With just five points separating eight and third in Aviva Premiership Rugby this weekend signifies the start of a crucial period in the race to make the semi-finals. The six fixtures kick off on Friday night at the Twickenham Stoop, the first of three matches live on BT Sport this weekend. We hope the attached statistical preview from Stuart Farmer Media Services will give you all you need to preview, cover and review the action from around the country.
Friday 19 February
Harlequins v Leicester Tigers (Twickenham Stoop, 7.45pm) Live on BT Sport
Leicester Tigers only victory in their last four encounters was by a single point at Gloucester on 30 January. This remains their only victory on the road in any competition since they beat Munster in their own backyard in the European Champions Cup in December. Leicester were victorious 22-19 when the two clubs met at Welford Road in round 2 and have not achieved a season’s double over the Londoners since 2010-11.
Tigers have lost on their last four visits to Twickenham Stoop in all tournaments since their 43-33 win there in Aviva Premiership Rugby in April 2012.
Saturday 20 February
Saracens v Gloucester Rugby (Allianz Park, 3pm)
Gloucester Rugby have won their last two Aviva Premiership Rugby matches, against Bath and Harlequins, and have not won three in a row in the tournament since October 2012. Gloucester’s only defeat in their last five away games in all tournaments was 10-19 at Exeter in Premiership Rugby on 9th January.
Saracens have lost just one of their last five contests with the Cherry & Whites: 23-24 at Kingsholm on 9th January 2015, whilst Gloucester’s most recent victory on Saracens’ turf was 25-21 at Vicarage Road in November 2008.
Worcester Warriors v Sale Sharks (Sixways, 3pm)
Sale Sharks are on an impressive run, having won their last six matches in all competitions – their best sequence since 2006/07. Sale’s only defeat in their last four away games in all tournaments was 17-33 at Exeter on Boxing Day. Sharks have not conceded a single try in an away game in 2016. Sale have won their last seven fixtures against Warriors in all tournaments since Worcester’s 23-16 victory at Sixways in October 2012.
Bath Rugby v Wasps (Recreation Ground, 3.15pm) Live on BT Sport
Wasps are the best team in Aviva Premiership Rugby on current form having gained 19 league points from their last six encounters. Wasps have won their last four games in the competition and have not won five in a row since season 2012/13.
The two clubs have already met on three occasions this season with Wasps victorious in the Aviva Premiership Rugby meeting at Ricoh Arena in October and then each side winning its respective away game when the two met in the back-to-back rounds 3 & 4 clashes in the European Champions Cup in December. Wasps have not won at the Recreation Ground in Premiership Rugby since 2010.
Sunday 21 February
London Irish v Exeter Chiefs (Madejski Stadium, 3pm) Live on BT Sport
Exeter Chiefs remain in second place in the Aviva Premiership Rugby table despite losing three of their last five matches in the competition. The Chiefs only win on the road in their last five matches in all tournaments was 30-15 at Worcester in round 10 of Premiership Rugby. The Chiefs only reversal in their last eight encounters with London Irish was 26-28 at Madejski Stadium in this equivalent fixture last January.
Newcastle Falcons v Northampton Saints (Kingston Park, 3pm)
Northampton have won their last dozen fixtures with Newcastle in all competitions since the Falcons 19-13 victory at Franklin’s Gardens in Premiership Rugby in February 2009, whilst Falcons’ most recent win against the Saints at Kingston Park was in September 2008.
Premiership stat attack
Wasps ended their eight-game losing streak against Saracens and inflicted the league leaders’ third biggest loss in Aviva Premiership Rugby history in the process as they romped to a 64-23 win, with Nathan Hughes scoring twice.
And Hughes’ impressive performance is reflected in his prominence in this week’s Opta statistics – the No.8 not only scored twice but made an impressive 16 carries, two clean breaks and beat seven players.
No-one beat more defenders than Hughes this weekend, while his team-mate Charles Piutau topped the clean breaks tally with three.
This was Wasps’ biggest-ever win against Saracens and man-of-the-match George Smith became the first forward this season to assist more than one try in a game, laying on two scores for his team-mates.
Meanwhile, Exeter Chiefs could only close the gap to table-topping Saracens by a single point as they lost on the road to Sale Sharks 23-17.
Cameron Neild made more tackles than anyone else in the league, registering a whopping 24, while Danny Cipriani and Bryn Evans made 17 apiece.
Chiefs No.8 Thomas Waldrom continued to turn heads with his ball-carrying skills as he once again made more successful carries than anyone else playing in Aviva Premiership Rugby this weekend (26), although Phil Dollman did his level best to keep up with his team-mate with 18.
Marcus Watson topped two leaderboards this week, beating seven defenders and winning three turnovers, as he played an influential role in Newcastle Falcons’ first win against Leicester Tigers in the league since 2009.
That was despite an impressive 166 metres made by Leicester’s Telusa Veainu – 50 more than the league’s next best, Amanaki Mafi – from 19 carries
Mafi, making his Bath Rugby debut, beat six defenders along the way as they narrowly edged out Worcester Warriors 16-14 to end a three game losing streak.
Worcester are now without an Aviva Premiership Rugby win in eight matches but the two-point margin is the closest they have been to victory since round four.
And Northampton Saints won consecutive matches for just the second time this season as they romped past London Irish 35-17 and three Dave Ward turnovers couldn’t prevent Harlequins from slipping to a 28-6 defeat at Gloucester Rugby.
Cameron Neild (Sale Sharks) – 24
Will Welch (Newcastle Falcons) – 18
Danny Cipriani (Sale Sharks) – 17
Bryn Evans (Sale Sharks) – 17
Jacques Burger (Saracens) – 15
Thomas Waldrom (Exeter Chiefs) – 26
Amanaki Mafi (Bath Rugby) – 19
Telusa Veainu (Leicester Tigers) – 19
Phil Dollman (Exeter Chiefs) – 18
Nathan Hughes (Wasps Rugby) – 16
Telusa Veainu (Leicester Tigers) – 166
Amanaki Mafi (Bath Rugby) – 116
Phil Dollman (Exeter Chiefs) – 106
Nathan Hughes (Wasps) – 105
Peter Betham (Leicester Tigers) – 89
Nathan Hughes (Wasps) – 7
Marcus Watson (Newcastle Falcons) – 7
Simon Hammersley (Newcastle Falcons) – 7
Will Addison (Sale Sharks) – 6
Amanaki Mafi (Bath Rugby) – 6
Marcus Watson (Newcastle Falcons) – 3
Dave Ward (Harlequins) – 3
Rob McCusker (London Irish) – 2
Peter Betham (Leicester Tigers) – 2
Will Fraser (Saracens) – 2
Charles Piutau (Wasps) – 3
James Hook (Gloucester Rugby) – 3
Luther Burrell (Northampton Saints) – 3
Cooper Vuna (Worcester Warriors) – 3
Nathan Hughes (Wasps) – 2