Premiership: Stories to look out for ahead of round six

It has been a record breaking start to the 2017/18 Aviva Premiership season as the final round of fixtures approaches before European rugby begins this season.

A new record of 174 tries have been scored in the first five rounds of the competition, beating the previous best of 170 in the 1998/99 season - can that try fest continue? That, plus a triple century of matches in charge, a record winning home streak and all of the weekly news are in your round six preview.

Battle of the Stoop

Harlequins and Sale Sharks come into the only game of Friday night off the back of contrasting results, with Quins beaten at Northampton while the Sharks recorded their highest points tally in 13 years with their win over Gloucester.

Quins, who secured a tight 29-26 win in this fixture last season, have England duo Chris Robshaw and Joe Marler back along with captain James Horwill, while Sale’s only swap is flanker Ben Curry for twin Tom who has a hand injury.

Sale have struggled on their travels having lost their last nine away games in a row, but will be hoping having the league’s top try scorer in Byron McGuigan with six, and Denny Solomona with five, can change that record.

Stat: Harlequins have not lost back to back games at the Twickenham Stoop since 2013.

Triple century

Former England No 8 Dean Richards will take charge of his 300th Premiership game on Saturday, with the Newcastle Falcons director of rugby also having spells as director of rugby at Harlequins and Leicester to reach the landmark. He's guided the Falcons to their best start to a season since 1997/98 going into the game.

Exeter are unbeaten in their last 10 league games at Sandy Park but the second-placed Falcons will feel confident of challenging that record having lost just once in their last seven matches including a three-match winning run away from home. Captain Jack Yeandle makes his 100th Premiership appearance for the Chiefs while Falcons fly half Toby Flood could make his first outing since his return to the club in the summer.

Stat: Newcastle Falcons have never won an away game at Exeter Chiefs in any competition.

Burns' homecoming

The Premiership’s leading points scorer Rhys Preistland is unavailable so Bath-born Freddie Burns starts for the first time for the Blue, Black and Whites at fly half since joining from Leicester. Semesa Rokoduguni will hope to continue his excellent start to the campaign with five tries in as many games.

Worcester are now on a seven-match losing run in the Premiership but could give a debut to Australian fly half Jono Lance who joined on a short-term deal this week, he is named on the bench. It’s been a busy week off the field at Sixways with director of rugby Gary Gold confirming he will leave at the end of the season to become USA Rugby head coach.

Stat: Worcester have lost their last 15 away games in the Premiership and have never won at the Recreation Ground in their history.

Captain Ford

London Irish started life back in the top flight in style with a 39-29 victory over Harlequins but haven not picked up a win in their four matches since. Ben Meehan and Jake Schatz are handed their debuts for the Exiles who have not won a top flight game at home since March 2016.

The Tigers will head to the Madejski Stadium looking for a fourth straight victory, after beating champions Exeter Chiefs 20-13 at Welford Road last time out. Full back Telusa Veainu leads the season metres made chart (501) as well as offloads (9) and the Tigers are captained by England fly half George Ford with Tom Youngs on the bench.

Stat: Leicester Tigers have won on their last seven trips to the Madejski Stadium.

Home comforts

After their conceding their second highest ever points total in the Premiership at Sale last week, Gloucester will be looking for their return to Kingsholm to provide a response - all five of Gloucester's games this season have been won by the home side. Owen Williams starts at fly half for the first time for the Cherry and Whites following his move from Leicester.

League leaders Northampton have England captain Dylan Hartley back at hooker, while international team mate Piers Francis starts for the first time. Jim Mallinder's side are unbeaten in their last nine meetings with Gloucester in all competitions, with the Cherry and Whites last tasting victory at Kingsholm in March 2013. 

Stat: Northampton Saints were bottom of the table after one round but are now top after five – the quickest turnaround in fortunes in Premiership history.

Full house

Saracens go into their sold out game against last season's Premiership finalists off the back of three straight wins, in contrast to Wasps who have lost their last three games. Captain Brad Barritt makes his 200th appearance for the club with Maro Itoje continuing at flanker with George Kruis and Nick Isiekwe at second row.

Wasps' losing run comes off the back of winning their opening two games of the campaign, and they have not lost four in a row in the league since March 2014. England's Joe Launchbury is rested, Rob Miller starts at fly half and Willie le Roux returns at full back for the Coventry side.

Stat: Saracens are unbeaten in their last seventeen home games in the Premiership since Northampton beat them at Allianz Park in March 2016, their best ever home run.


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