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. François 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