With two derbies to look forward to and confidence in Gloucester’s ability to win at Wasps, the West Country dominates today’s best rugby odds round-up.
The Rugby Tipster keeps you up-to-date with the latest on each round of matches in the Gallagher Premiership. Our in-depth knowledge of form and team selection can guide your rugby betting selections.
Friday January 8th
PREDICTION – WASPS BY 5
Bath and Wasps make one change apiece to their starting line-up for Friday night’s clash at The Rec.
The home side bring in Tom de Glanville for Anthony Watson at full-back with Watson shifting to the right-wing in place of Semesa Rokoduguni.
As for the visitors, Wasps’ decision to start with Thomas Young at openside means Jack Willis shifts to number eight.
Looking at the respective team selections, one appears to be reactionary and the other made from a position of strength.
Removing Watson from full-back is hardly the vote of confidence that a Lions player would expect, even after he came unstuck at the hands of George Ford and his perfectly executed spiral bomb in a 36-31 defeat to Leicester last Sunday.
It’s doubtful that any player would have coped well with the tactic and the finger of blame should probably be directed at the kick chasers, who failed to close the England 10 down in sufficient time to stop him getting the kicks away.
Equally, Rokoduguni will feel hard done by. The Fijian-born England international touched the ball twice at Welford Road, which is a damning statistic for such a dangerous player, but one which points to Bath’s disconnect between forwards and backs – a topic that was touched upon by the impressive Cameron Redpath when speaking to the local press this week.
Something is not quite right at Bath and hasn’t been for a long time, and the predictability of their game plan sees them getting found out more often than not.
A side as well-coached as Wasps won’t have had to spend too long analysing the opposition and will be able to focus on building their own performance, not that they did too much wrong in dismantling Exeter last weekend.
The return of Brad Shields only adds more impact to a bench that has helped power Wasps to victory in recent weeks and conceding two points on the handicap just doesn’t seem enough.
Verdict: Wasps to teach Bath a lesson
Friday January 8th
PREDICTION – SHARKS BY 6
As the side most affected by coronavirus at the end of last season, Sale Sharks have been one of the least affected this time around as they prepare to take on Worcester.
Ironically, it was the cancellation of their Round 22 home game against the Warriors that scuppered the Sharks’ bid to qualify for the Premiership play-offs for the first since they won the trophy in 2006.
However, they have managed to dodge that particular bullet so far this season with all five of their games taking place. Unfortunately for them, though, their form has deserted them.
Worcester had also played a full set of fixtures until their round four clash with Harlequins fell victim to the Covid curse so they will go to the AJ Bell with a week’s rest under their belts.
Whilst never unwelcome from a player welfare point of view, the lay-off could work against them in terms of improving the way they start games.
The Warriors have yet to score a single try in the first quarter of league matches this season and have only bagged six points.
Whilst they improve as an attacking force as the half wears on, the average difference between the number of points scored and conceded by them at the interval is still -8 per match.
Turning this around against a side that has yet to have its line breached in the first quarter of matches will take some doing, which is why we believe the half-time handicap should be closely scrutinised.
Verdict: Sale to start well, then take their foot of the gas and let Worcester back in, before finishing with a late flourish.
Saturday January 9th
PREDICTION – CHIEFS BY 4
With recalls to the pack for England internationals Luke Cowan-Dickie, Harry Williams and Jonny Hill, and Henry Slade at outside centre, Exeter’s starting XV looks infinitely stronger than the one that was taken apart by Wasps last weekend.
The Chiefs fell from their lofty standards in going down 34-5 at the Ricoh Arena and will be determined to bounce back but the bench still looks a little threadbare in terms of proven quality.
Bristol, who were slightly flattered by the 29-17 scoreline in their favour at Ashton Gate in round five, have Ben Earl back as one of six changes to their starting line-up, while John Afoa, Ioan Lloyd and Alapati Leiua all offer something different off the bench, if required.
Verdict: Exeter to hang onto an early lead and survive a late onslaught … just.
Saturday January 9th
PREDICTION – FALCONS BY 12
Talisman Gary Graham returns for the Falcons in what, on the face of it, looks a horrible journey up to the snowbound northeast for Gloucester.
Grizzly No.8 Graham is not the sort of player you want to meet on a cold and dark Newcastle night and the Falcons look destined to return to winning ways after their first blip of the season at Bristol last week.
The Cherry & Whites have won on three of their last four visits to the Falcons’ ground, but none of those previous trips would have been undertaken as the league’s bottom team.
Confidence remains fragile amongst the Cherry & Whites and their inability to close out games was no better demonstrated than in losing to a late Josh Beaumont try against Sale Sharks.
Verdict: Suspended Ed Slater is a big miss for Gloucester who can’t afford to be without one of their old warhorses for such a difficult trip.
Saturday January 9th
PREDICTION – CANCELLED
Sunday January 10th
PREDICTION – IRISH BY 4
Neither team has a good record at the Twickenham Stoop, a home from home for London Irish.
Harlequins have lost their last five games there, while Irish lost all five games they played at the venue as tenants whilst waiting for their new Brentford home to be ready.
Irish will be just glad of a run out as they’ve not taken to the field in anger in the league for over a month due to COVID-19. Ollie Hoskins makes his 100th appearance for the Exiles, while the presence of Steve Mafi, Blair Cowan and Albert Tuisue gives them plenty of grunt.
With former Pumas captain Agustin Creevy kept company on the bench by Wallaby Rob Simmons , who is set for his debut, Irish have come a long way in terms of strengthening the depth of their squad.
In our mind, Quins are not worthy of being 11-point favourites, especially with unsettling rumours circulating that Mike Brown and at least one other senior club stalwart set to be on their way come the season’s end.
Verdict: Irish to spring a surprise