Premiership Rugby Preview – Round 2

With 50 tries, thrills, spills and plenty of talking points, the opening round of the 2017/18 Aviva Premiership season did not disappoint.

Saracens stormed to the top of the table with a comprehensive thrashing of Northampton, while Newcastle and London Irish are surprise names sat in the top four.

Defending champions Exeter slumped to defeat and Bath somewhat heroically clinched victory over Leicester in a thrilling clash, holding off a late comeback with just 13 men.

It’s more of the same this weekend, with the highlight of the weekend’s fixtures undoubtedly being Midlands derby between Northampton Saints and Leicester Tigers, both in search of their first win of the season.

See below for our own predictions and picks on every game from Unibet…

Sale Sharks v Newcastle Falcons
Friday 8 September, 7.45
Live on BT Sport

There is just one offering of Friday night lights in Round 2 and it comes from Salford, where Sale Sharks welcome Newcastle Falcons to the AJ Bell Stadium, with the host seeking a first win of the new term.

After conceding a half century of points to Wasps last weekend, defensive frailties seem an obvious weakness to highlight for Sale, but they will have to plug the holes if they are to beat this spirited Falcons side.

Newcastle displayed strength in their opening salvo, though, it must be remember it was against Worcester, but expect Newcastle to chalk up even more tries this evening and take victory.

Our prediction: Newcastle Falcons win
Match odds: Sale 21/50 Newcastle 7/4
Unibet pick: Sale @21/50

Bath v Saracens
Saturday 9 September, 2.00

To all intents and purposes, given the squad turnaround, many expected a mixed start to the season for Bath, but they impressed with a stunning triumph over Leicester in Round 1, something they will be keen to back up as the imperious Saracens visit The Rec.

Saracens were at their devastating best as they tore Saints to pieces, but Bath executed some fine defence in holding on to their lead at Leicester last Sunday and if they can keep strong at the back, this could turn into a gripping encounter.

Based on Round 1 performances, it is hard to choose between these two sides. Saracens would be obviously choice, but given the stoic nature of Bath’s fight and resolve last weekend, they could just edge this one out.

Our prediction: Bath win
Match odds: Bath 11/8 Saracens 11/20
Unibet pick: Saracens @11/20

Exeter Chiefs v London Irish
Saturday 9 September, 3.00

 Kingsholm on a Friday evening was not a joyous place for Exeter last weekend, losing out to Gloucester, but they will be desperate to get their title defence into full swing as London Irish head to Sandy Park on Saturday.

Exeter were outshone in almost every department, but Rob Baxter will have been working hard to get this side ready to ready their faithful Devon following at home, but they come up against a London Irish side who stunned Harlequins last weekend.

Quins on paper looked formidable, but the Exiles had power and pace to outgun them and will provide a stern test down south this time around, but the Chiefs will not be ready to bow down at their home fortress this early.

Our prediction: Exeter Chiefs win
Match odds: Exeter 1/10 Irish 6/1
Unibet pick: Exeter -14.5 @4/5

Harlequins v Gloucester
Saturday 9 September, 3.00

In the opening round of fixtures, I predicted Harlequins to win and Gloucester to lose, both results went the other way and each have big points to prove this time out.

Gloucester are out to build on a fine start to the season after downing last season’s champions, but Quins will need their star-studded line-up to turn up on the pitch rather than just looking good on paper.

The home crowd may well have played in Gloucester’s favour in Round 1, but expect The Stoop to do the same for Harlequins this weekend, a side who must put in a result to get their season moving.

Our prediction: Harlequins win
Match odds: Harlequins 1/2 Gloucester 31/20
Unibet pick: Harlequins @1/2

Northampton Saints v Leicester Tigers
Saturday 9 September, 4.30

It’s the tastiest serving of the weekend at Franklin’s Gardens as Saints host the Tigers in one of rugby’s oldest rivalries – often fierce, often tight, always vocal. This one will not disappoint.

New laws around scrummaging mean referees are seeking to reduce the amount of time the ball is in scrum, something Leicester have adapted very well to and have formed a world-class back division, but they must start firing.

Saints were smashed to smithereens by Saracens and their last of defensive cohesion is a significant concern, especially against a Tigers side who boast some much talent and will be on all-out attack mode.

Our prediction: Leicester Tigers win
Match odds: Northampton 22/5 Leicester 22/5
Unibet pick: Leicester @22/5

Worcester Warriors v Wasps
Sunday 10 September, 3.00

Wasps started the season where they left off last year, playing expansive and exhilarating rugby, chalking up 50 points in beating Sale Sharks, while Worcester suffered the first of what promises to be many defeats at the hands of Newcastle.

If Northern Hemisphere rugby is accused tilting towards a Super Rugby style of play, Wasps are certainly a case for the prosecution, seemingly abiding by the mentality of, ‘Whatever you score, we’ll score two more,’ with a clear focus on scoring rather than a balance of defence and attack.

But, it is working for Dai Young’s men and against a slovenly Warriors, this could read more like a cricket score than a rugby score come full-time. Bonus point number two beckons for Wasps.

Our prediction: Wasps win
Match odds: Worcester 27/5 Wasps 1/8
Unibet pick: Wasps -13.5 4/5

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