The Aviva Premiership has reached round 20 and with just three games remaining in the regular season; the contest for the end of season play-offs, European qualification and the battle to beat relegations continues to hot up.
The action starts this weekend in Manchester when Sale Sharks host Gloucester with both sides needing the win with the Sharks looking to secure their Premiership status and the Cherry and Whites needing the points to maintain hopes of a top four finish.
On Saturday, Harlequins entertain Bath at the Stoop, with both sides looking to shake off European hangovers while at Sandy Park; London Irish are the visitors to Exeter Chiefs.
Three matches take place on Sunday with Saracens hosting Worcester Warriors at Allianz Park, London Welsh facing Northampton Saints and Oxford and Wasps making the trip to Leicester Tigers.
Aviva Premiership Round 20 Previews
Sale Sharks v Gloucester
Sale are unbeaten in their last two Aviva Premiership Rugby contests, and have not managed three matches without defeat in the competition since September 2011. The Sharks have won their last two matches at Salford City Stadium in all competitions. Gloucester Rugby have won three of their last four Premiership games but have not won away from home in the tournament since a visit to Northampton on 9th February. Gloucester won 29-3 when the two clubs met at Kingsholm in round 9, and are going for a Premiership double over Sale for the first time since 2001/02.
Harlequins v Bath
Harlequins have slipped to three straight defeats in Aviva Premiership Rugby and have not lost four in a row in the competition in the same season since early in 2006/07. ‘Quins have won just two of their last five fixtures in all competitions played at Twickenham Stoop. Bath Rugby’s only victory in their last four encounters in all competitions was 40-25 over London Welsh in the Premiership on 30th March. Bath’s solo away victory in the Premiership this season was 24-23 at Worcester in round 1. The two clubs have already met on three occasions this season, twice in the Anglo Welsh Cup and once in the Premiership, with all games going in favour of the home team. Bath beat Harlequins 21-18 at the Rec in round 9, and have not achieved a season’s double over the Londoners since 1999/2000. Bath’s most recent victory at The Stoop was 24-18 in the European Challenge Cup in December 2006.
Exeter Chiefs v London Irish
Exeter Chiefs only defeat in their last four matches was 9-12 at home to Leicester on 23rd March. The only previous occasion that Exeter have lost back-to-back Premiership ties at Sandy Park came in November 2011. London Irish have suffered just one loss in their last four encounters: 14-40 at Northampton on 2nd March. The Exiles have won just once on the road in the Premiership this season, 18-12 at Gloucester in round 13. Exeter’s only two victories over London Irish in competitive rugby have both come in their last two encounters. The Exiles have visited Sandy Park just twice before, winning once 12-9 in October 2010.
London Welsh v Northampton Saints
London Welsh have slipped to nine straight defeats in all competitions since their 62-5 win over Prato in the European Challenge Cup on 12th January. The Exiles have not been victorious in Aviva Premiership Rugby since a 15-9 win at home to London Irish in round 10. Northampton Saints’ four match winning run came to a halt last time out when they were defeated 36-8 at home to Leicester. The Saints have secured three successive away victories in the Premiership, their best run on the road in the competition since December 2000. Northampton have own their last five competitive encounters against London Welsh whilst the Exiles most recent victory over the Saints was 16-14 at Franklin’s Gardens in Division Two on 2nd January 1998. Northampton won 38-9 on their only previous visit to Kassam Stadium, against London Irish in the semi-final of the 2002/03 Powergen Cup.
Saracens v Worcester Warriors
Saracens have won their last five Aviva Premiership Rugby matches since their 16-29 reversal to London Irish at Reading on 9th February. Saracens are unbeaten in any home game this season, despite the fact that they have been played at seven different venues, they have won all four previous games they have played at Allianz Park. Worcester Warriors only win in their last eight fixtures in all competitions was 29-23 at home to London Wasps in the Premiership on 1st March. The Warriors have not been victorious on the road in the Premiership since beating Wasps 6-0 at Adams Park on New Year’s Day 2012. Worcester beat Saracens 12-3 at Sixways in round 9 and have not achieved a season’s double over them since 2006/07.7
Leicester Tigers v Wasps
Leicester Tigers have won their last three Aviva Premiership Rugby matches since their 27-32 defeat at home to Saracens in round 16. That defeat is the only one that the Tigers have suffered at Welford Road in any competition since September. London Wasps have lost their last five matches in all competitions since overcoming Gloucester 33-29 at Adams Park on 17th February. Wasps have won just twice away from home in the Premiership since October 2011, they came in successive away games against London Welsh in round 12 and Harlequins in round 14. The last eight Premiership encounters between the two clubs have all been won by the home side on the day, whilst Wasps have not won at Welford Road since 26th September 2008.