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 March 5th
PREDICTION – TIGERS BY 5
Leicester fans might not know it but Wayne Barnes’ appointment for Friday night’s visit of London Irish is good news if recent history is anything to go by.
Barnes, who is closing on a century of Tests as a referee, has stood in the middle for five Premiership matches this season, and the home side has won them all.
Four of the five were by a margin of seven points or less – including Leicester’s 36-31 win over Bath – with the only anomaly being the 48-3 blow-out Bristol enjoyed at Bath’s expense.
In a fixture when the home side tends to come out on top more often than not, this further reinforces the belief that the Tigers will just have enough in their locker to edge a tight contest.
At the halfway point of the campaign, both sides have managed 21 tries at an average of just under two per game so a low-scoring affair looks in prospect.
The previous two meetings at Welford Road certainly ended up that way with Tigers winning 13-7 last August and 19-15 back in January 2018.
Throw in the fact that Irish have only won once at the ground since 2003, and history and the stats are very much against them building on last week’s terrific win at Wasps.
Irish’s problem this season has been giving the opposition a head start. Of the 22 tries they have conceded, 13 have come before half-time. And the points conceded total before and after half-time is split 113/73. The percentage of points conceded by Irish before the break is only equalled by Sale Sharks, the rest tend to prosper in the second half.
Factor in Leicester’s fondness for kicking first-half penalties – 15 out of 23 during the first 40 – and it’s easy to see how Irish will have to launch another second-half comeback if they are to get anything out of this game.
With a new settled backline, marshalled by the experienced half-back pairing of Nick Phipps and Paddy Jackson, they are clearly starting to function better as an attacking unit.
But even with a host of players still unavailable through England commitments, injuries and suspension, we believe the Tigers can just about hold on for a hard-earned victory.
Steve Borthwick’s side are defensively dogged and Freddie Steward’s return at full-back can only improve them. To only concede three points when it was 15 v 15 against ruthless Bristol last week takes some doing.
Tigers’ tally of eight yellow cards is the second-highest in the league but even if they add to that tally tonight, the Exiles don’t tend to punish teams when they have more men on the pitch.
Recommended bet: Double result of Leicester-Leicester (13/10, Paddy Power).
Leicester: 15. Freddie Steward, 14. Kobus Van Wyk, 13. Matías Moroni, 12. Matt Scott, 11. Guy Porter, 10. Zack Henry, 9. Richard Wigglesworth, 1. Luan de Bruin, 2. Tom Youngs, 3. Dan Cole, 4. Calum Green, 5. Tomás Lavanini, 6. Harry Wells, 7. Tommy Reffell, 8. Cyle Brink.
Replacements: 16. Charlie Clare, 17. Nephi Leatigaga, 18. Joe Heyes, 19. Ollie Chessum, 20. Luke Wallace, 21. Jack Van Poortvliet, 22. Johnny McPhillips, 23. Kini Murimurivalu.
London Irish: 15. Tom Parton, 14. Ben Loader, 13. Curtis Rona, 12. Terrence Hepetema, 11. Ollie Hassell-Collins, 10. Paddy Jackson, 9. Nick Phipps, 1. Will Goodrick-Clarke, 2. Agustin Creevy, 3. Lovejoy Chawatama, 4. Steve Mafi, 5. Rob Simmons, 6. Matt Rogerson ©, 7. Blair Cowan, 8. Albert Tuisue.
Replacements: 16. Matt Cornish, 17. Allan Dell, 18. Ollie Hoskins, 19. Chunya Munga, 20. George Nott, 21. Ben Donnell, 22. Ben Meehan, 23. Will Joseph.
Friday March 5th
PREDICTION – SALE BY 9
The bookies have reacted to Sale’s defiant victory over double champions Exeter by making them eight-point favourites, and looking at the respective team line-ups, you’d have to think they’re right. Our only worry is that the Sharks have a tendency to let you down when giving up this many points on the handicap.
Also, Newcastle have conceded, on average, the fewest penalties in the Premiership and if they’re equally well-disciplined tonight, that would negate one of the Sharks’ biggest strengths, AJ MacGinty’s kicking.
Just under half of Sale’s points this season have come from goal-kicking (conversions and penalties), most of them from the accurate boot of the US Eagle.
Jono Ross’ ban for picking up three yellow cards robs the Sharks of some on-field leadership and while the Falcons have been good in keeping on the right side of the referee, Sale have not.
Just as Newcastle give away the least, Sale average the most penalties in the league, which could potentially give Newcastle a foothold in the match – if Brent Connon can locate his kicking radar.
Connon simply has to improve Newcastle’s terrible goal-kicking percentage of 60% if the Falcons are going to pull off a similarly impressive away win as the last time they were refereed by Andrew Jackson – the 27-17 win at Wasps in round 3.
With an unchanged and quality-looking backline on display – Faf de Klerk is captain and the side is always stronger when he’s paired with MacGinty, Sale might not have to be so reliant on ‘threes’ and ‘twos’ for their points.
Fresh from his wonder try in the 25-22 win against Harlequins last time out, the fit-again Callum Chick leads the visitors out, as they look to do the double over their northern rivals after winning 15-13 with a last-minute Toby Flood try in round two.
We expect this to be another low-scoring encounter with the Sharks taking the honours on the basis that they are almost at full strength, whilst Newcastle are not, and are at home.
Recommended bet: Newcastle <16.5 points (5/6, Paddy Power)
Sale: 15. Luke James, 14. Byron McGuigan, 13. Sam James, 12. Sam Hill, 11. Marland Yarde, 10. AJ MacGinty, 9. Faf de Klerk (Capt.); 1. Bevan Rodd, 2. Curtis Langdon, 3. Will Griff John, 4. Josh Beaumont, 5. Lood De Jager, 6. Cobus Wiese, 7. Sam Dugdale, 8. Daniel du Preez.
Replacements: 16. Akker van der Merwe, 17. Ross Harrison, 18. Coenie Oosthuizen, 19. Jean-Pierre du Preez, 20. Cameron Neild, 21. Raffi Quirke, 22. Robert du Preez, 23. Simon Hammersley
Newcastle: 15. Tom Penny, 14. Mateo Carreras, 13. Matias Orlando, 12. Luther Burrell, 11. Ben Stevenson, 10. Brett Connon, 9. Louis Schreuder, 1. Trevor Davison, 2. George McGuigan, 3. Logovi’i Mulipola, 4. Greg Peterson, 5. Marco Fuser, 6. Rob Farrar, 7. John Hardie, 8. Callum Chick (captain).
Replacements: 16. Jamie Blamire, 17. Adam Brocklebank, 18. Mark Tampin, 19. Darren Barry, 20. Connor Collett, 21. Michael Young, 22. Joel Matavesi, 23. Alex Tait
Saturday March 6th
PREDICTION – CHIEFS BY 4
Bath have got into the habit of winning close games but this is one where they might just come up short.
Exeter have huffed and puffed of late, scrapping out wins over Worcester, Newcastle and London Irish and then losing narrowly against Northampton and then Sale, while Bath have built up a real head of steam with consecutive victories against Sale, Gloucester and another nail-biter against Northampton.
The return of Beno Obano will help an underpowered scrum, which struggled so badly in the first half at Northampton, and the presence of Taulupe Faletau and Sam Underhill alongside Zach Mercer gives makes for an impressive back-row unit.
Bath’s second-row problems are also starting to ease and the selection of in-form wingers, Ruaridh McConnochie and Will Muir gives Bath a real broken-field threat.
Now is as good a time as any for Bath to play the Chiefs, although the visitors are boosted by the return of international trio Tomas Francis, Jonny Gray and Stuart Hogg.
Whether Bath can extend their winning run to four matches is open to debate but giving them 6 points on the handicap looks generous considering the form of the respective sides.
Recommended bet: Bath +6 (10/11, Paddy Power)
Bath: 15. Tom de Glanville, 14. Ruaridh McConnochie, 13. Jonathan Joseph, 12. Josh Matavesi, 11. Will Muir, 10. Rhys Priestland, 9. Ben Spencer; 1. Beno Obano, 2. Tom Dunn, 3. Henry Thomas, 4. Josh McNally ©, 5. Elliott Stooke, 6. Toby Faletau, 7. Sam Underhill, 8 Zach Mercer.
Replacements: 16. Jack Walker, 17. Jamie Bhatti, 18. Christian Judge, 19. Tom Ellis, 20. Miles Reid, 21. Will Chudley, 22. Tian Schoeman, 23. Joe Cokanasiga.
Saturday March 6th
PREDICTION – GLOS BY 5
Both sides possess some brilliant attacking talent so it’s a little surprising that, in the last three rounds, neither has been involved in a match where more than 36 points have been scored. The line for Saturday’s clash at the Ricoh Arena is 50.5 points so it seems like a no-brainer to go under.
Having beaten Worcester 22-14 and ended a run of eight defeats on the bounce, Gloucester have got the monkey off their back, and will be sky high in confidence. Wasps, on the other hand, badly need a shot in the arm.
The Six Nations period has been cruel to them with just one win in five, and the superb wins against Bath and Exeter back in January are in the dim and distant past. How they would have loved to have had Paolo Odogwu available to them.
The pocket-rocket centre is still watching the grass grow with England and Dan Robson is also still on international duty. But Tom West is back to boost the front row.
Even with the number of absentees they have, Wasps should be doing better and nothing less than a win will do. A leadership void does seem to exist though whenever Joe Launchbury isn’t there to knit everything together, whereas Gloucester have still managed to stay tight despite their troubles.
Credit can go to the likes of evergreen lock Ed Slater, captain Lewis Ludlow and Billy Twelvetrees for that. Ludlow has been superb, tackling his heart out, stealing lineouts and winning turnover ball, and we’re backing the Cherry & Whites to healp more misery on the home side and continue their revival in Coventry.
Recommended bet: Gloucester to win at 9/4 (Bet 365)
Wasps: 15. Rob Miller, 14. Zach Kibirige, 13. Malakai Fekitoa, 12. Michael Le Bourgeois, 11. Josh Bassett, 10. Jacob Umaga, 9. Will Porter, 1. Tom West,
2. Gabriel Oghre, 3. Jeff Toomaga-Allen, 4. Will Rowlands, 5. James Gaskell, 6. Brad Shields (c), 7. Thomas Young, 8. Tom Willis.
Replacements: 16. Tom Cruse, 17. Ben Harris, 18. Nicky Thomas, 19. Levi Douglas, 20 Sione Vailanu, 21. Ben Vellacott, 22. Jimmy Gopperth, 23. Matteo Minozzi
Gloucester: 15. Kyle Moyle, 14. Santiago Carreras, 13. Chris Harris, 12. Billy Twelvetrees, 11. Ollie Thorley, 10. George Barton, 9. Willi Heinz, 1. Alex Seville, 2. Santiago Socino, 3. Fraser Balmain, 4. Ed Slater, 5. Matias Alemanno, 6. Jordy Reid, 7. Lewis Ludlow (c), 8. Ruan Ackermann.
Replacements: 16. Henry Walker, 17. Jamal Ford, Robinson, 18. Jack Stanley, 19. Alex Craig, 20. Jack Clement, 21. Charlie Chapman, 22. Tom Seabrook, 23. Charlie Sharples.
Saturday March 6th
PREDICTION – BEARS BY 8
Having lost to Gloucester last week, only points difference separates Worcester from the Cherry & Whites at the foot of the Premiership table. Bristol are top, with the possibility of opening up a 10-point lead if they take maximum points from Sixways.
Worcester haven’t won since they edged out London Irish 11-10 at the start of the season and the loss of centre Ollie Lawrence to England and Duncan Weir to injury has hit them hard.
While Bristol’s stardust has been scattered as far and wide as their attacking play, Worcester have never got going with ball in hand and are the lowest scorers in the league. Their points line for this match is set at 17.5 points, a mark that they have only passed once this season – in scoring 24 points in the Round 8 defeat to Leicester.
Bristol do occasionally have an off-day in defence but they should be able to soak up what little threat Warriors throw at them.
Recommended bet: Worcester <17.5 points (10/11, Paddy Power)
Worcester Warriors: 15. Nick David, 14. Chris Ashton, 13. Oli Morris, 12. Francois Venter, 11. Perry Humphreys, 10. Jamie Shillcock, 9.Francois Hougaard, 1. Ethan Waller, 2. Beck Cutting, 3. Nick Schonert, 4. Andrew Kitchener, 5. Justin Clegg, 6. Ted Hill (c), 7. Matt Kvesic, 8. GJ van Velze.
Replacements: 16. Isaac Miller, 17. Marc Thomas, 18. Richard Palframan, 19. Joe Batley, 20. Cornell du Preez, 21. Michael Heaney, 22. Billy Searle, 23. Ashley Beck.
Bristol Bears: 15. Henry Purdy, 14. Niyi Adeolokun, 13. Piers O’Conor, 12. Alapati Leiua, 11. Siva Naulago, 10. Callum Sheedy, 9. Andy Uren, 1. Jake Woolmore, 2. Will Capon, 3. Max Lahiff, 4. Dave Attwood, 5. Joe Joyce, 6. Chris Vui, 7. Fitz Harding, 8. Steven Luatua (c).
Replacements: 16. George Kloska, 17. Yann Thomas, 28. John Afoa, 19. Ed Holmes, 20. Jake Heenan, 21. Tom Kessell, 22. Tiff Eden, 23. Toby Fricker.
Sunday March 7th
PREDICTION – QUINS BY 4
An entertaining game is on the cards as third plays fifth.
Both teams go into the game on the back of narrow defeats: Quins at Newcastle and Northampton at home to Bath.
Saints were in command of that game in the first half on the back of a strong scrummaging performance but went on to lose 23-22. And we feel they are capable of putting that disappointment to one side and push Quins closer than the 9-point handicap suggests.
Quins: 15. Mike Brown, 14. Aaron Morris, 13. Joe Marchant, 12. Andre Esterhuizen, 11. Tyrone Green, 10. Marcus Smith, 9. Danny Care, 1. Joe Marler, 2. Scott Baldwin, 3. Wilco Louw, 4. Dino Lamb, 5. Stephan Lewies (c), 6. James Chisholm, 7. Archie White, 8. Alex Dombrandt.
Replacements: 16. Joe Gray, 17. Jordan Els, 18. Simon Kerrod, 19. Glen Young, 20. Jack Kenningham, 21. Martin Landajo, 22. Brett Herron, 23. Luke Northmore.
Northampton: 15. Tommy Freeman, 14. Matt Proctor, 13. Fraser Dingwall, 12. Piers Francis, 11. Ollie Sleightholme, 10. George Furbank, 9. Tom James, 1. Nick Auterac, 2. Sam Matavesi, 3. Paul Hill, 4. Alex Coles, 5. Api Ratuniyarawa, 6. Nick Isiekwe, 7. Lewis Ludlam (c), 8. Tom Wood.
Replacements: 16. Mike Haywood, 17. Alex Waller, 18. Ehren Painter, 19. Alex Moon, 20. JJ Tonks, 21. Henry Taylor
22. Rory Hutchinson, 23. Harry Mallinder.