The NatWest 6 Nations might be taking place this weekend but the Aviva Premiership continues apace as match week 16 is upon us.
Searching for familiarity
After suffering their second loss in as many weeks last time out, Exeter Chiefs will be looking to get back to winning ways as they welcome Northampton Saints to Sandy Park on Saturday.
Rob Baxter has made four changes to his starting line-up from the loss to Wasps as Greg Holmes, Sam Skinner and Thomas Waldrom enter the pack. Whilst Ian Whitten replaces Santiago Cordero on the wing.
Harry Mallinder starts at full back for Saints, after returning from England duty, as Northampton aim to build on last weekend's win over London Irish, and put pressure on Harlequins - who sit just two points ahead of them in the league standings.
Stat: The Chiefs lost at home to Worcester last time out at Sandy Park but have not been defeated in successive matches at home since the end of the 2013/14 campaign.
Bath boys back
Fit again Taulupe Faletau returns to the base of the Bath scrum as they play host to Sale Sharks at The Rec on Saturday afternoon.
He is joined by England's Zach Mercer in the back row, whilst prop Beno Obano makes a return. Todd Blackadder's men are just one point off the play-off spot currently occupied by Gloucester, and a win would put them in the mix with just seven regular season matches left to play.
TEAM NEWS: @taulupe returns to the @bathrugby starting line-up, as do @ObanoB and @henrythomas105 . @_JamesWilson_ starts at 10 after @Josh10Lewis picked up a knock in training.— Bath Rugby (@bathrugby) February 23, 2018
Be there to cheer the boys on against @SaleSharksRugby!
Tickets ➡️https://t.co/M0KSdBbPj3 pic.twitter.com/vuk3P3VVtB
England wing Denny Solomona starts for the Sharks, who just lost out to Saracens last time out, and is joined by Mike Haley and Marland Yarde in the back three.
Steve Diamond's men haven't won at The Rec since 2014, but will know a repeat performance of their December 2017 meet at AJ Bell Stadium - where they won 32-9 - could change that.
Stat: The last six meetings between the two clubs have been won by the home side on the day.
Third-placed Wasps travel to fourth-placed Gloucester as both teams aim to cement their play-off positions in the league.
The Cherry & White’s only defeat at Kingsholm in any competition this season was to Pau in round six of the European Challenge Cup, but Johan Ackermann's side will need an improved performance from last week, as they fell 25-15 to Worcester Warriors.
TEAM NEWS: Fit-again Juan De Jongh starts, Rob Miller wears no 10, with Matt Mullan making his first start since returning from injury. Anglo-Welsh Cup breakthrough player nominee Owain James could make his @premrugby debut from the bench.— Wasps (@WaspsRugby) February 23, 2018
Full story at: https://t.co/BatEfoFoqJ pic.twitter.com/4GGWqpJRDt
Charlie Sharples returns from injury to take his place on the wing, whilst big names Richard Hibbard and Ed Slater also feature.
Fit again Juan De Jongh partners Jimmy Gopperth in the centre for Wasps, fresh off their toppling of reigning champions Exeter last weekend. And a word to Owain James, the Anglo-Welsh Cup breakthrough player candidate, who will make his Aviva Premiership debut if he comes off the bench.
Stat: Wasps have lost just once in the last nine rounds of Aviva Premiership Rugby.
50 not out
Quins wing Alofa Alofa will pick up his 50th appearance for the club when they play Newcaslte Falcons on Saturday.
John Kingston's men have slipped to three straight defeats in the Premiership but haven't lost four in succession in the same season since 2006/07. They have only lost twice at home in the competition this term, and will be buoyed by the inclusion of England prop Kyle Sinckler.
Talking points— Harlequins (@Harlequins) February 23, 2018
@charliejnwalker returns from injury to start
@marklambert3, @JHorwill and @GlynnBen named in the forwards
5⃣0⃣ Alofa Alofa hits his half century
@dcatrakilis named among the replacements #HARvNEW pic.twitter.com/NaYplBXMEf
Newcastle bested Quins by a point last time out in December and welcome back club captain Will Welch to their starting ranks alongside England flanker Mark Wilson.
The Falcons have already won four times away from home in the competition this season and have only once before exceeded this total – in 1997/98 when they were champions. After signing an extension with the club earlier in the week, Sinoti Sinoti features on the Falcons wing.
Stat: The Falcons have not been victorious at Twickenham Stoop in Premiership Rugby since September 2000.
Alex Lewington will make his 100th appearance for London Irish on Sunday when they face off with Worcester Warriors at Madejski Stadium. The flying wing scored a brace last week as Irish fell to their 14th loss this term, but in doing so brought up his 50th try for the club.
They are still without a victory in the Premiership since they beat Harlequins at Twickenham Stadium in round one, and their most recent victory in the tournament at Madejski Stadium came when Gloucester were the visitors for the St Patrick’s Day match in March 2016.
| WATCH: Our team announcement ahead of this Sunday's @premrugby clash v @WorcsWarriors is coming your way at noon today! @AlexLewington48 is set to make his 100th appearance. Here he is doing what he does best! #100Club pic.twitter.com/xiCw8LGVaq— London Irish (@LiRFC) February 23, 2018
Worcester Warriors have won back-to-back league encounters, at Exeter and at home to Gloucester, and will be glad to see the return of Springbok scrum half Francois Hougaard.
Elsewhere in the side, Wales wing - and Worcester's top try scorer this season - Josh Adams features and he scored two the last time these sides met.
Stat: Worcester are looking to win three in a row in the competition for the first time in almost two years.
Saracens have won their last five Premiership matches since their single point defeat to Harlequins at Twickenham Stoop on 3 December, and have lost only one of their last twenty-two home games in the competition.
Nick Isiewke, Nathan Earle and Alex Lozowski all start for the north London outfit, whilst an England U20 World Rugby Championship winner, in Max Malins, features on the bench.
TEAM NEWS | #SARvLEI— Leicester Tigers (@LeicesterTigers) February 23, 2018
Your Tigers side for this Sunday's showdown with Saracens has been named, with Tatafu Polota-Nau's return to the Starting XV the only change to the Team from last weekend's Welford Road win. pic.twitter.com/SEd3gqofw4
Tatafu Polota-Nau is the sole change from the Leicester team that beat Harlequins 33-18 last weekend, as the Tigers look to push into the top half of the table.
They haven't beaten Sarries in Premiership Rugby since 20 March 2016 at Welford Road, and will be looking to their star players in Matt Toomua, Manu Tuilagi and Telusa Veainu to muster some magic at Allianz Park.
Stat: The Tigers have suffered seven straight away losses in all tournaments since round 7.