Premiership stories to look out for in round ten

With just one more round to go before the Aviva Premiership takes a two week break for European action, bonus points and ladder climbs will be on the 12 teams' Christmas lists this weekend.

From returning internationals to landmark records, we take a look at some of the stories to keep an eye out for ahead of round 10...   

Wonderwaller

A remarkable record awaits Northampton’s Alex Waller, who will contest his 150th consecutive Premiership game, when Jim Mallinder’s men welcome Newcastle Falcons to Franklin’s Gardens on Friday night.

It is a record-setting run the 27-year-old prop has been adding to since his first game for the club six years ago, and he will be joined in the pack by returning England captain Dylan Hartley and Courtney Lawes, fresh off their Old Mutual Wealth Series sweep in November.

Just one point separates Newcastle (in ninth) from Saints (in seventh) and the Falcons will be bolstered by the return of Fiji wing Vereniki Goneva - who scored in the Pacific Islanders win over Canada last weekend - as well as Tonga’s Sonatane Takulua, who starts at scrum half for Dean Richards’ side.

Fact: Both sides have slipped down in the standings after four league defeats on the bounce.

Warrior spirit

Full of confidence, Worcester Warriors go in search of their third win on the bounce in Friday night’s second clash, as they take on Sale Sharks at Sixways Stadium.

The wins against Northampton Saints and Leicester Tigers put the Warriors five points clear of London Irish at the bottom of the standings, and they will be keen to keep the pressure on the Exiles this weekend.

Scotland No 8 Dave Denton replaces the injured GJ van Velze, whilst club captain Donncha O’Callaghan is set to make his 50th start in the blue and yellow.

Sale welcome back Byron McGuigan to the fold after the wing scored two tries at Murrayfield last weekend to help Scotland storm to a record 53-24 win over the Wallabies. He replaces the injured Marland Yarde.

Elsewhere, England wing Denny Solomona occupies the number 14 shirt, whilst there is a debut at full back for Australian James O'Connor.

And expect a fiery reunion as Sharks scrum half Faf de Klerk locks horns with former Springbok counterpart Francois Hougaard.  

Fact: Sale have picked up points in all but one of their Aviva Premiership outings this season. 

Jack is back

Table-topping Chiefs host Bath in the first fixture of Saturday, and the Sandy Park faithful will be buoyed by the return of England and British & Irish Lions wing Jack Nowell.

The 24-year-old has been out of action for eight weeks with an eye socket fracture and features on Rob Baxter's bench alongside back rower Sam Simmonds, who recently returned from England duty. Prop Harry Williams starts in the front row after featuring in all three of England's Old Mutual Wealth Series Tests.

The Chiefs may have ended Saracens' 21-month unbeaten home record last weekend, but will be wary of an in-form Bath side who are just six points behind them in the league.

The West Country outfit are on a two game winning streak in the competition, having overcome London Irish and Harlequins, and see England quartet Charlie Ewels, Jonathan Joseph, Semesa Rokoduguni and Anthony Watson back in their starting side this weekend.

Fact: Last October Bath beat Exeter courtesy of a Rokoduguni stoppage time try. It would be the Chiefs last home loss that term.

100 not out   

Gloucester's Billy Twelvetrees will make his 100th Premiership appearance on Saturday afternoon when the Cherry & Whites take on London Irish at Kingsholm.

Johan Ackermann's men have yet to lose a home game so far this season, and are coming off a four match winning run. A victory against struggling London Irish would see them put pressure on Leicester Tigers - who sit one place above them in 4th but share the same points total (27).

In the past two rounds, Irish came close to registering wins over Bath and Wasps respectively, missing out by four points on both occasions, and come into this fixture searching for their first win since their season opener against Quins at Twickenham Stadium.

Nick Kennedy has handed prop Harry Elrington his first Aviva Premiership start whilst Scottish international Gordon Reid returns from injury and Ofisa Treviranus from international duty. England U20 fyler Joe Cockanasiga starts on the wing.

Fact: Gloucester haven't won five successive Premiership games since 2011

Double act

Wasps duo Jake Cooper-Woolley and Dan Robson will make their 100th and 50th appearances for the club - one total one Premiership games - respectively against Leicester Tigers this weekend.

And Dai Young's men will be glad to see Elliot Daly return to action after his stand-out Old Mutual Wealth Series for England, where he scored 15 points across the three Tests.

The Tigers have made nine changes for this, the 100th meeting between the two teams, with four England men getting the nod in: Ellis Genge, Dan Cole, Ben Youngs and George Ford.

Elsewhere, Jonah Holmes will make his first Aviva Premiership start on the wing in place of the injured Jonny May.

Fact: In 99 meets Leicester have won 59, Wasps 35, with 5 draws shared.  

Stars on show at Stoop

The final game of the weekend sees a possible 12 England stars on show as Harlequins clash with Saracens at the Twickenham Stoop on Sunday.

For John Kingston's men: Joe Marler, Chris Robshaw, Danny Care and Mike Brown start with Kyle Sinckler on the bench. Whilst Mark McCall utilises Mako Vunipola, Jamie George, Nick Isiekwe, George Kruis, Maro Itoje and Owen Farrell, with Alex Lozowski an option on the sidelines.

Quins captain James Horwill is set to earn his 50th cap, and there is a debut in the form of summer signing Renaldo Bothma at blindside flanker, as Kingston and co look to climb up the table from their current position of eighth. 

Fact: Quins beat Saracens 30-29 in the Anglo-Welsh Cup last month 


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