Gloucester vs Exeter Chiefs:
Round 7 will commence on Friday evening at Kingsholm where the Cherry & Whites will host Exeter Chiefs. The latter were last weekend stunned by a courageous performance from London Irish at Sandy Park.
It was the Chiefs’ third loss of the campaign which renders them with a winning ratio of 50% - not good enough for a team which has set itself such high standards in the recent past. However, head coach Rob Baxter is showing no signs of panic.
“I don’t feel like we’re in a crisis because we’ve lost one game after winning three,” he said.
“The drama for me a little bit is the performance, but we’ve got a few days to put that right and that’s what’s great about sport.
“London Irish found momentum very easily, we didn’t find that kind of momentum and giving up momentum makes you liable to conceding penalties. A lack of accuracy on the floor when we carried meant that we were open to the odd turnover on the floor, compounded by a lack accuracy when we were clearing out. Whatever your level of performance is, it needs to be focussed on some foundational elements around how you keep the ball and how you defend, and I think that’s where I would say our core fundamental qualities weren’t there.”
Gloucester managed to see off Newcastle Falcons last week at Kingsholm in a good performance in which George Skinvington’s men were forced to dig deep in the face of the gutsy Falcons’ effort.
"They are definitely a massive threat,” Skivington said. “Losing last week to London Irish, that will sharpen their tools as well. I don’t think they needed them sharpening because I think they are an unbelievable outfit and they are the benchmark for building a club. They’ve done a great job and they’ve got the trophies off the back of it and countless finals and experience. They’ve been there and done it for the past 10 years in Premiership Rugby which is outstanding. They know how to win a game of rugby. They’ve got power up front and class and really good game management.
"A really big challenge for us and a really tough Friday night but it’s exciting because we get to find out where we are."
Bath vs Wasps:
Bath will be looking to make amends for their defeat to Quins last weekend when they take on Wasps at The Rec. Quins dominated proceedings with a fiery attacking display which yielded a total of 5 tries while Bath managed just a brace in response.
Meanwhile, Wasps fell heavily to Saracens at the StoneX Stadium with the latter blitzing their opponents by 8 tries to 2.
Bath find themselves in the less-than-enviable position of not yet having registered a single victory in their campaign thus far. They thus currently occupy last place on the log while Wasps are in 10th.
London Irish vs Bristol Bears:
The celebrations from the Exiles’ great victory over Exeter Chiefs will have ceased but the confidence derived from the result will still be fresh in the minds of Les Kiss’ troops as they brace for the challenge of Bristol Bears at the Brentford Community Stadium. Exiles’ determination and ferocity served them well in Round 6 as they fashioned a big result.
Bristol enjoyed a bye last weekend and continue to find their feet in the present campaign with just one win from five outings. In Round 5 they became the victims of Newcastle Falcons.
“Bristol are a team that are very well-drilled in all that they do, so we will have to stay alert for the whole 80 minutes” said London Irish director of rugby, Declan Kidney.
“We are looking to push on from last weekend, but we know that we are up against it given that Bristol finished top of the league after last season’s regular season.”
Northampton Saints vs Leicester:
After having made it six from six, the log-leading Leicester Tigers will take the fight to Franklin’s Gardens where Northampton Saints lie in wait for what is sure to be a mouth-watering derby. Leicester saw off the challenge of Sale last weekend with a 19-11 victory.
Northampton will take the field with a spring in their step after they decimated Worcester Warriors 66-10 at Franklin’s Gardens last weekend.
The Saints have done well thus far with four wins from five fixtures and are sure to give Leicester a good run for their money, although the latter’s momentum and form must have cast a menacing shadow of anguish in the back of Saints’ minds.
Worcester Warriors vs Sale Sharks:
The struggling Worcester will have the benefit of home-ground advantage on their side when they tackle Sale Sharks at Sixways. Their last three results are enough to make their supporters wince as last week’s 66-10 drubbing was preceded by a 48-3 thrashing by Leicester and, before that, a heavy, 42-5 defeat to Exeter Chiefs.
After putting defending champs Harlequins to the sword on October 15th, Sale were unable to stick one on Leicester last week. It could be said that their current situation of 2 wins from six outings does not quite tell the whole story as their play has often been thrilling and they have also suffered a 1-point loss to Gloucester as well as a draw to London Irish. If they are able to cultivate some consistency as the competition rumbles on, they could well emerge as a dangerous force as they did in the previous campaign.
Harlequins vs Saracens:
The round is set to conclude on Sunday evening at The Stoop where Quins will tackle Saracens. This should be a cracking contest between two teams who are in great form at present. Saracens were in magnificent attacking form when they despatched Wasps at StoneX Stadium and the flair of Quins as they saw off Bath will be something still in the back of Mark McCall’s men’s minds.
Arguably the most intriguing of the individual battles will take place in the flyhalf channel where Saracens’ Owen Farrell will contend with the exuberance of young Marcus Smith, about whom Farrell has recently expressed great excitement.
“It’s his passion for the game that you can see oozes out of him,” Farrell said of Smith in a recent interview.
“You can see even when he scored at the weekend he loves scoring, he loves doing well for his team and he is really enjoying playing at the minute so he wears his heart on his sleeve as it looks when the game comes around.
“That is a massive asset to have, the immense passion he has got for the game. He is obviously a massive talent and a very exciting player. We have worked together before. He has been in camp before when he was a bit younger.
“We shared a room together and things like that before in the past and it was good to get to know him a bit better over the summer [with the Lions]. He is a brilliant lad and he is not just a very talented player but a proper student of the game.”
One can be sure, however, that their budding friendship will be put to one side for 80 minutes as they lock horns in the heat of battle. This one is sure to be one of the games of the season so far.