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 19th
PREDICTION – WASPS BY 2
Make no mistake, the return of captain Joe Launchbury from injury is a huge boost for Wasps as they look to get out of their current slump.
A trip to wind-blown Newcastle on a Friday night is not normally seen as an ideal place to go for remedies – more like hangovers – but the lumbering sight of Launchbury in the second row will be massively reassuring.
Whilst one man does not make a team, Launchbury is the glue that knits Wasps together. In the 11 games he has played across the last two seasons, Wasps have only lost twice – against Sale and in the Premiership final against Exeter.
In the two games before the fractured his leg, Wasps beat the Chiefs 34-5 and then walloped Bath 52-44.
With Launchbury and fellow international, Wales’ Will Rowlands, locking down together, Wasps will fancy their chances of doing what Bath did to Newcastle last week and bully them in the driving maul. Defending that weapon more effectively will have been a major work-on for coach Nick Easter this week.
In Round 13, Newcastle were soundly beaten 38-19 by Bath – a team they had defeated in round one – but they can point to the loss of three key players, including both half-backs Michael Young and Joel Hodgson, on the eve of kick-off, as a mitigating factor.
Covid cancellations and a drop-off from their early season form has seen Newcastle’s wings clipped slip and they have fallen from the dizzy heights of second in the table in December to eighth.
Dean Richards’ side have recorded just two wins since the turn of the year, but that is nothing compared to Wasps’ decline.
The Six Nations cannot end soon enough for Wasps head coach Lee Blackett as the tournament has coincided with a run of just one win in six, although half of them have been by a slender margin where the result could quite easily have gone the other way.
Key to Wasps chances will be getting enough possession in the right areas. Newcastle keep the ball longer than any other team other than Exeter, and they’ll want to starve former Falcon, Zach Kibirige of scoring opportunities, whilst also denying another former player, Jimmy Gopperth, easy shots at goal.
This is where rookie ref Andrew Woodthorpe comes in. He takes charge of only his fifth in the top-flight, and the second involving Falcons. Woodthorpe only penalised them eight times when he stood in for their 15-9 home defeat to Exeter.
That figure was well down on Newcastle’s average of 11.2 per game for the season, and if the Falcons can keep on his right side again, that could tip the balance in their favour.
However, while Newcastle continue to miss a third of their shots at goal and struggle to get to try bonus point territory, the opposition are always going to be in with a chance so the margin of victory is likely to be tight. Newcastle won 27-17 when the sides met earlier in the season.
With the match capable of going either way, our recommendation is to avoid the 2-point handicap against Wasps and go under 45.5 points in the total points market instead (5/6, Paddy Power).
Newcastle: 15 Tom Penny, 14 Mateo Carreras, 13 George Wacokecoke, 12 Luther Burrell, 11 Ben Stevenson, 10 Joel Hodgson, 9 Michael Young (c), 1 Trevor Davison, 2 George McGuigan, 3 Logovi’i Mulipola, 4 Greg Peterson, 5 Marco Fuser, 6 Sean Robinson, 7 Will Welch, 8 Philip van der Walt.
Replacements: 16 Jamie Blamire, 17 Kyle Cooper, 18 Mark Tampin, 19 Will Montgomery, 20 Callum Chick, 21 Louis Schreuder, 22 Brett Connon, 23 Alex Tait.
Wasps: 15 Rob Miller, 14 Zach Kibirige, 13 Malakai Fekitoa, 12 Michael Le Bourgeois, 11 Josh Bassett, 10 Jimmy Gopperth, 9 Sam Wolstenholme, 1 Ben Harris, 2 Tommy Taylor, Kieran Brookes, 4 Joe Launchbury (c), 5 Will Rowlands, 6 Brad Shields, 7 Thomas Young, 8 Sione Vailanu.
Replacements: 16 Gabriel Oghre, 17 Tom West, 18 Jeff Toomaga-Allen, 19 Theo Vukasinovic, 20 Alfie Barbeary, 21 Ben Vellacott, 22 Charlie Atkinson, 23 Matteo Minozzi.
Saturday March 20th
PREDICTION – BATH BY 16
Buoyed by the return of sharp-shooter Rhys Priestland, Bath have put out a gun team as they attempt to build on last weekend’s impressive bonus-point win over Newcastle.
Tom de Glanville, Ruaridh McConnochie, Jonathan Joseph and Ben Spencer maintain starting roles and in-form wing Will Muir is back. But it was the forwards who did the damage at Kingston Park by scoring all six tries and irrepressible hooker will be hungry for more after his brace against the Falcons.
While 30-something Priestland nears the end of his career, his opposite number is just starting his. Fin Smith will become the youngest Worcester Warriors player to start a Gallagher Premiership match when he lines up in all-English qualified side.
Smith became only the second 18-year-old to play for Warriors in the competition when he came on as a 76th minute replacement at Gloucester three weeks ago.
Saturday March 20th
PREDICTION – QUINS BY 12
Winning at Quins really would be a statement result for a Gloucester side on the up, but we can’t see it happening.
The Cherry & Whites don’t have the best of records in south-west London and come up against a home side brimming with confidence.
Gloucester’s mini-revival has come against fellow struggling teams and containing Quins’ all-court attack will be a different proposition altogether.
Quins have lost Joe Marchant to England but Andre Esterhuizen brings different strengths to the party. The only worry for them is how the new-look front row of Jordan Els, Joe Gray and Simon Kerrod performs on the day.
Gloucester have gone for a blend of experience and youth but the line-up does have an experimental feel to it and Quins are more than capable of cashing in.
Harlequins: Mike Brown; Tyrone Green, Luke Northmore, Andre Esterhuizen, Cadan Murley; Marcus Smith, Danny Care; Jordan Els, Joe Gray, Simmon Kerrod, Matt Symons, Dino Lamb, James Chisholm, Will Evans, Alex Dombrandt (capt)
Replacements: Scott Baldwin, Joe Marler, Wilco Louw, Glen Young, Tom Lawday, Martin Landajo, Brett Herron, Ben Tapuai.
Gloucester: 15. Charlie Sharples, 14. Tom Seabrook, 13. Henry Trinder, 12. Matt Banahan, 11. Jacob Morris, 10. George Barton, 9. Charlie Chapman, 1. Val Rapava-Ruskin, 2. Ethan Hunt, 3. Fraser Balmain, 4. Matt Garvey (c), 5. Oliver Atkins, 6. Freddie Clarke, 7. Jack Clement, 8. Ben Morgan.
Replacements: 16. Todd Gleave, 17. Alex Seville, 18. Jamal Ford-Robinson, 19. Freddie Thomas, 20. Joe Howard, 21. Matty Jones, 22. Isaac Marsh, 23. Alex Morgan.
Saturday March 20th
PREDICTION – CHIEFS BY 22
Fresh from a hard-fought victory over Harlequins last time out, the Chiefs face a rejigged Tigers side as they look to keep hanging on the coat tails of Bristol at the top of the table.
By opting to rest Dan Cole and Tom Youngs, Tigers head coach Steve Borthwick has given the impression he is targeting more winnable games down the road, and the Chiefs scrum should be too strong for the visitors who may struggle to get a foothold in the game.
It’s a shame, really, as you’d fancy a full strength Tigers line-up to give the Chiefs a really good game at the moment, or at least win with a 17-point head start on the handicap.
Exeter: 15 Facundo Cordero; 14 Olly Woodburn, 13 Harvey Skinner, 12 Ollie Devoto, 11 Tom O’Flaherty, 10 Joe Simmonds (capt), 9 Jack Maunder, 1 Ben Moon, 2 Jack Innard, 3 Harry Williams, 4 Jannes Kirsten, 5 Sean Lonsdale, 6 Dave Ewers, 7 Jacques Vermeulen, 8 Sam Simmonds.
Replacements: 16 Elvis Taione, 17 Alec Hepburn, 18 Marcus Street, 19 Don Armand, 20 Richard Capstick, 21 Sam Hidalgo-Clyne, 22 Dan John, 23 Josh Hodge.
Leicester: 15 Freddie Steward, 14 Kobus Van Wyk, 13 Matt Scott, 12 Dan Kelly, 11 Guy Porter, 10 Zack Henry, 9 Jack Van Poortvliet, 1 Nephi Leatigaga, 2 Charlie Clare, 3 Joe Heyes, 4 Cameron Henderson, 5 Tomás Lavanini, 6 Cyle Brink, 7 Tommy Reffell, 8 Hanro Liebenberg (c) 
Replacements: 16 Jake Kerr, 17 James Whitcombe, 18 Luan de Bruin, 19 Harry Wells, 20 Luke Wallace, 21 Ben White, 22 Johnny McPhillips, 23 Harry Potter.
Sunday March 21st
PREDICTION – SAINTS BY 2
Bristol have managed two one-point wins, against struggling Worcester and Gloucester, and a high-scoring draw against London Irish in their last three away games so they’ve hardly been in scintillating form away from Ashton Gate.
With the jury still out on fourth-choice fly-half Tiff Eden, this could be a golden opportunity for Saints to take the scalp of the league leaders.
Relative to their form when Callum Sheedy and Ioan Lloyd are pulling the strings at 10, Bristol looked as wooden in attack as the posts Eden kept hitting with his goal-kicking, in the early stages of their 37-20 win over Wasps last time out.
They eventually clicked into gear against a Wasps team down on its luck but they could be vulnerable against a Saints side that will have taken a lot of confidence from their 17-14 win against Sale Sharks at the Gardens.
Northampton: 15 George Furbank, 14 Matt Proctor, 13 Fraser Dingwall, 12 Rory Hutchinson, 11 Tommy Freeman, 10 James Grayson, 9 Tom James, 1 Alex Waller (c), 2 Sam Matavesi, 3 Paul Hill, 4 Alex Coles, 5 Api Ratuniyarawa, 6 Nick Isiekwe, 7 Tom Wood, 8 Teimana Harrison.
Replacements: 16 Mike Haywood, 17 Nick Auterac, 18 Ehren Painter, 19 Alex Moon, 20 JJ Tonks, 21 Henry Taylor, 22 Piers Francis, 23 Harry Mallinder
Bristol: 15. Henry Purdy; 14. Niyi Adeolokun, 13. Piers O’Conor, 12. Alapati Leiua, 11. Siva Naulago; 10. Tiff Eden, 9. Andy Uren; 1. Yann Thomas, 2. Bryan Byrne, 3. John Afoa, 4. Joe Joyce, 5. Chris Vui, 6. Steven Luatua (c), 7. Dan Thomas, 8. Nathan Hughes.
Replacements: 16. Will Capon, 17. Jake Woolmore, 18. Max Lahiff, 19. Ed Holmes, 20. Jake Heenan, 21. Tom Kessell, 22. Sam Bedlow, 23. Luke Morahan.
Sunday March 21st
PREDICTION – SHARKS BY 6
Since beating Northampton 32-23 on the opening day of the season, Sale have not been involved in a game of 50-points plus.
Part of that is down to their own defence but also their own failings in making the most of some talented outside backs. Irish can defend for their lives too, which is why we’re inclined to go over 46.5 points (5/6, Paddy Power).
All three of Saturday’s Premiership matches were free-scoring try-fests but this has a much tighter feel to it and the sides looked relatively well-matched, too.
Irish have lost on all seven previous occasions they have visited AJ Bell Stadium, and snapping that run might be just beyond them although they look a decent handicap bet with a seven-point start.
Sale Sharks: 15. Simon Hammersley, 14. Byron McGuigan, 13. Sam James, 12. Connor Doherty. 11. Arron Reed, 10. Robert du Preez, 9. Faf de Klerk; 1. Bevan Rodd, 2. Akker van der Merwe, 3. Coenie Oosthuizen, 4. Josh Beaumont, 5. Lood de Jager, 6. Jono Ross, 7. Cameron Neild, 8. Jean-Luc du Preez.
Replacements: 16. Curtis Langdon, 17. Ross Harrison, 18. James Harper, 19. James Phillips, 20. Sam Dugdale, 21. Will Cliff, 22. AJ MacGinty, 23. Luke James.
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 Agustin Creevy, 3 Lovejoy Chawatama, 4 Steve Mafi, 5 Rob Simmons, 6 Matt Rogerson (c), 7 Ben Donnell, 8 Albert Tuisue.
Replacements: 16 Matt Cornish, 17 Facundo Gigena, 18 Ollie Hoskins, 19 George Nott, 20 Blair Cowan, 21 Nick Phipps, 22 Will Joseph, 23 Tom Parton