GLOUCESTER, ENGLAND – Gloucester and other sides are hoping that the thirteenth round is luck as the Premiership enters the third quarter of its season. This week and every week, RugbyWrapUp has you covered with our weekend preview of Round 13.
Gloucester vs. Saracens
Gloucester have the honor of hosting Saracens in the Friday evening matchup. The Cherry and Whites are coming off a high after beating Exeter in a thrilling match last week. The first match-up between these two teams ended with a 28-21 Saracens victory in October, when Charlie Hodgson starred with five successful kicks. American Chris Wyles scored a try in that match, but is left out of the match-day 23 this time around. Gloucester will sit Richard Hibbard, the Welsh international hooker, starting Darren Dawidiuk in his place. Saracens are jostling for playoff positioning, while Gloucester have not given up hope of returning to the European Champions Cup. If they are to do so, a win against Saracens would be a massive first step.
Sale vs. Northampton
After a 43-10 humiliation earlier this season, Sale start their best possible fifteen against table topping Northampton. Sale have only lost one match at home this season, and Northampton has scuffled a bit in their last three matches, including a shockingly close match against Newcastle last weekend. Alex Corbesiero returns to the starting lineup for the Saints, as he tries to prove his health for Stuart Lancaster before the Six Nations.
Bath Rugby v. Wasps
Wasps have been high fliers since their move to Coventry, securing bonus point victories in each of their home matches at the Ricoh Arena. They will face a different challenge at the Rec against the very solid Bath. Dai Young signed a four year contract extension this week, ensuring that he will be in charge of Wasps through 2019. Bath have only lost three matches this season, but one of those was against Wasps, a 29-22 setback. Sam Burgess starts in the centers, still searching for his first try in Bath colors. The former league star has improved game by game, but this is one of his last chances to impress before the England Saxons squad is announced in three weeks.
Harlequins v. Leicester
Chris Robshaw completes his rapid recovery from injury, starting against Leicester this weekend. It was revealed that Robshaw was given the option of surgery or rest for his shoulder issues. Surgery recovery would have taken three months, ruling the flanker out for the Six Nations. Robshaw said there was only one choice after hearing that prognosis, but if there is a recurring issue before the World Cup, he may regret his haste. Leicester have a few returning stars of their own, with Logovi’i Munipola returning from an extended absence, while winger Adam Thompstone starts his first Premiership match of the campaign. Tom Croft also returns to the starting lineup, displacing Jamie Gibson. Quins sold out the match with a week to spare. If the Tigers possess any realistic hope of qualifying for the crowded playoff field, they must win vital away matches like this one.
Newcastle Falcons v. London Welsh
This would be a relegation eight-pointer, if the Exiles possessed any realistic hope of staying up. Instead, it will be a largely pro-forma affair. Welsh were able to garner only three points in the last match between the sides, while Newcastle have been hugely impressive in the last two weeks against Northampton and Saracens. London Welsh center Tom May announced that he will retire after the season’s end, a bitterly disappointing finish to a great career.
London Irish v. Exeter Chiefs
Exeter have been handed a favorable fixture in their attempt to bounce back after their late defeat against Gloucester. The Irish lack any real attacking threats, and have scored the second-fewest points in the Premiership, while the Chiefs have rung up more than 330 points of their own. Thomas Waldrom’s move has been a revelation for the Chiefs, who continue to hang around the playoff picture, only a point off the pace. Jack Nowell will try to make an impression for Exeter on the wing, looking to regain his wing spot from last year’s Six Nations after an extended absence to begin the season.