Aviva Premiership Preview Gloucester take on Saracens and Leicester face Harlequins as World Cup stars return to action

Aviva Premiership Preview: Gloucester take on Saracens and Leicester face Harlequins as World Cup stars return to action The second round of Aviva Premiership matches kicks off on Friday night Gloucester face Saracens, who enjoyed a huge win last week, at KingsholmA whole host of World Cup stars will return to grounds across the country

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Premiership Rugby will resemble its true self this weekend with swathes of internationals back at grounds across the country.

Last year’s champions Saracens set the early pace last week with a bonus-point win over Sale but Worcester Warriors stole the headlines with a last-minute drop-goal to beat Northampton Saints.

And this weekend round two brings some mouth-watering clashes.

Owen Farrell will return to the Saracens side for their Premiership match against Gloucester

Owen Farrell will return to the Saracens side for their Premiership match against Gloucester

 

Gloucester v Saracens, Friday 7.45pm, Kingsholm, BT Sport

Gloucester: Sharples; Halaifonua, Twelvetrees, Meakes, May; Hook, Heinz; McAllister, Hibbard, Afoa, Savage, Kalamafoni, Ludlow, Morgan, Kvesic.

Saracens: Goode; Ashton, Streather, Farrell, Ellery; Hodgson, De Kock; M Vunipola, George, Du Plessis, Kruis, Hamilton, Rhodes, Wray, Brown.

Saracens recall Owen Farrell to their starting XV after his World Cup disappointment – and interestingly he will play at inside centre, with veteran Charlie Hodgson taking the 10 shirt.

READING, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 18:  Tommy Bell of Leicester kicks a penalty during the Aviva Premiership match between London Irish and Leicester Tigers at Madejski Stadium on October 18, 2015 in Reading, England.  (Photo by Ben Hoskins/Getty Images) London Irish 16-28 Leicester: Tommy Bell kicks seven... Bath 19-17 Exeter: George Ford kicks four penalties on... BARNET, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 17:  Tim Streather (No 13) of Saracens celebrates with his team-mates after he scores a try for his side during the Aviva Premiership match between Saracens and Sale Sharks at Allianz Park on October 17, 2015 in Barnet, England. (Photo by Clint Hughes/Getty Images) Saracens 41-3 Sale: Premiership champions kick off new... LONDON, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 16: Nick Easter of Harlequins warms up during the Aviva Premiership match between Harlequins and Wasps at Twickenham Stoop on October 16, 2015 in London, England.  (Photo by Steve Bardens/Getty Images for Harlequins) Harlequins boss Conor O'Shea hails 'proper supporters' as... Share this article Share

Fresh from a try-scoring double against Sale, former England sevens player Mike Ellery is back on the wing with England’s Jamie George Saracens’ second captain in as many weeks.

Gloucester will look to reproduce their heroics from this fixture last year, where James Hook hit a last-gasp penalty to beat Saracens at Kingsholm – the Welshman is back after his World Cup exit.

But the champions have won at least their first two fixtures of the season every year since 2011-12.

HEAD TO HEAD: P 36 G 19 S 16 D 1

KEY STAT: Gloucester are looking for back-to-back wins at the start of the season for the first time since 2007.

Saracens players celebrate with Tim Streather after his try during their opening-day win against Sale

Saracens players celebrate with Tim Streather after his try during their opening-day win against Sale

 

Sale Sharks v Worcester Warriors, Friday 8pm, AJ Bell Stadium

Sale: Haley; Arscott, Leota, Tuitupou, Addison; Cipriani, Cusiter; Harrison, Taylor, Cobilas, Evans, Mills, Braid, Beaumont, Seymour.

Worcester: Pennell; Biggs, Olivier, Mills, Vuna; Heathcote, Arr; Leleimalefaga, Annett, Schonert, O’Callaghan, Barry, Dowson, Van Velze, Mama.

Worcester made a huge statement last week, coming from behind to beat last year’s table toppers Northampton 13-12 with a drop-goal from Tom Heathcote when the clock was dead.

And they face a Sale side who were roundly thrashed 41-3 by Saracens in round one – so it could become a fantastic start to the season for the newly promoted side.

Dean Ryan will be hoping his Warriors can keep the momentum rolling for another week.

HEAD TO HEAD: P 20 S 12 W 8 D 0

KEY STAT: Sale only lost once at home in the league last season – and that was by two points to Harlequins.

Sale Sharks will be hoping to bounce back from their opening round trouncing at the hands of Saracens

Sale Sharks will be hoping to bounce back from their opening round trouncing at the hands of Saracens

 

Northampton Saints v Newcastle Falcons, Saturday 1.45pm, stadiummk

Northampton: Foden; K Pisi, G Pisi, Burrell, Elliott; Myler, Dickson; Waller, Hartley, Brookes, Lawes, Day, Gibson, Dickinson, Wood.

Newcastle: Hammersley; Venditti, Harris, Powell, Tuilagi; Delany, Tipuna; Vickers, Lawson, Welsh, Green, Furno, Clever, Hogg, Latu.

After a shock opening-day defeat Northampton recall their big-guns for the fixture against Newcastle.

With Franklins Gardens under renovation they will play at stadiummk, which successfully hosted three World Cup matches, attracting over 30,000 fans for the Fiji v Uruguay match.

In come Tom Wood and Courtney Lawes to add bulk to the Saints pack with the Falcons calling on World Cup participants Alesana Tuilagi, Josh Furno and Giovanbattista Venditti.

Northampton have lost two and won three of their matches at stadiummk and will be keen to exorcise the demons from last week – they will take solace in the fact that Newcastle have not beaten them since the 2008-09 season.

HEAD TO HEAD: P 32 NS 21 NF 11 D 0

KEY STAT: Newcastle only won once on the road last year – at hapless London Welsh.

Tom Heathcote (right) of Worcester celebrates after kicking the winning drop goal against Northampton Saints

Tom Heathcote (right) of Worcester celebrates after kicking the winning drop goal against Northampton Saints

 

Wasps v Bath, Saturday 2pm, Ricoh Arena

Wasps: Miller; Wade, Daly, Jacobs, Halai; Gopperth, Simpson; Mullan, Festuccia, Cooper-Wooley, Launchbury, Gaskell, Haskell, Hughes, Smith.

Bath: Homer; Rokoduguni, Devoto, Eastmond, Watson; Ford, Matawalu; Auterac, Batty, Thomas, Hooper, Attwood, Garvey, Houston, Fa’osiliva.

Before the South Africa v New Zealand World Cup semi-final kicks off there will be a host of international talent on show at the Ricoh.

Wasps recall their England duo of James Haskell and Joe Launchbury and Bath stick with George Ford and Anthony Watson who contributed to the tight 19-17 win over Exeter Chiefs last weekend.

And the West Country outfit are looking for their fourth successive away league win, a feat they have not achieved since March 2010.

The Coventry side meanwhile will be searching for a first win of the season after a 26-21 defeat to Harlequins last Friday.

HEAD TO HEAD: P 36 W 16 B 19 D 1

KEY STAT: Wasps have lost three league games consecutively – they have not lost four in a row since March 2014.

England international James Haskell has been recalled to the Wasps side ahead of their clash with Bath

England international James Haskell has been recalled to the Wasps side ahead of their clash with Bath

 

Exeter Chiefs v London Irish, Saturday 6pm, Sandy Park

Exeter: Dollman; Nowell, Slade, Whitten, Short; Steenson, Chudley; Moon, Cowan-Dickie, Francis, Lees, Wlech, Ewers, Waldrom, Armand.

Irish: Ojo; Lewington, Fowlie, Griffin, Tikoirotuma; Noakes, McKibbin; Smallbone, Paice, Aulika, Skivington, Symons, Sinclair, McCusker, Narraway.

Both sides lost on the opening day but Irish will be the more worried of the two going into this match-up – the Chiefs have only lost one in their last 10 games at Sandy Park.

And Exeter recall Henry Slade and Jack Nowell who will surely form part of a new-look England back-line come the Six Nations.

Irish are still without a few new signings, with Sean Maitland and Ben Franks yet to make their debuts for Tom Coventry’s side.

And it could be a tall order for them, off the back of a 28-16 loss to Leicester, – they have not beaten Exeter at Sandy Park since October 2010.

HEAD TO HEAD: P 10 E 6 LI 4 D 0

KEY STAT: Irish have only won once away from home since beating Leicester Tigers 22-19 in September 2014.

Henry Slade (left) returns to the Exeter side hoping to get their first win of the new season against London Irish

Henry Slade (left) returns to the Exeter side hoping to get their first win of the new season against London Irish

 

Leicester Tigers v Harlequins, Sunday 2pm, Welford Road, BT Sport

Leicester: Tait; Thompstone, Betham, Bai, Goneva; Bell Harrison; Mulipola, T Youngs, Balmain, Fitzgerald, De Chaves, Williams, McCaffrey, Croft.

Harlequins: Brown; Yarde, Lowe, Sloan, Walker; Evans, Dickson; Lambert, Ward, Jones, Horwill, Twomey, Clifford, Luamanu, Wallace.

After being overlooked for the World Cup Welford Road hosts its first Premiership match of the season.

Quins were impressive last Friday against Wasps but come up against a Leicester side who have only lost one of their last 18 home games.

Conor O’Shea has restored Mike Brown to the starting XV but leaves Chris Robshaw out for another week – club captain Danny Care makes the bench alongside Nick Easter and Joe Marler.

Meanwhile Richard Cockerill rests Ben Youngs, but brother Tom starts at hooker with Fijian battering-ram Vereniki Goneva picked on the wing – England tight-head Dan Cole makes the replacements.

HEAD TO HEAD: P 34 L 26 Q 8 D 0

KEY STAT: Harlequins have not won their opening two fixtures since 2012-13. 

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