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

 

Advertisements

Leicester Tigers Club statement: New Head Coach

Leicester Tigers are delighted to announce that Matt O’Connor is to return to the club as head coach.
O’Connor won three Premiership titles in his previous spell with the Tigers up to 2013 and has subsequently worked with Leinster, Queensland Reds and Tonga.

He will begin his new role at Leicester in early April, subject to visa.

Leicester Tigers club chairman Peter Tom CBE said: “We are delighted that Matt O’Connor has accepted an offer to return to Welford Road.

“The club has conducted an exhaustive search to find who we feel is the right person to take the team forward and this brought up the names of a number of potentially very good coaches. One of the most significant factors in our deliberations was experience of the Premiership and what it takes to win the competition.

“Matt has that experience as head coach during a successful period which brought three league titles, an Anglo-Welsh Cup and the club’s most recent appearance in the European Cup Final. The team also topped the try-scoring figures in the Premiership four times in that five-year period with Matt in charge of the attack.”

Aaron Mauger, the current head coach, will leave the club after this Saturday’s Aviva Premiership fixture against Northampton Saints.

Former centre Mauger returned to Welford Road as head coach at the start of 2015/16 season, a campaign which included appearances in the semi-finals of both the Aviva Premiership and European Cup.

Tigers remain in the fight for places in the Aviva Premiership semi-finals this season and have just won the Anglo-Welsh Cup with Mauger in interim charge of team affairs.

Chairman Peter Tom added: “While preparing to welcome Matt, we are also disappointed to lose Aaron.

“Matt’s strengths are in his work with players on the training pitch and we are making changes to our organisational structure to enable him to focus solely on the success of the team.

“We thank Aaron for his commitment to the club over the last two seasons as head coach and especially in his time in interim charge of team affairs in recent months. We wish him well for the future.”

Former Australia international centre O’Connor worked as assistant coach with the Brumbies and Australia ‘A’ before joining Leicester in the summer of 2008, initially as backs coach under Heyneke Meyer and then as head coach with Richard Cockerill.

In his time at the club, Tigers won Premiership titles in 2009, 2010 and 2013, the Anglo-Welsh Cup in 2012 and reached the 2009 European Cup Final.

After leaving Welford Road in 2013 to become head coach at Leinster, O’Connor led them to the Celtic League title in his first season and reached the semi-finals of the Champions Cup a year later.

He became attack coach and then co-head coach at Super Rugby side Queensland Reds and assistant coach with Tonga as they recorded three wins out of three on their European tour last autumn.

Tigers club captain Tom Youngs said: “Matt has a good record in the Premiership and had a lot of success in his previous spell here. We look forward to working with him again when he arrives next month.

“At the same time, it is disappointing that Mage is leaving the club. He’s a good man and a good rugby man who has worked very hard as head coach over the last couple of seasons and goes with our best wishes.”

Disappointing performance from England as Ireland have last laugh

England’s dreams of a second consecutive Grand Slam were slammed by Ireland along with the RFU’s hopes of a Grand Slam of Grand Slams as England Women and U20’s both won the Grand Slam in their tournaments.

England always seemed second-best to Ireland and found no answer to the incredible pressure placed on them by the Irish on St Patrick’s weekend in a sell-out Aviva stadium in Dublin.

Ireland opened the scoring through a Jonny Sexton penalty followed by an Iain Henderson try, which Sexton converted, followed by another Sexton penalty lead to a 13-3 lead at half-time as Farrell got England off the mark early on.

England got the first points of the half but intense pressure from Ireland and the ever reliable boot of Sexton gave Ireland a famous victory.

Despite this disappointment England have defended their title and equalled New Zealand’s record of 18 consecutive wins. They have been rejuviniated under Eddie Jones and are a force to be reckoned with going into their Summer Tour and will play a huge role in the Lions tour.

Final score Ireland 13-9 England

Ireland- Tries: Henderson  Cons: Sexton Penalties: Sexton (2)

England- Penalties: Farrell (3)

Scotland beat Italy to finish 4th

Scotland recorded their third win in this years Six Nations against a battling Italy.

Despite the score line not showing it, Italy performed well however their bluntness in attack allowed Scotland a bonus point victory.

Scotland hadn’t won three matches in a single campaign since 2006, showing how far they have come and they will be a top contender next year.

Tries from Finn Russell, Matt Scott, Tim Visser and Tommy Seymour gave Scotland a new record for the number of tries they scored in a six nations campaign of 14 tries. The tries along with three Russell conversions and a penalty from the ever reliable Stuart Hogg gave Scotland a convincing victory.

Final Score: Scotland 29-0 Italy

Tries: Russell, Scott, Visser, Seymour Cons: Russell 3 Pen: Hogg

 

 

Wales beaten in 100 minute match in Paris

With the clock past 80 minutes Wales were camped on their 5 metre line defending a French scrum 20 minutes a sin-binning and a HIA later France scored a try, which was duly converted granting them a victory 20-18.

It was arguably the most interesting moment in the match, unusual for scrums but from a neutral’s perspective it was a match to send you to sleep.

Wales didn’t ever threaten the French line and built their score from the French ill-discipline and Halfpenny’s ever reliable boot.

The French took their opportunities with Remi Lamerat scoring early in the match and Lopez adding a conversion and two penalties to set up a tight finish.

With 77 minutes on the clock Wales turned over the French attack and in a moment he will surely regret, Sam Warburton kicked downfield and over the dead-ball line setting up the attack that lead to 20 minutes of scrums and the French snatching a victory from under the nose of the Welsh.

The scrums that lead to the French victory were controversial as the French Doctor came on to take tight-head prop Uini Atonio off for a HIA despite the prop telling referee Barnes he was not injured, leading to the suspicion the French faked the need for a HIA to bring on Slimani to lead the scrum battle that ensued. Then after multiple penalties to France Wayne Barnes sent Wales Prop Samson Lee to the Sin-bin. With both Atonio and Lee back on the field, Barnes then had to deal with an allegation of Biting on George North, with a mark evident he had no choice but to go to the TMO but with no conclusive views, no action was taken and with one last French attack from the scrum Chouly crossed the whitewash and Lopez converted giving France the win.

Final Score: France 20-18 Wales.

France- Tries: Lamerat, Chouly Cons: Lopez 2 Pens: Lopez 2

Wales- Pens: Halfpenny 6

Anglo Welsh Cup preview: Exeter vs Leicester

Venue: Twickenham Stoop Date: Sunday, 19 March Kick-off: 15:00 GMT

The time has come for the Anglo Welsh cup final and it is an all English affair.

Leicester Tigers come off the back of a convincing win versus Saracens, their first ever at Allianz park, and make two changes. Mike Williams comes in at Flanker whilst Peter Betham replaces J P Pieterson on the wing. Tigers have gone for experience as they search for their first silverware since 2013 with the likes of Mathew Tait and Freddie Burns leading the attack and Graham Kitchener, who was in the last Tigers team to win the Anglo Welsh cup, leading the lineout. Meanwhile they make four changes to the bench, bringing in extra experience with Tom Youngs, Dom Barrow, Luke Hamilton and Matt Smith being added.

Chiefs bring in props Moray Low and Greg Holmes while behind Dave Ewers gets the nod over Tom Johnson in the back-row. Jack Maunder returns at scrum-half  while Max Bodilly’s switch from wing to centre means there is also a starting spot for recently crowned Premiership Player of the Month, James Short, on the wing.

Exeter: Turner; Jess, Bodilly, S Hill, Short; J Simmonds, Maunder; Low, Malton, Holmes, Atkins, Welch, Ewers, Salvi (capt), Simmonds.

Replacements: Taione, Keast, Owlett, Skinner, Johnson, Thomas, Hooley, Hendrickson.

Leicester: Worth; Betham, Tait (capt), Roberts, Brady; Burns, Kitto; Genge, McGuigan, Balmain, Wells, Kitchener, Williams, Thacker, McCaffrey.

Replacements: Youngs, Rizzo, Bateman, Barrow, Hamilton, White, Williams, Smith.

Referee- Thomas Foley

Prediction- Tigers Win

 

 

 

 

 

England vs Ireland Match preview

Venue: Aviva Stadium Date: Saturday, 18 March Kick-off: 17:00 GMT

England make two changes as they aim to achieve consecutive Grand Slams, the first in Six Nations history. Billy Vunipola is preferred to Nathan Hughes, who has been superb throughout the tournament and Anthony Watson replaces Jack Nowell on the wing.

Ireland have been forced into two changes from the side that overcame Wales last week. Conor Murray is out with a shoulder injury so Kieran Marmion will wear the number 9 shirt. Injured Rob Kearney is replaced by Jared Payne. The other Ireland change made by Schmidt is tactical, Iain Henderson comes in for Devin Toner.

This showdown on St Patrick’s weekend in Dublin is going to be the highlight of the Rugby weekend. Ireland will be out to rain on England’s parade whilst England will be going for their second consecutive Grand Slam and the chance to beat New Zealand’s record of 18 wins on the trot which they equalled last weekend when they mauled Scotland.

Ireland: Payne; Earls, Ringrose, Henshaw, Zebo; Sexton, Marmion; McGrath, Best (captain), Furlong; Ryan, Henderson; Stander, O’Brien, Heaslip,

Replacements: Scannell, Healy, Ryan, Toner, O’Mahony, McGrath, Jackson, Conway.

England: Brown; Watson, Joseph, Farrell, Daly; Ford, Youngs; Marler, Hartley (captain), Cole; Launchbury, Lawes; Itoje, Haskell, B Vunipola.

Replacements: George, M Vunipola, Sinckler, Wood, Hughes, Care, Te’o, Nowell.

Referee: Jerome Garces (France)

Touch judges: Mathieu Raynal (France) & Marius Mitrea (Italy)

TMO: Ben Skeen (New Zealand)

Prediction- England Win