Team news and statistics ahead of the weekend’s action in the Guinness Premiership to help with those Superbru Picks if you haven’t already made them.
Saturday December 20
Bath (3) v Sale (4)
Bath show four changes from the side that accounted for Heineken Cup opponents Glasgow last Sunday. Centre Alex Crockett replaces Shaun Berne – with hooker Lee Mears taking over from Pieter Dixon, lock Peter Short in for Danny Grewcock and flanker Jonny Faamatuainu handed a start instead of Andy Beattie.
Mark Cueto wears Sale’s number 15 shirt ahead of fellow England international Mathew Tait, who features on the bench. Wales scrum-half Dwayne Peel and Scotland back-row forward Jason White both return to the starting line-up, while Neil Briggs is restored to the hooking role after making four successive appearances as a flanker.
Last season: Sale 22 Bath 6, Bath 21 Sale 19
Last six league matches: Bath W W W W D L; Sale W W L L W W
Top tryscorers: Joe Maddock (Bath) 4; Mark Cueto (Sale) 2
Top pointscorers: Butch James (Bath) 204; Charlie Hodgson (Sale) 74
Leicester (6) v Newcastle (11)
Julien Dupuy replaces scrum-half Harry Ellis after Leicester hit the England international with a week’s ban following his citing for an alleged dangerous tackle on Perpignan star Dan Carter last weekend. England trio Dan Hipkiss, Tom Croft and Jordan Crane are rested – but fly-half Toby Flood starts against his former club.
A flu bug has swept through the Newcastle camp this week – with illness sidelining fly-half Rory Clegg and back-row forward Adam Balding, while others could follow after fitness checks on Saturday. Centre Jamie Noon is rested because of England elite squad requirements, but injuries rule out wing Danny Williams (shoulder) and prop Micky Ward (back).
Last season: Newcastle 28 Leicester 25, Leicester 41 Newcastle 14
Last six league matches: Leicester W L W L W L; Newcastle L W L L L L
Top tryscorers: Johne Murphy (Leicester) 4; Tom May (Newcastle) 3
Top pointscorers: Toby Flood (Leicester) 139; Rory Clegg (Newcastle) 75
London Irish (1) v Gloucester (2)
Premiership leaders Irish recall several key figures to their line-up – including Pacific Islands backs Seilala Mapusua and Sailosi Tagicakibau, England international scrum-half Paul Hodgson and flanker Steffon Armitage. Australian Peter Hewat, meanwhile, wears the number 10 shirt – with Delon Armitage at full-back.
New Zealand prop Greg Somerville starts his first game for Gloucester as one of several changes in the pack following last Saturday’s Heineken Cup win against Calvisano. Nick Wood and Scott Lawson also appear in the front
row, with Alasdair Strokosch packing down at openside flanker. Behind the scrum, Ryan Lamb, Olly Barkley and Olly Morgan all feature – despite suffering from illness this week.
Last season: Gloucester 34 London Irish 14, London Irish 15 Gloucester 10
Last six league matches: London Irish L W W W W W; Gloucester W L W W W W
Top tryscorers: Richard Thorpe (London Irish) 4; Iain Balshaw & Olly Morgan (Gloucester) 4
Top pointscorers: Peter Hewat (London Irish) 163; Ryan Lamb (Gloucester) 113
Northampton (10) v Harlequins (5)
Carlos Spencer will make his 100th Northampton appearance if he features off the bench against Heineken Cup high-flyers Quins. Saints rugby director Jim Mallinder has made several changes after the Challenge Cup win against Bristol, with captain Bruce Reihana and scrum-half Lee Dickson among those players returning.
Andy Gomarsall, England’s 2007 World Cup scrum-half, replaces the rested Danny Care at Franklin’s Gardens. Quins boss Dean Richards makes one other change after a dramatic Heineken Cup success against Stade Francais last weekend, giving wing Tom Williams a breather and calling up Seb Stegmann.
Last season: No corresponding fixture
Last six league matches: Northampton W L L L D L; Harlequins L L W W L W
Top tryscorers: Sean Lamont (Northampton) 2; Ugo Monye (Harlequins) 4
Top pointscorers: Stephen Myler (Northampton) 127; Chris Malone (Harlequins) 74
Wasps (9) v Saracens (7)
England fly-half Danny Cipriani is restored to Wasps’ starting line-up after being on the bench against Edinburgh last Sunday, and two other changes from that game see Lachlan Mitchell replacing injured full-back Mark Van Gisbergen and back-row forward Joe Worsley in for Serge Betsen.
Saracens boss Eddie Jones makes two changes from the side that saw off European Challenge Cup opponents Bayonne 36-0 last time out. Centre Andy Farrell and fly-half Glen Jackson, both rested for that Vicarage Road clash, return as Saracens target a first away win against Wasps for 11 years.
Last season: Saracens 29 Wasps 40, Wasps 19 Saracens 29
Last six league matches: Wasps L W L L L W; Saracens W W W L L W
Top tryscorers: Tom Rees (Wasps) 2; Kameli Ratuvou (Saracens) 3
Top pointscorers: Dave Walder (Wasps) 85; Glen Jackson (Saracens) 173
Worcester (8) v Bristol (12)
Worcester captain Pat Sanderson makes his 100th appearance for the Warriors, leading a side boosted by the return after injury of Australian full-back star Chris Latham. Wing Chris Pennell is also fit again and starts – with prop Matt Mullan, hooker Aleki Lutui and lock Greg Rawlinson all returning after last weekend’s Challenge Cup success against Bourgoin.
Scrum-half Shaun Perry takes over as Bristol captain from an injured Joe El Abd, while prop Alex Clarke and hooker Mark Regan return to the front row – with lock Mariano Sambucetti replacing Dave Attwood. Elsewhere, Lee Robinson starts on the wing instead of Tom Arscott, who is nursing an injury.
Last season: Bristol 21 Worcester 22, Worcester 25 Bristol 5
Last six league matches: Worcester L L L W W L; Bristol L L L W L L
Top tryscorers: Netani Talei & Sam Tuitupou (Worcester) 2; David Lemi (Bristol) 4
Top pointscorers: Matthew Jones (Worcester) 89; Adrian Jarvis (Bristol) 67
Courtesy of Sporting Life .Tweet