Premiership rugby is back on the scene after an action-packed international window and will commence on Friday evening and conclude on Sunday at StoneX Stadium where Saracens will host Sale Sharks.
Bath vs Exeter Chiefs:
Friday evening sees Exeter Chiefs take on the under-fire Bath on the latter’s home turf. Bath last turned out against Leicester Tigers on 5 November and were convincingly beaten 40-23. It is do-or-die time for the Bath coaching staff who have been told that changes are planned if things do not improve by Christmas. One can imagine that the team has done a significant amount of soul-searching during the off-period that was the international window and it will be interesting to see how they respond to the pressure. Against a very capable Exeter side.
The Chiefs experienced something of a shock before the international window commenced as they fell to the gutsy Newcastle Falcons, 15-14, at Sandy Park.
While Bath have not managed a single win so far in this campaign, Exeter boast only a 50% success ratio with 4 from 8.
Bristol Bears vs Northampton Saints:
Bristol Bears gained a much needed win in the previous round against Worcester Warriors at Ashton Gate and will now look to continue that winning momentum when they face the significant obstacle of Northampton Saints at the same venue.
Saints find themselves in a fairly strong position with four victories from seven outings which is good enough for fifth place on the log. Their last taste of action was a bitter one for them as they crashed to a telling defeat against Sale, 30-6, at the AJ Bell.
Meanwhile, Bristol, who were one of the top teams in the 2020-21 campaign, have some work to do in order to pull their campaign out of the fire. Head coach Pat Lam recently said that the poor run of results was an opportunity for the team to learn and grow – a notion which will be put to the test this weekend.
Newcastle Falcons vs Worcester Warriors:
The brave Newcastle Falcons will fancy their chances of another victory under the belt when they meet the struggling and vulnerable Worcester Warriors at Kingston Park.
The Flacons most recent victory against Exeter is a real feather in their cap and a notable confidence booster going forward.
Worcester raised many eyebrows on 30 October when they stunned the unsuspecting Sale Sharks 27-14 at Sixways. However, the victory did not spark them into winning ways as Bristol had the better of them the week thereafter. They remain second-last on the table with just two victories from eight matches.
Newcastle find themselves seventh on the log and, if their last display is anything to go by, Worcester could be in for a long evening.
Wasps vs Gloucester:
The Cherry & whites travel to the Coventry Building Society Arena where they will lock horns with Wasps.
Wasps’ season has been somewhat disappointing thus far with a win ratio of 43%. Most recently, they became the victims of defending champs, Harlequins, 26-16.
Gloucester were last in action on 29 October and found themselves on the wrong side of a close game with Exeter Chiefs, 16-13.
Gloucester currently find themselves in sixth spot on the log while Wasps are languishing in the bottom half although, interestingly, both teams have the same number of wins from the same number of fixtures.
Harlequins vs London Irish:
Defending champions Harlequins will do what they can against the Exiles at the Twickenham Stoop on Saturday. Quins are marching along well, currently occupying third spot on the log with 5 wins from 7 matches. Their tails will be up as they will take the field on the back of an encouraging victory against Wasps in the last round.
Exiles held Saracens to a 34-34 draw on the latter’s home turf in the last round and showed some encouraging signs . Although the Exiles have only posted one win so far in their campaign, there are visible signs of plenty of fighting spirit within the team; when their skills begin to gel with their determination, they could become an ominous outfit.
Saracens vs Sale Sharks:
Finally, Saracens will take the challenge of Sale on Sunday afternoon. The latter enjoyed a solid, 30-6 victory over the Saints in the last and will look to tap into that momentum and rhythm this weekend.
Sarries will be looking for a much better start that the one they had against London Irish the last time they were in action. They showed good grit to come back in that game, however, from which they will derive confidence. Sarries currently hold second spot on the log, 10 points behind Leicester Tigers.
Sale will not be satisfied with their current situation on the log (8th) considering their potential which they have shown in patches throughout this campaign. They face a true test again this weekend against a quality side. If they break has served them well, this will be a cracking game.