwe, 10 Fin Smith, 9 Gareth Simpson, 8 Matt Kvesic, 7 Ted Hill (c), 6 Kyle Hatherell, 5 Andrew Kitchener, 4 Joe Batley, 3 Christian Judge, 2 Niall Annett, 1 Rory Sutherland
Replacements: 16 Isaac Miller, 17 Ethan Waller, 18 Jay Tyack, 19 Justin Clegg, 20 Sione Vailanu, 21 Will Chudley, 22 Owen Williams, 23 Alex Hearle

Northampton: 15 Ahsee Tuala, 14 Ollie Sleightholme, 13 Fraser Dingwall (c), 12 Rory Hutchinson, 11 Tom Collins, 10 Dan Biggar, 9 Alex Mitchell, 8 Juarno Augustus, 7 Teimana Harrison, 6 Tom Wood, 5 Api Ratuniyarawa, 4 David Ribbans, 3 Paul Hill, 2 Sam Matavesi, 1 Alex Waller
Replacements: 16 James Fish, 17 Emmanuel Iyogun, 18 Conor Carey, 19 Brandon Nansen, 20 Alex Coles, 21 Tom James, 22 James Grayson, 23 Matt Proctor

Venue: Sixways
Kick-off: 15:00 GMT
Referee: Ian Tempest
Assistant Referees: Dan Jones, Rob Warburton
TMO: Christophe Ridley

Sunday

Sale Sharks v Leicester Tigers

Form: Sale Sharks’ only victory in Gallagher Premiership Rugby since early November was 26-18 at home to Wasps on New Year’s Day. The Sharks have lost just once at AJ Bell Stadium in any competition since last February: 15-25 to Exeter in Premiership Rugby on 3 October. Leicester Tigers‘ only defeat in any competition this season was 13-16 at Wasps in Round 13, this ended a seven-game winning run on their travels in Premiership Rugby. The Tigers have already beaten the Sharks twice this season, both at Welford Road, in the Premiership in October and in the Premiership Rugby Cup in November. The Tigers have lost on five of their last six visits to Salford.

Prediction: Sale by 7

The teams:

Sale: 15 Luke James, 14 Tom Roebuck, 13 Robert du Preez, 12 Rohan Janse van Rensburg, 11 Byron McGuigan, 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 Coenie Oosthuizen, 2 Ewan Ashman, 1 Ross Harrison
Replacements: 16 Curtis Langdon, 17 Simon McIntyre, 18 Joe Jones, 19 JP du Preez, 20 Sam Dugdale, 21 Gus Warr, 22 Sam James, 23 Arron Reed

Leicester: 15 Bryce Hegarty, 14 Harry Potter, 13 Matt Scott, 12 Dan Kelly, 11 Guy Porter, 10 Freddie Burns, 9 Richard Wigglesworth (c), 8 Jasper Wiese, 7 Tommy Reffell, 6 George Martin, 5 Calum Green, 4 Harry Wells, 3 Dan Cole, 2 Julián Montoya, 1 James Whitcombe
Replacements: 16 Nic Dolly, 17 Francois van Wyk, 18 Nephi Leatigaga, 19 Hanro Liebenberg, 20 Olly Robinson, 21 Jack van Poortvliet, 22 Juan Pablo Socino, 23 Hosea Saumaki

Venue: AJ Bell Stadium
Kick-off: 15:00 GMT
Referee: Craig Maxwell-Keys
Assistant Referees: Joe James, John Meredith
TMO: David Rose

Wasps v Saracens

Form: Wasps have won just two of their last six Gallagher Premiership Rugby fixtures, but both of those victories came at Coventry Building Society Arena against London Irish and Leicester. Wasps have won their last three matches at Coventry in all competitions, their best sequence at the venue since November 2020. Saracens have been beaten just three times in Gallagher Premiership Rugby this season but two of those have been in the last four rounds. Saracens have lost just one of their last four away games in Premiership Rugby: 15-18 at Exeter on 4 December. Wasps have beaten Saracens just twice since 2017 and both of those were in Premiership Rugby last season. Saracens’ record against Wasps at Coventry is an excellent won five, lost two in all competitions.

Prediction: Saracens by 3

The teams:

Wasps: 15 Marcus Watson, 14 Paolo Odogwu, 13 Sam Spink, 12 Jimmy Gopperth, 11 Josh Bassett, 10 Charlie Atkinson, 9 Dan Robson, 8 Brad Shields, 7 Gabriel Oghre, 6 Vaea Fifita, 5 Elliott Stooke, 4 Joe Launchbury (c), 3 Biyi Alo, 2 Tom Cruse, 1 Rodrigo Martinez
Replacements: 16 Michael van Vuuren, 17 Tom West, 18 Elliot Millar-Mills, 19 James Gaskell, 20 Ben Morris, 21 Sam Wolstenholme, 22 Malakai Fekitoa, 23 Rob Miller

Saracens: 15 Alex Goode (cc), 14 Rotimi Segun, 13 Alex Lozowski, 12 Nick Tompkins 11 Alex Lewington, 10 Manu Vunipola, 9 Ivan van Zyl, 8 Billy Vunipola, 7 Ben Earl, 6 Theo McFarland, 5 Tim Swinson, 4 Callum Hunter-Hill, 3 Vincent Koch, 2 Tom Woolstencroft, 1 Mako Vunipola (cc)
Replacements: 16 Ethan Lewis, 17 Eroni Mawi, 18 Alec Clarey, 19 Janco Venter, 20 Andy Christie, 21 Aled Davies, 22 Brandon Jackson, 23 Sean Maitland

Venue: Coventry Building Society Arena
Kick-off: 15:00 GMT
Referee: Wayne Barnes
Assistant Referees: Karl Dickson, Anthony Woodthorpe
TMO: Stuart Terheege