- Saracens host Leicester Tigers
- Wasps will travel to Exeter Chiefs
From the champions of Europe to the knock-out new boys via the semi-final stalwarts, four stories to look out for in this weekend's Premiership play-offs.
IF IT AIN’T BROKE, DON’T FIX IT
Saracens name an unchanged side so the team that beat Racing 92 in the European Champions Cup final last weekend will take on Leicester on Saturday. That means European Rugby’s Player of the Year Maro Itoje and recently crowned Premiership Player of the Year Alex Goode are both included.
Mark McCall’s side have won their last eight matches in all competitions since their 13-21 defeat at Leicester in Aviva Premiership Rugby on 20 March.
This is Saracens eighth appearance in the semi-finals and their seventh in succession, reaching the final on four previous occasions in 2010, 2011, 2014 & 2015.
TUILAGI BACK TO HELP TIGERS ROAR
Manu Tuilagi, Mike Fitzgerald and Brendon O'Connor all return to the Leicester Tigers team for their trip to Saracens.
This is Leicester’s 11th successive Premiership semi-final (they progressed directly to the final in 2005 after topping the table), where their only two defeats at this stage have come in the last two seasons, at Northampton and at Bath.
“Saracens are a good side and have had a big season,” said Tigers director of rugby Richard Cockerill. “We know we have to go there and put everything on the line. Both sides will have a huge amount of respect for each other.”
Exeter are preparing for a first-ever Premiership semi-final and will include England star Jack Nowell in their starting line-up.
Head Coach Rob Baxter is also hoping the capacity Exeter crowd will also be at full-strength for arguably one of the biggest fixtures in the club’s history.
“Our guys will need to show the crowd they are willing work hard, give everything, and get them involved in the game from minute one,” said Baxter.
Exeter become the 11th different side to participate in an Aviva Premiership semi-final and Sandy Park becomes the eleventh different venue to host such a fixture.
The Chiefs have won their last two matches, at home to Wasps in round 21 and inflicting a record home defeat on Harlequins a week later, Exeter’s only home loss in any competition.
James Haskell captains Wasps for their trip to Exeter and is joined in the back-row by George Smith and Nathan Hughes.
Wasps have made it to the last four or the first time since they were champions in 2008.
Wasps only defeat in the last seven rounds of Premiership Rugby came when they visited Exeter on 1 May. Wasps have participated in five previous Premiership semi-finals with their only defeat at this stage being at Sale in 2006.
The two sides have met three times this season, with Exeter taking both encounters in Premiership Rugby but Wasps knocked the Chiefs out of the Champions Cup at the quarter-final stage in Coventry on 9 April.
Wasps have visited Sandy Park on seven previous occasions in all competitions with the Chiefs victorious every time.