The final round of Aviva Premiership fixtures (of the regular season) sees a handful of fixtures with plenty riding on the results, be it European qualification for next season or a home play-off spot for this one. With all games kicking off at the same time it is always an action-packed Saturday afternoon.
Exeter Chiefs v Gloucester
This clash between the teams currently in fifth and sixth unquestionably has the most riding on it. Should Exeter win, they will confirm Heineken Cup rugby for, ironically, both themselves and their opponents next season, and consign Bath to the Amlin in the process (even if Bath finish on equal points with Gloucester they will finish seventh as they will have won one game fewer). Should Gloucester win, they will finish fifth and leave Bath’s qualification in their hands. They are away at Sarries, however, so it is definitely these two who lead the race for Heineken Cup rugby next season. At home at Sandy Park, in Richard Baxter’s last game for the club, they will have enough to see off the Cherry and Whites.
Prediction: Exeter by 5
Harlequins v Northampton Saints
This looks set to decide who travels where in the play-offs, with both guaranteed a spot but neither likely to get a home tie. Quins have got back to winning ways in recent weeks, but were still worryingly loose in defence against the second-most impotent attack in the last round, and will need to be better against a Saints team who are now the top try-scorers. The men from Northampton have also strung a couple of wins together, albeit against the bottom two clubs. With a play-off space confirmed but no chance of a home draw, they may well decide to rest players and an away visit to the champions may be too much to ask of them at this stage.
Prediction: Harlequins by 3
Leicester Tigers v London Irish
The Tigers will be annoyed that they did not get the win at Bath in the last round and in doing so confirm their home semi-final – as a result they know they must win this weekend to keep Quins at bay. Buoyed by the news that six of their players have made the Lions squad, however, they will be confident of getting the win here. London Irish have little left to play for other than pride, which is unlikely to be enough at Welford Road.
Prediction: Tigers by 20
London Welsh v Worcester Warriors
London Welsh have given so much to the Premiership in their short stint here, and the vast majority of rugby fans will be sad to see them go. They will be keen to go out with a bang, especially with several of their bigger names rumoured/confirmed to be leaving at the end of their debut season in the top flight. Worcester don’t have much left to play for, other than impressing their incoming coach Dean Ryan, but are in a similar situation to Welsh in that they are losing lots of personnel in the off-season. This might be a bit of a sentimental pick, but Welsh could go out with a bang.
Prediction: London Welsh by 5
Sale Sharks v London Wasps
In another of the damp-squib ties of the round (in qualification terms, at least) Wasps travel up to Salford to take on Sale. There may not be anything riding on the game, but speaking to Tom Varndell in the week he made it very clear what Dai Young thinks of their recent form (7 losses on the bounce) and what he has been doing to rectify that (Varndell claimed it felt like they were going through pre-season again). It has been a sad fall from grace for the club that looked like they were going to make the play-offs at one point. Still, their exciting group of youngsters will be keen for one last hurrah this season ahead of England’s summer tour to Argentina, where lots of them can expect to feature. They will have too much for Sale, who likewise have nothing to play for other than pride.
Prediction: Wasps by 7
Saracens v Bath Rugby
Sarries have a home semi-final wrapped-up already, and after a gruelling loss to Toulon last weekend will look to rest several front line players, which could signal an opportunity for Bath. The West Country club know nothing but a win and a reliance on other results going their way will do, but they certainly have more to play for in this one than their opponents. Whether that means they will win, however, is debatable, as Sarries have proven incredibly tough to break down at their new home – a trend that is unlikely to be broken easily. Despite any expected changes, they should still win at home.
Prediction: Saracens by 10
By Jamie Hosie
Follow Jamie on Twitter: @jhosie43