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Rugby Union: Gallagher Premiership Weekend Preview 25-27 February


Three top games, all kicking off at 19.45, on Friday evening should see lots of tries scored as Bristol take on Wasps at Ashton Gate, Sale confront London Irish at the AJ Bell Stadium in Manchester and Worcester play the current Premiership champions Harlequins at Sixways.

The priority for Bristol’s top coach, Pat Lam, who has seen his team drop to 10th place after losing consecutive games to London Irish and Worcester, is a much-needed victory.

Lam is facing a shortage of scrum halves because of injuries and currently has only one specialist number nine who is fit to play and that’s Theo Strang.

This is a worrying issue for the Bears, and it may harm their prospects against Wasps, down to eighth, following the loss to Harlequins.

As regards Wasps, they’ve strengthened their squad for next season by signing South African centre Burger Odendaal, 28, as a replacement for the departing Jimmy Gopperth.

The Coventry club have been boosted by the return from injury after 12 months of England flanker Jack Willis, and if Wasps are to contest the top four play-offs, a win at Ashton Gate would help.

Bristol with home advantage and another big crowd may just win what should be a close match, and, apart from anything else, they will be aiming to gain revenge for the October thrashing Wasps gave them in October, losing by 44-8.

Another high scoring match is likely at the AJ Stadium where Sale Sharks, enjoying a decent run in the Premiership with successive wins against Leicester Tigers, Quins, Worcester and Northampton Saints, face the challenge of London Irish.

Sale, now seventh, may have problems containing the Irish, the second highest try scorers in the league with 58, but the Sharks are responding positively to coach Alex Sanderson, and with world class scrum half and 2019 World Cup winner, Faf de Klerk, back to torment opponents, the Manchester club can look forward to making solid progress.

London Irish, up to sixth following their excellent victory by 32-30 over Saracens, are genuinely optimistic about reaching the top four, and having won their previous two league matches, are full of optimism.

The outcome of this contest is hard to predict..expect exciting tries at both ends..and don’t be surprised if London Irish fly half, Paddy Jackson, once again produces a match winning kick right at the end just as he did against Saracens last weekend.

Can Worcester’s new boss Steve Diamond deliver another win at Sixways?

Morale at Sixways has taken an upwards turn after the Warriors beat Bristol by 19-14, their first win since Diamond was given total responsibility for rugby matters.

The former Sale boss is busy planning for next season and there’ll be several new faces lining up for Worcester in the Premiership campaign 2022-23.

First things first though, Quins arriving in the West Midlands with a victory over Wasps(29-24), following three consecutive defeats, are now back up to third in the table, and it would be a major shock if the defending champions did not make the play-offs, especially once their internationals, involved in the Six Nations, are available again.

So they are well placed to build on last week’s success, even without England stars, such as Marcus Smith and Alex Dombrandt.

Worcester, second from bottom with only four wins in 16 games, shouldn’t be discounted at Sixways, and now under Diamond, there seems to be a more vibrant atmosphere, and if they can reproduce the fight revealed against Bristol, the Warriors may overcome the champions.