In the week where the Beast from the East struck Britain with force, Aviva Premiership rugby is set to enter Round 17 of 22 as the ferocious battle for semi-final places intensifies.
Exeter Chiefs’ currently top of the Premiership standings are due to play second-placed Saracens, but their fixture has already been pushed back 24 hours to Sunday, while Harlequins’ clash with Bath Rugby, originally scheduled for Friday evening will now also be attempted to be played on Sunday, but it will depend on whether the treacherous weather holds off and allows play to continue.
Gloucester Rugby v Newcastle Falcons
Newcastle Falcons are out to consolidate their fourth-placed ranking on Saturday as they make a testing trip to Kingsholm to face sixth-placed Gloucester Rugby, who appealed to fans and the local community on Friday to come and shovel snow away to help ensure the match can be played.
Just two points separate the sides ahead of the Round 17 clash and hosts Gloucester come fresh from a 25-25 stalemate with last season’s runners-up Wasps, but the Falcons are riding high after back-to-back wins since their defeat to Saracens in Round 14.
Northampton Saints v Sale Sharks
After both suffering narrow, late defeats in Round 16, Northampton Saints and Sale Sharks lock horns at Franklin’s Gardens on Saturday with neither side able to afford another slip in form.
Northampton were edged out by a point by Exeter Chiefs last weekend, while Sale fell one shy of Bath Rugby, but ranked 10th and eighth respectively, both clubs will be eager to chalk up a win and seek to improve their standings after disappointing campaigns to date.
Wasps v London Irish
Third-placed Wasps will aim to mount pressure on top two Exeter Chiefs and Saracens, who play each other at the same time in Devon, on Sunday as they face what should be a straightforward visit from London Irish at the Ricoh Arena.
Runners-up in 2016/17, Wasps were held to a draw by Gloucester Rugby last weekend, leaving them three points behind second-placed Saracens and seven adrift of defending champions Exeter, but a bonus-point win over beleaguered London Irish, who finally ended their 15-match winless run by beating fellow strugglers Worcester Warriors last weekend, will stand the Coventry-based side in good stead.
Worcester Warriors v Leicester Tigers
After a slovenly start to the campaign, just four points separate Leicester Tigers from the top four ahead of Round 17 and they will be keen to press on towards the semi-final berths on Sunday when they travel to Sixways to face 11th-placed Worcester Warriors.
Three wins from their last four outings has seen the Tigers gather momentum under the tutelage of Matt O’Connor and Round 16’s win over Saracens will have put plenty of wind in their sails, yet Worcester Warriors, despite losing to rock-bottom London Irish last weekend, have claimed some significant scalps this term and should not be written out of the equation.
Harlequins v Bath Rugby
Everyone is hoping it will return to business as usual at the Twickenham Stoop come Sunday and the weather does not prevent further Harlequins from welcoming fifth-placed Bath Rugby as they seek to move into the semi-final places with a win over their ninth-placed counterparts.
Bath escaped with a narrow 33-32 victory over Sale Sharks in Round 16 to keep their push for the top four alive, while Harlequins have lost their last four top-flight outings and continue to languish in the lower echelons of the English standings, desperately seeking a turn in fortune.
Exeter Chiefs v Saracens
And saving the best till last, well, at least we hope this game will get underway in a way which truly reflects the talents of both clubs, as first play second in the Aviva Premiership on Sunday with Exeter Chiefs welcoming Saracens to Sandy Park.
Weather has pushed this fixture back a day, but Saracens were also pushed back last weekend as they suffered defeat at the hands of Leicester Tigers, a result which saw them surrender top spot back to Exeter Chiefs, who clinched a win over Northampton Saints to regain their place at the summit of Aviva Premiership rugby and with little separating the sides, this promises to be a tantalising showdown.