We look at what is being said and team news for Saturday and Sunday’s fixtures in the Gallagher Premiership, including the rematch of last season’s final between Wasps and Exeter Chiefs…
Wasps vs Exeter Chiefs (Saturday, 2pm)
It is barely over two months since Wasps and Exeter went head to head at Twickenham in the 2020 Premiership final, but this weekend they meet again at the Ricoh Arena.
That day saw the double-winning Chiefs triumph with a hard-fought 19-13 victory over the Coventry-based side and the men from Devon have carried on where they left off, with four wins from four so far in the 2020/21 season.
? – TEAM NEWS: Here is your @ExeterChiefs side to face @WaspsRugby tomorrow in Rd 5 of @premrugby at the Ricoh Arena (2pm) ⬇️https://t.co/6anNk0KyzP#WASvEXE pic.twitter.com/qgWttXDoUT
Director of rugby Rob Baxter – awarded an OBE in the New Year Honours List – is wary of the danger posed by their opponents, though, particularly with them coming into the game having scored back-to-back bonus-point wins in the Champions Cup and victory over Sale in the league last week.
“Wasps are enjoying how they play and are playing with a lot of energy,” Baxter, who rests Luke Cowan-Dickie, Harry Williams, Jonny Gray, Jonny Hill, Sam Skinner and Henry Slade for this clash, said. “No-one appreciates more than me how tough it is to go there and get a win.”
Opposite number Lee Blackett insists the hosts, who have England international Joe Launchbury back to captain the side after a mandatory rest period as one of nine changes from last week’s win over Sale Sharks, are not dwelling on that loss at Twickenham.
“Yes, there’s disappointment but it’s not something we look back at with sadness,” Blackett said. “We’ll be proud at getting ourselves there and yes there’s a fraction of regret, but for me it’s well and truly over.”
?️ TEAM NEWS ?️
Your first Wasps side of 2021…
⚫️ @jackswillis7, @jacob_umaga98, @d_jrobson and captain @joe_launch return to @RicohArena
? @JuanDeJongh 5⃣0⃣th @premrugby app
⚫️ @LimaSopoaga 5⃣0⃣th Wasps app#COYW ???
More at ?https://t.co/oM1dIZRw4v
Wasps: 15 Lima Sopoaga; 14 Paolo Odogwu, 13 Juan de Jongh, 12 Michael Le Bourgeois, 11 Josh Bassett; 10 Jacob Umaga, 9 Dan Robson; 1 Tom West, 2 Tom Cruse, 3 Kieran Brookes, 4 Joe Launchbury (c), 5 Will Rowlands, 6 James Gaskell, 7 Jack Willis, 8 Tom Willis.
Replacements: 16 Tommy Taylor, 17 Simon McIntyre, 18 Jeff Toomaga-Allen, 19 Ben Morris, 20 Thomas Young, 21 Will Porter, 22 Charlie Atkinson, 23 Jimmy Gopperth.
Exeter Chiefs: Tom O’Flaherty; 14 Olly Woodburn, 13 Tom Hendrickson, 12 Ollie Devoto, 11 Ian Whitten; 10 Joe Simmonds MBE, 9 Sam Hidalgo-Clyne; 1 Alec Hepburn, 2 Jack Yeandle (c), Marcus Street, Will Witty, Don Armand, Dave Ewers, Richard Capstick, Sam Simmonds.
Replacements: Jack Innard, James Kenny, Tomas Francis, Tom Price, Rus Tuima, Jack Maunder, Harvey Skinner, Josh Hodge.
Gloucester vs Sale Sharks (Saturday, 4.30pm)
Sale are still looking for their first win since Steve Diamond’s departure, although the narrow defeats to Edinburgh and Wasps in the Champions Cup and Premiership suggest they are not too far away.
Interim head coach Paul Deacon, who has been handed the opportunity to show he is the man to replace Diamond after five years as the Sharks’ skills and attack coach, was frustrated by lapses from his side as they were edged out 26-23 last week.
Deacon has Jono Ross back to captain the side and versatile forward Josh Beaumont on the replacements’ bench again for the clash with Gloucester, though, and has called on more consistency in games from his team.
“Wins don’t just miraculously appear from nowhere,” Deacon said. “We’ve got to stay in the moment during games and string good phases of play back-to-back and put pressure on our opposition.”
ᴛᴇᴀᴍ ɴᴇᴡꜱ ?
Here are #YourSharks to face @gloucesterrugby tomorrow afternoon ?
⚓ The Skipper is back!
? Beaumont is back!
? The Horse RETURNS!
? Could it get any better #SharksFAM!?#GLOvSAL pic.twitter.com/gv1EXp1Omg
Gloucester, meanwhile, have just one win to their name in the Premiership so far this season and while head coach George Skivington is pleased with how his side have performed at the set-piece he wants them to adopt a more instinctive style with the ball in hand.
“I think we’ve managed the game a little bit better but occasionally we’ve tried to manage the game too well and slowed it down to try and make a decision as opposed to just playing,” Skivington said.
Gloucester: Kyle Moyle; Louis Rees-Zammit, Chris Harris, Mark Atkinson, Jonny May; Lloyd Evans, Stephen Varney; Val Rapava-Ruskin, James Hanson, Fraser Balmain, Ed Slater, Alex Craig, Jordy Reid, Lewis Ludlow (c), Ruan Ackermann.
Replacements: Henry Walker, Alex Seville, Jamal Ford-Robinson, Matt Garvey, Seb Nagle Taylor, Toby Venner, Billy Twelvetrees, Ollie Thorley.
? TEAM NEWS
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George Skivington has named his side to take on Sale Sharks. ?
Team sheet proudly sponsored by @BPE_Solicitors #GLOvSAL | ??
Sale Sharks: Sam James; Tom Roebuck, Rob du Preez, Sam Hill, Marland Yarde; AJ MacGinty, Faf De Klerk; Bevan Rodd, Akker Van Der Merwe, Coenie Oosthuizen, Cobus Wiese, JP Du Preez, Jono Ross (c), Tom Curry, Dan Du Preez.
Replacements: Curtis Langdon, Valery Morozov, Jake Cooper-Woolley, Josh Beaumont, Sam Dugdale, Will Cliff, Luke James, Byron McGuigan.
Leicester Tigers vs Bath (Sunday, 3pm)
A number of positive Covid-19 tests saw Sunday’s other game between London Irish and Northampton Saints called off, while Leicester have several players and coaching staff absent for the clash with Bath as they are self-isolating after the Tigers also returned positive tests.
Among those is head coach Steve Borthwick, who will manage the team remotely for the clash at Welford Road, with Leicester returning to action after seeing their Boxing Day clash with Newcastle Falcons cancelled.
The hosts have England internationals Ben Youngs and George Ford back partnering each other in the halves, with Tom Youngs returning at hooker to captain the side.
Bath, meanwhile, are playing their first game since December 12 due to Covid-19 call-offs and have Welsh duo Rhys Priestland and Taulupe Faletau among those returning to the side.
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Steve Borthwick has named the ????????? ?????? ???? for our opening game of 2⃣0⃣2⃣1⃣ pic.twitter.com/SsHyQ1G7f5
“The bottom line is we are not where we want to be but with a realisation that we are only five games into a block now that goes through until the end of June,” Bath director of rugby Stuart Hooper said.
“There are parts of our game that have been positive but ultimately, we need to be better than what we have been consistently.”
Leicester Tigers: 15 Freddie Steward; 14 Kobus van Wyk, 13 Jaco Taute, 12 Matt Scott, 11 Nemani Nadolo; 10 George Ford, 9 Ben Youngs; 1 Ellis Genge, 2 Tom Youngs (c), 3 Dan Cole, 4 Harry Wells, 5 Calum Green, 6 George Martin, 7 Hanro Liebenberg, 8 Jasper Wiese.
Replacements: 16 Charlie Clare, 17 Nephi Leatigaga, 18 Joe Heyes, 19 Cameron Henderson, 20 Luke Wallace, 21 Jack van Poortvliet, 22 Zack Henry, 23 Kini Murimurivalu
? Team News is in….
Bath Rugby make 3️⃣ changes to the side that ran out against Scarlets, which sees the return of @Rhys_Priestland back in the number 10 jersey whilst @taulupe will make his 50th appearance for the Blue, Black & White! ?#LEIvBAT | #WeAreBath | @BathRugby
Bath: 15 Anthony Watson; 14 Semesa Rokoduguni, 13 Jonathan Joseph, 12 Cameron Redpath, 11 Ruaridh McConnochie; 10 Rhys Priestland, 9 Ben Spencer; 1 Beno Obano, 2 Tom Dunn, 3 Will Stuart, 4 Josh McNally, 5 Charlie Ewels (c), 6 Taulupe Faletau, 7 Sam Underhill, 8 Zach Mercer.
Replacements: 16 Jack Walker, 17 Juan Schoeman, 18 Christian Judge, 19 Elliott Stooke, 20 Josh Bayliss, 21 Miles Reid, 22 Will Chudley, 23 Josh Matavesi.
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