Champions Cup Quarter Finals are upon us!

The Champions cup is down to the last eight with the teams fighting it out for a place in the Semi-finals this weekend.

There are two Matches on Saturday starting with Leinster vs Wasps at 15:15. This match is shown live on BTSport 2. This match is expected to be a tight one, which is more than can be said for last years fixtures in which Wasps thrashed Leinster both times.

Prediction: Leinster win

The second match on Saturday is Munster vs Stade Toulousain at 17:45. This is a match between two Giants of European rugby. Expect this to be another close one but with Munster on home turf it will be hard for the French visitors to come away with the victory.

Prediction: Munster win

The other two games are on Sunday. The first of these is between Saracens and Glasgow at 13:00. Both teams have been on fire this season, however, both have benefitted from their artificial pitches. This weekend though neither team has that advantage as they are both used to these pitches. I expect this to be a high scoring, high intensity affair, a game great for the Neutral.

Prediction: Glasgow win

The final game of the weekend is between Clermont and Toulon at 15:15 (UK time) live on BTSport 2. This will be another crunch clash between two sides who meet each other in the Top 14.

Prediction: Clermont win

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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

 

Anglo Welsh cup Semi-final Preview: Saracens vs Leicester

The Anglo Welsh cup semi-finals kick off with Saracens vs Leicester Tigers (11/03/17 KO 18:00).

These two teams will meet for the fourth time this season with Tigers seeking their first ever win at Allianz Park. Saracens have named an entirely different team to the one which beat Newcastle by 27 points to 35 last weekend. The Saracens bench packs plenty of firepower with players such as Burger, De Kock, Lozowski whilst still playing in the spirit of the Tournament, picking a young team with Samoa lock Fa’atiga Lemalu making his first start after signing on a short-term deal last month, while Tom Lindsay could make his debut from the bench.

The Leicester Tigers have made twelve changes to their starting xv with J P Pieterson, Kitto and Luke Hamilton the only players to retain their place. It is a Tigers team packed with experience with Burns, Tait, Balmain,  Kitchener, Thacker, McCaffrey coming into the team. There is also a starting place for full-back George Worth who stood in earlier in the season when Tait and Veainu were out with a Broken Jaw and Concussion respectively. Tigers have packed a young bench with Ben White named at 21 coming in for the injured Sam Harrison and Harry Thacker’s brother Charlie coming in at 23.

Saracens come into the match on the back of a poor start to times without their internationals whilst Tigers return to action after a 34-15 drubbing by the Exeter Chiefs after a noticeable improvement in their performance.

Saracens: Gallagher; Ellery, Streather (capt.), Tompkins, Earle; Whiteley, Taylor; Barrington, Saunders, Koch, Lemalu, Flanagan, Brown, Conlon, Vunisa.

Replacements: Lindsay, Stringer, Lamositele, Isiekwe, Burger, De Kock, Lozowski, Perkins.

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

Replacements: Croft, Rizzo, Bateman, Maksymiw, Owen, White, Williams, Thacker.

Referee: Luke Pearce

Prediction: Tigers win