With all the frenzied fervour surrounding the Six Nations, it is natural that the Premiership will take less of the limelight than it does usually. That does not mean, however, that there aren’t some extremely enticing encounters to relish this weekend. Here is a brief preview of the games, as well as my SuperBru predictions for round 14.
The opening game is arguably the most important. Sale welcome Exeter to the Salford stadium on the back of two consecutive wins in the LV Cup, a competition not at the forefront of most clubs’ agenda but which will serve to boost the confidence of the ailing Sharks. Neither team is particularly affected by international call-ups, and Exeter have slumped somewhat to mid-table mediocrity of late. Both teams need a win. I have in the past predicted that ‘Sale must come good at some point’ and duly been proved wrong. This weekend I will make no such mistake. Cipriani’s defensive frailties were laid startlingly bare against Wasps, and Exeter, with Shoemark and Naqelevuki in the centres, will look to exploit that. A win for the away team.
On Saturday Gloucester travel to Northampton in a game between two teams looking to cement a top four spot. This game could go a long way to deciding who makes that play-off spot their own, and at home I think Northampton will be too strong. It will be close, though, and bonus points will come into play. Later on Bath welcome a rejuvenated Worcester team to the Rec, with both teams sitting comfortably mid-table. Worcester’s home form is impressive but their away form is not, and Bath, fresh from a huge win away at rivals Gloucester in the LV, should win comfortably.
Next up, Leicester welcome London Welsh to Welford Road. It is precisely the game Welsh would not have wanted as they aim to reverse a slide that has seen them perilously close to being dragged back into the relegation mire. Sadly for them the Tigers have named a daunting pack, despite their international call-ups, and will have far too much for the Exiles. Another team in desperate need of a win, London Irish, face another title contender in Saracens. At the Madesjki Stadium, London Irish will hope they can use home support to galvanise themselves to a win – but it is unlikely to happen. Saracens are another team blessed with great strength in depth, and will get the victory they want, although I wouldn’t be surprised if Irish managed to grab a bonus point. Finally, in a repeat of that epic opening-day encounter at Twickenham, Wasps travel to the Stoop to take on Harlequins. Not involved with England as many had predicted, Billy Vunipola will be looking to prove a point with a performance worthy of a man of his stature and what better place to do that than at the home of the champions? That said, with Nick Evans pulling the strings, Harlequins will be too strong at home for even an impressive Wasps side.
EXETER CHIEFS to beat Sale Sharks by 5
NORTHAMPTON SAINTS to beat Gloucester Rugby by 2
BATH to beat Worcester Warriors by 10
LEICESTER TIGERS to beat London Welsh by 15
SARACENS to beat London Irish by 6
HARLEQUINS to beat London Wasps by 8
By Jamie Hosie
Follow Jamie on Twitter: @jhosie43