Gallagher Premiership 2020/21 - Round 18 Preview

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.

SALE SHARKS

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Friday May 7th

19:45

PREDICTION – SHARKS BY 12

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LEICESTER TIGERS

Eleven-point favourites at the start of the week, Sale Sharks are now -14 after Thursday’s team announcements.

By naming his two first-choice half-backs, Faf de Klerk and AJ MacGinty, in the starting XV, along with other big players like Lions squad member, Tom Curry, Sharks DoR Alex Sanderson has made his intentions clear that this is a game they are desperate to win.

Leicester on the other hand have opted to rotate, and the absentees include England duo, George Ford and Ellis Genge, who are out of the squad altogether, whilst the Tigers’ two most in-form players, Jasper Wiese and Freddie Steward have to settle for a place on the bench.

With just five rounds remaining in the Gallagher Premiership season, Sharks are in third place with 55 points, just three behind defending champions Exeter Chiefs in second place. Victory would lift them above the Chiefs, for 24 hours at least, in the pursuit of a home semi-final.

Tigers are in eighth place in the table, in a group of clubs separated by just a handful of points, and their priorities lie elsewhere, with a European Challenge Cup final to look forward to in a fortnight’s time.

Friday night’s clash with bring up a century of meetings between the teams. In 99 previous encounters between the clubs, Tigers have 67 wins, to 27 by Sale and five matches drawn. But Tigers have struggled in more recent years and the Sharks look a sure-fire bet to make it six wins on the bounce in the fixture.

Whether they are ruthless enough to win by at least two converted tries is open to debate. Only twice this season have they won by such a margin or more, and you’d back Leicester, even with their weakened line-up, to fare better than Newcastle and London Irish did on those two occasions.

In terms of anytime try-scorers, MacGinty (4/1) is in superb form for the Sharks and has played well against Leicester in the past, scoring a try against them last September.

He may have gone 15 Premiership games without a try but his well-taken Champions Cup effort against Scarlets in April suggests he has got the bit between his teeth.

Sale Sharks: 15. Luke James, 14. Byron McGuigan, 13. Sam James, 12. Sam Hill, 11. Marland Yarde, 10. AJ MacGinty, 9. Faf De Klerk; 1. Bevan Rodd, 2. Akker van der Merwe, 3. Coenie Oosthuizen, 4. Cobus Wiese, 5. Josh Beaumont (Capt.) 6. Jean-Luc du Preez, 7. Tom Curry, 8. Daniel du Preez.
Replacements: 16. Ewan Ashman, 17. Ross Harrison, 18. Will-Griff John, 19. James Phillips, 20. Cameron Nield, 21. Raffi Quirke, 22. Kieran Wilkinson, 23. Connor Doherty.

Leicester: 15 Zack Henry, 14 Kobus Van Wyk, 13 Matías Moroni, 12 Dan Kelly, 11 Kini Murimurivalu, 10 Johnny McPhillips, 9 Ben Youngs (c), 1 Luan de Bruin, 2 Charlie Clare, 3 Joe Heyes, 4 Cameron Henderson, 5 Tomás Lavanini, 6 George Martin, 7 Cyle Brink, 8 Hanro Liebenberg.
Replacements: 16 Nic Dolly, 17 James Whitcombe, 18 Will Hurd, 19 Calum Green, 20 Jasper Wiese, 21 Jack Van Poortvliet, 22 David Williams, 23 Freddie Stewar

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NORTHAMPTON SAINTS

Saturday May 8th 

14:00

PREDICTION – SAINTS BY 12

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GLOUCESTER RUGBY

Saints always have the Franklin’s Gardens pitch in mint condition and that should mitigate against the wet weather conditions ruining this game as a spectacle.

Both are attack-minded sides, and why wouldn’t they be when you consider the threats both line-ups have? But Saints’ individual talents have had longer to gel under Chris Boyd and the Kiwi’s work in the East Midlands is starting to bear fruit. Opposite number, George Skivington, still has some way to go before Gloucester sing from the same hymn sheet.

Saints go into the match in fifth place in the table knowing that any form of win would elevate them into the play-off positions, while Gloucester are slowly but surely climbing away from the bottom after a terrible start to the season.

Buoyed by three consecutive wins and the return to fitness of British & Irish Lion, Dan Biggar in an otherwise unchanged backline, Saints will fancy their chances of continuing their good record against the Cherry & Whites. Only once since 2013 have Gloucester won at the Gardens.

Biggar’s fellow Lion, Louis Rees-Zammit lines up on the wing for the visitors but Saints’ starting XV looks the stronger of the two. 

Both benches contain impact players, with Taqele Naiyaravoro and Shaun Adendorff ready to rumble for Saints, while Ben Morgan and Willi Heinz should be no less influential as subs for Gloucester, in their own unique ways, so the scoreboard should tick over nicely after the break despite the rain.

Recommended bet: Second half points >21.5 (Evns, Paddy Power)

Northampton Saints: 15 George Furbank, 14 Matt Proctor, 13 Rory Hutchinson, 12 Piers Francis, 11 Tommy Freeman, 10 Dan Biggar, 9 Tom James, 1 Alex Waller, 2 Sam Matavesi, 3 Paul Hill, 4 Dave Ribbans, 5 Api Ratuniyarawa, 6 Tom Wood, 7 Lewis Ludlam (co-capt), 8 Teimana Harrison

Replacements: 16 James Fish, 17 Nick Auterac, 18 Ehren Painter, 19 Alex Moon, 20 Shaun Adendorff, 21 Henry Taylor, 22 Fraser Dingwall, 23 Taqele Naiyaravoro

Gloucester: 15. Kyle Moyle, 14. Louis Rees-Zammit, 13. Giorgi Kveseladze, 12. Mark Atkinson, 11. Santiago Carreras, 10. Billy Twelvetrees, 9. Charlie Chapman, 1. Val Rapava-Ruskin, 2. Jack Singleton, 3. Fraser Balmain, 4. Ed Slater, 5. Matias Alemanno, 6. Jordy Reid, 7. Lewis Ludlow (c), 8. Ruan Ackermann

Replacements: 16. Santiago Socino, 17. Jamal Ford-Robinson, 18. Bryan O’Connor, 19. Ben Morgan, 20. Jack Clement, 21. Willi Heinz, 22. George Barton, 23. Tom Seabrook

 

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EXETER CHIEFS

Saturday May 8th

15:00

PREDICTION – CHIEFS BY 26

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WORCESTER WARRIORS

This game has the potential to highlight exactly why there is a need for jeopardy at the bottom end of the Premiership table.

Now that the fear of relegation has been removed, Worcester have shown signs of emphasising development over results in recent weeks and have suffered some heavy losses as a result. 

The Premiership prides itself on its competitiveness as a league but it is hard to see Worcester laying a glove on the Chiefs.

Chiefs need to keep on winning to be assured of a favoured home semi-final in the play-offs and will look for a ruthless performance against a side for whom the end of the season cannot come quickly enough. Warriors have conceded an incredible 194 points in their last four fixtures.

Let’s not forget though that it was only there years ago when the Warriors confounded the critics and won 6-5 down at Sandy Park, and that was the season after the Chiefs had been crowned champions of England for the first time.

However, back then, Worcester had a far more experienced line-up than they do this Saturday, one which produced an epic defensive display that the current Warriors do not seem capable of, hence the 24-point handicap line.

It is a lot of points for the Chiefs to give up, especially on a day of wind and rain, but if there’s one team capable of keeping hold of a slippery pill and playing up-your-jumper rugby, it’s the Chiefs. 

Recommended bet: Warriors < 15.5 points (5/6, Paddy Power)

Exeter Chiefs: 15 Stuart Hogg, 14 Jack Nowell, 13 Henry Slade, 12 Ollie Devoto, 11 Tom O’Flaherty, 10 Joe Simmonds (C), 9 Jack Maunder, 1 Alec Hepburn, 2 Luke Cowan-Dickie, 3 Tomas Francis, 4 Jonny Gray, 5 Sam Skinner, 6 Dave Ewers, 7 Jacques Vermeulen, 8 Sam Simmonds

Replacements: 16 Jack Yeandle, 17 Ben Moon, 18 Harry Williams, 19 Sean Lonsdale, 20 Richard Capstick, 21 Stu Townsend, 22 Harvey Skinner, 23 Ian Whitten

Worcester Warriors: 15 Jamie Shillcock, 14 Perry Humphreys, 13 Francois Venter, 12 Ashley Beck, 11 Alex Hearle, 10 Fin Smith, 9 Francois Hougaard, 1 Ethan Waller, 2 Niall Annett, 3 Nick Schonert, 4 Andrew Kitchener, 5 Justin Clegg, 6 Ted Hill (C), 7 Sam Lewis, 8 Matt Kvesic

Replacements: 16 Isaac Miller, 17 Marc Thomas, 18 Richard Palframan, 19 Joe Batley, 20 Kyle Hatherell, 21 GJ van Velze, 22 Gareth Simpson, 23 Harri Doel

 

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NEWCASTLE FALCONS

Saturday May 8th

15:00

PREDICTION – FALCONS BY 6

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LONDON IRISH

The result of this match would appear to be dependent on which of the sides is more capable of grinding out a win, and it’s the Falcons that get our verdict.

Irish are a team on the up, which cannot be said for Newcastle right now, but they are fallible away from home at the best of times, and a long trip to the north-east on a  cold and wet miserable day is not something their large southern hemisphere contingent will particularly relish. The Exiles have not won away from home in any competition since beating Wasps at Ricoh Arena at the end of February.

Newcastle need to roll their sleeves up and dig in to avert their recent slump in form, and grittiness is one quality they have in abundance. Players like Mark Wilson and Will Welch never shirk a physical challenge and with the electric Adam Radwan back on the wing, the Falcons have a better chance of converting the few opportunities that may come their way. Ollie Hassell-Collins makes his 50th appearance for the Exiles opposite him and that should make for a fascinating match-up if the ball gets out wide.

Recommended bet: Falcons -2 (10/11, Paddy Power)

Newcastle: 15 Tom Penny, 14 Adam Radwan, 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 Sean Robinson, 6 Will Welch, 7 Mark Wilson (captain), 8 Callum Chick

Replacements: 16 Jamie Blamire, 17 Kyle Cooper, 18 Mark Tampin, 19 Philip van der Walt, 20 Carl Fearns, 21 Sam Stuart, 22 Joel Hodgson, 23 George Wacokecoke

London Irish: 15 Tom Parton, 14 Ben Loader, 13 Curtis Rona, 12 Phil Cokanasiga, 11 Ollie Hassell-Collins, 10 Paddy Jackson, 9 Nick Phipps, 1 Will Goodrick-Clarke, 2 Agustin Creevy, 3 Lovejoy Chawatama, 4 George Nott, 5 Rob Simmons, 6 Matt Rogerson (c), 7 Blair Cowan, 8 Albert Tuisue

Replacements: 16 Motu Matu’u, 17 Facundo Gigena, 18 Ollie Hoskins, 19 Chunya Munga, 20 Ben Donnell, 21 Nic Groom 22 Jacob Atkins, 23 James Stokes.

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BATH RUGBY

Saturday May 8th

16:30

PREDICTION – BEARS BY 10

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BRISTOL BEARS

Bath’s latch-drive couldn’t unlock the door of the Montpellier defence in last weekend’s disappointing European Challenge Cup exit, and there’s no reason to think the tactic will be any more successful against a Bears side whose ability to protect their try line at close quarters has been evident in big games against the likes of Saracens, before their demotion, and Exeter.

Bath still seem incapable of getting the best out of their star-studded backline whereas Bristol can strike from anywhere. Not even a wet pitch at the Recreation Ground will faze the league’s leaders who have named a line-up oozing with class.

Semi Radradra, Siale Piutau and Callum Sheedy return to a backline featuring threats such as Charles Piutau, Luke Morahan and Max Malins. With his sniping runs and support play, scrum-half Andy Uren is no less important to the cause and, at 7/2, he’s a decent price to be an anytime try-scorer, although a glut of tries is improbable given the conditions.

Tom de Glanville will make his return from injury for the home side and the homegrown full-back can expect a busy afternoon chasing kicks as well as runners.

Recommended bet: Bristol and Under 45.5 match points (8/5, Paddy Power)

Bath: 15. Tom de Glanville, 14. Anthony Watson, 13. Max Clark, 12. Cameron Redpath, 11. Will Muir, 10. Orlando Bailey, 9. Ben Spencer; 1. Juan Schoeman, 2. Tom Dunn, 3. Will Stuart, 4. Josh McNally ©, 5. Elliott Stooke 6. Josh Bayliss, 7. Miles Reid, 8. Taulupe Faletau

Replacements: 16. Jacques du Toit, 17. Jamie Bhatti, 18. Christian Judge, 19. Charlie Ewels, 20. Tom Ellis, 21. Will Chudley, 22. Rhys Priestland, 23. Alex Gray.

Bristol Bears: 15. Charles Piutau; 14. Luke Morahan, 13. Semi Radradra, 12. Siale Piutau, 11. Max Malins; 10. Callum Sheedy, 9. Andy Uren; 1. Yann Thomas, 2. Bryan Byrne, 3. Kyle Sinckler, 4. Dave Attwood, 5. Chris Vui, 6. Steven Luatua (c), 7. Ben Earl, 8. Nathan Hughes.

Replacements: 16. Jake Kerr, 17. Jake Woolmore, 18. John Afoa, 19. Ed Holmes, 20. Jake Heenan, 21. Tom Kessell, 22. Ioan Lloyd, 23. Alapati Leiua.

 

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HARLEQUINS

Sunday May 9th

15:00

PREDICTION – WASPS BY 4

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WASPS

Lee Blackett said earlier in the week that the 49-17 defeat at home to Harlequins at the end of January ranked with the away loss to Leicester as Wasps’ worst performance of the year.

In what was Billy Millard’s first match in charge of Quins post-Paul Gustard, Marcus Smith turned in a man-of-the-match display as the west Londoners ran riot in Coventry.

In the three months since then, Quins have kicked on from that result to become serious title contenders, whilst Wasps have gone from last season’s finalists to fall-guys, epitomised by the blip in form suffered by their own young fly-half Jacob Umaga.

But both Umaga and Wasps are back and buzzing again. A heart-breaking narrow defeat to Clermont in the Champions Cup, when they were the better side for much of the contest, followed by an impressive win against Bath a fortnight ago, in which Umaga set up three of their tries, has restored confidence ahead of what should be a game full of attacking intent.

Yes, Quins are undeniably favourites but with Northampton slipping up at home to Gloucester yesterday, the need for points to secure their play-off berth isn’t quite as intense.

Wasps, meanwhile, still have a very good chance of finishing in the top eight to guarantee themselves another crack at top-tier European rugby next season, and Blackett says the squad are desperate to end the season on a high.

It has been a rollercoaster ride under Blackett in the last 12 months but they’re on their way back up again, and what better way to underline that than by winning at Quins?

Quins: Mike Brown, 14. Tyrone Green, 13. Joe Marchant, 12. Luke Northmore, 11. Cadan Murley, 10. Marcus Smith, 9. Danny Care, 1. Joe Marler, 2. Scott Baldwin, 3. Wilco Louw, 4. Matt Symons, 5. Stephan Lewies (c), 6. Tom Lawday, 7. Jack Kenningham, 8. Alex Dombrandt.

Replacements: 16. Joe Gray, 17. Santiago Garcia Botta, 18. Will Collier, 19. Dino Lamb, 20. Archie White, 21. Martin Landajo, 22. James Lang, 23. Paul Lasike.

Wasps: Rob Miller, 14. Zach Kibirige, 13. Paolo Odogwu, 12. Malakai Fekitoa, 11. Josh Bassett, 10 Jacob Umaga, 9. Dan Robson, 1. Tom West, 2. Tommy Taylor, 3. Kieran Brookes, 4. Will Rowlands, 5. James Gaskell (c), 6. Brad Shields, 7. Thomas Young, 8. Tom Willis.

Replacements: 16. Gabriel Oghre, 17. Simon McIntyre, 18. Jeff Toomaga-Allen, 19. Tim Cardall, 20. Ben Morris, 21. Will Porter, 22. Charlie Atkinson, 23. Michael Le Bourgeois.