- Aviva Premiership rugby returns
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Aviva Premiership rugby makes a return this weekend following a break for European and Anglo-Welsh Cup action.
With international stars away there is a chance for others to impress in round 14 - here are some stories to look out for.
The action starts at the Rec on Friday night as Bath welcome Northampton Saints to the West Country. Bath have centre Will Hurrell starting at outside centre after he joined from Bristol on loan, while England pair Tom Dunn and Henry Thomas are amongst the matchday 23, with full back James Wilson starting against his former side.
1️⃣ | As voted by you, this magical effort from @rocco3225 v Saracens is your favourite @premrugby @bathrugby try of the season so far. Don’t miss out on more as we welcome Saints to the Rec tomorrow ➡️ https://t.co/lfVgH0Lj5V pic.twitter.com/ypUMQsryrk— Bath Rugby (@bathrugby) February 8, 2018
Northampton have found some form of late with four wins from their last five matches and have made four changes to the side as Tom Wood, Rob Horne, Ben Foden and Campese Ma’afu all come in. There is also a spot on the bench for Harry Mallinder after he was released from the wider England squad.
Stat: Northampton have won just once away from home in Aviva Premiership Rugby since March 2017.
Table-toppers Exeter will be looking to extend their lead on Saracens when they entertain Worcester Warriors in the first fixture of Saturday.
Thomas Waldrom plays in the Premiership for the 150th time for the champions while Argentina wing Santiago Cordero is handed a league debut. England Under 20 prop Marcus Street could make his Premiership debut if he comes off the bench, as the Cheifs are without four senior England players who are involved against Wales.
Worcester have 20-year-old Jamie Shillock starting at fly half as they go in search of a fourth win of the season. There has been some restructuring at the Warriors off the field this week as South African Rory Duncan has been announced as the successor to Carl Hogg as head coach for next season.
Stat: Chiefs have won all 11 previous matches they have played against the Warriors in Premiership Rugby
Johan Ackermann's side find themselves occupying fourth spot, but in their way stand a dangerous Leicester Tigers outfit, who are coming off the back of below-par performances.
Captain Willi Heinz returns for the Cherry and Whites who have named an entirely new XV from the one that last played in the Anglo-Welsh Cup as they look to continue their formidable home record this season.
Getting ready to welcome the Tigers pic.twitter.com/xv8S5cbkuh— Gloucester Rugby (@gloucesterrugby) February 9, 2018
Leicester, who have beaten Gloucester twice already this campaign, have England centre Manu Tuilagi back along with Telusa Veainu, while flanker Brendon O'Connor makes his 50th outing in a Tigers shirt.
Stat: Gloucester have a 100% winning record at home this season in Premiership Rugby.
Nine year run
Five points separate Saracens in second from Exeter in first and Saturday's meet with Newcastle Falcons at Allianz Park offers Mark McCall's side a chance to close the gap.
After his release by England, Nick Isiekwe is named in the Sarries pack while Liam Williams starts on the wing after Wales opted to let him go. England's Alex Lozowski makes his 50th appearance for the club at fly half and has Ben Spencer inside him following Richard Wigglesworth's call up by Eddie Jones.
In Focus | "My team mates are like family here" - Tongan no'8️⃣ @ionesaynia has made quite an impact since signing this season! We caught up with him in this special feature ahead of Saturday's @premrugby fixture vs @FalconsRugby at @AllianzPark! ⚫️ pic.twitter.com/QltXMdF0Lb— Saracens Rugby Club (@Saracens) February 8, 2018
Back rows Ryan Burrows and Ally Hogg make their first league starts of the season for Newcastle while wing Vereniki Goneva plays and will look to add to his eight tries so far in the league. The Falcons have not beaten Saracens in their last 18 attempts, a run that stretches back to 2009.
Stat: The Falcons haven't won five matches in a row in the competition since 2008/09.
London Irish are still going in search of their first win in the Aviva Premiership since their opening day heroics against Harlequins.
The west Londoners have run Wasps, Leicester and Newcastle close this term, and will be full of confidence coming off the back of four straight wins in the Challenge and Anglo-Welsh Cups respectively. Former Shark Luke Mclean starts at inside centre with Samoan international Teofilo Paulo the only other change.
Sale have brothers Sam and Luke James start a Premiership game for the first time together, with Sam at fly half and Luke at inside centre, while scrum half Will Cliff will make his 100th Premiership appearance if he comes off the bench.
Stat: Sale Sharks have lost only once in the last five rounds of Aviva Premiership Rugby.
The final instalment of round 14 takes place a stones throw from Twickenham Stadium as the Stoop plays host to Dai Young's Wasps on Sunday.
England pair Kyle Sinckler and Lewis Boyce are named in the front row for Quins who have international experience in the backline in the shape of Jamie Roberts, Tim Visser and ex-England Under 20 centre Joe Marchant.
After a month-long break, the Aviva Premiership returns to your screens this weekend— Rugby on BT Sport (@btsportrugby) February 9, 2018
Bath v Northampton
Tonight ⏰ 7pm BT Sport 1 & 4K UHD
Harlequins v Wasps
Sunday ⏰ 12.30am BT Sport 2 pic.twitter.com/9z4BLCdw3I
Wasps, who sit third going into the weekend, are boosted by the return of England No 8 Nathan Hughes to the bench along with Jimmy Gopperth and Matt Mullan. The Coventry-based side saw their 20 match unbeaten run at home ended by Quins earlier on this season.Stat: Harlequins have only lost at home once in the Premiership this season.