The Gallagher Premiership rolls on with another exciting round of action, that is set to pack an added punch following the fiercely contested weekend of derby matches. With half of the league out for redemption, and the other half eager to build on this winning momentum, we are set for five blockbuster match-ups across the English top flight.
Once again the Premiership is treating fans to two matches under the famous ‘Friday night lights’, with Franklin’s Gardens and the AJ Bell set to be lit up on a cold November evening. The action commences in the East Midlands tonight, with Northampton Saints and Harlequins both looking to recover from their derby day defeats and return to winning ways.
Meanwhile, some 130 miles north of Northampton, Sale Sharks kick off against Bath Rugby at the AJ Bell Stadium. Both sides ran out victorious in their respective derby matches, yet Sale’s 40-22 winning margin against Newcastle was far more emphatic, than the narrow one-point deficit (20-19) that handed Bath the win over Bristol last weekend. Still, a win is a win, and both sides are looking to repeat this feat when they line-up tomorrow evening.
Onto Saturday, and two of the Premiership’s struggling sides meet with some crucial points on offer. Eighth and ninth placed Gloucester and Leicester Tigers are set to collide at Kingsholm, with the Cherry and Whites back in action following their bye week. The hosts last run out was a derby defeat, albeit a weekend before the rest, as they took a 45-27 loss to Bath a fortnight ago. The Tigers were victorious in the East Midland’s derby, and will eye up another win to start clawing their way up the Premiership table.
Saracens then host Bristol Bears at the Stone X, in a match-up that features numerous England teammates set to become eighty-minute enemies. A strong England contingent will feature from both sides, however their will be a notable omission to Tom Curry, with the Sale flanker suffering from a long-term hip injury. Saracens looked to have kicked into top gear with their international returnees, whilst Bristol aim to rise to the challenge and turn around their recent run of form.
Exeter Chiefs close out the weekend’s action in the Sunday fixture once again, as they face the almighty trek to the North East to take on Newcastle. This new Exeter era has been on an upwards trajectory, with the men from Devon currently sat at third in the table. After six weeks of action, the Falcons are still searching for their first win of the Premiership season, as they currently prop up the bottom of the pile.
Here is a run through of all the team news, ahead of this weekend’s Gallagher Premiership fixtures.
Team News – Gallagher Premiership Round Seven
Friday 24th November
Northampton Saints vs Harlequins – Franklin’s Gardens, 19:45 KO
Northampton Saints Head Coach Phil Dowson has made four changes to his side, following their East Midland’s derby defeat to Leicester Tigers last weekend. Ethan Waller, Sam Matavesi, Courtney Lawes and Ollie Sleightholme all return to Northampton’s starting line-up this week, with Sleightholme set to make his first start in a Saints shirt since February.
George Furbank comes in at fly-half for the 12th time in his career. Regularly utilised at fullback, Furbank wears the 10 jersey following Fin Smith’s back injury which curtailed his day against Leicester. The Saints back-row features Tom Pearson and Lewis Ludlam, who made more post-contact metres (34) than any other player in the last round of the Premiership. 23-year-old fly half Charlie Savala is named on the bench, with the Australian hoping to make his Northampton Saints debut against Harlequins.
Harlequins welcome a fan favourite back to the famous quarters, as Cadan Murley returns to action in the trip to Franklin’s Gardens. Murley has been side-lined with an injury since early October, and the 2022/23 Premiership top try scorer (15 tries) makes his first appearence of the new campaign. Harlequins Director of Rugby Billy Millard has also made three changes in the Quins pack, with promising England prop Fin Baxter starting on the loose-head.
Welsh international Dillon Lewis returns to prop up the tight-head of the scrum, and South African powerhouse Irne Herbst comes back in to pack down the scrum at lock. Herbst partners up with George Hammond to re-form their cohesive second row structure. Quins boast an all-England halfback pairing in Danny Care and Marcus Smith, with Rugby World Cup winner Andre Esterhuizen again named in the midfield. Former London Irish star Will Joseph partners the Springbok, and makes his second Premiership start of the season.
RUCK PREDICTION: Northampton Saints 18 – 27 Harlequins
15. George Hendy 14. Ollie Sleightholme 13. Tommy Freeman 12. Fraser Dingwall 11. James Ramm 10. George Furbank 9. Alex Mitchell 1. Ethan Waller 2. Sam Matavesi 3. Trevor Davison 4. Chunya Munga 5. Alex Coles 6. Courtney Lawes 7. Tom Pearson 8. Lewis Ludlam (c)
16. Tom Cruse 17. Alex Waller 18. Elliot Millar Mills 19. Tom Lockett 20. Angus Scott-Young 21. Tom James 22. Charlie Savala 23. Tom Litchfield
15. Tyrone Green 14. Cadan Murley 13. Will Joseph 12. Andre Esterhuizen 11. Louis Lynagh 10. Marcus Smith 9. Danny Care 1. Fin Baxter 2. Jack Walker 3. Dillon Lewis 4. Irne Herbst 5. George Hammond 6. Dino Lamb 7. Will Evans 8. Alex Dombrandt (Captain)
16. Nathan Jibulu 17. Santiago Garcia Botta 18. Lovejoy Chawatama 19. Chandler Cunningham-South 20. James Chisholm 21. Will Porter 22. Jarrod Evans 23. Oscar Beard