Round 11 preview: Aviva Premiership Rugby is back!
Aviva Premiership Rugby is back this Christmas weekend as the competition reaches the halfway stage in the battle to make this season’s semi-finals.
After two weekends of European action the competition resumes and the table makes for compelling reading with three points separating the top three and three sides in the middle of the table tied on 23 points. It’s also a bumper weekend of coverage on BT Sport with four matches being shown live on the channel.
The weekend starts at Franklin’s Gardens on Friday night, ending at Twickenham Stadium on Tuesday when Harlequins take on Gloucester Rugby in front of the biggest crowd to watch club rugby this season.
Friday 23 December
Northampton Saints v Sale Sharks (Franklin’s Gardens, 7.45pm) Live on BT Sport
The last seven meetings between the two clubs in Premiership Rugby have all been fairly comfortable home victories, with the only losing bonus point in that sequence grabbed by the Saints at Salford last November. Sale have not won at Franklin’s Gardens since May 2006.
Saturday 24 December
Saracens v Newcastle Falcons (Allianz Park ,1.30pm)
Saracens slipped up at Bath in round 10 of Aviva Premiership Rugby but have not lost successive encounters in the tournament since May 2015.
Sarries have won their last 13 home games in all competitions since Northampton beat them at Allianz Park in Premiership Rugby on 5 March.
Newcastle Falcons have won three of their last four contests in all tournaments whilst in Aviva Premiership Rugby they are attempting to achieve a third successive victory for the first time since season 2009-10.
Saracens have won their last 15 fixtures against Newcastle in all tournaments since the Falcons 13-9 victory at Kingston Park in Premiership Rugby in February 2009 whilst Newcastle’s only win on Saracens soil since 2011 was at Vicarage Road in December 2007.
Wasps v Bath Rugby (Ricoh Arena, 2pm) Live on BT Sport
Wasps have lost twice in the last five rounds of Aviva Premiership Rugby: at Saracens on 9 October and at Gloucester on 19th November. The Coventry-based side have won their last 17 matches at the Ricoh Arena since Saracens beat them there in Premiership Rugby on 27 December 2015.
Bath Rugby’s only defeat in their last six Aviva Premiership Rugby encounters was by a single point to Harlequins at Twickenham Stoop in round 9. Todd Blackadder’s men, however have lost their last three away games in all competitions since beating Exeter at Sandy Park in round 7 of Premiership Rugby. The two clubs met on four occasions last season with Bath’s only victory being 25-23 at Ricoh Arena in the European Champions Cup on 13th December.
The two clubs met on four occasions last season with Bath’s only victory being 25-23 at Ricoh Arena in the European Champions Cup on 13th December.
Exeter Chiefs v Leicester Tigers (Sandy Park, 3pm)
Exeter Chiefs only defeat in their last six first team matches was 7-13 to Bordeaux in round three of the European Champions Cup. The Chiefs five fixtures at Sandy Park in Aviva Premiership Rugby this season have been evenly split, won two, drawn one, lost two.
Meanwhile, Leicester Tigers only defeat in their last seven fixtures in all competitions was 0-38 at Munster in round 3 of the European Champions Cup. The Tigers have a won three, lost two record on the road in Premiership Rugby this season.
Leicester have also lost just one of their last eight encounters with the Chiefs in Premiership Rugby: 6-19 at Sandy Park in November 2015.
Monday 26 December
Bristol Rugby v Worcester Warriors (Ashton Gate, 3pm) Live on BT Sport
Bristol Rugby beat Top 14 opponents Pau home and away in the European Challenge Cup but are still without a victory in Aviva Premiership Rugby this season. Nevertheless, they have not won at Ashton Gate in Premiership Rugby since beating Leicester there in April 2007.
Worcester Warriors only victory in their last six first team matches was 33-20 over Newport Gwent Dragons in round 3 of the European Challenge Cup. The Warriors have not won away from home in any competition since a trip to Harlequins in Premiership Rugby in March.
The two clubs have already met this season with Warriors having the edge 31-25 at Sixways in the Anglo Welsh cup in early November. They have not clashed in Premiership Rugby since Bristol’s 37-18 victory at Memorial Stadium in March 2009.
Worcester have twice before visited Ashton Gate, in the RFU Championship in season 2014/15, losing 19-23 in the opening round but winning the first leg of the final 29-28.
Tuesday 27 December
Harlequins v Gloucester Rugby (Twickenham Stadium, 4pm) Live on BT Sport
All ten of Harlequins matches in Aviva Premiership Rugby this season have been won by the home side on the day. Harlequins have lost just one of their last nine visits to Twickenham Stadium: 25-30 to Northampton in “Big Game 7” two years ago.
Harlequins record in “Big Games” at Twickenham is an even won three, drawn two, lost three since the series began in 2008. Gloucester Rugby have not won away from home in Aviva Premiership Rugby since the trip to Sale Sharks in round 3, whilst they are winless in their last six visits to Twickenham Stadium since they won the Powergen Cup there in April 2003, beating Northampton in the final.
Gloucester were unbeaten against Harlequins last season having drawn the “Big Game” at Twickenham 39-all and then won 28-6 at Kingsholm in February. The two clubs have met on one other occasion at HQ for a league game, also ending in a draw 9-all in Division 1 in November 1987.