After a two-week break for Europe, the Premiership is back. It is worth noting that the teams will be down their England (and some other) internationals with the Six Nations starting next weekend.
Here is a look at the games with odds from BetXchange. Note that Newcastle has a bye this weekend.
Sale Sharks VS Bath – AJ Bell, Sale
Sale has been flying in the Premiership but lost both Champions Cup matches. Bath are in dreadful form – they have won just one of nine in all competitions – so the form is with the home side. Sale will miss the jackal ability and work rate of Ben Curry (England duty), but they have more than enough to win here with Cobus Wiese coming back into the second row and Rob du Preez playing his 100th for the club. They win but might struggle to cover the 9.5.
Leicester Tigers VS Northampton Saints – Welford Road, Leicester
This classic derby always brings the best out of each side. The Tigers have won just one of their last four in the Premiership, while the Saints have lost three in a row in all comps. It is worth noting that Leicester has lost just once at home all season, but they might struggle here with no less than seven players in the England squad, including both their scrum halves.
Northampton has also lost plenty – halves Alex Mitchell and Finn Smith are with England, and the talismanic Courtney Lawes is injured – so I will take the Tigers to win and cover the 8.5 as their South Africans in the back row will take over this match.
Saracens VS Bristol Bears – StoneX Stadium, London
Saracens have been dominant in the Premiership, winning 11 of their 12 matches in the comp this season. They will have to do without fly-half Owen Farrell who is with England, while their pack is decimated with call-ups for Ben Earl, Mauro Itoje, and Mako Vunipola. Bristol has fewer call-up worries than most Premiership teams, though losing two-thirds of a starting front row in Ellis Genge and Kyle Sinkler hurts. Sarries have enough depth to win this – it helps that Billy Vunipola and Elliot Daly failed to make the England squad – but I like Bristo to cover if their star players like Semi Radradra and Steven Luatua are firing.
Exeter Chiefs VS Gloucester – Sandy Park, Exeter
Gloucester will travel southwest this weekend to take on Exeter and Sandy Park. The hosts will come into this on the back of a big win over Castres, trying to find the consistency to push them up the log. Gloucester has lost three from three on the road in the Premiership, and that 8.5-point spread is one that it feels like Exeter should be able to cover.
Exeter has two England call-ups – back-rower Sam Smimmonds and center Henry Slade – while Stuart Hogg is on Scotland duty. Gloucester loses Jake Polledri to Italy and the Scottish 10-12 pair of Adam Hastings and Chris Harris, losses that will give Exeter the advantage in the midfield.