Things to look out for in the Premiership Rugby Cup this weekend
Opening day defeats for Bath Rugby, Leicester Tigers, Sale Sharks, Wasps and Bristol Bears mean they will be looking to bounce back in the second round of fixtures in The Premiership Rugby Cup.
All 12 Gallagher Premiership Rugby clubs will again be in action in the tournament, which has replaced the Anglo-Welsh Cup.
Only the winners of each pool of four teams will progress to the semi-finals, along with the highest placed runner up from all three pools.
Harlequins, Worcester Warriors and Northampton Saints each sit top of their respectively tables after last weekend’s fixtures but it could all change by Sunday night.
West Country rivals
UP THE BEARS! 🐻 pic.twitter.com/AcomlcrJ62
— Bristol Bears (@BristolBears) October 31, 2018
Bristol Bears meet their rivals Gloucester Rugby on Friday night at Ashton Gate Stadium, with the immediate aim of improving their defence after letting Worcester and Northampton score more than 50 points against them in their last two fixtures.
With only one win in their last five matches the Bears will be hoping 11 changes from the defeat in the previous round can them notch up a first win in the competition.
Fly-half Callum Sheedy will skipper the club for the first time while Kiwi utility-back Charles Piutau could make his debut for the club off the bench after being unavailable since the start of the season due to a shoulder injury.
Gloucester were victorious by 35-13 when the teams met in September at Kingsholm.
They will be looking to follow up their 31-7 bonus point win against Wasps last week. The fixture will be centre Henry Trinder’s 150th competitive appearance for the Cherry and Whites.
Saracens unbeaten start
The other Friday night fixture will see Saracens look to continue their unbeaten start to the season away at Sale.
Back rower Calum Clark will captain Saracens with flanker Sean Reffell and number eight Ben Earl coming into the back row as two of five changes to the team that defeated Leicester Tigers last weekend.
Meanwhile Sale fan favourite Johnny Leota is named at inside centre for the first time since playing at Exeter in April last year.
— Sale Sharks🦈 (@SaleSharksRugby) November 1, 2018
Teenager Ciaran Booth, who has featured for Ireland U19s, is named on the bench and could make his debut if called upon.
Youngsters set to feature at Sandy Park
— Exeter Chiefs (@ExeterChiefs) November 1, 2018
Bath Rugby will be looking to avenge their defeat to Exeter Chiefs last month as the two face off at Sandy Park on Saturday.
Chiefs ran out 39-24 winners at The Rec in The Premiership but will be looking to get the win after only drawing with Newcastle last week.
Fly-half Harvey Skinner, 21, will be looking to feature again for Exeter after making his first start last week, scoring seven points.
Another impressive youngster set to feature is Bath forward Josh Bayliss, also 21, who will be looking to help his club pick up their first points in Pool 1, where they currently sit bottom.
Quins look to secure top spot
The other Pool 1 fixture sees Harlequins host Newcastle at Twickenham Stoop on Sunday.
Quins will looking to secure their place at the top of the pool, as well as stake their claim for the Premiership fixture in two weeks’ time.
The competition could provide some momentum for the Londoners, who won last week with help from tries by Charlie Walker and Alex Dombrandt.
Newcastle will be hoping for a similar performance from Zach Kibirige, who ran in a hat-trick from the wing last week.
Warriors want repeat win
📸 Prem Cup preparations in full swing ahead of Saturday’s game at Welford Road. pic.twitter.com/TE7I7GtZmX
— Leicester Tigers (@LeicesterTigers) November 1, 2018
Leicester Tigers will be looking to get their first points of the competition as they face Worcester Warriors, who are fresh from beating Sale 35-3 in Pool 2.
The Warriors will head to Welford Road hoping to repeat their 44-37 victory against Tigers from September when they ran in six tries.
Leicester interim head coach Geordan Murphy will be hoping the club’s youngsters can step up. He named eight players aged 20 or under in the team who lost to Saracens.
Cox becomes first female referee
Referee Sara Cox will make history this weekend when she becomes the first woman to take charge of the match between Wasps and Northampton Saints at the Ricoh Arena on Sunday.
Saints are fresh from putting 51 points past Bristol last week and will be hoping for another bonus point win this time round.
They will be hoping from another impressive performance from young fly-half James Grayson, who scored 19 points last week including a try and a try assist.
Wasps are without a win since September 28, but did beat Saints in April last year’s Premiership to secure a place in the semi-finals.