Sam Knibbs

Aviva Premiership Round 17: Preview and Predictions

Written by (Sam Knibbs)

Posted in :Admin on 1 Mar 2013 at 13:40
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Round seventeen of the Aviva Premiership season sees three tough away fixtures for the league’s lowest placed sides. Bottom place Sale visit Leicester, London Welsh go to Saracens, and London Irish visit Northampton Saints. The results of these matches could still have a crucial impact on relegation this year, even given Welsh’s impending points deduction. Elsewhere, the west-country derby at The Rec will be one of the weekend’s most intense encounters; old rivals Bath and Gloucester face-off on Friday evening.

Game of the week:

Bath vs Gloucester

Even including last weekend’s defeat at Franklin’s Gardens, Bath have looked like the most in-form team in the Premiership in February. The return of Francois Louw and Matt Banahan for Friday’s derby clash will only help increase their competiveness; especially physically. Bath’s ability to win the breakdown collision has been one of the stand-out improvements under DoR Gary Gold. That area will be of vital importance against Gloucester, who constantly look to attack off quick ball.

The Cherry and Whites’ skipper Mike Tindall will make his 150th appearance for the club at The Rec, which is a happy coincidence for the former Bath boy. The defensive qualities of Tindall will certainly help Gloucester, who made several basic errors to gift Worcester two tries a week ago. Freddie Burns returns from injury to steer the ship from 10. Burns is another former Bath man and will be looking to impress and his boyhood club.

He said: Freddie Burns
“Playing in these games at The Rec is something I always dreamed of as a kid – but I never really thought it would be in a cherry and white shirt!

Prediction: These games are always difficult to call. Discipline could be the deciding factor and for that reason I think the home side will win: 27 – 23.

Worcester Warriors vs London Wasps

The Warriors were on the wrong end of a controversial refereeing decision at Kingsholm in the dying moments of their derby game in Round 16; the sixth time they have suffered a last gasp defeat this campaign. Team morale must have been dented by the penalty try that cost them four points in a then ever increasing relegation conundrum. London Welsh’s self-inflicted crisis could be the boost Worcester need – easing the pressure so they can look upwards once again.

London Wasps dropped out of the top four after a disappointing loss to Irish last time out. James Haskell was released by England to play in this fixture but will miss out due to injury, along with try-machine Christian Wade. The absence of Wade will certainly impact the visitors as his clinical finishing has been a defining aspect of their season. Luckily, the league’s top try scorer Tom Varndell will still be lingering with intent on the outside.

He said: Richard Hill
“We need to get a big win in front of our own supporters on Friday night and, far from being down; the players are galvanized and angry about what has happened.”

Prediction: The Warriors will be gunning for a win after the disappointment of defeat at Gloucester. The return to Sixways will see them get what they want: 20 – 14.

Leicester Tigers vs Sale Sharks

The Tigers sit in third having lost to both of their Championship rivals in the last two weeks. The bonus point loss to Saracens at Welford Road hurt more than the average loss, but given the amount of talent the club releases to international teams they shouldn’t be too hard on themselves. Julian Salvi was on the score sheet in that match and his form will be important to dominating Sale, who boast an impressive back row themselves.
Club Captain and openside David Seymour signed a contract extension at Sale recently. The arrival of Kiwi Daniel Braid has taken some of the pressure off Seymour, who at times seemed to be carrying all his team’s hopes on his shoulders. Like Worcester, Sale are bound to feel a sense of relief at the perils of Welsh. Nevertheless, they will need to collect several more points to ensure Premiership survival. If they can find parity up-front at Welford Road then they have the fire power to make the game close.

He said: Julian Salvi
“We never like to lose at Welford Road and to do that was extremely disappointing so we are looking to put that right straight away.”
Prediction: Tigers will be reeling after two straight league defeats. They won’t let that become three: 32 – 20.

Northampton Saints vs London Irish

The Saints have won three out of their last four Premiership matches and yet there is still a sense of frustration around the club. The heavy defeat against Gloucester at home in Round 14 took the wind out of the sails of the East-Midlanders and they are unlikely to be happy until they have slotted back into the top four. Ben Foden’s current exile from the England team might help them achieve that aim faster. The full-back is becoming increasingly sharp as the weeks since his injury go by.

The Irish scored two big wins in their last three Premiership games, only falling away at in form Bath. Their home form is returning to a more respectable level since the turn of the year but away from home they are still struggling; impressive Round 13 victory at Gloucester aside. One of the keys to their upsurge in form has been the return to kicking duties of full back Tom Homer. His reliable boot has enabled them to build leads without having to rely on try scorer Marlon Yarde.

He said: Marlon Yarde
“Northampton are a formidable side but we will take the victory over London Wasps through with us.”

Prediction: Northampton are reinforced by the return of Messer’s Hartley and Lawes – the firepower on offer will be too much for Irish on the road: 33 – 17.

Harlequins vs Exeter Chiefs

Champions Harlequins have bounced back from the Round 14 defeat to London Wasps nicely with wins over Leicester Tigers and Sale Sharks. Indeed, Sharks’ Daniel Braid compared the Quins attacking play to the teams he saw regularly in his time in Super rugby. This will be music to the ears of Quins’ DoR Conor O’Shea who has insisted him team try to win in the right way. So successful has his philosophy been that he has been linked with the Ireland national job; a role he seems uninterested in at this time.

The Chiefs come to the Stoop having restored some confidence by decimating London Welsh at home in Round 16. The Devon club are desperate to achieve Heineken Cup rugby again next year so will be all too aware of the importance of taking points from every fixture until the end of the season. Exeter have not won away from home since November and victory in London on Saturday seems unlikely. They would do well to avoid being drawn into an expansive game, which could see them out-gunned and therefore cut further adrift from sixth place.

He said: Alex Brown
“Any team is tough at home, not just Harlequins, but on any given day the beauty of rugby and this league is that any side is capable of securing a victory wherever they’re playing.”

Prediction: Harlequins are very keen to finish top of the pile come season’s end and thus likely avoid Saracens and Leicester in the play-offs. With their foot on the gas they’ll win this one: 28 – 12.

Saracens vs London Welsh

Saracens are another side in good form at the moment and they have enjoyed giving winger David Strettle some extra space. The pace man has bagged four tries in his last four league matches, including two against Leicester last weekend. A surprise defeat away to Irish in Round 14 is the only blot on their copy book of late. The leadership of key men Steve Borthwick and Charlie Hodgson is a major influence in their consistency; with their England days over, they are free to play week in, week out.

London Welsh sit in a perilous position when compared to their hosts, indeed when compared to any other side in the Premiership. The impending points deduction that will come from fielding an ineligible player throughout the season will perhaps put any question marks over relegation beyond doubt; a severe reprimand could see them all but guaranteed the drop. It is a shame that what looked like an enthralling end to the season will be concluded away from the pitch. London Welsh’s players will do everything in their power to put the power back in to their own hands.

He said: Tony Rowe (Exeter Chairman)
“They wanted to play the big boys’ game, so they’ve got to play by the big boys’ rules.”
Prediction: Saracens are the most ruthless team in the Premiership and will show no mercy to the crisis-laden Welsh: 42 – 9.

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1 Comment

  • Thank you very much! It is great to have articles on the Northern hemisphere here. I enjoyed the read

  • Comment 1, posted at 01.03.13 13:55:31 by Argex Reply

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