ROUND SEVEN: the Aviva Premiership breaks stride for no one, even if there is an international series coming up. So here are our predictions for this weekend’s matches. Think you’re a bookie’s worst nightmare and can out-guess us easily in our SuperBru pool? Bring on your predictions…
Worcester Warriors v Bath
Our prediction: Things can very easily go from bad to, well, the same, consistent level of bad and the Warriors need to put on a performance unlike any other they have put on so far this season if they want to win. They have some familiar names in tow as well as new Puma Leonardo Senatore set to debut and Chris Pennell continues to show up well at full-back, but it is hard to see them keeping out the likes of Kyle Eastmond, Matt Banahan, Matt Garvey and Francois Louw for 80 minutes. Bath by 12
Sale Sharks v Exeter Chiefs
Our prediction: A few changes have come in for those chipper Chiefs, with pre-season scoring machine Tom James replacing Fetu’u Vainikolo who is in camp with Tonga, and bringing Luke Arscott back to the bench for his first competitive game of the season. Otherwise, it’s more of the same swashbuckling Exeter.
Sale expect a firefight, which is likely why Dan Braid moves back to openside. Can they take the heat? Chiefs by 6
Gloucester v London Wasps
Our prediction: More musical chairs for Gloucester who bring back Andy Hazell and tinker with their front-row, setting a threesome of Yann Thomas, Huia Edmonds and Shaun Knight. Wasps, on the other hand, appear to be planning a different tact, bringing in Nathan Hughes, Charlie Hayter and one James Haskell to start his first game this season after last week’s win over Leicester Tigers. Can Wasps outrun the foxy back-line of Gloucester? With Freddy Burns still feeding Henry Trinder, Jonny May and James Simpson-Daniel it’s unlikely, but not impossible. The worry is the hosts’ measured young fly-half facing-off against Andy Goode. Gloucester by 2
Leicester Tigers v Harlequins
Our prediction: Quins continue their return to form after spanking Sale last weekend. This week they are without England’s Chris Robshaw, and an injured Tom Williams as well as all those other casualties so there is an odd-looking shape to the team with Nick Evans at full-back, Tim Molenaar in the centre with Matt Hopper and Nick Easter still in the second-row.
You’d think that Tigers would romp this, then, but with no Anthony Allen, Tom Croft, Niki Goneva, Matt Tait, Manu Tuilagi, Dan Cole, Ben Youngs, Tom Youngs, toby Flood or Geoff Parling there is every chance this’ll be close. Tigers by 4
London Irish v Northampton Saints
Our prediction: Well, Irish may not have Marland Yarde, but they have brought new boy James O’Connor in to full-back which is a nice distraction from a whole raft of changes and a missing captain, George Skirvington. There will need to be a good buzz, though, as Saints come in after howling past Saracens last week. They are missing Ben Foden, Alex Corbisiero, Dylan Hartley, Lee Dickson and George North but they still only make two changes from the week before. Which is scary. Saints by 18
Saracens v Newcastle Falcons
Our prediction: Revenge. Sarries want to bounce back and even without a lot of international stars they still have an incredibly strong squad with experienced players like Matt Stevens, Steve Borthwick and Charlie Hodgson masterminding play. Falcons will be relying on former Sarries players Adam Powell and Noah Cato raising their game and a Scottish axis of Ally Hogg, Mike Blair and Phil Godman out-thinking Sarries tried and tested brains trust. Do the visitors have the muscle memory? Sarries by 22