Harlequins v Bath
Unquestionably the biggest game of the weekend, with the most riding on it. It is essentially winner takes all, apart from in the unlikely scenario that Bath lose with two bonus points, but Harlequins fail to score five tries. The hosts are in insatiable form, winning their last four and showing huge amounts of character to come back from a large deficit against Exeter last weekend. They also have home advantage, which could be what makes the difference. Bath have won their last three away from home, but will be ruing the missed opportunity to beat the Saints at the Rec in the last round. It all comes down to this, and both sides have their strongest side out – we should be in for a belter. Home advantage to make the difference. Harlequins by 2.
Leicester Tigers v Saracens
Both sides have taken the opportunity to rest key personnel having already guaranteed their play-off places. Mario Itoje, star of the current England U20 crop, gets his first Premiership start for the visitors, and Jamie George, looking for a strong performance to thrust his name into contention for the England tour to New Zealand, captains the side. The biggest news from the Tigers camp is the return of Tom Croft to the bench, while Steve Mafi and Pablo Matera get rare starts in the back row. The Tigers can still feasibly catch Saints in second place, but would have to win with a bonus point and hope their neighbours didn’t get even a point at home to Wasps – not a likely scenario. They should, however, win relatively comfortably against what is a hugely experimental Saracens side. Tigers by 12.
Northampton Saints v London Wasps
Both sides have rung the changes with key fixtures, in both the Premiership and Europe, coming up. The biggest news is the return of Alex Corbisiero from injury to the Northampton Saints bench – after missing most of the season, he will be raring to get some game time under his belt. George North and Lee Dickson are also reinstated to the starting line-up, having missed last week’s draw with Bath. Joe Carlisle and Charlie Davies start at half-back for Wasps, who have James Haskell, Elliot Daly and Joe Simpson to come off the bench and make an impact if needs be. Wasps will have an eye on their European play-off game the week after, so this should be a pretty comfortable win for the hosts. Northampton by 18.
London Irish v Sale Sharks
There’s nothing riding on this one, so expect it to be an open, entertaining affair. Sale were thumped by the Tigers last weekend, but managed to score some spectacular tries in the process, and Irish were equally enthralling in their thrilling loss to Gloucester. James O’Connor plays his final game for London Irish in the centre, while intriguingly there is no sign of Danny Cipriani in the Sale squad. They looked a significantly worse side when he went off last week, and without him they may struggle against an Exiles outfit that have been playing some decent rugby recently. Irish by 5.
Newcastle Falcons v Exeter Chiefs
The revelation that Newcastle Falcons have signed Tuilagi brothers Anitelea and Alesana for next season is a welcome piece of good news for fans in a campaign that has been rather bereft of it – certainly on the pitch. They’ve had little to shout about and probably just want it to be over and done with. Exeter entertained marvellously against Quins last weekend but only had themselves to blame for switching off and allowing Quins to come back and win – and with it take any chance of playing in Europe next year. They’ll want to bounce back, and should do so in what will be another open affair. Chiefs by 10.
Worcester Warriors v Gloucester Rugby
Dean Ryan’s final game in charge of Worcester this season comes against his former club. They’ll be looking to pile more misery onto what has been a dire season for the Midlands club, for whom relegation was confirmed last weekend. The brilliant Chris Pennell plays what looks like his last game in the Premiership until late 2015, while for Gloucester Henry Trinder and Jonny May form what must be one of the quickest centre partnerships ever seen. Both will be out to impress Lancaster et al. The hosts’ last hurrah in the Premiership will not be a happy occasion. Gloucester by 5.
By Jamie Hosie
Follow Jamie on Twitter: @jhosie43
Photo by: Patrick Khachfe / Onside Images