This weekend’s games in the Gallagher Premiership see a repeat of last season’s final, as champions Quins and the Exeter Chiefs renew battle on Saturday. But first….
Bristol Bears, second from bottom, are at home at Ashton Gate on Friday evening when they take on Sale Sharks,9th, and confident following their victory against Wasps in their last game.
However, while the Bears have lost their last two league games to leaders Leicester Tigers and Exeter, they’ve picked up losing bonus points, and with home advantage, should be worth backing to earn a rare win.
One point of interest is that AG MacGinty, the Shark’s fly half and USA international, is joining the Bears at the end of the season.
Sale, without a victory in their last seven away Premiership matches, played some effective rugby against Wasps in which MacGinty was outstanding.
Quins v Exeter – Saturday 8th Jan Premiership Final Rematch
Quins won the thrilling final 40-38 last year, but what will happen this time around?
The London club, the current champions, may just be favourites to win again on this occasion at home at the Twickenham Stoop, Quins are in decent form having won their last four games in all competitions.
Third in the table with seven wins in 11 matches, Quins are functioning smartly which suggests the thousands who’ll pack the Stoop will enjoy another thrilling match.
Several major players are on display for the home team, among them fly half Marcus Smith, South African centre Andre Esterhuizen and forward Alex Dombrandt.
As regards Exeter, fifth, they’re playing pretty well, they’ve won their last four away Premiership matches, so you may consider putting money on the Chiefs, particularly if they have Scotland full back Stuart Hogg playing alongside backs Henry Slade and Jack Nowell.
This is THE game over the weekend and don’t be surprised if England coach, Eddie Jones, will be watching with the Six Nations coming up soon.
Elsewhere on Saturday, In the North East, Newcastle Falcons, 8th, and chasing their sixth win, will be genuinely optimistic of overcoming Northampton Saints whose recent form has been poor, with four successive defeats in both Europe and the Premiership.
Punters should be aware that Newcastle, have a good Premiership record at Kingston Park, keep an eye on hooker Jamie Blamire, and as the Saints, 6th, aim to recover, expect strong performances from forwards Courtney Lawes and skipper Lewis Ludlam.
Sensible people would back Saracens, second, to continue their excellent home form as they confront Gloucester at the StoneX Stadium.
Gloucester, fourth, have a weak record at Saracens, losing their last eight games there whereas Sarries have lost only once at home in their last 15 Premiership matches and currently are scoring 40 points a game at home.
One interesting point: Saracens’ full back, Max Malins, is the Premiership’s joint top try scorer with nine, don’t be surprised if he gets his 10th.
East Midlands Derby on Sunday at Coventry
It would be a major shock if Wasps, 10th, were to beat the Tigers, winners of all their 11 Premiership games and leading the table on 50 points, nine clear of Saracens.
But with the possibility that Wasps’ may see the return of best players, Joe Launchbury, Jack Willis, Dan Robson and Malakai Fekitoa, the contest should be tougher for Leicester as Wasps’ coach, Lee Blackett, aims for a fifth Premiership victory.
Meanwhile, Bath, bottom of the table and still without a win, are also in action on Sunday against Worcester Warriors, who are 11th.
Will Bath win for the first time? Stats favour them because Worcester have lost all the 17 games at The Rec.
However, Warriors’ coach, Jonathan Thomas, will be encouraged by his team’s recent fighting effort against mighty Saracens against whom they scored five tries although losing by 61-29.