Aviva Premiership
Manu Tuilagi starts for Leicester Tigers
ESPN Staff
February 28, 2014
Manu Tuilagi starts for Leicester © Getty Images

It is another weekend where the Six Nations takes a break and the focus returns to the Aviva Premiership. Seven rounds remain in the season and while the top two are pulling away, the battle for the play-off spots is still in full flight with four teams chasing two places. Ahead of Round 16, ESPN brings you a rundown of all the latest team news.

Bath Rugby v Saracens

Bath call on their returning England players with Dave Attwood, Anthony Watson, George Ford and Dave Attwood starting. Alex Goode, Brad Barritt and Mako Vunipola are named in Sarries' XV.

  • Bath are one of only two sides to have a 100% winning record at home this season, the other being Northampton.
  • Saracens have won their last seven fixtures against Bath since Bath won 16-14 at Vicarage Road on February 28 2010.

Prediction: Bath by five

Exeter Chiefs v London Irish

Luke Cowan-Dickie gets his first Premiership start at hooker for Irish while Henry Slade starts ahead of Gareth Steenson. Phil Dollman reverts back into the midfield alongside Ian Whitten, while there are recalls for both Luke Arscott and Tom James. Irish have named Marland Yarde and Topsy Ojo on the wings with Shane Geraghty at fly-half and James O'Connor at No.12.

Bath's Kyle Eastmond cuts a line through the Wasps defence, Bath v Wasps, Aviva Premiership, The Rec, February 22, 2014
Kyle Eastmond starts at inside centre against Saracens © Getty Images

  • Exeter Chiefs have slipped to five straight defeats in Aviva Premiership Rugby - their worst run in the competition.
  • The Exiles have won their last two away games, at Saracens and Wasps, but have not won three in a row on the road in the Premiership since 2008.

Prediction: Exeter by three

Harlequins v Worcester Warriors

Quins change three with Harry Sloan handed his debut at outside centre alongside the returning Jordan Turner-Hall. Maurie Fa'asavalu moves to openside in place of Luke Wallace. Ryan Lamb makes his full Warriors debut in one of four changes. Dean Hammond is recalled on the wing, while captain Jonathan Thomas and Rob O'Donnell both return to the starting line-up.

  • Harlequins have won their last 12 encounters with Worcester in all tournaments.
  • The Warriors have won just one of their last 40 away games in the Premiership since April 2009. It came at Wasps on New Year's Day 2012.

Prediction: Harlequins by 20

London Wasps v Sale Sharks

Wasps make four changes with Joe Simpson, Josh Bassett, Tommy Bell and Sam Jones all return to the starting team. Danny Cipriani drops to the bench for Sale with Nick Macleod starting at fly-half. Sale name a new front-row with Ross Harrison, Henry Thomas and Tommy Taylor getting the nod. In the backs, Will Cliff partners Cipriani with Mark Harrison named at inside centre.

  • Wasps have lost their last four games in all competitions.
  • The Sharks have won their last two away games in the tournament, at Newcastle and at Worcester, but have not won three in a row on their travels in the same season since 2004-05.

Prediction: Sale by three

Northampton Saints v Gloucester Rugby

Phil Dowson makes his 200th appearance for the Saints with Ethan Waller and GJ Van Velze starting in the pack in place of Alex Waller and Samu Manoa. For Gloucester, Freddie Burns returns at fly-half. Meanwhile, Martyn Thomas has recovered from his hamstring injury and takes over from Shane Monahan on the left wing. The only changes to the pack see Yann Thomas and Huia Edmonds replace Nick Wood and Darren Dawidiuk respectively in the front row.

  • The Saints continue to set a new Northampton unbeaten record in the Premiership which now stands at 12 games.
  • Gloucester are the only team to beat Northampton this season in the Premiership, a win which came back in Round 3.

Prediction: Northampton by seven

Newcastle Falcons v Leicester Tigers

The Falcons make six changes with Lee Smith handed his debut after completing his cross-code switch. Phil Godman and Mike Blair line-up at half-back with Scott Lawson, Kieran Brookes and Andy Saull starting in the pack. Manu Tuilagi starts for Leicester with Tom Youngs and Ben Youngs also named in the XV. Owen Williams gets the nod at fly-half ahead of Toby Flood.

  • Newcastle Falcons have been defeated in their last nine Premiership games and are closing in on their worst run in the tournament, which was 11 straight defeats during 2011.
  • The Tigers have gained 16 league points from their last six away games; only Saracens and Northampton have taken more.

Prediction: Tigers by 10

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