Gallagher Premiership set for pivotal Round 19
Last Updated: 12/04/19 6:09pm
With only four rounds of Gallagher Premiership action remaining and two semi-final spots having already been secured, the focus remains firmly on the bottom of the table.
The round starts at Kingston Park with a huge clash between Newcastle Falcons and Leicester Tigers.
The home side are 12th but with the Tigers just two places and five points above them, the outcome of Friday's clash could have significant repercussions come the end of the regular season.
Elsewhere there's a West Country derby to enjoy at Kingsholm alongside some other important contests. Here's a run-down of all of the named line-ups...
Newcastle Falcons vs Leicester Tigers - Friday at 7.45pm
Mark Wilson, Simon Hammersley and Andrew Davidson all return for Newcastle Falcons with Wilson and Toby Flood assuming joint-captaincy duties.
"There'll be a lot of intensity and passion being shown by both teams, and it's who can deal with the mental side of it as much as anything else," said Falcons' director of rugby Dean Richards.
"It'll be a big Friday night atmosphere, our boys love playing here, particularly on a Friday, and it's just one of those really big games that any player should relish being part of."
For the visitors, Graham Kitchener and Matt Smith are set to make their 150th Premiership Rugby appearances.
George Ford captains the side in the absence of the suspended Tom Youngs while Kyle Eastmond is ruled out by a hamstring injury.
Newcastle Falcons: 15 Simon Hammersley, 14 Vereniki Goneva, 13 Chris Harris, 12 Josh Matavesi, 11 Sinoti Sinoti, 10 Toby Flood (co-captain), 9 Sonatane Takulua, 1 Logovi'i Mulipola, 2 George McGuigan, 3 Rodney Ah You, 4 Calum Green, 5 Andrew Davidson, 6 Gary Graham, 7 John Hardie, 8 Mark Wilson (co-captain).
Replacements: 16 Kyle Cooper, 17 Sam Lockwood, 18 Trevor Davison, 19 Sean Robinson, 20 Evan Olmstead, 21 Michael Young, 22 Brett Connon, 23 Johnny Williams.
Leicester Tigers: 15 Matt Toomua, 14 Jonny May, 13 Gareth Owen, 12 Manu Tuilagi, 11 Jordan Olowofela, 10 George Ford (c), 9 Sam Harrison, 1 Ellis Genge, 2 Jake Kerr, 3 Dan Cole, 4 Will Spencer, 5 Graham Kitchener, 6 Mike Fitzgerald 7 Mike Williams, 8 Guy Thompson.
Replacements: 16 Tatafu Polota-Nau, 17 Facundo Gigena, 18 Joe Heyes, 19 Harry Wells, 20 Brendon O'Connor, 21 Ben White, 22 Sam Aspland-Robinson, 23 Matt Smith.
Gloucester Rugby vs Bath Rugby - Saturday at 3pm
The Cherry and Whites are able to name an unchanged pack but further injuries mean that they are forced to reshuffle their back-three again.
Tom Hudson and Charlie Sharples, who started at Franklin's Gardens have been ruled out, and are replaced by Henry Purdy and Tom Seabrook. Matt Banahan moves to full-back.
Bath have also made two changes to their starting line-up - Beno Obano comes in at loosehead prop, whilst Freddie Burns will start against his former club at fly-half. Charlie Ewels will captain the side from the second row.
Gloucester: 15. Matt Banahan, 14. Tom Seabrook, 13. Billy Twelvetrees, 12. Mark Atkinson, 11. Henry Purdy; 10. Danny Cipriani, Willi Heinz (c), 1. Josh Hohneck, 2. Franco Marais, 3. Fraser Balmain; 4. Ed Slater, 5. Franco Mostert, 6. Ruan Ackermann, 7. Jaco Kriel, 8. Ben Morgan.
Replacements: 16. Mike Sherry, 17. Val Rapava Ruskin, 18. Gareth Denman, 19. Freddie Clarke, 20. Lewis Ludlow, 21. Jake Polledri, 22. Callum Braley, 23. Louis Rees-Zammit
Bath: 15 Tom Homer, 14 Joe Cokanasiga, 13 Jonathan Joseph, 12 Jamie Roberts, 11 Ruaridh McConnochie, 10 Freddie Burns, 9 Kahn Fotuali'i, 1 Beno Obano, 2 Tom Dunn, 3 Max Lahiff, 4 Dave Attwood, 5 Charlie Ewels (c), 6 Tom Ellis, 7 Sam Underhill, 8 Zach Mercer.
Replacements: 16 Jack Walker, 17 Jacques van Rooyen, 18 Anthony Perenise, 19 Elliott Stooke, 20 Miles Reid, 21 Will Chudley, 22 Rhys Priestland, 23 Max Clark.
Harlequins vs Northampton - Saturday at 3pm
Scrum-half Sam Hidalgo-Clyne will make his first start for Harlequins as Danny Care is ruled out through injury.
The Scotland international made his debut for the London-outfit in their defeat to Sale Sharks last week. He joined Quins in March on a short-term loan from Scarlets until the end of the season.
There is one other change in the starting backline with Marcus Smith replacing Demetri Catrakilis at fly-half. In the pack, front row Nick Auterac starts at loosehead with Lewis Boyce named on the bench.
Tom Wood, Jamie Gibson, and Api Ratuniyarawa all return into Saints' line-up. Flankers Wood and Gibson both come into the back row to join No 8 Teimana Harrison, who also captains the side.
Ratuniyarawa shifts into the engine room alongside Courtney Lawes while the side's back-line is unchanged from last week's defeat to Gloucester.
Hooker Samson Ma'asi set to make his club debut if he enters the fray off the bench.
Harlequins: 15 Mike Brown, 14 Nathan Earle, 13 Alofa Alofa, 12 Ben Tapuai, 11 Cadan Murley, 10 Marcus Smith, 9 Sam Hidalgo-Clyne, 1 Nick Auterac, 2 Max Crumpton, 3 Kyle Sinckler, 4 Matt Symons, 5 James Horwill (co-captain), 6 Jack Clifford, 7 Chris Robshaw (co-captain), 8 Alex Dombrandt.
Replacements: 16 Dave Ward, 17 Lewis Boyce, 18 Phil Swainston, 19 Ben Glynn, 20 Semi Kunatani, 21 Niall Saunders, 22 James Lang, 23 Francis Saili.
Northampton Saints: 15 George Furbank, 14 Ahsee Tuala, 13 Rory Hutchinson, 12 Piers Francis, 11 Taqele Naiyaravoro, 10 Dan Biggar, 9 Cobus Reinach, 1 Francois Van Wyk, 2 Reece Marshall, 3 Paul Hill, 4 Api Ratuniyarawa, 5 Courtney Lawes, 6 Jamie Gibson, 7 Tom Wood, 8 Teimana Harrison (c).
Replacements: 16 Samson Ma'asi, 17 Alex Waller, 18 Ben Franks, 19 Alex Coles, 20 Mitch Eadie, 21 Alex Mitchell, 22 James Grayson, 23 Andrew Kellaway.
Worcester Warriors vs Sale Sharks - Saturday at 3pm
Worcester Warriors back-row forward Marco Mama is named as captain of the home side on his 50th appearance.
Ryan Mills has been leading the side of late but a shoulder injury keeps him out while club captain GJ van Velze is sidelined by a broken forearm.
Scotland No 8 Cornell du Preez comes into the home line-up for his first start for the Warriors since his move from Edinburgh last summer.
For the visitors Bryn Evans and Byron McGuigan miss out due to injuries. Josh Beaumont and James Phillips partner-up in the engine room with Jono Ross leading their charge from flanker.
"This will be our hardest game of the season. Any team coached by Alan Solomons will be highly competitive," said the Sharks' director of rugby.
"They didn't have a lot of luck at Wasps last weekend. We'll have to be highly disciplined to stand a chance of leaving Sixways with points."
Worcester Warriors: 15 Chris Pennell, 14 Bryce Heem, 13 Francois Venter, 12 Ben Te'o, 11 Josh Adams, 10 Duncan Weir, 9 Francois Hougaard, 1 Ethan Waller, 2 Niall Annett, 3 Nick Schonert, 4 Anton Bresler, 5 Darren Barry, 6 Marco Mama (c), 7 Sam Lewis, 8 Cornell du Preez.
Replacements: 16 Jack Singleton, 17 Callum Black, 18 Gareth Milasinovich, 19 Andrew Kitchener, 20 Ted Hill, 21 Michael Heaney, 22 Jono Lance, 23 Tom Howe.
Sale Sharks: 15 Luke James; 14 Denny Solomona, 13 Sam James, 12 Rohan Janse van Rensburg, 11 Arron Reed, 10 AJ MacGinty, 9 Faf de Klerk, 1 Ross Harrison, 2 Rob Webber, 3 WillGriff John, 4 Josh Beaumont, 5 James Phillips, 6 Jono Ross (c), 7 Ben Curry, 8 Josh Strauss.
Replacements: 16 Curtis Langdon, 17 Valery Morozov, 18 Joe Jones, 19 Matt Postlethwaite, 20 Sam Moore, 21Will Cliff, 22 Cameron Redpath, 23 Paolo Odogwu.
Bristol Bears vs Saracens - Saturday at 5.30pm
Bristol's Sam Bedlow will make his first Gallagher Premiership start and the centre is one of five changes to the side that suffered defeat against Bath last weekend
Mat Protheroe, Tom Pincus and Andy Uren come into the backline, while Siale Piutau has returned to Auckland for a family bereavement. In the only change to the pack, Nick Haining comes in at No 8 in place of Jordan Crane.
Another player starting a Premiership match for the first time will be Saracens scrum-half Tom Whiteley. He'll have with Max Malins outside of him at fly-half with Alex Goode returning to full back.
There are six changes to the pack that started last weekend's win over Falcons including Christopher Tolofua and Titi Lamositele being named in the front row.
Bristol Bears: 15 Mat Protheroe; 14 Tom Pincus, 13 Piers O'Conor, 12 Sam Bedlow, 11 Alapati Leiua; 10 Callum Sheedy (co-captain), 9 Andy Uren; 1 Jake Woolmore, 2 Harry Thacker, 3 John Afoa, 4 Ed Holmes, 5 Chris Vui, 6 Steve Luatua (co-captain), 7 Dan Thomas, 8 Nick Haining.
Replacements: 16 Nick Fenton-Wells, 17 James Lay, 18 Lewis Thiede, 19 George Smith, 20 Jake Heenan, 21 Harry Randall, 22 Ian Madigan, 23 Tusi Pisi.
Saracens: 15 Alex Goode (co-captain), 14 Sean Maitland, 13 Marcelo Bosch, 12 Nick Tompkins, 11 Alex Lewington, 10 Max Malins 9 Tom Whiteley, 1 Richard Barrington, 2 Christopher Tolofua, 3 Titi Lamositele, 4 Nick Isiekwe, 5 Will Skelton, 6 Calum Clark, 7 Mike Rhodes, 8 Jackson Wray (co-captain).
Replacements: 16 Jamie George, 17 Ralph Adams-Hale, 18 Vincent Koch, 19 Maro Itoje, 20 Ben Earl, 21 Billy Vunipola, 22 Ben Spencer, 23 Alex Lozowski.
Exeter Chiefs vs Wasps - Sunday at 3pm
There are minimal personnel changes for both sides that will run-out at Sandy Park this weekend.
Rob Baxter has left his potent backline unchanged and simply rotated his front row - the international trio Ben Moon, Luke Cowan-Dickie and Tomas Francis replace Alec Hepburn, Jack Yeandle and Harry Williams.
Dai Young makes just one change to his XV with Jake Cooper-Woolley taking Will Stuart's spot at tighthead.
Amongst the replacements, Kieran Brookes returns to the first-team squad for the first time since injuring his ankle in December.
"If results don't go your way you could still be in a fight at the bottom but we want to push on from last week's performance and now we have the two best teams in the league coming up," said director of rugby Young.
"If we get things right on the day at Exeter then there's no reason why we can't get a result. We need to get results no matter who we're playing and it will be a real reflection of where we are at."
Exeter Chiefs: 15 Santiago Cordero, 14 Jack Nowell, 13 Henry Slade, 12 Ollie Devoto, 11 Olly Woodburn, 10 Joe Simmonds, 9 Nic White, 1 Ben Moon, 2 Luke Cowan-Dickie, 3 Tomas Francis, 4 Sean Lonsdale, 5 Ollie Atkins, 6 Dave Ewers, 7 Don Armand (c), 8 Matt Kvesic.
Replacements: 16 Jack Yeandle, 17 Alec Hepburn, 18 Harry Williams, 19 Toby Salmon, 20 Richard Capstick, 21 Jack Maunder, 22 Sam Hill, 23 Ian Whitten.
Wasps: 15 Willie Le Roux, 14 Marcus Watson, 13 Elliot Daly, 12 Gaby Lovobalavu, 11 Josh Bassett, 10 Lima Sopoaga, 9 Joe Simpson, 1 Zurabi Zhvania, 2 Tom Cruse, 3 Jake Cooper-Woolley, 4 Joe Launchbury (c), 5 James Gaskell, 6 Brad Shields, 7 Nizaam Carr, 8 Nathan Hughes.
Replacements: 16 Ashley Johnson, 17 Simon McIntyre, 18 Kieran Brookes, 19 Will Rowlands, 20 Ben Morris, 21 Craig Hampson, 22 Rob Miller, 23 Juan de Jongh.