It's the final day of the domestic season in the Aviva Premiership and Guinness Pro12, so what's there to play for and who's going to proceed to the Play-Offs? Read on...
We’re finally here, Super Saturday looms large for teams have just one more chance to qualify for the Play-Offs and Europe next season. Just one point separates Leicester Tigers, Exeter Chiefs and Saracens as they tussle for a place in the top four while Wasps and Sale Sharks compete for the last European Champions Cup place. In the Pro12, the top 4 have nailed down their places, but not the order and who will get the final Champions Cup place, the Scarlets, Edinburgh or Connacht. We look ahead to this weekend’s key fixtures and predict the outcomes…
London Welsh v Saracens
Championship bound and winless – this has been an utterly miserable season for London Welsh. Yet one colossal performance from the minnows could prove consolation by derailing Saracens’ course to Twickenham. It won’t happen. If Exeter win at home, then Saracens need to better their result by four points to guarantee a place in the playoffs. And with Owen Farrell back in the starting lineup and Billy Vunipola flattening everything within reach Saracens should clinch fourth place and condemn Welsh to a bagel season.
Prediction: Saracens to canter to a bonus point and qualify for the play-offs
Exeter Chiefs v Sale Sharks
With Saracens odds on to demolish Welsh only a miracle can save Exeter from a fifth place finish. The Chiefs have established themselves as everyone’s second team with notable performances throughout the season from Henry Slade, potential England bolter Dave Ewers and leading Premiership try-scorer Thomas ‘tank engine’ Waldrom. However a bonus point win for Sale would secure a place in the European Champions Cup if Wasps lose to London Irish.
Prediction: Bonus point win for Exeter but fall just short in making the playoffs.
Leicester Tigers v Northampton Saints
Richard Cockerill’s men will once again find themselves in the playoffs, despite a torrid injury-plagued start to the campaign if they can dispatch Northampton at Welford road. The Saints have made 13 changes to the side that beat London Welsh resting key players ahead of their home semi-final. Leicester meanwhile need to better the results of Saracens and Exeter to guarantee third place, now seemingly more likely due to a weakened Saints’ lineup. Northampton will hope the experienced trio of Lee Dickson, Alex Corbisiero and Phil Dowson can stem a Leicester pack that did so much to nullify Wasps last weekend.
Prediction: Leicester win by 10 points.
London Irish v Wasps
Wasps need to win at the Madjeski stadium to seal their place in the Champions Cup. Yet with key performers Nathan Hughes, attending the birth of his first child, and Joe Simpson out injured victory is far from assured. England’s forgotten man Shane Geraghty will captain London Irish from midfield with his side guaranteed to finish tenth. Elliot Daly and Christian Wade, however, will be hoping for one more mesmeric showing to capture Stuart Lancaster’s imagination and force their way into World Cup contention. With nothing to play for and harrowing defeats in their last two outings Irish should wilt in the face of Wasps’ hunger for European competiton.
Prediction: Wasps win by 15 points.
All matches kick off at 15:30
Connacht v Ospreys
A bonus point win for the Ospreys would guarantee an advantageous home semifinal against either Glasgow Warriors, Munster or Ulster. However with Connacht harboring European ambitions of their own Ospreys will not waltz to victory. Connacht need to match Edinburgh’s result against Leinster if they are to qualify for the Champions Cup yet with just one win in their last six games Ospreys should have enough to overcome Pat Lam’s side. Watch out for the cultured right peg of Dan Biggar at flyhalf as he endeavors to pin back the Irish side in what will be claustrophobic encounter.
Prediction: Ospreys by five points to earn a home semi-final but no bonus point.
Glasgow v Ulster
Ulster have made 12 changes to the side that drew with Munster, seemingly content with the prospect of an away semifinal. Retiring captain Al Kellock returns for Glasgow in the second row with Sean Lamont regaining fitness to start out wide. Having not lost at home in the league this season Glasgow remain solid favourites to take this one but may struggle to get the bonus point. Ulster should strive to keep momentum heading into the playoffs and will pray for the prompt return of Pro12 top try-scorer Craig Gilroy from a hamstring injury.
Prediction: Glasgow to win by 5 and earn a home semi-final but no bonus point.
Munster v Newport Gwent Dragons
Munster have arguably the easiest tie of any of the top four sides, at home to the Dragons. The Dragons have failed to beat Munster in the last three meetings, with the last result ending in a 28 point win for the Irish province. Ian Keatley, the Pro12’s top points scorer, is set to win his 100th cap for the side and will surely keep things ticking over from the tee. The Welsh side are however coming off the back of an accomplished 19-5 victory over Edinburgh and will look to the fleeting feet of Hallam Amos on the wing to summon an unlikely upset.
Prediction: Munster to win by 15 points but no bonus point
Treviso v Scarlets
The Scarlets have had the easiest run-in of the three sides fighting for the automatic sixth-placed finish, with Zebre, Cardiff Blues and now Treviso. They need two points to be certain, so a draw – of which they have had three already – or two bonus points to see them through. One man who will be looking to impress will be Gareth Davies, who was suspended for five weeks for a head-butt. Along with Liam Williams, Scott Williams and the breakdown specialist James Davies, the Scarlets should have enough class to consolidate their Champions Cup place against Treviso side who have caused them problems in the past
Prediction: The Scarlets to win by 8 points, qualify but not pick up a bonus point