Aviva Premiership round 18 preview

After a two week siesta the Aviva premiership is back with some blockbuster matches!

This weekend’s action kicks off with a trip to Ashton Gate to see strugglers Bristol take on Gloucester.

Bristol will be looking to help their chances of staying up by beating a Gloucester side which is struggling for consistency this season.

Henry Trinder makes his first start for Gloucester in 11 months due to injury. Bristol however are without Varndell (toe) and Siale Piutau (knee).

Bristol: Woodward; Wallace, Hurrell, Pisi, Lemi; Searle, Mathewson; Bevington, Jones, Cortes, Phillips, Sorenson, Jeffries, Lam, Eadie.

Replacements: Crumpton, O’Connell, Ford-Robinson, Crane, Fenton-Wells, Williams, Tovey, Arscott.

Gloucester: Marshall; May, Trinder, Symons, Halaifonua; Burns, Heinz (capt); McAllister, Hibbard, Hohneck; Savage, Thrush; Kalamafoni, Rowan, Morgan.

Replacements: Matu’u, Thomas, Doran-Jones, Denton, Ludlow, Braley, Twelvetrees, Sharples.

Referee: J P Doyle

Prediction: Gloucester win

 

Saturday features three matches including the East Midlands Derby.

Northampton host Leicester Tigers in a match that never disappoints.

Both teams have their internationals back with Hartley, Lawes, Wood, Picamoles, North returning for the Saints. Tigers make 11 changes to their starting XV which sees the return of internationals Ben Youngs and Dan Cole.

Leicester: Veainu; Thompstone, Tait, Mermoz, Pietersen; Burns, B Youngs; Genge, T Youngs (capt), Cole, Barrow, Kitchener, Fitzgerald, O’Connor, Hamilton.

Replacements: McGuigan, Rizzo, Cilliers, M Williams, McCaffrey, White, O Williams, Roberts.

Northampton: Tuala; Foden, Tuitavake, Mallinder, North; Myler, Groom; Waller, Hartley, Brookes, Lawes, Day, Wood (capt), Clark, Picamoles.

Replacements: Haywood, Waller, Hill, Gibson, Harrison, Dickson Burrell, Pisi.

Referee: Greg Garner Kick off- 15:00

Prediction: Tigers win

The second game on Saturday is between Exeter and Sale.

Exeter are continuing their fight for a home semi-final against tenth placed Sharks.

Exeter see the return of Jack Nowell from the Six Nations and he comes in for James Short who drops to the bench.

Solomona continues on the wing for the Sharks to add flare to their backs.

Exeter: Dollman; Nowell, Whitten, Devoto, Woodburn; Slade, Townsend; Moon, Cowan-Dickie, Williams, Lees, Parling, Horstmann, Armand (capt), Waldrom.

Replacements: Yeandle, Rimmer, Francis, J Hill, S Simmonds, Maunder, J Simmonds, Short.

Sale: Haley; Solomona, James, Jennings, McGuigan; MacGinty, Phillips; Harrison, Webber, Aulika, Evans, Ostrikov, Neild, T Curry, Beamont (capt).

Replacements: B Curry, Flynn, Longbottom, Nott, Pearce, Stringer, Bedlow, Charnley.

Referee: Craig Maxwell-Keys       Kick off: 15:00

Prediction: Exeter Win

The final game on Saturday is Harlequins vs Newcastle.

This clash of Seventh plays Ninth may seem like one to avoid for a Neutral but a loss for Quins sees their play-off hopes dwindle whilst Newcastle who are having their best season for a while will be looking to secure a mid-table finish.

Quins see the return of internationals Joe Marler, Danny Care, Tim Visser and Mike Brown in a much needed boost.

Newcastle have made one change bringing in Scott Lawson at hooker as they look for their first win at the stoop for 17 years.

Harlequins: Brown; Yarde, Marchant, Roberts, Visser; Evans, Care; Marler, Buchanan, Collier, Merrick, Horwill, Robshaw, Ward (capt), Luamanu.

Replacements: Gray, Lambert, Sinckler, Matthews, Clifford, Mulchrone, Swiel, Alofa.

Newcastle: Tait; Goneva, Waldouck, Socino, Sinoti; Hodgson, Takulua; Vickers, Lawson, Welsh, Green, Wilson, Chick, Welch (capt.), Latu.

Replacements: Sowrey, Harris, Wilson, Olmstead, Hogg, Young, Delany, Harris.

Referee: Tom Foley    Kick off: 15:00

Prediction: Harlequins win

Sunday sees two huge fixtures kicking off with Wasps vs Worcester.

Worcester will be looking to capitalise on Bristol’s loss on Friday Night to help their chances of staying up. Wasps will be looking to all but secure their spot in the play offs with a bonus point win.

Wasps: Beale; Wade, Leiua, Gopperth, Le Roux; Cipriani, Robson; McIntyre, Johnson (capt), Moore, Rowlands, Myall, Haskell, Young, Rieder.

Replacements: Cruse, Mullan, Cooper-Woolley, Symons, Thompson, Simpson, Macken, Bassett.

Worcester: Pennell; Heem, Olivier, Willison, Adams; Mills, Hougaard; Rapava Ruskin, Taufete’e, Schonert, O’Callaghan (capt), Spencer, Vui, Lewis, Mama.

Replacements: Bregvadze, Bower, Alo, Dowson, Potgieter, Baldwin, Lamb, Hammond.

Referee: Luke Pearce    Kick off: 14:30

Prediction: Wasps win

The final game of the weekend is Saracens vs Bath.

Saracens will be looking to regain their spot in the top two which was taken by Exeter during the Six Nations period. Bath need a win as they have the Leicester Tigers breathing down their necks.

Both sides receive massive boosts with their internationals returning.

Saracens: Goode; Ashton, Bosch, Barritt, Maitland; Farrell, Wigglesworth; M Vunipola, George, Figallo, Itoje, Hamilton, Rhodes, Wray, B Vunipola.

Replacements: Brits, Lamositele, Koch, Brown, Conlon, H Taylor, Lozowski, D Taylor.

Bath: Watson; Rokoduguni, Joseph, Tapuai, Banahan; Ford, Fotuali’i; Catt, Batty, Lahiff, Ewels, Caharteris, Ellis, Louw, Faletau.

Replacements: Brooker, Obano, Palmer-Newport, Stooke, Grant, Cook, Hastings, Wilson.

Referee: Wayne Barnes

Prediction: Saracens win

 

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