Aviva Premiership 2013/2014 Predictions: Round 21

scrum

Bath v Northampton Saints

Tonight’s game is probably the most difficult one to call. A win for the Saints will guarantee them a home semi-final, and they’ve recalled all their big guns in search of just that – Wood, Lawes, Burrell and Foden all start. Bath, by contrast, have some injury issues. Ollie Devoto starts at 12 in place of Kyle Eastmond, while Semesa Rokoduguni is away playing for the army, so Anthony Watson gets a start on the wing. Fran├žois Louw is still missing so Guy Mercer continues on the flank.

The Saints have close to their full line-up out, and will be hoping to wrap up a home semi-final a week in advance. I think they’ll do it. Saints by 3.

Gloucester Rugby v London Irish

This is the only real dead rubber of the weekend, and as such it should make for an entertaining game. Club captain Tom Savage returns to the Gloucester bench and is in line to make his first appearance since November, while Freddie Burns is named at fly-half in what will be his final run out at Kingsholm in a Gloucester shirt. For the Exiles, Tom Homer deputises for the injured James O’Connor and makes his 100th appearance for the club.

Expect tries aplenty, and a win for the home side. Gloucester by 10.

London Wasps v Newcastle Falcons

Wasps know that if they grab a bonus point win and Exeter fail to do the same against Harlequins, they are all but guaranteed that European play-off spot, and with a tough away trip to Northampton to come in the final round they will be targeting five points here – especially as Exeter have Newcastle to come. It’s been a supremely poor season for the Falcons – their only saving grace is that it’s been a worse one for Worcester. A bonus point would be invaluable in confirming their safety, but it feels like they’ve already decided that Worcester are going down.

With the European play-off in their sights, expect the home side to run riot. Wasps by 25.

Saracens v Worcester Warriors

With two wins needed from their final two games, this is the last place to which Worcester would have wanted to travel. They remain remarkably upbeat, but they now face almost certain relegation – it would take a minor miracle for them to beat Saracens here, as the home side return to Allianz Park after their swashbuckling performance over Clermont. Steve Borthwich and Jacques Burger more than earnt their weekend off, so in come Alistair Hargreaves, who takes over the captaincy, and Will Fraser.

No contest, a comfortable home win and relegation confirmed for Worcester. Saracens by 15.

Sale Sharks v Leicester Tigers

This is as important a game as any this weekend. The Tigers essentially need a win to confirm their spot in the play-offs, but with the might of Saracens to visit Welford Road on the final weekend, they will not fancy having to leave it til that game to guarantee their place in the knockout stages. And if Sale win this one not only will they dent the Tigers’ chances, but also put themselves in contention for an unlikely charge into the top four, especially if they deny the Tigers a bonus point. They bring the confidence of their astonishing win at Sandy Park into this one, too, so it is far from out of the question. The visitors name Geoff Parling in the their starting line-up for the first time since his return from injury, while for Sale the loss of inspirational captain Dan Braid will be keenly felt.

The Tigers’ late season charge was knocked off the rails by Harlequins in the last round; they need this win, and that should be enough to get them through. It will be close though. Tigers by 3.

Exeter Chiefs v Harlequins

After two years at Europe’s top table, Exeter will be desperate to be there again next year. To do that, they know they need to win here, but with Harlequins still gunning for the play-offs they face a tough task. The visitors’ New Year dip in form seems to be behind them, as impressive wins over the Tigers and Sale in recent weeks show. Exeter’s confidence will be low after their pummelling from Sale in round 20, but it’s impossible to see a result like that happening again here.

Harlequins should keep in the hunt for the play-offs with a hard fought win here. Quins by 5.

How do you see the weekend unfolding?

By Jamie Hosie
Follow Jamie on Twitter: @jhosie43

Photo by: Patrick Khachfe / Onside Images

18 thoughts on “Aviva Premiership 2013/2014 Predictions: Round 21

  1. We’re missing Louw and Garvey (and I assume Eastmond for disciplinary reasons as there’s been no injury news), but Saints are missing Hartley, North, Corbs (who was rumoured to be back), Dickson and Day. I’m blindly hoping that home advantage and the fact we’re “due” a big performance is going to pull us through this.

    I really am not relishing the thought of a winner-takes-all away game at the Stoop.

  2. I have a feeling you may have underscored the Sarries game. With only Borthwick and Burger rested and De Kock and Brown moved to the bench it means 10 to 15 hasn’t changed! It means that this is very close to the team that beat Clermont by 40 points last week!! With Big Billy again at 8, and Brits starting I think Worcester will get totally smashed.
    A lot of people thought Sarries would put out a slightly weaker team for this game, but I think McCall’s got it right. I suspect next week (against Tigers) we will see a weaker Sarries team. Whilst it would be nice to win away at Leicester, it’s much easier to get the five points at home to Worcester!

    1. As it’s feasible that Sarries will meet Tigers at some stage in the play-offs, do you not think it would be advisable to lay down a marker by fielding the strongest side possible against them, rather than giving Leicester any kind of psychological foothold?

      1. Totally agree that Sarries will field their best side to face Tigers. As a tigers fan that drubbing earlier in the season still smarts, but with half our first team back and our recent run of form I am feeling a little more confident. If Sarries field a weak side and Tigers get a win, it would do a huge amount in terms momentum, and pretty much wipe that loss of the record. McCall is too savvy a coach to let anything derail their chance at a historic double. I am expecting one hell of a dust up in that final game… Can’t wait!

  3. I am very nervous about Tigers chances for the play-offs… That loss at Quins was a big set back and given the recent form of Sale I am nervous about our game away to them, could see a narrow loss definitely on the cards. Coupled with Sarries in our final game, Quins could very likely sneak that 4th spot! Especially if they smash Exeter and get a bonus point like Sale did.

    Yikes.

    1. As a Bath fan I’m crapping it myself. We have to beat Saints tonight (or hope Quins lose to Chiefs) otherwise we have to win our away trip to Quins next week (unless Tigers lose both of their games, of course). I’m sure this must be the closest top 4 race for some time?

    2. But Bath have arguably an even harder run in to the play offs. I’m remaining optimistic that we can earn enough points to leapfrog the West Countrymen and bag a semi final at the Gardens. Which has been like a second home to us recently. Certainly fares better than travelling to Allianz again…

      And if we do make the final, that frees the Saints and Quins players to make the first test. Those two teams combined provide us with our two biggest try scorers of the 6N, Mr. Tempo, the skipper (and his lieutenant) and the world class lineout operators. It’s a win win for us Tigers fans!!

      1. I don’t see us progressing beyond the semis whoever we play, so I don’t really mind if we end up 3rd or 4th – whatever happens it’s been a huge improvement over 7th last year! But to finish outside the top 4 after spending the whole season there (most of it at third) would be a real kick in the teeth.

        1. I would feel for you! But not to much haha.

          Also am I the only one who’s playing devils advocate here and hoping it would be a sarries v bath final to actually take certain players out of the 1st NZ test and force us to look at some alternatives? Would be interesting to see who Lancaster turns to missing Farrell and Ford at 10 (and no Goode as back up)… Have a feeling he would be happy with Ford and 12T offering cover if it was just Sarries in the final, rather than call up Cips. Also with Bath in the final and Cole injured, who the hell would we have covering tight-head??

          Equally a Leicester/Northampton final removing both Tuilagi/Burrell and Youngs/Hartley? Plus Lawes/Slater/Parling – cover for the 2nd row? Youngs/Dickson – cover for 9?

          1. Regardless of who makes the final, this NZ tour could make or break a few international careers. Does anyone know when the touring squad is to be announced?

  4. So close! My worry is that with Bath’s edge in number of wins (or whatever it is that keeps you ahead of us on equal points) even if you lose both you as well as us you’d still get a top 4 spot. Either Quins or Sale could push us out. I feel I need a maths degree to work out all the possibilities…

    Sale are the dark horses. If they beat us this weekend, you have to fancy them thrashing London Irish with a bonus point to push us out. Who would have called Sale to be competing for the top 4 at the start of the season???

      1. Well we can’t get them all right can we? Or any of them, for that matter…

        A review of my pre-season predictions is in the pipeline, can’t say I’m looking forward to it though!

        1. I’ll be honest, I found myself agreeing with most of the predictions made (quite optimisticly on the idea of Tigers topping the table).
          Sharks have shown a real Chiefs like resolve this season, far from the strongest lineup but simple togetherness boosting their performances. A modest, yet well oiled machine.

          1. Brilliant! Also whilst Sale have been the complete surprise…Gloucester have been a total disappointment.

  5. Any chance, as we are getting to the business end of the Championship, that you could do a quick piece on the Premiership promotion play offs? Cheers

    Fingers crossed for Bristol!!

Comments are closed.