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 and get you the best rugby odds.
Friday February 19th
PREDICTION – Bath by 4
In any normal season, this match would attract a capacity crowd to The Rec, especially given the presence of box-office names like Louis Rees-Zammit (pictured), the new king of Wales.
While the lack of fans and the decision to abandon relegation for one season (hopefully) has taken some of the sting out of this bottom-of-the-table scrap, the pride in winning the fixture means much more than putting four or five league points on the board.
The confidence that Rees-Zammit will have gained from scoring three tries in two Six Nations appearances will come as a timely boost to a Gloucester side short on self-belief after another close defeat in their last outing (18-17 to Bristol).
Stephen Varney, the returning Italian scrum-half, has that in abundance at the moment, too, following his impressive displays for the Azzurri and those two young guns, 20 and 19, respectively, and Chris Harris, who is enjoying a strong Six Nations with Scotland, will inject some life into a squad down on its luck.
Even so, Bath will be expected to win and should, in reality, cover off the four-point handicap with the quality they have in their side. But backing a Gloucester win at 6/4 wouldn’t be the most foolish thing in the world to do.
The headline team news for the home side is the inclusion of Taulupe Faletau in the back row. Faletau joins Rees-Zammit in temporarily swapping Wales’ Six Nations campaign for a Premiership scrap and that has resulted in Josh Bayliss moving into Bath’s problem area of second row.
Breaking down the figures, this is a game between two teams who typically fare much better in the first 40 minutes than they do in the second half.
Bath have been in front in four of their nine Premiership matches (only two have been won) but have been outscored in all but one game in the second half.
The blue, black and whites are one of only three top-flight teams in England to score more tries in the first half as opposed to the second (11 to 8), while two-thirds of the penalties they kick also come in this period (10/15).
Meanwhile, 80% of Gloucester’s penalties (12/15) have been kicked before the break and they have been ahead or level at half-time in five of their nine matches.
Half of the 34 tries scored against Bath the most in the league) are conceded in the first half, so that should give Gloucester hope of getting on the scoreboard early.
All this points to plenty of points being scored in the first half, at least relative to the second, which is why we are going to recommend going for over 23.5 first-half points (5/6).
Bath: 15. Tom de Glanville, 14. Semesa Rokodoguni, 13. Max Clark, 12. Josh Matavesi, 11. Will Muir, 10. Rhys Priestland, 9. Ben Spencer; 1. Juan Schoeman, 2. Tom Dunn, 3. Christian Judge, 4. Josh Bayliss, 5. Mike Williams, 6. Taulupe Faletau, 7. Miles Reid, 8. Zach Mercer
Replacements: 16. Jack Walker, 17. Jamie Bhatti, 18. Henry Thomas, 19. Tom Ellis, 20. Ethan Staddon, 21. Will Chudley, 22. Tian Schoeman, 23. Jonathan Joseph.
Gloucester: 15. Jason Woodward, 14. Louis Rees-Zammit, 13. Chris Harris, 12. Tom Seabrook, 11. Ollie Thorley, 10. Billy Twelvetrees, 9. Willi Heinz, 1. Val Rapava-Ruskin, 2. Henry Walker, 3. Fraser Balmain, 4. Ed Slater, 5. Alex Craig, 6. Jordy Reid, 7. Lewis Ludlow (c), 8. Ruan Ackermann.
Replacements: 16. Santiago Socino, 17. Alex Seville, 18. Jamal Ford-Robinson, 19. Ollie Atkins, 20. Freddie Clarke, 21. Stephen Varney, 22. George Barton, 23. Henry Trinder.
Saturday February 20th
PREDICTION – QUINS BY 8
The last time these two sides met at the Twickenham Stoop it was the first game after rugby’s restart and was a bit of a getting-to-know-you kind of exercise, especially for the Sharks, who were dreadful in slipping to a 16-10 defeat.
Both teams have had a change at the top but it is Quins who are the most settled of the two teams. Another unchaged XV will take to the field on Saturday.
By contrast, new Sharks DoR Alex Sanderson is still tinkering with his best combinations and the latest experiment sees the James brothers, Sam and Luke, united in midfield. Simon Hammersley comes in at full-back and is a dangerous player on his day but the former Durham student hasn’t been able to express himself as much as when he donned Newcastle colours.
Sharks are the only side in the league whose percentage of points from tries and conversions is less than two-thirds of their overall total, which is puzzling when you look at the finishers they have at their disposal. Getting the ball in hands of Hammersley and returning wing, Denny Solomona, will be key to their progression as a side.
Quins do not have such problems. they look a slick attacking outfit capable of scoring points at will. While the game back in August was a low-scoring affair, the previous two season’s corresponding fixtures were certainly not dull and ended in 42-26 and a 51-23 wins for the Londoners.
Quins will do well to get near that mark against a well-drilled Sharks defence but encouragement will have been taken by the way Bath managed to out 27 points on them in Round 9.
No Faf de Klerk or AJ MacGinty in the Sharks matchday 23 makes us even more convinced Quins can extend their winning run streak to four matches and leapfrog their opponents in the league table.
Quins currently sit fourth, with the Sharks sat just one position ahead in third, equal on league points.
Saturday February 20th
PREDICTION – CHIEFS BY 10
The Chiefs put in another professional performance to get the better of a decent London Irish team last weekend and can be backed with confidence to win again, even with chief playmaker and prolific point-scorer Joe Simmonds rested to the bench.
The fly-half match-up wil be a key area of interest as England full-back George Furbank starts there for only the third time in his career, opposite Chiefs’ rookie Harvey Skinner.
Furbank did well in the position against Leinster in the Heineken Champions Cup back in December but how he fares will depend laregly on what sort of ball he gets from the pack.
Chiefs, as always, look very strong upfront but Saints have some big units, too, and won’t be bullied off the park like some teams.
Saints have tasted success on their last two away trips, at Gloucester and Wasps in rounds seven and eight, while their most recent fixture against Newcastle was a walkover.
However, this is an entirely different proposition. Chiefs have won their last three, admittedly without firing on all cyclindrrs, and Saints’ record at Sandy Park shows just one win there in the last six years.
With the 11-point handicap and the points under/over line of 42.5 looking bang on the money, this match might be one swerve.
Exeter: 15 Stuart Hogg, 14 Tom O’Flaherty, 13 Tom Hendrickson, 12 Ollie Devoto, 11 Josh Hodge, 10 Harvey Skinner, 9 Jack Maunder, 1 Alec Hepburn, 2 Jack Yeandle (capt), 3 Harry Williams, 4 Will Witty, 5 Sam Skinner, 6 Dave Ewers, 7 Richard Capstick, 8 Sam Simmonds.
Replacements: 16 Jack Innard, 17 James Kenny, 18 Marcus Street, 19 Don Armand, 20 Sean Lonsdale, 21 Sam Hidalgo-Clyne, 22 Joe Simmonds, 23 Ian Whitten.
Saints: 15 Ahsee Tuala, 14 Matt Proctor, 13 Rory Hutchinson, 12 Piers Francis, 11 Ollie Sleightholme, 10 George Furbank, 9 Alex Mitchell, 1 Alex Waller (co-capt), 2 Sam Matavesi, 3 Ehren Painter, 4 David Ribbans, 5 Api Ratuniyarawa, 6 Nick Isiekwe, 7 Lewis Ludlam (co-capt), 8 Shaun Adendorff.
Replacements: 16 Reece Marshall, 17 Nick Auterac, 18 Paul Hill, 19 Alex Coles, 20 Tom Wood, 21 Henry Taylor, 22 Harry Mallinder, 23 Taqele Naiyaravoro.
Saturday February 20th
PREDICTION – Tigers by 6
It is too simplistic, and untrue, to say if Jasper Wiese plays, Leicester win. But there is no doubting the impact the No.8 has had at the Tigers since his arrival from South Africa. His absence against Quins last time out was keenly felt.
The 25-year-old is a formidable force as a ball carrier and has made 401 metres from six league appearances – half of which have been wins – with the ball in hand.
Factor in 25 defenders beaten and you can see why Leicester are a much better attacking outfit when he is packing down at the back of what will be an all-South Africa back row this Saturday. Wiese’s head-to-head with Tom Willis will be a fascinating sub-plot.
Hanro Liebenberg is no less influential than Wiese, especially at lineout time and if the Tigers can get their mauling game going, they should be too strong for an indifferent Wasps side.
Leicester +2 on the h’cap (10/11)
Points Under 46.5 (5/6)
Leicester: 15 Freddie Steward, 14 Kobus Van Wyk, 13 Matías Moroni, 12 Matt Scott, 11 Kini Murimurivalu, 10 Zack Henry, 9 Richard Wigglesworth (c), 1 Luan de Bruin, 2 Julián Montoya, 3 Dan Cole, 4 Calum Green, 5 Tomás Lavanini, 6 Hanro Liebenberg, 7 Cyle Brink, 8 Jasper Wiese.
Replacements: 16 Tom Youngs, 17 Nephi Leatigaga, 18 Joe Heyes, 19 Harry Wells, 20 Tommy Reffell, 21 Jack Van Poortvliet, 22 Johnny McPhillips, 23 Dan Kelly.
Wasps: 15 Matteo Minozzi, 14 Zach Kibirige, 13 Malakai Fekitoa, 12 Jimmy Gopperth, 11 Josh Bassett, 10 Charlie Atkinson, 9 Ben Vellacott, 1 Tom West, 2 Tommy Taylor, 3 Kieran Brookes, 4 Will Rowlands, 5 James Gaskell, 6 Brad Shields, 7 Ben Morris, 8 Tom Willis.
Replacements: 16 Tom Cruse, 17 Ben Harris, 18 Jeff Toomaga-Allen, 19 Levi Douglas, 20 Sione Vailanu, 21 Alex Schwarz, 22 Jacob Umaga, 23 Michael Le Bourgeois.
Sunday February 21st
PREDICTION – BEARS BY 8
Looking at the bench they have selected – one with hundreds of international caps – the trick for Irish will be to stay in the fight and try and come strong in the last quarter.
Test veterans Agustin Creevy, Allan Dell, Rob Simmons, Sean O’Brien and Nick Phipps will all be waiting to come on from the bench, but the fear is Bristol might have built up too big a points cushion by then.
Bar the obvious absentee, Semi Radradra, Bristol look close to full strength. The Bears are always better off for having Steven Luatua lead them out, and the flanker returns after missing the one-point win over Gloucester. Callum Sheedy is also included in the starting line-up, after returning from Wales international duty for the fallow week.
Since the Six Nations kicked off, Bristol haven’t been at their free-scoring best, registering just 31 points from the defeat to Sale and the aforementiined win over Gloucester.
However, they should have enough quality to beat an Exiles side that is still, frustratingly, not delivering on its undoubted potential, especially against teams above them in the league table.
Irish’s problem is they don’t score enough points but they should have at least one try in each half in them against a side that has made seven changes from the last match. Bristol will be close to bonus-point territory in terms of tries scored.
– Bristol -8 on the h’cap (10/11)
– London Irish to score over 0.5 tries in each half (9/5, Paddy Power)
London Irish: 15. James Stokes, 14. Ben Loader, 13. Curtis Rona, 12. Theo Brophy Clews, 11. Ollie Hassell-Collins, 10. Paddy Jackson, 9. Ben Meehan; 1. Will Goodrick-Clarke, 2. Matt Cornish, 3. Lovejoy Chawatama, 4. Steve Mafi, 5. George Nott, 6. Matt Rogerson (c), 7. Blair Cowan, 8. Albert Tuisue.
Replacements: 16. Agustin Creevy, 17. Allan Dell, 18. Ollie Hoskins, 19. Rob Simmons, 20. Sean O’Brien, 21. Nick Phipps, 22. Terrence Hepetema, 23. Tom Parton.
Bristol: 15. Charles Piutau; 14. Luke Morahan, 13. Piers O’Conor, 12. Sam Bedlow, 11. Siva Naulago; 10. Callum Sheedy, 9. Andy Uren; 1. Yann Thomas, 2. Will Capon, 3. John Afoa, 4. Dave Attwood, 5. Chris Vui, 6. Steven Luatua (c), 7. Dan Thomas, 8. Mitch Eadie.
Replacements: 16. George Kloska, 17. Jake Woolmore, 18. Jake Armstrong, 19. Ed Holmes, 20. Jake Heenan, 21. Tom Kessell, 22. Ioan Lloyd, 23. Alapati Leiua.